David Africa
David Africa

What does Gwede’s Manuel-bashing mean for ANC members?

Dear Comrade Gwede Mantashe,

In the current spirit of letter writing by members and supporters of the ANC I am writing having just read a statement attributed to you by the media, in inverted commas nogal, about the Jimmy Manyi-Trevor Manuel sparring match I’ve been pleased to witness over the past two weeks. I say pleased because a senior member of the ANC dared speak out and launch the long overdue and well-deserved public critique of Manyi and the intolerant, dangerous ideas that he espouses.

You say in your statement to the media that the ANC leadership calls upon its members “not to behave like free agents”, saying what they please, and that this instruction applies not only to Manuel as a Cabinet minister but all members of the ANC. I find it astonishing that an organisation, which prides itself in the political and ideological ability of its members, requires them to behave as if they are schoolchildren, seeking the permission of “the leadership” before they make statements in public. Why provide ideological training to your members when they do not have the right to freely and publicly espouse the values taught to them and for which so many ANC members gave their lives? And what exactly did Manuel say that was so shocking and disagreeable to the ANC leadership? He defended the Constitution of the country, the ANC’s own Freedom Charter, the ANC government and the organisation’s legacy of non-racialism, as well as the contribution of the coloured community to the struggle for liberation.

If the statement made by Manyi was instead made by a member of the DA, would ANC members require your permission to attack the surely racist DA member for making such statements and remain quiet until such permission has been granted? What if ANC members encounter racism in the workplace or in their local community, as they do all the time? Can they proclaim from the rooftops that the Freedom Charter says “South Africa belongs to all who live in it” and that our Constitution protects the dignity of all persons or do they wait for a permission slip from Luthuli House?

Your position on the Manuel-Manyi issue objectively (and consciously?) places you in the position where you support Manyi. When a member of the ANC cannot defend the policies of his or her organisation in any available public forum, in the interest of a vulgarised and farcical “democratic centralism” that is used as a stick with which to beat those with whom you disagree, members of this organisation should be very concerned, as should the broader citizenry. Not only is this outdated ideological position completely out of touch with the speed and availability of modern communication, it does only harm in a mass-based organisation such as the ANC. The inevitable problems that will arise as a result of a more open and less centralised policy allowing ANC members to express themselves in public is minute in comparison to the dangers of restricting freedom of speech in this fashion within the organisation. I am not advocating a free-for-all, but publicly defending ANC policy is not only the right of all ANC members, but their duty. In fact the ANC Constitution requires members to “combat propaganda detrimental to the interests of the ANC and defend the policy, aims and programme of the ANC”. Members are also expected to “fight against racism, tribal chauvinism, sexism, religious and political intolerance or any other form of discrimination or chauvinism”.

Maybe Trevor was just following Rule 5 of the ANC Constitution?