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To succeed, the ANC must go back to the start

The African National Congress, Africa’s oldest liberation movement, has a glorious and illustrious history. The ANC has for the majority of the 100 years of its existence held the hopes and aspirations of the majority of black people in South Africa.

This is the ANC that has always been creative and industrious in its fight for the emancipation of black people and in creating an apartheid-free South Africa.

This history shows great courage and dedication amongst the leaders who have had the privilege of leading this illustrious movement. It shows leaders of unquestionable integrity and morality. Selfless leaders who gave up their families and livelihoods to contribute to the fight against apartheid.

This is a history and past that can only instil pride in any patriotic South African.

But this history means nothing if the ANC is not to refer and allow it to shape the future. It is meaningless if it is not to be drawn upon for wisdom. History is just that, history. It has no meaning if it not utilised as a compass directing one to one’s future.

In 1994 the ANC ceased to be a liberation movement and became a political party. With this it lost all that comes with being a liberation movement. Clinging to attributes and characteristics of a liberation movement when circumstances have changed has demonstrated to be a danger to both the ANC itself as well as the country as a whole.

With the changing circumstances came the change in the cadre. Instead of selfless cadres prepared to die for the cause, we started seeing cadres interested only in self-enrichment and narrow factional interest. We started seeing a corrupt and an easily corruptible cadre. A cadre that seldom, if at all, puts the ANC and the people first. A cadre more concerned about which position he holds than in which position the people are. A cadre more concerned with the value of his car rather than the values of the ANC.

This caused a slow but definite erosion of the very distinct moral characteristic of the ANC that had been entrenched by leaders like Dube, Luthuli, Tambo, Sisulu, Mandela among others. This has completely changed the personality of the movement to that of an easy vehicle to wealth and power.

This rot is not only in the national life of the ANC but has manifested itself into all spheres of the movement. Even the character and personality of the basic unit — the branch — of the ANC has changed. Instead of being a centre for political education, policy development and discussion, the branch has become a centre for dispensing patronage and tender influence.

In all this madness, the people — who are the reason the ANC exists — are forgotten or have become a secondary concern. Strides have been made in some areas that were deliberately overlooked during apartheid. More people than ever have access to basic amenities, clean water, electricity, sanitation, housing, basic grants for the needy. Bulk infrastructure has improved and quality of life has generally improved.

Unfortunately there are dismal failures in areas of education, health, crime, land reform and general economic opportunities for black people. BEE has proven to be a spectacular failure and an easy vehicle of enrichment for the small elite. Land reform is disastrous due to incompetence, corruption and lack of political will, coupled with the unwillingness of the members of the White Inc to reform. The JSE is still widely white-controlled and very little has been transferred to black hands. The ANC seems powerless at the hands of the economic elite and has allowed them to dictate terms of change.

The proud history of the ANC is being desecrated daily by the lack of political will to take decisive action when dealing with corruption allegations within government. It is being desecrated when we fail to deal harshly with the corrupt and those who enrich themselves using public coffers.

The glorious history is being tarnished when leaders fail to force change within the economic sector and when we lose sight of what the ANC fathers and grandfathers fought for — the emancipation of black people and a peaceful coexistence of races. You can only bask in a glorious past if you still hold true to that past.

The current leadership of the ANC will do well to remember that the history of the organisation will only be effective if it still shapes the path and charts the future, otherwise it is useless and meaningless and those that hold it dear will not hold an empty shell.

The ANC will be history itself if it does not go back to the basics and allow its history to plot its future and that of the country’s. The honeymoon is over.


  • Despite his full-time duty of being a father to two girls and one boy, Nco Dube spends ample time fulfilling his passion for reading and writing. He is not a journalist but he writes from the heart, from an ordinary "man on the street's" perspective. His views are shaped by what's in the public domain and his analysis informed by his extensive reading and interaction with other ordinary South Africans from all walks of life. Dube is a marketer by profession who runs an experiential marketing company and is also a freelance events producer. He went to Catholic schools including St Francis College in Marriannhill and studied at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Unisa. You can follow him on twitter: @ncodube and on Facebook: Nco Dube


  1. mike venter mike venter 5 January 2012

    Agree with you, it’s time we all own up and get the direction going the way it is suppose to go!

    But, Nco please for the love of SA, go educate yourself on how the JSE work and it’s functions and purpose. You sound like Cosatu and for an educated man you should know better that to use this ridiculous ignorant view you have around the JSE to support your debates.

