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.