The choice before the new leadership of the ANC is that of interest.
Will it serve the interest of the poor and marginalised and embark on radical economic
transformation? Or will it succumb to external forces whose interest is to distract it from the conference resolutions.
It was not an accident that the electoral contest was going to be ferocious. The stakes couldn’t have been higher. Members turned on each other. Some enlisted services of external forces including those who are traditional enemies of the ANC.
The propaganda machine led by mainstream media couldn’t resist taking sides. Scandals were buried when they involved preferred candidates. Having taken sides, the mainstream media found itself having to dig supposedly old scandals and to invent some.
With so many former members co-opted to serve on boards of financial institutions, mining companies and liberal institutions, the conference presented a perfect opportunity to
strip the ANC of revolutionary content.
The contest thus represented two contending interests and possible trajectories. Stripped of all the verbiage, this was a contest between forces for change and those fighting for self-determination by the ANC on the one hand and forces for the maintenance of white privilege and power relations over the ANC and all within its ambit, on the other.
For Big Capital, it was a do or die moment. It needed a candidate who will expunge the
language of radical socio-economic transformation from the public discourse. Radical economic transformation was reduced as nothing more than a license to loot public resources. Hundreds of millions, some putting estimates closer to a billion rand, were allegedly pumped into support of the victorious camp.
In terms of resources and forces rallied against Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, this was a case of David versus Goliath. It proved to be a case of pro-rich hold on the ANC versus its pro-poor constituency. In its worst form, it brought forth the smouldering smoke of politics of regionalism and tribalism.
But the outcome reflected in one sense the political sophistication of the delegates. Delegates rejected the artificial distinction that had become the staple diet in the public discourse.
The conference was not a space for the ANC to choose between good and evil, corrupt versus clean, or angels versus devils. The elective conference was a meeting of branches of the ANC tasked with the responsibility of reflecting on its achievements, weaknesses, challenges and to map a way forward. Given the flames of factionalism that had flared during the campaign, delegates said in no uncertain terms that they will have none of it.
The message was crisp and the marching orders crystal clear. Unity, continuity, and radical economic transformations should define the outcome of the conference.
Delegates ensured that both camps find expression in representation of the composition
of the top six of the organisation and the 80-strong additional members of the national
But anti-ANC forces never sleep. They went into an overdrive. They reframed the outcome of the conference to suit their own agenda. For these forces, the outcome had all the hallmarks that they did not want to see. A strong and united ANC is a threat to their economic interests. These forces had to find a way of reformulating the outcome to suit their agenda.
Most important is to distract the new ANC leadership from implementing the far-reaching
Sadly, the razor-thin victory of less than 2% has not humbled the triumphalist camp. Instead, the victorious camp sought to dishonestly paint the outcome as a resounding victory. It wasted no time in projecting the outcome as a mandate to remove President Zuma. All sorts of charlatans and opportunists have since been marshalled for this purpose – ranging from media owners and journalists to the archbishops. Archbishop Thabo Makgoba should do himself a favour and revisit some of the biblical texts. He seems to display a serious bout of amnesia. For his erudition, he could do start with Matthew 18:15 “If your brother sins against you go to him and show him his faults. But do it privately, just between yourselves.” However, this approach doesn’t earn you headlines.
Or he could take the rebuke he received from his fellow Anglican priest to heart. Distancing himself from Makgoba’s obnoxious and hateful sermon, the reverend father Khaketla had this to say in the now trending #Thabo Makgoba must go: “As an Anglican and a priest in God’s Holy Church, I hung my head in shame and utter disgust as I watched the ‘sermon’ delivered by the Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, The Most Reverend Dr Cecil Thabo Makgoba, in St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town on Christmas Eve.
“When one expected to hear a sermon on the baby in the manger, the shepherds watching
their flocks or the angelic host singing Gloria In Excelsis Deo, the whole time the Archbishop raved and rented about how Cyril Ramaphosa should immediately remove Jacob Zuma. It was abominable, to say the least.
“What made it most disgusting was that it was shouted from a pulpit, where the gospel of the Christ child should be preached. The pulpit should be respected for its purpose. On what authority is the archbishop giving orders to the ANC?”
Other Anglicans have not been as forgiving.
They suggest that the archbishop might be suffering from delusions of grandeur that has
afflicted some of his predecessors. All of these efforts and side issues are intended to undermine the ANC’s right of self-determination.
These developments have been triggered to frustrate and undermine the primacy of the
delegates to determine the direction of their organisation. The intention is to outsource
decision making to forces who are invested in the organisation’s downfall, not its well-being.
What unites these forces is not the wellbeing of the poorest majority but their intense hatred for Zuma. Their mission is to reframe and distort the conference outcomes.
In doing so, they can rely on their access and control of the mainstream media, and the
failure of ANC members that these forces are engaged in a permanent campaign. A slight
distraction can lead to a concession of loss.
A rebuttal of the triumphalist narrative must be based on restating indisputable facts. First, the outcome of the conference was not a resounding victory for the Cyril Ramaphosa
campaign. Had it not been for the fact that some people maybe sold their souls, the outcome could have gone the other way!
The outcome is not reflected in the provincial balance. More work will have to be focused on winning provinces that, for all practical purposes, rejected Ramaphosa. It was also the case of court cases/litigation being illegitimately used as branch structures.
Secondly, the support for Dlamini Zuma and the constituencies and interests she represented has not dissipated overnight. This should have been a humbling reality for the
Cyril Ramaphosa camp. But to expect that, would be like asking leopards to change their
Third, Dlamini Zuma’s campaign exposed the level of political and class consciousness
within the alliance and the country. Organisations such as Cosatu were willing to prostitute
themselves as part of joint forces comprising big business and mainstream media against
her. This was also an occasion in which the rabid form of chauvinism and patriarchy reared their ugly heads.
Even with all this being evident before her, Dlamini Zuma humbly accepted the outcome.
This shows her mettle and true commitment as a leader versus threats and bullying from
the Ramaphosa camp in respect of the prospect of a loss.
Fourth, the unmistakable mandate coming from the conference was that of unity, continuity
and radical socio-economic change. Big business and mainstream is seeking to divert
and de-focus the ANC from this. The recall of the sitting president is likely to inflame passions and take the ANC where it was before the conference – divided and unfocused.
Fifth, the immediate challenge is to refocus the delegates and the rest of society by restating
the conference resolutions and to expose the shenanigans of the forces of resistance. It is important to indicate that conference spoke clearly that it chose change and not the maintenance of the status quo. Unpacking each of the resolutions and how they will impact positively in the life of the ordinary person is a project that needs to be pursued deliberately and vigorously.
Sixth, and most importantly, the ANC must realise that white monopoly capital never sleeps and it will enlist the services of the oppressed to advance its own interests.
In the final analysis, the choice before the ANC’s new leadership is whether it will succumb
to external pressures whose agenda is to sustain the status quo or whether it will implement conference resolutions and respond to the historic mission of liberating black people in general and Africans in particular.
Prof Sipho Seepe is a political commentator and special advisor to the SA government