    The JSE pie is big grow it, there is no end to wealth it is not limited, there’s no need to transfer wealth and the JSE. The JSE is listed companies with the shares from black and white pension funds including the government pension funds, there’s many millions blacks in SA with unit trust accounts that already own shares, endownment policies, ect,ect.
    How do you want the JSE to be handed to the blacks? Expropriate shares? Give some concrete examples please it would be really interesting to hear.

    Why do the blacks not buy their own shares according to you? Do YOU have shares on the JSE or even unit trust?

    It’s not necessary to transfer the JSE to blacks, they just have to buy into the JSE, do you understand that?

    Where are the companies they have started the last 17 years why have they not listed on the JSE? They have there’s just not enough of them. Or is it a question of Professional Blacks see it easier to become tendertrepurneurs where there is no laws and share holders looking over their shoulders without actually benefiting the entire SA as the JSE is doing.

  2. lionel lionel 5 January 2012

    The problems of the ANC are very similar to other ruling elites in Africa; they have allowed themselves to be enslaved by foreign capital, through greed and self-interest. Thus Africa is bled dry by foreigners such as the West and China, whilst they feed from the trough of moral debasement.

    When the wheels come off, they will resort to inflammatory rhetoric, followed by violence, in order to remain in power, as is the case of Zimbabwe.

    The ANC of today cannot look back, as it is now a ruling party; it must look to the future, and plan accordingly. Sadly, I cannot see this happening, as the leadership has been corrupted by the desire for power.

  3. Otto Otto 5 January 2012

    There is nothing materially new or insightful in this article. It simply highlights lack knowledge of its own subject. The struggle for liberation predates the ANC of 1906. There is no mention of this history, its heroes, heroins and values at all.

    I simply cant think of anyone born in 1906 doing anything the same way as they did in 1912 today in 2012. There are private companies listed on the JSE, none of them can show you how they have not changed their original founding corporate values and business practices. The socioeconomic environment of the globalised world order is completely different to the 1906 world order and demands completely different responses from diverse inputs as there is no one solution that works. Meaning that no one has the answer or magic bullet. It is simply wrong to expect the ANC of 1906 not to change in 2012. It is simply wrong to expect the ANC of 1906 to have all the answers for 2012 century challenges. The ANC is not a single minded juggernaut, it consist of diverse people with different ideologies but subscribe to same cause. Diversity does not mean we have the same colour, speak the same language, behave the same, drink the same coffee, smoke the same cigar, etc. It is wrong therefore to expect the diversity in ANC to always behave as an autocratic antic and to be without contest. That is why some people who can’t have their way (meaning their ideas are defeated by the majority within) leave the ANC. This is good for the ANC and…

  4. Morena Morena 5 January 2012

    The thing with nostalgia is that there are no repeat performances; so the expectation that the ANC will return to its glory days seem misplaced; firstly because the task of the ANC is different to the “struggle” days, it being the ruling party; and secondly, because the ANC requires different kind of leaders who will translate the broad philosophical vision of its past leaders into meaningful and practical transformational ideas. Back then “numbers”, and to a particular extent “brains”, were sufficient; right now “brains” must be the primary focal hub for generating leaders. Instead of focusing on attracting a million members (which is frankly an unnecessary burdensome administrative and time consuming hassle), the ANC should focus on crafting minimum standards for eligibility for representative office within its structures, update its code of conduct and ethics, and apply its disciplinary code consistently. It is however, unlikely that the ANC will ever achieve organisational renewal (if such a thing actually exists); I prefer organisational change; even this will be hard for the ANC to achieve. One visionary once said “better fewer but better” and that was Thabo Mbeki, but alas, others preferred a broad church and no one is ministering.

  5. Viva Viva 5 January 2012

    Great words, and wise advice. There are many fine men and women of principle and integrity in the ANC, and they can still lead SA forward.

  6. Moi Moi 5 January 2012

    To succeed, the ANC must eradicate the reasons people feel disappointed in it. Finished and Klaar!

  7. Thabo Seseane Thabo Seseane 5 January 2012

    To succeed in any analysis of the ANC, we all need to go back to the start. The people who founded the ANC in 1912 were traditional leaders and members of the nascent black middle class. In other words, they did not even pretend to represent the mass of black miners and workers then being forced into urbanisation. No wonder a significant proportion of the black elite has made its home in the party ever since.

