By Mbali Sibiya
“Everything” has been put on the table for discussion at the African National Congress’s 5th national policy conference currently under way in Johannesburg and nothing has been “swept under the carpet”, ANC campaigns head Fikile Mbalula said on Sunday.
“Everything is laid bare in the conference – there are no holy cows in there,” he told reporters after presenting the organisational renewal report at the plenary the previous day.
The ANC had survived difficult times. “This is a tough moment for the ANC and we cannot let it self-destruct because then we would be ignoring the great work done by leaders such as Oliver Tambo,” Mbalula said.
Issues raised which were wreaking havoc within the fractured ANC included the influence of the wealthy, politically connected Gupta family, factionalism, cronyism, buying of votes for certain leaders, and so-called gate keeping. Most of the problems within the ANC, such as factionalism, has been discussed for over two decades and no decision had been implemented, he said.
“We must no longer pay lip service to this matter anymore… we must acknowledge that factionalism is among us. We are at the present moment dealing with the ‘Eye of the Needle’, but it is not enforced.”
The ANC’s “Through the Eye of The Needle” document was produced in 2001 and sets out guidelines on how to elect leaders, including processes on how to elect the best leaders from ANC structures.
Among the proposals for a renewed ANC was an electoral council which would serve as a leadership vetting structure to ensure that credible members led the party, Mbalula said.
“The resolution on the establishment of the revolutionary electoral council must be implemented. This process will be guided by the ‘Through the Eye of the Needle’; the council will consist of the best in the ANC, not those who have retired themselves to a point where they are not interested to stand for leadership… this will help us exorcise that tendency of factionalism and allow the ANC leadership to be discussed in the open.
“The council’s processes will ensure that those who are elected to serve in the ANC have passed the test of time in terms of their impeccable credentials,” he said.
The power to choose leaders still lay with the branches, but the scrutiny on whether or not those nominated met set criteria would be the responsibility of the council. The leadership lobbying process “engineered by clandestine factionalism” destabilised the ANC.
“The fact that people have got [an] interest to stand for elections in an organisation should not be a taboo… it should be allowed. We must ban this negative lobbying that includes dispensing of patronage and all dangers that come along with that,” he said.
Another contentious matter was the ANC’s integrity commission headed by anti-apartheid struggle veteran and stalwart Andrew Mlangeni. The commission is seen as toothless for its inability to take decisive action against those implicated in allegations of corruption.
The commission should have the power to subpoena those implicated. ”The integrity commission should have powers without subjecting itself to the will of the ANC NEC [national executive committee]… it must subpoena people to come and account… it must have teeth to bite,” Mbalula said.