COMRADE MASHATILE: PROVINCIAL POLICY CONFERENCE ADDRESS, JUNE 2017

Comrade Paul Mashatile is the ANC Provincial Chairperson and this is an edited excerpt of his address at the Gauteng Provincial Policy Conference, 23-25 June 2017

Our discussions took place inspired by the knowledge that the challenges that our movement is facing are not insurmountable. We remain alive to the fact that our organization has faced daunting challenges in the past. One is reminded of situations that preceded the Lobatse, Morogoro and Kabwe Conferences. It was tough and the challenges at the time were so complex that they even threatened to tear the movement apart. However, we could surmount those obstacles, thanks to the visionary leadership of the caliber of Cde President Oliver Tambo and other leaders of the time.

The ANC survived not only to wage the struggle that culminated into the democratic breakthrough of 1994 but also to develop and implement some of the most progressive policies that have changed and continue to change the lives of our people for the better. We survived because we listened. We survived because we were not in denial and we survived because women and men of the time put the interest of our organization above their own. We also survived because we adhered to time-tested values of humility, selflessness, moral uprightness and service to the people. These are the values that have ensured that we become the Parliament of the People and leaders of society.

The ANC is more than 105 years old because it adhered to these values with its leadership unshaken in utilizing them as their guide. Our return to these values will be a fitting tribute to Comrade Tambo and the thousands of our patriots who sacrificed life and limb during the fight against apartheid, for freedom and democracy.

There is no denying that our movement is in trouble! Things are not well with the ANC having lost key municipalities in the last local government elections. Our people have also expressed their unhappiness with the way we do things. We therefore need to determine what needs to be done to save our movement so as it can reclaim its standing as leader of society and parliament of the people.

As we engage in discussions during the eminent National Policy Conference on 30 June to 05 July, we need to honestly examine what led us to be where we are and how do we emerge from this deep hole, stronger and united. Without unity, the future looks bleak. It is, however, important that the unity we forge is not based on the shifting sands of illusion. We need to confront all the ills that afflict and weaken our movement and be principled about it.

Hence, the announcement by the President to establish a judicial commission of enquiry into state capture is welcomed as this will go a long way in ensuring that comrades who are accused of malfeasances are afforded an opportunity to clear their names and we put this ugly saga behind us.

In our efforts to rescue our movement, we also need to stop being inward looking. Our people are crying out and the ANC need to address their needs and concerns, if we are to rescue the ANC from the morass is trapped in.

As we do this we need to be guided by what President Tambo said when opening the 48th National Conference of the ANC and I quote:

“Even as we provided leadership, we were always conscious of the fact that the ANC was the people`s parliament. The widespread circulation of Constitutional Guidelines was a further assertion of the sovereignty of the people. The unity in action of our people has remained the guiding beacon throughout the days of illegality. To reach our goal of a united, democratic, nonracial and nonsexist South Africa, sooner rather than later, then we must not deviate from this course. In this context, we considered it important that decisions of the ANC were to be shaped by popular mass endorsement at all times. Even if such decisions were acceptable within the Movement, they would have come to naught unless they enjoyed popular support beyond the bounds of the ANC itself. Whilst our policies were in terms of our beliefs and convictions, they also reflected and served the people`s interests. Above all, we sought to make the people part and parcel of our decisions.”

Society yearns for leadership and we cannot provide it unless we not only listen to our people but also respond to their cries. Gone are the days when the ANC would assume that what they agree upon within its structures will resonate with the people. We must be constantly in touch and in sync with the nation’s pulse. It is against this backdrop therefore that as we embark on the exercise of reviewing our policies, we must determine whether the issue is the policies themselves or it is lack of implementation thereof – given the fact that most if not all our policies are progressive and forward looking.

My take is that the issue is less about policies per se but more about their implementation. It would therefore be prudent that we cast our focus more on how best to implement our policies if we are to remain relevant. Hence we should ask ourselves how best we will be tackling the scourge of crime, especially against women and children. We must strengthen our Community Policing Fora (CPFs) and street committees so as they work with law-enforcement agencies to fight crime. We also urge our courts to impose harsher sentences on perpetrators of crime.

Our radical economic transformation agenda should be brought under the spotlight. The ANC should escalate its efforts to bring our people into the mainstream of the economy so as they also play an active role to ensure that economic benefits accrue to them. Various plans have to be rigorously implemented and this includes escalating efforts in building up the township economy as this will address poverty and joblessness.