    In 1913, leaders of this “disciplined force of the left” [current ANC description] decamped for England. There, they petitioned George V not to accede to the Union government’s attempt to lump educated, Christian blacks such as themselves, with the seething undifferentiated mass. How do we reconcile the ANC’s mantle of national liberation movement, with this defence of narrow class interests?

    We don’t. The ANC began and persists as a party dedicated to preserving the privileges of a thin stratum of the black population. The quid pro quo was for the ANC to then safeguard British and American interests from being overrun by the starving multitudes. Unfortunately, Afrikaner nationalism then intervened, delaying till 1994 the ratification of the understanding which the Mandela/ Mbeki administrations implemented with alacrity. Is it any wonder that the Duke of Edinburgh was an honoured guest at Mandela’s swearing-in?

    And was there an alternative to ANC middle-class politics? Well, by 1912, the Bolsheviks had already made one attempt to overthrow the Tsar.

  8. Pinky Pinky 5 January 2012

    Let us now stop beating about the bush, the anc is useless and hopelessly corrupt and its committing most atrocities against the previously marginalised, economic crimes which are robbing the downtroddens of their dignities and chances in life, my take is that, we need a revolution finish and klaar!

  9. Daniel Berti Daniel Berti 5 January 2012

    “The ANC will be history itself if it does not [insert something which is not going to happen].”
    The liberating ANC is already history (as simple M&G articles like this - – indicate), and the new ANC doesn’t appear to me to be going anywhere very soon. Corrupt governments often last.
    That you’re even entertaining the idea that the ANC could go back to basics from the position they’re in seems to me so unlikely that it is unreasonable.

  10. mikeA mikeA 5 January 2012

    It will not help for us white folk to dismiss important issues simply because we can find grounds to criticise or dismiss the ANC (power struggles and corruption make writing them off all too easy).

    The ANC and COSATU are asking some of the right questions, even if (in my view) the answers haven’t been correct. To criticise without engaging on the core issues is useless(like taking pot shots at Mr Malema and his campaign for “economic freedom” (whatever that means) without seeing why this has resonance). Those of us who are more educated or articulate should not summarily dismiss those who are less so, even if we can use clever arguments to support our positions.

    We really need a searching after truth and justice, and persistence. To start, is it a valid objective to aim for a situation where a majority of shares in the JSE are in “black” hands? I say that it is. But, what puts those shares in black hands? Compelling handovers destroys wealth, and creates a new oppression. The quick fixes of easy shares, jobs and tenders for black people has created unearned wealth, which translates into compulsive and gratuitous consumption. This excess, and the desire to emulate, has led to the cascading of corruption that we see – robbing money from the fiscus, and hence the people.

    So let us start asking HOW we can get more wealth into the hands of “the people”.without destroying our country. How about starting with work, education, work, honesty, more work,…

  11. mike venter mike venter 6 January 2012

    Agree with you MikeA.

    But with a 70% pass rate for matrics and only having to achieve a 30% mark we are in for another 17 years of unemployable people that will add zero value and thus will come with the same demands that they everybody to share.

    But maybe that is why Cosatu, Nco and the likes are advocating sharing the JSE. I mean it is easier doing that that actually educating children properly and having them be productive members of society.

    How we will change this is when education in SA is on standard with the rest of the world. Until then we will have the ones talking allot but not knowing much or can do much about it.

  12. The Creator The Creator 6 January 2012

    No, not back to the start. The ANC in 1912 was hopelessly elitist and compromising. Back to the 1980s is quite far back enough.

    Of course, as a couple of people have already said, the ANC isn’t going to do that. However, if Zuma and his cabal can be overthrown at Mangaung (not likely, but not impossible either) and if a replacement who is not a corporate toady or a lackey of foreign interests can be found (even less likely, but still not impossible) then it might be possible to get a government which genuinely cares for the interests of the country and its people, which is what we need.

  13. Arnie Arnie 6 January 2012

    Yes in the beginning there was no money for corruption, and there was no need for service delivery.. let us ALL go back 100 years in 2012.

  14. Otto Otto 6 January 2012

    @Morena & MikeA: Good points. This article is mute on these issues and assumes that 1912 ways of doing thing have some magic for the future of the ANC. Its not reasonable to compare the 1912 ANC which did not govern let alone have R1million in the bank, to the 2012 Governing Party. The 1912 ANC did not have a socioeconomic system to fix that it had no influence over_globalisation and the market economy. Its just pure nostalgia which is not a bad thing. A different ANC cadre is needed for the future, much more inspiring than Nelson Mandela, more adept than Thabo Mbeki and much more capable than Jacob Zuma.

