Opening Remarks by ANC President Cyril Rampahosa to the Special NEC Meeting
National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe
Deputy President DD Mabuza
Former President Thabo Mbeki
Members of the NEC
Welcome to this very important meeting where we will process the Discussion Documents towards the National Policy Conference later in the year. We decided to focus on these documents in a dedicated manner and this is the real focus.
First, let us take a moment to remember all those affected the recent floods and fires across the country. We especially honour those who lost their lives during the extreme weather events in KwaZulu Natal and the Eastern Cape as well as the fires in the Western Cape. Let us observe a moment of silence.
I particularly want to commend the leaders in government at all levels, emergency services and public servants who worked diligently to attend to the peoples’ needs during these crises. Comrades of our movement have also shown solidarity with the people of KwaZulu Natal, and the Eastern Cape and this must continue. I was overwhelmed by the kindness people showed, yesterday in Mangaung in the Free State for the Letsema Campaign and one wishes that this kindness can be extended.
These extreme weather conditions events emphasise the importance of mitigating against the effects of climate change. We must be much more systematic in how we plan for and manage the impact of climate change on our people and the economy.
If, as predicted by climate scientists, extreme weather events will become more common, we must be able to anticipate these better and have plans and resources to respond effectively.
The speed and effectiveness of government’s response to natural and other disasters is another matter with which we must be seized. We had to bring in rescue teams from other provinces to bolster our response in KZN.
Our government departments are forming a team to assist with rebuilding of houses and infrastructure. Whilst we do not know the financial implications, this will set our economic recovery back. This is in addition to the setbacks caused by COVID-19 and the July 2021 unrest.
There are three phases to our response:
First, to address the emergency situation of search and rescue,
Second, stabilising the situation and finding transitory accommodation as we try to find more land for building permanent accommodation,
Third, building back better through a massive infrastructure roll-out of roads, clinics and other necessities.
This will have far-reaching budgetary implications. We have seen revenue uptick recently, but this will be diverted to address the crisis.
Government will embark on stringent initiatives to oversee the management and utilisation of resources allocated to these disasters. We have learned from our recent past in managing the COVID-19 pandemic and procurement of PPE and will put in place mechanisms to prevent mechanisms to prevent mismanagement.
It is concerning that we, as an organisation, continue to be associated with acts of malfeasance, whereas it is not the organisation but individuals who get inclved with such acts. There was a seeming inevitably with which the public “accepted” that money and other resources allocated will be diverted and misspent.
This points to the extent of the work that lies before us to improve our standing and return to being a trusted leader of society. Our good work and the leadership we display must, at all times, lead narratives about our movement and this is not the case currently.
Another aspect adding to how we are perceived is our seeming hesitance to fully adhere to our decisions regarding discipline.
A clear instance of this is where comrades, who have stepped aside, participate in electoral processes of the movement. The Step Aside Guidelines, which were adopted by this NEC in February 2021, asks that the conduct of members, who have stepped aside, be “ guided by the best interests of the organisation, and the undertakings set out in the Members’ Oath prescribed in Rule 4.16. This may include relinquishing, forgoing, or refraining from exercising, temporarily or permanently, in whole or in part, her or his rights, duties and responsibilities as a member, office-bearer, or public representative.”
The Guidelines also provide for the “Secretary General or Provincial Secretary, NWC or PWC, acting on the authority of the NEC, the NWC, the PEC or the PWC, whichever the case may be, may impose terms and conditions to regulate the participation and conduct of a member, office-bearer, or public representative during the period that he or she steps aside.”
It is therefore necessary for the NEC to pronounce itself on the matter of whether comrades who have stepped aside can stand for, or in any way participate, in internal elections. Structures of the movement are asking what the stance of the NEC is on this matter.
This leadership must act to change the narrative of a corrupt, indecisive ANC who cannot abide by its decisions.
Part of changing the narrative about our movement is returning to a position of leading public debates about matters of policy. The voice of the ANC is not sufficiently present in public discourse, i.e. The Battle of Ideas. Or, where we are present, we discuss our positions from a defensive point of view.
Comrade OR Tambo warned us that leading a liberated people would be more difficult than liberating the people.
It is easier to lead the people when they believe in our policies and programmes and trust our ability to deliver against our promises. Our cadres must therefore have the capacity to confidently put forward our ideas and the correctness of these policies must be reinforced by the integrity of our actions.
When we put our positions to the people, we must proceed from a common understanding of where we are, the challenges before us and broad consensus on our approach to these challenges. Such a common understanding and broad consensus require extensive debate and persuasion amongst the membership at all levels.
The discussion documents tabled at this meeting aim to guide our movement and our members in understanding issues such as the prevailing balance of forces and what type of organisation is required to lead our people.
Balance of forces is described in the Discussion Document as deriving from “ how we understand and define our mission, and the strategic intent of our struggle. It is a perspective which helps to guide the identification of the social and political forces which should be mobilised in support of our agenda for change, as well as of those that stand opposed to such change.”
A too divergent understanding of the prevailing balance of forces can cause significant challenges in any organisation, especially a revolutionary movement that leads government. I propose that, in addition to our discussions today, this matter be intensively discussed at our forthcoming retreat.
There are also specific papers speaking to issues of social and economic transformation, legislatures and government, peace and stability and international relations.
All these papers cover matters critical to the people and our movement. We must interrogate them closely and familiarise ourselves with the proposals put forward.
NEC members will be required to guide discussions in the structures and we must return to the ANC tradition of robust and comradely discussion of critical matters.
A number of NEC members are missing in action as comrades deployed in provinces. I say this advisedly as some provinces raise the absence of NEC members in guiding them during difficult times, as I and other leaders (comrades Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Mothlanthe and Deputy President Mabuza) experienced during our visits to the Free State.
We launched the Letsema Campaign in Mangaung yesterday and the launch provided us with further opportunity to engage structures and stakeholders. The people expressed considerable appreciation for the Letsema Campaign and the movement’s efforts to strengthen our roots as a movement of the people.
I was encouraged by the engagements we had with members, structures and stakeholders during the Letsema launch yesterday. The heartbeat and love for the ANC is still there; I saw and felt the vibe of this yesterday.
The challenges of the Mangaung Metro can be attributed, in part, to the infighting amongst ANC councillors and the failure of council to fulfil even basic tasks. The Metro has now been put under administration and we trust that this intervention will make a meaningful and positive impact in the lives of its residents.
However, the ANC must also address the ill-discipline of its deployees, especially those who acted in opposition and defiance of organisational decisions.
As I said to the structures in Mangaung yesterday, we must through Letsema, build and attract a cadre of community activists who serve their communities as volunteers and as agents for change.
Part of the Letsema Campaign must, therefore, ensure that we engage as wide a cross-section of the membership and broader public in discussions about the appropriate policies for taking our country forward and creating a better life for all.
We must also use the opportunity of discussing these documents towards Policy and National Conferences to rebuild our standing, return our movement to the culture of rigorous intellectual debate and convince the people of the correctness of our approach to these matters.
All this must be seen in the context of an organisation that is undergoing existential transformation. If we do not change the way in which we engage and serve the people, we will not address the decline in the movement and its standing amongst the people.
This is a time to intensify our renewal and further unite our movement.
The ANCVL has developed a paper that they wish to table to the NEC and I would like to propose that they table this paper after the Organisational Renewal discussion document has been tabled. Let us look at how some of the ANCVL’s proposals can enhance the work of renewal as we move ahead..
I thank you.