The former President General of the African National Congress (ANC), Comrade A.B Xuma, in his letter titled: “The struggle against our weaknesses”, addressed to the 44th National Conference of the ANC in 1956, warns against what he calls the “new tendencies” aimed at derailing and diverting the ANC from its historical mandate and seeking to distort the party’s character and orientation.
In this letter, Xuma spends time outlining many challenges which he believed undermined and weakened the ANC as a national liberation movement and a mouthpiece of the African people.
He goes further to decry the divisions brought by these new tendencies intended to weaken the movement as a true weapon of liberation in the hands of the people.
Consistent with this characterisation by former President Xuma of the challenge facing the movement at that time as the struggle against our own weaknesses, one of the greatest sons of African struggle for self-determination, Amilcar Cabral, in his speech in Cuba in 1966 titled: ‘The Weapon of Theory’, makes an important point that the greatest struggle still to be waged by any revolutionary movement is the struggle against its own weaknesses.
It is in the context of the teachings of these great giants of our struggle that we in the ANC, at our 54th National Conference in Nasrec, engaged ourselves in the struggle against our own weaknesses and conceded amongst others, that because of the challenge to our core values and our collective neglect of cadre development and political training, our organisational capabilities do not match the tasks and demands of the current phase of the revolution.
It is at this watershed conference that we went further to acknowledge the painful reality, that our organisational work has focused more on mobilising members to support specific factions or individuals with increasing negative practices such as gate-keeping, factionalism and buying of membership.
We went further to conduct this critical struggle against our own weaknesses, by accepting that the sins of incumbency are deeply entrenched and are reflected, as former President Xuma characterises them, through the new tendencies such as social distance, nepotism, patronage, arrogance, elitism and factionalism.
All of these weaknesses remind us that in the process of pursuing a revolutionary programme, there will always remain a danger of a counter revolution emerging. It is only through a clearly defined political programme that our movement can reverse and collapse all of these foreign tendencies.
It is for this reason that the ANC resolved to engage in a mass political education programme that will develop cadres schooled in values, traditions, policies and principles of the movement.
We have also acknowledged that one of the main enablers of these foreign tendencies is the depoliticisation of the ANC structures and its cadres. We have thus engaged ourselves in the process of buying membership and turning new members of the movement into personal political properties ready and available to provide political terrorism in our defence as opposed to serving our movement.
We have mischievously ensured that the culture of debates, political training and engagements in the movement are frowned upon and replaced with patronage.
We have also shelved the importance of ideological and political training which have always set our movement from the rest. We knew that any exposure to political and ideological training of the ANC membership will not only build their consciousness, but also to ensure that they seize to be a private army but rather all-round cadres of our movement.
This honest self-analysis of our own weaknesses has assisted in the development of a number of measures to reverse and undermine these challenges. One such measure is the decision of the 54th National Conference of the ANC to officially launch the OR Tambo School of Leadership to serves as a political fountain through which its cadre development programme will be intensified and attain qualitative political output.
The existence of the school has brought with it a lot of hope and has provided practical meaning to our call for renewal. It is only through a sound political programme that we will achieve unity in our movement, the vacuum which was created by the absence of a clear focus to political education and cadre development in our movement was for a long time occupied by these new tendencies, as Cde President Xuma calls them.
It is through this mass based political programme by the school which intends to touch each and every member of the movement that we can stand tall and tell Cde President Xuma that we are championing a true political war against the new tendencies.
It is also through political education and organisation building that we can truly argue that we are waging a struggle against our own weaknesses.
A politically trained cadre of our movement must be actively involved in its life through the basic unit, the branch. A politically grounded cadre of our movement must ensure that they are involved in every concern of the people and drive campaigns without gate keeping or engaging in any of the new tendencies.
In conclusion, let us all heed the call by the 54th National Conference of the ANC and be the first line of defence against the new tendencies and wage a relentless war against our own weaknesses. Let us all participate in the life of the OR Tambo School of Leadership and make political education fashionable. In the famous words of the former chairman of the Communist Party of China, Chairman Mao Zedong: “Let a hundred flowers bloom and a hundred schools of thought contend”
- Sello Pietersen is the ANCYL Free State provincial spokesperson. He writes in his personal capacity.
OPINION: Sello Pietersen