    There is no single right answer so many ideas have to be tested. more pathways have to be traveled in search for solutions (the 2012 ANC does not have all the answers_it is wrong to assume or pretend they do); some ending in t-junctions, some back to the starting point, some in circles and some in crossroads. Some pathways would be smooth will much jolly and conviction, some hard, harsh and unforgiving with much grief and acrimony and some very confusing with sheer madness as if lost in wilderness.

    During the 100 years, the ANC has been through many of these pathways and came through because of the purpose and the vision. There is nothing wrong with the ANC of today, except for persons who are irk to the cause. Like the ocean, the ANC will cleanse itself of the filth of corrupt, inept and disconnected members may there be leaders or foot soldiers. The struggle…

  15. Peter Joffe Peter Joffe 6 January 2012

    The ANC never became a true government as they remain a revolutionary organisation (ask Julius Malema). Look at our “President” who’s only abilities lie in singing and dancing especially with his machine gun nearby. Malema can only attract supporters if he continues with his racial hatred and revolution. We need an Industrial and learning revolution – not taking from those who can and giving to those who can’t.
    Anyone capable within the ANC or outside of the ANC is sidelined if they wish to govern as the only candidates for posts and jobs are cadres, friends or relatives. Experience, training and ability are not a consideration in selecting people to govern. The ANC should only set policy but they should not be involved in the business of running the state or the provinces as they do not know how. There is no economics in politics and that is why the country is such a mess and will get worse. Political decisions made on business matters ends up with disaster as the ANC has so amply illustrated since they came to power. We don’t want jobs – we want people who can produce but the ANC has not realized that yet and may never do so with the rubbish education system that they have forced on us.

  16. jack sparrow jack sparrow 6 January 2012

    “The JSE is still widely white-controlled and very little has been transferred to black hands”. RUBBISH. Again Nco repeats this garbage, Goebbels-like. The major share owners on the JSE (SA registered companies) have no race. They are the government controlled PIC, IDC, pension funds etc. Then comes unit trusts etc. Back to school.

  17. benzo benzo 6 January 2012

    “The JSE is still widely white-controlled and very little has been transferred to black hands”.
    If you really think that 1 million whites can control 49 million non whites, you do not have an high opinion of the capacity of the non-white part of the population. Hope your brothers do not take you to task on this.

  18. MLH MLH 6 January 2012

    Sadly, many of us are searching the ANC ranks for a few good people and finding none. Nco doesn’t mention how little the youth development agency has done to contribute to the betterment of SA’s youth, so we don’t expect future generations to produce anyone better than has been found to date.
    Strong and strategic plans for the future are necessary but not forthcoming. The ANC can brag all it wants about its illustrious past, many know it means nothing for people alive today.
    If I have to listen and read to the party’s historic tripe all year, I could be tempted to turn terrorist…oops, liberation soldier.

  19. mikeA mikeA 6 January 2012

    Lets talk about specifics of what will drive genuine black ownership on the JSE, and put some relaistic timeframes, even if we don’t like the idea of taking time. This is not a white delaying trick, but a real wish to see something worthwhile taking place.

    (1) What does it take for people to buy shares on the JSE – directly, or through Unit Trusts, etc. Do research about people who own shares, and how they get to that point. Then look at “black” people, and see whether they are buying shares, and what it would take to encourage them to do so. One could start with the more educated and employed, and see how they compare to white people in this regard.

    Then research the history of community trust schemes where local communities have been given shares,and whether this is a viable concept to explore.

    Then see which companies had share incentive schemes for the broader mass of workers, and find out how well this had worked, and whether the concept could be expanded or incentivised (like tax breaks for high ratios of shares for workers vs shares for managers).

    The key is research, and implementation of evidence-based policies. This is not to say that no “ideology” is involved, but rather that the plans must have a chance of working.

    (2) Research what goes into startups and new listings, and specify the particular ingredients in terms of human and monetary capital. If the required ingredients are not there, plan for putting them in place. The get started!!

  20. mike venter mike venter 6 January 2012

    MikeA what Nco also fail to mention are the many stokvels black communities run in stead of having money on the JSE. Not that it is bad or anything wrong with it, but it do contribute to the perceived numbers and lack of black investors into the JSE.

  21. Marie Claire Marie Claire 7 January 2012

    I think we need to be educated first about the JSE before we make remarks that have no backing as some of the responses have correctly said. As far as I know, the JSE, Reserve Bank and SARS are the few excellent institutions we have in South Africa that have not been tainted by racial emotions. The JSE is about companies’ PERFORMANCE not about race!

