ANC stalwart Frank Chikane.
ANC stalwart Frank Chikane has added his voice to the debate on the ruling party’s renewal, urging its league structures to play a more active role in the process.
In an interview with the Mail & Guardian Chikane, himself a member of the governing party’s veterans’ league, said the plan of action for renewal had been crafted but the problem was in its implementation.
Chikane, who spoke in his capacity as an elder of the ANC, was reacting to a recent statement made by former president Thabo Mbeki in his eulogy at the memorial service for former foreign affairs minister Aziz Pahad.
Mbeki said the ANC had not carried out its own mandate to renew itself following its 2017 elective conference.
“The fact of the matter, though, is that we did not do that, we did not renew the ANC following that conference resolution of 2017. That resolution has been repeated by the conference of 2022 to renew the ANC. We are now in October, that was 10 months ago that resolution was renewed, nothing has happened,” Mbeki said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa — who has often been at odds with Mbeki on the direction of the ANC — used his closing address at the party’s recent national executive committee meeting to react to Mbeki’s comments, saying renewal should never be seen as a one-day event.
“It is a continuous process. There are times when we will take five steps forward, and three back, but the commitment that we have made in ensuring that there is renewal in the ANC, is a commitment to which we have said we will not reverse from and we will always seek to move forward,” Ramaphosa said.
“We must keep at it and reposition our organisation.”
The ANC embarked on a programme of renewal in 2017 after it emerged that it had been complicit in state capture. Renewal became the slogan used by the party in its elections campaigns.
Chikane told the M&G that the ANC needed to renew itself by cleaning up at a leadership level.
“It’s a chicken and an egg situation. So if you say to me, the renewal is not happening — which is what the former president is saying, the decisions are there but it’s not happening — I will say it’s not happening because the people who lead it need to renew themselves.”
He said the ANC Veterans’ League had taken up the renewal agenda and Mbeki knew what it was doing.
“My view — and he knows my view — is that together with him [Mbeki], we should work to make sure this renewal is done. It’s not going to happen automatically. If I’m corrupted, I’m not going to remove myself naturally. So it’s not pressing a button and renewal happens. It’s renewing the very people who need to make the decision and programme of action.”
He criticised the veterans’ league itself, saying that as the custodian of the renewal programme, it needed to act.
“We [the veterans’ league] made the decisions in July. It’s now three months, have we ourselves acted? You can’t just critique others, it’s us. Have we done it? I’ve done a plan which was presented to the legkotla in September. They asked me to do it. So we are waiting for a policy committee to deal with this matter so that we can go out and make it happen,” he said.
Chikane said that veterans should not complain about the national executive committee (NEC) but must rather act as an organ of the ANC.
“They are represented in the NEC, they have two members there. They are represented in every provincial structure. They are represented in every region, they are represented in every branch. They have got a massive task and the women’s league should do the same and the youth league should do the same and not fold your arms and wait for the ANC, it’s not going to happen.”
In 2022, an ANC formed a renewal committee. A document leaked to the media stated that the committee would work with branches and analyse the state of the party’s organisational structures, cadre development, political education and policy-making capacity, among other issues.
The document said the commission would produce a report to the ANC’s policy conference, before it is adopted by the party’s elective conference in December.
Ramaphosa previously said the renewal commission would be charged with developing vision 2032 for the ruling party, which will mark its 120th anniversary that year.