We also need to strengthen efforts to support small businesses to create jobs for millions of the unemployed especially the youth. Youth unemployment in Gauteng is estimated at 2, 7 million young people with some who have graduated from FET and VET colleges and universities. In this regard, we welcome the intervention of the Gauteng Provincial Government through its programme of Tshepo 1 Million.

It is common cause that without the requisite skills our economy will not be able to compete in a globalized world. Hence, we need to also strengthen efforts to improve our education system so as our people are skilled appropriately, to grow our economy. The need for skills development can therefore not be overemphasized. Education should therefore remain our apex priority. Government must forge ahead in ensuring that all children has access to education and that children from poor families should also access higher education.

Although we lost two Metros and two local municipalities in Gauteng, we however, won the majority of the wards. We need to utilize this strength to intervene in those communities. We must not sit back like a traditional opposition party but should continue to take up issues affecting our communities. The Gauteng Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) is currently finalizing a document that looks at how we can ensure effectiveness in opposition.

We have made strides in creating a better life for all our people. Unfortunately, things have gone horribly wrong lately with the ANC being perceived as arrogant, self-serving and embracing corruption and mediocrity. Our people are even turning against their own movement as the crisis we are facing seem to be deepening by the day. One of the issues that has come into sharp focus as having contributed or is contributing to the crisis our movement is facing is leadership or lack thereof.

Given that the succession debate is now officially opened by the NEC, rather than we be obsessed with names, we should define the characteristics that a leader of the ANC must possess, the criteria for qualification and how we manage succession. It is against this backdrop that when we go to Conference, we must elect a leadership that will win the confidence of South Africans beyond just members of the ANC. We should also elect a leadership collective that is composed of different generations. This leadership must be composed of women and men of integrity, who will be able to address the challenges facing our organization. In short, they must lead without fear or favour!

For the sake of our movement and our future, we should avoid factions and slates when we choose leadership. We should rather strive for consensus. In the period leading up to September when nominations will be officially opened, it is important that as comrades we engage each other with the view to influence or be influenced by others. We should not strive for a winner-take-all approach, but rather a win-win situation. A winner-take-all approach can lead to the destruction of the ANC and this also poses a danger of us losing the 2019 general elections. It is therefore incumbent upon all ANC members to do everything in our power to emerge from that Conference with the leadership that is united behind a common vision and can lead our people to the national democratic society. The Gauteng PEC has already started a discussion on the leadership question and will soon share its proposal with the branches.

When we deal with organizational renewal, we should also restructure and strengthen the Head Office of the ANC so that it becomes a truly strategic centre of power. In that regard there are proposals that other provinces are considering to add more full-time Head of Departments at Luthuli House. Some of these proposals under discussion include the following: position of the 2nd Deputy President and two additional DSGs. These proposals are currently being refined. We should also continue to reform our electoral processes within the ANC. The way we elect our members to be public representatives has in the past created animosity within our ranks. Let us therefore support the proposal to establish a revolutionary electoral college.

The current situation also calls for fresh, innovative responses. We should agree that the ANC cannot hope to respond to the challenges that the country is facing on its own or only with its traditional allies. Now is the time for a concerted effort to reach out to other progressive forces. We ought to lead efforts to build a broad front of progressive forces that we share a common transformative vision with. This front should include religious formations, civil society organizations and other social formations. Such a broad front should also welcome other political parties and trade unions that share common principles and agenda with us, especially those who subscribe to the vision as enshrined in the Freedom Charter. This noble initiative will go a long way in mobilising our society behind our historic mission of creating a better life for all.

We should also approach the National Policy Conference (NPC) with the view to continue contributing to saving our movement as the NPC provides all our structures with a perfect platform to not only examine the policy propositions as contained in the draft policy documents but also to chart a concrete way forward. We should ensure that the ANC emerges from the NPC with clear, concise and relevant policies. These should reimagine the future of the ANC and our country if we are to remain the leader of society and parliament of the people.

As we engage during the conference, let the interest of our people be our preoccupation. We should be robust, frank and honest in our conversations so as we emerge out of this conference with clear policy proposals that will contribute to bringing the vision of a better life for all to reality. The time is now! Seize the moment!