Nelson Mandela described Steve Biko as “the spark that lit a veld fire across South Africa”. What did Mandela exactly mean by that?  The best way to answer that is of course by examining what Biko actually did, the consequences of those actions, and their relevance for contemporary South Africa.

In this article I point to five aspects of Biko’s life and work that need to be carried forward by the younger generation of South Africans as they seek to shape the future of this country in keeping with the best traditions and values of the freedom struggle.

First, it often goes unmentioned that Steve Biko was only 21 years old when he started the Black Consciousness Movement.  At the age of 22 he was the president of the South African Students Organization, and by age 25 he was an elder statesman banished to his home in Ginsberg in the Eastern Cape.  He was receiving ambassadors and political leaders from around the world at his mother’s house in Ginsberg. He had already written the prophetic essays that were later collected by his friend Aelred Stubbs and Hugh Lewin into the volume, I Write What I Like.  Many people think Biko was older than he actually was and this is because the liberation struggle is often thought of as something that was the business of older peoples such Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Robert Sobukwe and others.

Second, young as he was, Biko had an acute appreciation of the centrality of ideas to the success of any struggle. As he famously put it, “the most important weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.  Without consciousness, your freedom and your power can be your worst enemies.  From thereon it is easy to betray your own revolution and prey on your own people.

And that takes me to the third remarkable aspect of Biko’s intervention – a new consciousness did not come out of thin air.  You needed strong cultural and intellectual institutions to produce it, which is why Biko and his comrades started the Black Community Programmes, which undertook development projects in communities throughout the country; Black Review, which conducted surveys into the state of Black communities; the Institute for Black Research under the leadership of Fatima Meer; and the magazine Staff Rider, which was where a young person in Ginsberg could share ideas with another young person in Lebowakgomo.  All of that initiative produced the Black Renaissance of the 1970’s.

The fourth point was his quest for unity among the liberation movements.   The apartheid government caught wind of a planned meeting between Biko and Tambo and set out to do everything in their power to stop it.  On 18 August 1977 Biko was caught travelling from an abortive meeting with the Unity Movement’s Neville Alexander.   After killing him, they also set out to destroy the entire cultural, intellectual and social infrastructure that gave meaning and purpose to our struggle.

They could kill Biko but they could not stop what he had set in motion.  The young people who had risen in protest against Bantu Education in 1976 and 1977 left the country in droves to join the ANC and the PAC. The infusion of energetic young people ready to take arms was the best thing to have happened to the ANC’s Umkhonto we Sizwe.

And so the fifth and final point I want to make is that without the intervention of Black Consciousness there would have been no resumption of the liberation struggle. And yet the ANC government has not seen fit to honor this martyr with an airport or a day in his name.

The question that remains though is this- where are the cultural, intellectual and social initiatives that led to the Black Renaissance in the 1970’s?  Where do young people now go to develop their ideas about our society?  The situation in our country is not as bad as it was in the 1960’s – far from it. But there is one respect in which it remains analogous to that time- Black people are still not in charge of the production of ideas. Unless there is an infrastructure to produce ideas, Black people will forever be dependent on ideas developed in the white world.  This means we will forever consume not only ideas but products made by others, which is another way of describing powerlessness. This is a struggle of a different order from fighting for political rights and winning elections. This is the struggle for cultural-intellectual power. Without it there can be no civil society – the setting of all settings.

If Biko taught me and my generation anything, it is that only when we are free in our minds, can we be comfortable in our own skins, literally and figuratively, whether as individuals or as groups.  A nation without consciousness is a nation without priorities.  Twenty years after our freedom, we need a new conversation about what a new national consciousness might look like.




The African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) marked its 72nd anniversary on September 10 amid increased anxiety about the future of the ANC because of its weak performance in the local government elections. This symbolically communicates a systematic erosion of the ANC’s public standing, and posits the need for a rigorous rethink of its future by all its members.

Historically, despite the attacks on its legitimacy, the ANCYL has shouldered the task of rebooting the ANC during such downturns. The ANC has experienced three similar times of decline and near-disintegration in its life.

I contend that the current period objectively qualifies as the fourth time that the movement has been at a crossroads regarding the effectiveness of its political strategy and organizational orientation.

Past evidence, however, shows that these conditions of decline were reversed only because a rigorous generation of thinkers would emerge within the party’s ranks, asserting a radical rethink of the ANC in its organizational systems and strategic political orientation.

Incidentally, almost all of this forces of renewal that successfully thrust the ANC out of its moments of disorientation, were organized under the banner of the ANCYL, or were younger Umkhonto we Sizwe militants during the underground period of the struggle.

It is in line with our past experiences that a conversation arises in the youth league and the ANC about the substance of the crisis we are experiencing. This will depend on whether a sizeable corps of intellectually and politically creative members with the capacity to nudge the party towards a nuanced conversation about our institutional crisis can emerge.

This would require a brutal critique of our ideological and theoretical weaknesses in understanding South Africa’s changing social class structure and the related shifts in public political imagination.

