New ANC integrity committee chairperson George Mashamba believes the structure needs to become more than a tool used to target wayward party members and start addressing the broader issue of the ANC’s moral standing in society.
It was established in 2013 to “protect the image of the organisation and enhance its standing in society by ensuring, among others, that urgent action is taken to deal with public officials, leaders and members of the ANC who face damaging allegations of improper conduct”.
Since the 2012 conference, which took the resolution to establish the committee, the structure has found itself unpopular with some party members who have accused it of being factional and allowing itself to be used in plots against individuals.
Mashamba told the Mail & Guardian he believed the committee’s guidelines needed to include more than just probing alleged wrongdoers and allow it to focus on the recurring project of maintaining the dignity of the ANC.
“There is an impression in the public that this is a policing service commission with powers of investigation and arrest. Or that it is a judicial service commission with powers of presiding over cases,” Mashamba said.
“I think it should be more than that. We should not be a reactive committee. It [the committee] must nurture a certain culture that ensures the ANC has the necessary dignity and respect.
“In my own understanding, if something happens where someone gets out of line there should be other structures [that intervene], like the disciplinary committee,” he added.
At the party’s 54th national elective congress last December, a resolution was adopted to strengthen the powers of the integrity committee.
The structure’s lack of muscle became apparent last year when it called on former president Jacob Zuma to step down for bringing the party into disrepute when he removed former finance minister Pravin Gordhan on flimsy charges. It presented a report to then ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, which was never tabled before the national executive committee (NEC) despite the wishes of ANC veterans in the committee.
The committee, which was headed by Andrew Mlangeni, had already made similar calls for Zuma to step down in 2016 after the constitutional court judgement on Nkandla, which the former president refused to heed.
In the lead-up to the Nasrec conference the committee was criticised by Zuma loyalists for being used in factional battles. ANC head of elections and campaigns Fikile Mbalula blasted veterans in the committee for “compromising” themselves.
“They [the veterans] have compromised themselves. Some of the members of the organisation who are overzealous have basically misused those veterans and … undermined the very essence of that integrity commission. I can tell you now, there is a big plot here and that plot is centred around President Jacob Zuma,” Mbalula told the M&G last year.
The NEC, however, has agreed on new terms of reference after it acknowledged the committee could not execute its mandate without strengthened powers.
Mashamba said the terms of reference were only expected to be made public later this month. Mashamba’s committee is expected to hold a workshop with former members of the structure to do an official handover and discuss the details of his vision for a committee that ignites a new ANC culture.
He said the new committee would decide after the workshop whether it would take over existing cases from the previous structure and call any new matters before it. “We still have to have discussions and a handover from the previous structure and answer our own statements on what we think we should be doing. It’s only then that will determine [if we call call any new cases].”