In an impassioned and candid speech at the ANC Provincial Conference in KwaZulu-Natal on November 7, 2015, President Jacob Zuma has called for the renewal of the ANC. (https://youtu.be/qrmfKWyknls)
In the keynote address, punctuated by humour and seamless transitions into Zulu, Zuma reiterated, to the applause of the delegates, the centrality of ANC branches as the ultimate authority of the organization. He stated that it is not the NEC which should rule over the branches, but the reverse. The ANC conference is the final decision making body on policy, he said, and the NEC is merely delegated power for the implementation of agreed policy.
The centrality of the branches, Zuma said, reflects the status of the ANC and its Tripartite Alliance with the SACP and COSATU as a mass movement for the liberation of the people, a task not yet complete.
There is much work still to be done on the pathway toward a just society, Zuma said, and the vibrancy and dynamism of the branches will be key to sustaining the 103 year old movement.
Zuma criticised previous leaders for having allowed the ANC to be treated as a business and those who have abused their positions of leadership in the branches, eg., limiting numbers of members to maintain control. ‘The more the merrier,’ Zuma said, as greater memberships strengthen the democratic accountability of the leadership.
Zuma castigated some of his opponents, many of whom were former ANC leaders, with dry humour, saying that they thought it looked nice and warm outside, but instead have found that it is actually quite cold. He described his opponents as irrelevant bygones, sitting alone in their houses, desperately trying to seem relevant. The ANC, he declared, remains the strategic center of power.
Amplifying Mao-Tse-Tung’s famous quote, ‘Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom,’ Zuma said a ‘thousand flowers need to grow’, that branches should become much bigger and active, be controlled by the people, whose voices should determine policy. The ANC, moreover, should be where the people are, be involved in their struggles. He criticised the organisation for distancing itself from the struggles of the people, thus allowing unnamed others to attempt to lead the movement astray.
Zuma has called for the renewal of the liberation organisation so that the government and the people can work in partnership against the real enemy, ‘which never goes away.’ The ANC and its allies, he reminded his audience, are a revolutionary movement, and there is ‘now more than ever’ the need for unity, discipline, comradely interaction and honesty
Without such a renewal, Zuma warned, the ANC will become a sick organization. His intervention is timely due to what he described as the recent ‘wag the dog’ role of the ANC in regards to the recent mass demonstrations of workers and students. In the most impassioned moment of the speech, Zuma declared, ‘We should be there with them!’
The next phase of the liberation process, Zuma ended, will be characterized by the convergence of the ANC government and the people in Stage Two of the journey to equality. Such a journey will only be possible if the ANC is a healthy organization of the people.