This is evidenced in part by the ANC’s misunderstanding of the black middle class, its existential anxieties, and the political sensibilities that motivate its behavior and eventual voting choices.

We seem to be excusing our misunderstanding of the changing social class structure by condemning the emergent social strata as ungrateful beneficiaries of the democratic transition. We do this without accounting for the systemic fault lines that produce highly indebted black middle classes who have no sustainable capital assets to support their nascent social position.

Twenty-two years into democratic governance, it appears that our strategic perspective on economic transformation is unable to boost the lower and middle social classes.

We have to rethink questions about the balance of forces as well as the composition of the motivating forces for radical change, with respect to the constitution of economic and political power locally and globally. The post 2008 global setting provides a need for us to revisit entirely our formulations of strategy and tactics.

We also have under-theorized the broad practical substance of non-sexism. Whereas there are positive narratives about gender equality and radical attacks on the institutional power of patriarchy in some social spaces, we have in the past decade been caught wanting on the other side, by upholding backward attitudes about women and the LGBT community.

As a result, we are no longer leading society in reimagining and articulating the identity of post-apartheid South Africa, despite our religious claims. This has led to a discord between what we think we have to do in government and what different social classes expect of us.

Our arrogantly disastrous handling of corruption complaints and perceptions has succeeded only in hollowing out our moral credibility, which, as it is, has been under pressure from our inability to articulate a forward-looking radical perspective that appeals to newly eligible voters.

It is troubling, however, that the need to reimagine our movement arises within a muddied internal framework of analysis that views all political development from the pre-emptive position of factional biases.

For instance, the youth league recently began a series of open letters in which it presented as critical reflections on cabinet ministers and public policy matters of which they are custodians. This is apposite insofar as it re-orientates the movement towards matters that are essential to public dialogue.

These open letters, in my view, have revived one of the forgotten yet critical traditions of the ANC; that of rigorous public exchanges on matters of policy strategy as a systematic means of capturing the public imagination.

Whether the youth league succeeds or fails to be among the forces that become the midwife to a renewed ANC will depend on the capacity of the leadership to withstand ridicule and to engender honest and robust reflections about the state of the party while drawing on as many opinions as possible from thinkers in the ANC and the youth league, regardless of their positions because rebooting the ANC requires brutal critique.








Since the advent of democracy, progress have been registered under this dispensation, to which women in particular, as a motive force of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) can clearly define their role in charting the way forward on how to realise their aspirations.

This as enshrined in the Women’s Charter of 1954, in contrast with the Freedom Charter of 1955.

It is an undeniable fact that our Bill of Rights echoes the aspiration of the Freedom Charter, therefore the trajectory of the NDR has been institutionalised at the heart of our democracy.

Our Women’s Charter is unequivocal in this point where is stipulates that “the level of civilisation which any society has reached, can be measured by the degree of freedom that its members of its society enjoys. The status of women is the test of civilisation”.

What then becomes the barometer of the strides we have made against the failures we have suffered or the stagnation we may be experiencing?

One of the key instruments that can be used to analyse the trajectory of the National Democratic Revolution, is how the balance of forces stands as it relates to progress made in the realisation of a non-sexiest society.

The Congress of the People that adopted the Freedom Charter in 1955, further give resonance to the principle mentioned above of the Women Charter when it says “only a democratic state, based on the will of the people, can secure to all their birth-right without distinction of colour, race, and gender or believe”.

On the 27 April 1994, the people of South Africa as a whole without any discrimination of any sort, marched through the doors of Independent Electoral Commission, to cast their votes as a nation for the first time. This was one of the first milestones that have echoed the sentiments of the plight of the struggle for liberation of our people, to be governed under a democratic State.

This is seen as a major achievement as the struggle against apartheid was primarily the struggle for democracy.

There is a growing sentiment that we cannot always refer to the past in defining who we are as a nation and why society is constructed in the way that it is.

However, it is not entirely wrong to say such sentiments are in direct contradiction with how different systems and concepts have been formed. It is a fact that History is a critical component of Theory of Knowledge in every subject or concept that is used as a tool in different aspects of life. As we find solutions it is important to first find proof if what we say and where we are, is a direct consequence of a sequence that can be traced from a certain point until a specific point.

The South African government has been part of a number of International forums and conventions where we played a meaningful role in contributing to different resolutions that are used globally under the UN.

We have also domesticated a number of those developmental resolutions in our own policies and plans in government.

Furthermore some of those instruments and resolutions are informed by our own domestic policies and plans through our participation at different levels of structures of the United Nations.

The UNDP regional structure responsible for our country has alluded to this point While significant achievements have already been made in areas such as access to basic water supply, improvement in service delivery remains a priority. Since 1994 South Africa has set out to rigorously dismantle the apartheid system and to create a democratic society based on the principles of equity, non-racialism and non-sexism. To achieve these objectives the Government of South Africa has pledged to promote equality and eradicate poverty.”

This is one of the clear stipulations that reflect the intricate details that distinguish the dialectical relations between the objectives of the NDR and the program of our democratically elected government.

