/ 1 August 2016

Kgalema Motlanthe hits out at the ANC, but does he walk his talk?

The Johannesburg branch of the ANC has put Kgalema Motlanthe's name forward as a candidate for the presidency of the ANC.
The Johannesburg branch of the ANC has put Kgalema Motlanthe's name forward as a candidate for the presidency of the ANC.

Former president Kgalema Motlanthe has been known for delivering some hard truths about the party he once led. At a branch meeting in Johannesburg in March he said: “Once the ANC finds itself in the wrong, the most courageous thing the ANC could do is to own up to this.”

His latest knock-out, delivered in an interview with City Press, spoke of the party’s poor leadership, saying the party was no longer governing with reason.

“It’s almost as though the country is on autopilot. There’s no leadership being provided,” he added later in the interview.

His comments went viral, especially when they were published on the day the ANC hosted its Siyanqoba (victory) rally – the party’s final rush to reassure supporters and to try to win more votes on August 3. The Democratic Alliance seized the moment, and released a press statement telling voters that Motlanthe’s comments were a clear sign to vote DA.

“If you want to know the real state of the ANC, don’t take my word for it – listen to what former president Kgalema Motlanthe, who is also a former secretary general of the ANC, has to say …” said DA leader Mmusi Maimane.

In early July, Motlanthe joined Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile, Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau and Gauteng MEC Qedani Mahlangu on a walkabout of Dobsonville, Soweto, to campaign for support.

Listening to residents, Motlanthe promised their problems would be addressed, and encouraged them to continue to have faith in the party. The ANC leaders made the most of their trip by visiting Maimane’s parents’ home. The content of their discussion was not disclosed.

Motlanthe’s criticism of the party has pivoted him to be considered the best shot it has of honourable leadership. In an interview with the Mail & Guardian in March, Sasabona Manganye, the chairperson of the Sefako Makgatho branch in inner Johannesburg said discussions were underway to nominate Motlanthe as ANC president Jacob Zuma’s successor.

“We want to wait for the official process, but I have no doubt in my mind that ANC branches will want to see him [Motlanthe] back. The current status quo [in the party and the country] requires someone like him to restore the credibility of the ANC,” Manganye said.

At the time, Motlanthe had been invited by the branch to speak about political education. The retired ANC leader spoke out against senior leaders violating the ANC’s constitution.

“If we corrupt the internal processes of the organisation, we will have corruption across the length and breadth of the country. We can’t fail to practice democracy internally and hope to practice it in terms of the country as a whole,” he said.

Three months later, Tshwane lit up in flames as ANC supporters  protested against the announcement of Thoko Didiza as the ANC’s mayoral candidate for the City of Tshwane, saying internal processes had been ignored. There were also allegations that the ward and PR councillor nomination process had been corrupted.

When asked by City Press how the ANC could be saved, Motlanthe said “it has to get worse” before any real progress is made for the party to once again lead effectively.

“It may be possible at some point to salvage the ANC from this race to the bottom. But it is also equally possible that the ANC may so thoroughly discredit itself that there may be nothing to salvage,” Motlanthe said.

Yet, the ANC veteran shows no sign of relinquishing support for his organisation just yet.