The quality of the ANC’s branches and its membership is in decline, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe states in his diagnostic report of the party, which will be presented at the party’s policy conference on Friday.
This has been caused by mass recruitment, a weak induction programme that makes a joke of the ANC’s values, a dying culture of reading policy documents and incoherent political education, among other reasons.
According to him, the poor quality of branches is reflected by their inability to campaign for by-elections and the “expectation” that the national executive committee and national officials will visit each ward.
“There is nothing wrong with that but, when it reaches a stage of being an expectation, it reflects on the quality of leadership in general,” Mantashe writes.
The decline in debates informed by the ANC’s ideology has taken place at a leadership level, Mantashe says, and he bemoans the absence of terms such as “revolution”, “the national democratic revolution” and “colonialism of a special type” in the policy documents.
The ANC secretary general warns that the party is at risk of being dissociated from its strategy and policies in the public’s eye. Instead of anchoring debates in ideology, “there is a growing allergy to engage in politics, and we tend to retreat into being technical”.
He says the “decline in political consciousness” has contributed to divisions in the ANC, because opposing factions disagree on points of emphasis rather than ideology. The report cites two examples – the expropriation of land and “radical economic transformation”.
“We refuse to develop a comprehensive approach to land reform. The debate is polemical and destructive, and relegated into a fight among factions that want to win points publicly,” he writes.
On “radical economic transformation”, he says: “We agree on the need to implement [it] but get distracted into the temptation of dis-agreeing on what we really mean. We tend to look for disagreements so that we can confuse society.
“Why is it impossible for the ANC to develop a coherent approach and speak with one voice?”
Mantashe says ANC leaders are deliberately undermining and defying the party at the behest of their faction, and individuals and various offices of the organisation have borne the brunt of this rebellion.
“We defy the organisation because factions say so,” Mantashe writes, citing the succession debate as an example.
“The NEC [national executive committee] decides that we can discuss names against principles, but comrades go ahead and pronounce on their line-ups. It is not because comrades do not understand; they are deliberately undermining the organisation.”
Organisational discipline in the ANC is collapsing and openly ignoring its rules translates into a free-for-all, anarchy and chaos.
“It is those of us who project themselves as ‘holier than thou’ who contribute to the chaos, as they feel a leadership they despise does not need to be respected,” Mantashe says.
The main reason for the collapse is the party’s failure to discipline members at “the closest point to where the transgression took place”. This has led to members bypassing the movement’s other structures and to establish “hot lines with the national leadership”.
“It starts as a genuine expression of unhappiness, but ends up being a serious effort of fictionalising the national leadership,” he writes.