An eagerness by power-hungry factions to win at all costs resulted in a blatant disregard of ANC rules and processes, leading to chaos at the party’s Eastern Cape conference, writes YONELA DIKO
For many ANC leaders and members, the most important moment of ANC elective conferences is the actual election of leaders at the conference venue. As a result, many leaders rush through the processes and procedures leading up to the conference, trampling on too many guidelines and squeezing every loophole, all in the race towards their most important moment – winning at all costs.
In the ANC, the basic unit and most important structure of the organisation is the branch. The branch is king and this is not just a nicety used by the elite to lull the masses, it’s a constitutional imperative. This imperative, however, is not absolute as higher structures still have to ratify all outcomes of branches. Branches are therefore not little independent cells that do as they please, independent of the mother body.
The first requirement for ANC branches is that when a meeting is constituted to elect a branch delegate to conference and to debate and conclude on their provincial/national candidate preference; such a branch meeting must be constitutional, made up of members in good standing and meet a minimum threshold, which is a standard of 100 members. In that branch meeting, there must be a regional or provincial representative to ensure that all these requirements are met and that such a meeting is conducted according to the rules and regulations of ANC.
Until all these requirements are met, no outcome of that branch can be admissible to the electoral body (for nominations) and a branch delegate for voting. Whatever discrepancies or grievances that may arise out of that branch meeting, they must be dealt with in earnest, before the process moves any further.
This branch meeting cannot be conducted until the office of the Secretary-General has concluded its audit of the membership of such a branch to ensure the branch meets the membership threshold and is therefore in good standing. Equally, the branch secretary, again before such a meeting is held, must verify the audit to ensure that the branch list he keeps coincides with the audited list and where there are differences to ensure that those are differences are cleared with the Secretary-General’s office.
This can all seem tedious and a waste of time to those who can’t wait for their march to the new Jerusalem. This impatience again results in the lack of a realisation that once the process of nomination has been opened at branch levels, the conference itself has effectively begun. The actual election on the conference floor is simply the culmination of these processes. This means every stage of the elections process, beginning at branch level, must be taken with the utmost seriousness because it is but an important part of ensuring the entire elective conference is a success.
ANC membership has evolved over time and our intricate procedures are now second nature to our members so that even the slightest hint of manipulation will be called out. A regional or provincial representative deployed to a branch meeting is supposed to be rigorous on procedure and ensure that by the time the meeting is concluded all members are happy.
The old stories of branches that are branches non-grata because they are seen as hostile to a particular agenda and are therefore either invalidated or influenced towards a particular direction have no place in the new dispensation.
Once regional leadership is satisfied that all procedures and processes have been followed, then the PEC must also satisfy itself that all processes were followed and all branches were constitutionally constituted and conducted according to the ANC constitution and spirit. All this must happen before the actual conference day gets underway.
It is therefore curious that in Eastern Cape, you would have Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) members like Andile Lungisa, who would wait until the actual day of the conference to raise issues of procedure when they would have received all reports from branches and would have had to satisfy themselves with those reports. When the PEC decides to go ahead with a conference, the assumption is that they are satisfied with all reports about branches.
On the actual day of the conference, it is the national office that handles accreditation of delegates, against the approved audited lists that have gone through all the levels. It is again curious that provincial leaders would fight each other over accreditation when neither of them conducts the accreditation process on the day. If there were delegates accredited who were shut out or there were delegates mistakenly accredited and were inside plenary, it’s not clear how that can be blamed on either of the contesting provincial sides as the accreditation at the conference is a competency of the national office.
So, for one contesting member and his followers to move from questioning credentials to blaming the other contender is counter-intuitive. If anyone must be blamed on the day it is the national office which does accreditation at the venue. The presence of national staff members as deployed by the office of the Secretary-General and the presence of National Executive Committee (NEC) members is so that they can immediately deal with all claimed discrepancies and let the contending parties worry only about their campaigns.
Even though the ANC does not prefer court processes to deal with disputes, its processes are designed to be legal proof and the East London Judge who was woken up early on Monday to adjudicate on ANC processes has already indicated that before her are two groups, applicants complaining about processes not followed and respondents who claim all processes were followed and each and every grievance was listened to and dealt with by the NEC.
Even if, however, all these processes are followed to the latter, the one thing no ANC process can resolve, irrespective of how meticulous the processes were followed, is a political agenda that seeks to dictate outcomes, whatever the cost, whatever the sacrifice. A political agenda erodes the integrity of ANC processes and pits comrades against each other with one specific hope, to collapse the systems of the organisation and make the atmosphere toxic.
What all of us must always remember at all material times is that ANC is the governing party of the most powerful country on the continent upon whom the hopes of the billion people of this continent, many of whom make their home in our country, lies. Our organisation is therefore under the harshest light of scrutiny and there is not a single thing that is not being scrutinised in order to render us unfit to govern.
We have a responsibility to set an example for all other institutions, in word and indeed. It is the ANC that must be the conscience of the nation so that no stakeholder, in business, in the judiciary, civil society and even in the executive can feel emboldened to short-change our people. It is the ANC that must carry the light and lead our people towards the national democratic society with dignity and unyielding hope.
We must therefore at all times behave like statesmen, as all our forebears did.
Diko is a media strategist and consultant. This article first appeared in the RealPolitik.