The office of the Secretary General of the ANC has previously been occupied by illustrious men of unquestionable intellect and character such as Sol Plaatjie (1876-1932), James Calata (1895-1983), Oliver Tambo (1917-1993), Duma Nokwe (1927-1978) and Walter Sisulu (1912-2003); men who upheld their duty to serve with determined purpose of unifying the membership of the party under one leadership.
The ANC is more divided today than it was a year ago. The perceptible schisms within the ANC are aggravated by failure of the leadership to moderate their absurd revolutionary rhetoric and hostility towards members who had not held its president in highest esteem. A conciliatory tone is dismissed in favour of more hostile and confrontational engagement with other senior members who are not particularly pleased with the direction that the ANC is taking.
The Secretary General of the ANC Gwede Mantashe has been leading the charge to further purge and isolate senior members of the movement who do not espouse the revolutionary fervour that has become a defining characteristic of this new ANC. On dismissal of the president of the Republic Thabo Mbeki, Mantashe spoke of the need to unify the party and end political tension and infighting that has plagued the party before and after the ANC national conference in Polokwane; but he has since done or said nothing that conspicuously demonstrate his commitment to bringing about unity in the party. His actions serve to desecrate the good that his predecessors have assembled over the years.
It is becoming more apparent that Mantashe has latent defects of character, which may not have been readily discernible at his election to office of secretary general. The circumstances under which he was elected perhaps necessitated a militant loose-mouth, but cohesion within the ANC requires sober and conciliatory leadership that is committed to the core democratic principles that shaped the ANC to what it used to be and ought to be.
Mantashe has brought to the office of the secretary general unprecedented hypocrisy. The constitution of the ANC is clear on the manner in which members of the ANC should engage the leadership. Constructive criticism needs to be raised within the structures of the party, but prior to Polokwane it was apparent that current leadership had little regard to these requirements when they openly attacked the then leadership of the ANC, accusing them of intolerance to criticism, dictatorial tendencies and a number of malicious things. The message from the ANC now is that, “do as I say, not as I do”.
Mantashe is the national chairperson of the SA Communist Party (SACP) and saw it fit to lambast his party in public on occasion of his delivering of the Dan Tloome memorial lecture. The constitution of the SACP obliges of its members to defend the party and to carry out its decisions. It explicitly states that all decisions taken by higher structures of the party are binding on all lower structures and individual members.
One can only conclude that recent and more regular nonsensical utterances by the secretary general of the SACP Blade Nzimande are in communication of party positions on such political issues confronting the country; that Mantashe is expected to have part of such decisions and is bound by them. We expect Mantashe as a senior leader within the ANC and SACP to be exemplary in his conduct and pronouncements. The tendency to resort to character assassination of opponents instead of engaging them constructively is symptomatic of shebeen politics that are now promoted by the current leadership.
For Mantashe to say, “… the list of ministers who have resigned was released with the sole objective of collapsing the markets, the swiftness of our response averted the worst,” does not help in healing the divisions within the ANC. It is statements like these that further entrenches deep-seated acrimony among warring factions and blows to smithereens all noble attempts to bring the party to unity and cohesion. By continuing to foment factionalism Gwede Mantashe has demonstrated that he is unfit to serve as secretary general of the ANC. The party should act now against him and save itself from implosion.