The highly contested battles and internal divisions of the ANC being played out in public only serve to legitimise critics of the organisation, and feed into the lie that the ANC has done little to improve the lives of all South Africans since 1994.
This was the word of ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe who delivered a tribute to the victims of the Ekurhuleni bus disaster earlier this week.
The Secretary-General joined a memorial service to pay tribute to the ten fallen comrades who were killed in a bus accident after travelling home from the party’s Local Government Election Manifesto launch in Port Elizabeth last Saturday.
Mantashe said that the fallen comrades were heroes, adding that “dying on duty is the highest price comrades can pay for unity and solidarity.” He urged mourners present to use the occasion as a time for introspection to consider the numerous challenges facing the ANC, and to use it as a chance to unite the movement.
The fallen comrades, he said, were driven by hope. It was hope that accompanied them to the Manifesto Launch, as they were confident in the ANC’s position as the leader of society as they made their way to Port Elizabeth.
In his speech, the Secretary-General noted that despite the ANC ‘changing the lives of the majority of people in a concrete and meaningful way’ over the past 22 years – a negative narrative has taken hold in society that seeks to diminish the many achievements of the ANC-government, and this is in part due to the internal battles of the organization occupying prominence in the public space.
The reality, he noted, is that “for every informal structure there are ten formal houses.” The ANC is leading in the provision of basic services on the continent,” despite being only the second last country to gain independence in Africa.
The continued ‘obsession’ with matters around the President’s homestead in Nkandla, is ‘closing the space’ for the ANC to give an honest account of the real progress the country continues to make.
It is time, says the Secretary-General, for the ANC to ‘reconnect with the people in building a bright future full of hope,’ and that our focus must not be diverted.
He noted that whilst holding robust internal engagements was key,, what was paramount was to restore the confidence of the electorate in the ANC. The ANC, he said, must humble itself and explain itself to the people.
Because of the internal squabbles being publicized, a ‘trust deficit’ existed between the ANC and the electorate, and this needed to be restored.
The key drivers of transformation in South Africa needed to be the beneficiaries of change themselves, and in particular, young professionals, said Mantashe, alluding to the theme of the 2016 Local Government Election Manifesto: ‘Advancing People’s Power.’