Leaders' behaviour behind ANC's decay

Gwede Mantashe at the ANC NEC meeting last month. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Gwede Mantashe at the ANC NEC meeting last month. (Paul Botes, M&G)

Before the start of the ANC’s policy conference this weekend, secretary general Gwede Mantashe has outlined in uncompromising detail the reasons for the ruling party’s decline into “political bankruptcy” and its outright failures, saying:

  •  Money has replaced political consciousness;
  •  Ethical leadership has been replaced with status;
  •  Elected officials are unwilling to admit fault or correct themselves; and
  •  Leaders are arrogant and believe themselves to be above reproach.

In the report, Mantashe blames the party’s leaders for being arrogant, believing themselves to be invincible and adopting an elitist approach to politics.

The document outlines how the ANC’s own research before last year’s municipal elections showed a growing decline in trust between the organisation and its voters, which would go on to lead to the loss of three key metros — Tshwane, Johannesburg and Nelson Mandela Bay — and a national decline in support.

“The first question we must confront is whether this trust deficit between the movement and the people is part of a general decline of legitimacy of the political and business elite,” he says in his report.

“It is our view that this general trend is part of the problem, but is accelerated by our own behaviour,” he continues.

In addition to issues of unemployment, crime and corruption, voter confidence was affected by the sudden axing of then finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, the Constitutional Court judgment on President Jacob Zuma’s homestead, Nkandla, and the unrest in Tshwane before the elections.

Mantashe highlights the apparent arrogance and defensiveness of party leaders when they were found to be wrong, which creates the impression that the ANC cannot address its problems.

“The fact that in order to correct basic mistakes, sometimes genuine mistakes, we get directed by courts, [which] communicates a message of a movement that does not know the difference between wrong and right,” he says.

Money and status are also seen to be eroding the state of the organisation. He says “money has replaced consciousness as a basis for being elected into leadership positions at all levels of the organisation”.

He cites the unrest in Tshwane before the elections and the ANC’s subsequent loss of control in the municipality as an example of the decaying morality in the party caused by leaders wanting to control resources and improve their own material standing.

Power is leading to political bankruptcy in the ANC, he says.

“The ethical behaviour of leaders is no longer an issue but has been replaced with status. This is seen as an elitist approach to politics and has developed a social distance as an effect,” he says.

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