One of the crucial building blocks of the ANC over the past 100 years is the issue of internal democracy. So strong is such internal democracy that once the party has pronounced on a matter, it has frowned on those who go outside that structure to contest views.
Should that internal democracy have been flawed, the ANC would have crumbled long ago. Milestones in the history of the movement can only be described as the success of such internal democracy at work.
ANC's top leaders: Deputy secretary-general Thandi Modise, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, chairwoman Baleka Mbete, President Jacob Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and treasurer-general Mathews Phosa. File photo: Masi Los. Credit: Independent Newspaper Limited
It is simply fiction to say this rich history of internal democracy does not exist, or is so flawed as to produce the kind of fairy tale that William Gumede penned in a recent article.
Gumede would have had to ignore this rich history to conclude that the ANC system is designed to “produce weak leaders”. All of the ANC’s 12 presidents and their accompanying NECs were produced by this system, and it will continue to produce future leaders.
It is a fiction that ANC delegates are not representative of ANC branches. Throughout its history, the ANC conference has been representative of the ANC, and elected and mandated by the branches.
Another important ingrained democratic principle in the delegation of branches to conferences is a constitutional introduction of a sliding scale of proportional representivity of all our branches and provinces, taking on board the membership they enjoy.
It is fiction to say representatives are often members holding powerful positions, like mayors and MPs, hence they are members of the ANC establishment and are an elite group.
ANC internal democracy has not stopped anyone, regardless of his or her position, to be elected to represent a branch. And no ANC member has an ordained right to be elected to represent the branch at congress by virtue of being a mayor or any such official. Most delegates to a conference are elected on merit and not because they hold a government position.
It is a fiction to say branch delegates’ votes are based on the preference of the branch leadership, and because the vote is by a show of hands they are victimised if they don’t vote accordingly.
Most ANC branches have constructive debates about who must be nominated for leadership positions. There is no evidence of widespread intimidation. The few incidents of conflict at ANC branches are isolated. As we speak, almost 85 percent of branches have completed their nomination process without incident.
It is a fiction that secretaries can make branch delegates, who disagree with them on their choice of candidates, “disappear”.
The starting point for preparations for any conference at all levels is a cut-off date that determines which branch and which member in good standing are eligible to attend the conference. No secretary or secretary-general can interfere with these processes as that would violate the ANC constitution.
It is a fiction to say the deployment committee presents branches with names of who can be nominated for president and mayors, or that it makes decisions on tenders and thusinfluences how delegates vote.
Any ANC member can stand for any position and no deployment committee tells branches who can be elected. The deployment committee has no role in any ANC conference. Before elections, the ANC leadership structure, in this instance the NEC, is disbanded together with all committees it has established in its term of office, including the deployment committee. When voting happens, there is no deployment committee to fear, as ludicrously claimed by Gumede.
Anecdotal analysis of supposed weaknesses in the ANC’s internal processes cannot be used as a reckless dismissal of procedures that have been used over the good part of the movement’s 100 years.
The ANC is on course to renew and modernise itself, but none of that modernisation is as a result of the wild and fictional assertions that Gumede states as fact.
* Jackson Mthembu is an ANC NEC member and national spokesman of the ANC. This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in ANC Today.