​ANC membership: Anarchy on the rise

"Literally, it means membership is treated as a tool for voting. Such membership, in the main, has no political life in the ANC," said Gwede Mantashe. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

"Literally, it means membership is treated as a tool for voting. Such membership, in the main, has no political life in the ANC," said Gwede Mantashe. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The ANC’s membership has been corrupted by rapid increases and declines, and is being used by recruiters to bolster support for factions competing for national positions, former secretary general Gwede Mantashe has found in his organisational report.

A creeping phenomenon of the losing faction collapsing a conference once it appears to have lost has entered the ANC, and led to chaos in the organisation, Mantashe said in his report.

“In most cases, this tendency is supported and coordinated at a national centre where the core of the faction resides. The incoming NEC must make concerted efforts to deal decisively with and stamp out this problem. Anarchy is on the rise and tends to be rewarded.”

The party currently has 989 736 members across the country, and increase from the 769 870 it recorded at its national general council.

“A trend that should concern is that of membership recruitment being intensified towards conferences, mostly as a mechanism for provinces to garner more delegates. Hence membership fluctuations that makes our membership look suspect in terms of the basic understanding of the organisation,” Mantashe wrote in his report, delivered to the conference at the Nasrec expo centre in Johannesburg.

“The trends indicate that our membership picks up around conferences and drops around National General Councils. Literally, it means membership is treated as a tool for voting. Such membership, in the main, has no political life in the ANC. This accounts for why branches battle to form a quorum,” Mantashe added.

This is the first time the ANC has admitted that its members are being used simply for voting. Mantashe’s report also acknowledges the high handed control of the organisation by the ‘dominant faction’.

“A common feature of factionalism is that a dominant faction behaves as owners of the ANC that does everybody else favours. This reduces the organisation into a bargaining platform for factions. The word ‘majority’ gets factored into the vocabulary of the movement although no voting takes place. Every meeting, in this situation, becomes a shootout,” Mantashe wrote.

In his diagnostic report delivered at the national policy conference, Mantashe lamented the political bankruptcy of ANC members and the lack of political education. In his report to the national conference, he explains that the political bankruptcy is caused by the presence of “bulk membership recruitment” and the absence of “bulk political education”.

In the first organizational assessment of the social media campaigns undertaken by the presidential hopefuls in the run up to conference, Mantashe stressed the urgency of developing a social media policy, saying ANC members were at each others throats.

“It is in this space that comrades attack and insult one another. We forget that beyond the conference we will need one another.”

His report also contains a warning that if the ANC leadership failed to manage succession, and insisted on everyone’s right to contest for any position, the party would start to emulate the American electoral system.

“Americanisation of campaigning, with full regalia and big cash flows, is beginning to take root. T-shirts bearing preferred candidates abound across the provinces, seriously impairing the organisation in the process. The culture and tradition of the leadership of the movement managing succession to the benefit of the ANC, instead of individuals, is dying. Comrades tend to opt for the narrow approach of advocating for the rights of individual members to elect and be elected. In the long term we are going to end up with a system of primaries with all its anomalies.”

The solution to this, Mantashe wrote, is to develop “strong policies on internal democracy, rather than hoping to subject those who disagree to disciplinary processes.”

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