Conceding that corruption and controversies involving African National Congress (ANC) leaders weakened the governing party, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday said internal party problems widened the social distance between the ANC and the people.
Addressing the virtual ANC’s January 8 Statement from party headquarters Luthuli House, flanked by members of the ANC top six, Ramaphosa warned that unless ANC challenges were resolved, they were bound to have “the effect of rendering our society rudderless, at a time when firm and principled leadership is required”.
Ramaphosa cautioned that here was a danger of internal conflicts “consuming us and detracting from the very real work we need to do to unite and transform our society”.
“The ANC has been given the mandate by our people to be the governing party in most of the municipalities – in eight provincial governments and in national government. With governance comes great responsibility.
“The ANC must win public confidence by progressively meeting the needs of the people, accounting to communities, deploying the most capable cadres to positions of responsibility, managing public resources ethically and acknowledging weaknesses.
“This is the message that every ANC member should take to heart in 2021 as our country holds the sixth local government elections since democracy,” the president said.
The ANC, said Ramaphosa, had to “account to the people on the state of our municipalities, many of which are facing deep challenges of governance, stability, service delivery and financial management”.
Setting out ANC priorities for 2021, Ramaphosa said the party would focus on:
- Defeating the fast-spreading Covid-19.
- Economic recovery.
- Renewal of the ANC.
- Building “a better Africa and the world”.
He said the coronavirus pandemic has deepened poverty and unemployment in society.
“The pandemic has brought into sharper focus the fault lines of inequality, income deprivation, asset poverty, and lack of skills and economic opportunities among the majority of our people.
“It has been a stark reminder of the lived realities of millions of people when it comes to accessing health care, housing, education, safety and security and other basic services,” said Ramaphosa, acknowledging that millions of South Africans, lived under poor conditions “under which they lived before the pandemic have only gotten worse”.
He said the economy has contracted sharply.
“Around two million jobs have been lost and many more people have fallen below the poverty line. Many families face hunger and hardship as we enter the new year. Many more struggle to keep up debt repayments, have had their assets repossessed and cannot make ends meet.”
Elephant in the room
Said Sanusha Naidu, senior research fellow with the Institute for Global Dialogue: “Overall the president delivered a good and broad speech, which hit the right notes and covering key areas, especially around the pandemic, economy, Africa and the ANC renewal.
“The big elephant in the room remains implementation.”
Independent political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga, said the tone of the speech confirmed that the ANC was “under pressure.
“The party can no longer hide behind festivities like the January 8 Statement. There are no festivities surrounding the 109th anniversary celebrations because of the Covid-19 restrictions.
“How the ANC responds to the current crisis is what should be occupying the party for months to come,” said Mathekga.
‘Demon of factionalism’
In its reaction, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said the party needed to “ensure that it is led by disciplined and principled leaders and that all its deployees in the state are of a similar character”.
“Money should not be allowed to determine the fate of ANC conferences and the demon of factionalism needs to be exorcised without fail.
“There is an urgent need to do away with corruption scandals, public bickering, and the lack of decisive action by the elected officials.
“The on-going challenges of unity and cohesion especially amongst leadership at all levels of the organisation and between the organisational leadership and those deployed in government is a big problem.
“The problems facing this country are not insurmountable, but they are difficult to resolve because our leaders are unprincipled and lack discipline,” said Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.
“The task of nation-building requires that we attend to the outstanding matters of investigations, prosecutions and reparations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC),” Ramaphosa said.
“This is important for the advancement of transitional justice both for the nation and the families of victims of apartheid era crimes.”
‘Matters long overdue’
Ahmed Cajee, nephew of Ahmed Timol of the SA Communist Party who was murdered by security officials in 1971, supported Ramaphosa’s reference to the TRC.
“These matters are long overdue,” Cajee said.
“Families eagerly await to see a plan of action on the part of the ANC to ensure that apartheid era perpetrators are held accountable for the deaths of their loved ones.”
It took 46 years for a second inquest in 2017 to declare Timol was murdered and in 2018, Joao “Jan” Anastacio Rodrigues, a former sergeant in the security police and the last person to see Timol alive, was finally charged with murder.
Rodrigues is currently on bail awaiting the decision from the Supreme Court of Appeal over his appeal against an order made by the High Court in Johannesburg last year, dismissing his permanent stay of prosecution.
Additional reporting by Amanda Watson