    Also I have to disagree with the title of this article. We really need to look forward instead of backward. Yes we must acknowledge the ideals & principles of Apartheid ANC but we also need to build on that to embody the changing status of the country and its political structure. Trevor Manuel said it best when he said we should put politicians in power according to educational qualifications and (valid) experience instead of emotional ties to the struggle. It is 2012 not 1912 and the sooner we acknowledge that we can then move towards a better South Africa that can rival the top countries of the world.

  22. rmr rmr 7 January 2012

    You keep complaining that wealth is not handed over to Africans. Quite a bit of it was handed over by BEE to little overall effect. Be that as it may, wealth is not obtained, in the big scheme of things, by taking away from others, but by creating your own. If you feel that Africans are not sufficiently wealthy, the question must be asked why they are not doing more to create wealth, not why others are not handing it over. That would reflect self empowerment in stead of victimhood.

  23. mike venter mike venter 7 January 2012

    Here is some information you might find useful

    While BEE moguls feast on sushi, very little has trickled down to compatriots on the other side of the track President Jacob Zuma recently called for a national debate on black economic empowerment (BEE), stating that it served only narrow business interests.

    The Economist, in March 2010, claimed that BEE and affirmative action policies had failed black South Africans.

    Instead of redistributing wealth and positions to the black majority, BEE has resulted mainly in a few individuals benefiting handsomely, while leaving the leadership of most big companies in white hands.

    The black masses, the intended beneficiaries, have hardly gained………………………….

  24. CJB CJB 7 January 2012

    While I agree with the article, the headline raises the question what the ANC is to succeed at doing. While Nco seems to have followed the “useful idiot” line of the Great & Glorious ANC past, present and future, the more mundane fact is that the leadership does not give a fig for uplifting the masses. It feeds them crumbs from the table while gorging off the “cake”. Look at all the millionaire clans of politicians and associates – Sexwale, Malema, Mandela, Zuma, Radebe, … the list is endless. Since this wealth is hidden in private hands or trusts (think Malema), Cosatu can rail about the ownership of the JSE (which it is not honest about, anyway).

  25. chantelle chantelle 9 January 2012

    To succeed, remove the last four words of the title.

  26. brian b brian b 9 January 2012

    My dear Nico,

    Your naviete is astounding.

    Although the likes of Mandela and Tambo can be admired ,much of the Anc’s glorious past lies in the realm of mythology.

    This is an organisation which has comprehensively failed to deliver and is tainted with the blood of its own.

    There is no chance of going back to the start.

    Perhaps a serious attempt to live up to the principals of the Freedom Charter (see link below) would help

  27. Colin Drew Colin Drew 10 January 2012

    The problem for SA lies in the ruling party being stuck at the Start. It can’t progress beyond the liberation and continues to drown out the calls for progress with rallies of the past.
    Get over it damn it!
    ANC you had a chance to really make a difference and uplift education and really build a strong middle class but you blew it thorough greed and lack of vision and I see only more of the same coming down the sewerage pipe. When a a behemoth such as the ANC turns to a moral and intellectual vacuum such as Jacob Zuma to rescue it after Mbeki alienated the masses, then we are in trouble .
    The headline darling status you soaked up in ’94 has long dissipated and the world can’t give a fig for what happens here and we will end up with our hands outstretched as so many other nations on this continent before us.

  28. jandr0 jandr0 12 January 2012

    Nco, you seem to have drunk deeply from the Kool-Aid, namely “Africa’s oldest liberation movement, has a glorious and illustrious history.”

    As Africa’s oldest liberation, they were also the last to “liberate” their country. Not so good at it, then, it seems. However, definitely good at “struggling,” and absolute experts at convincing others that they deserve adulation because they “struggled” so ineffectually for so long!

    It seems that they are now “struggling” just as hard at running a country as they did at “liberating” a country (which was actually primarily done by Cubans, Chinese, Russians and the – horror! – evil West).

    I suggest you try earnestly to set aside your blind loyalty fixation (for example “instil pride in any patriotic”), rather get some pride in YOURSELF as a valued, intelligent human being, and assess the real ANC with unblinkered eyes. That will be the beginning of real freedom, and hopefully a better future, for all.

    * “Drinking the Kool-Aid” is a metaphor commonly used in the United States and Canada that refers to a person or group’s unquestioning belief in an ideology, argument, or philosophy without critical examination. – Wikipedia

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