The MDGs established measurable, universally-agreed objectives for eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, preventing deadly but treatable disease, and expanding educational opportunities to all children, among other development imperatives. As a country we have been able to achieve a number of those goals in a form of these deliverables

We have been able to increase income and decrease the levels of poverty, increase access to improved sources of water, increase the primary school enrollment, most especially for young girls and the rural and previously disadvantaged masses, decrease child mortality and eradicated women mortality due to child birth challenges. We have also increased access to ARV’s therefore decreasing the mortality rate in society caused by HIV/AIDS pandemic.

We have now entered into a new paradigm of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals in order to take forward the programs and principles of Millennium Development Goals. Our country’s participation in the UN has contributed a lot in the development of the 17 principles of the SDGs. This was possible because we managed to use our National Development Plan, as a baseline to further the agenda of development of the entire world. With this we are able to play a meaningful role in International Solidarity.

This should make it easier for our nation to pride itself as we continue to ensure that the developmental agenda, started in 1954 and 1955 charters of the people remain the anchor of all our goals, through current policies and legislative processes.

The struggle of the liberation of our people and the attainment of the principles of the Freedom Charter was not meant to end in 1994. As Moses Kotane once said “Revolution Ke Batho”, it will take us as a nation, collectively to move forward or to stagnate. As the conditions in which our revolution’s trajectory changes domestically and internationally, we should never find ourselves despondent when we suffer setbacks or relaxed when we reach certain milestones.

What brings us together as a nation, is the attainment of a non-racial, none sexist and prosperous society that will be characterised by a transformed economy, social well-being and a better life for all

The struggle belongs to us as the people. As a nation we will have to make an introspection of whether we still appreciate where we are going and our leaders need to ensure that they inspire confidence so that our revolution should not be side tracked from its trail.

The movement will have to continue from time to time, to self-evaluate and analyse the environment as we continue to be servants of our people. In all the strides we have made and the new aspirations that are born out of those successes and challenges, we must always remember that this is a legacy left for us, therefore we should handle it with care as we prepare to pass it to those who comes after us.

It is also crucial to ensure that there should never exist a situation where any group in society feels that it alone, must carry the burden of transforming society in order to realise one or another objective of the NDR. For example, to build a non-sexist society remains one of the key programs that the ANC as a movement must lead, equal to other objectives of our revolution. It shouldn’t be left only to ANCWL and other progressive women structures to fight for, it is the responsibility of this movement to defend the gains of women emancipation and prioritise the agenda for the development of women.

It is time that indeed when we make introspection as an organisation, not only should we look at our success on economic issues, but we must prioritise social transformation of not only race nor class, but of the status of women as well. We have witnessed the growing number of interest from Young Women in the programs of the ANCWL. This is a clear indication that the movement has capacity to mobilise this important motive force of our revolution. We need to increase our efforts in addressing the issues raised by these young women in the dialogues that took place during the Local Government Elections, such as the distribution of free sanitary towels or the a total burn of tax on the sale of sanitary towels. We have to find ways of addressing the inaccessibility of education in Institutions of higher learning as a matter of urgency; we need to ensure that there is a traceable upward mobility plan of women in both private and public sectors. It is our immediate responsibility to expedite the creation of sustainable jobs and strengthen the support of our institutions to cater for the plight of young women in the SMME sectors.

Through this, we will be able to register a significant value in how our society transforms itself and continue to carry the agenda of building a National Democratic Society, with the hegemony of the ANC as a leader and the true liberation movement of our people.   United we stand!!





While the rest of the world discusses the sociology of Racism and its limitations, ours is a lived and deeply entrenched reality.

Just like the colonial yoke, we will probably be the last country to unshackle ourselves from this scourge. Racism in South Africa will not simply disappear because we all wish it to – it will have to be consciously unlearned.

The struggle against racism has been a long, protracted and arduous journey that still remains unfulfilled. From the time of the arrival of colonialists on our shores to this very date we still, in different measures, have to contend with the ugly revival and re-appearance and resurgence of this monstrous beast in the national scene in South Africa.

The issue is not only the conduct of those who still harbour racists beliefs, but also of critical importance is the empowering of the victim of racism to accept that he/she is of equal worth to his fellow citizens.

Thus, a substantial improvement in the lives of Africans will constitute a veritable panacea against racism. Taking our people out of poverty and helplessness will go a very long way towards defeating racism as it thrives not just on unequal laws, but more so on poverty and disempowerment.

The struggle for freedom and justice has since its inception been premised on the urgent need to overthrow an oppressive, minority and racist regime.

From the many frontier wars that were waged, to the loss of land and dignity, to the imposition of iniquitous laws and loss of productive use of the land – these were all ingredients that accentuated the struggle for justice.

The formation of the ANC in 1912 in Bloemfontein signalled a new chapter in the struggle against racism and minority rule. Following the declaration of the Union of South Africa, the result was the exclusion of the African people from the franchise, thus confining them to the perpetual status of underclass.

At first, the struggle was about the quest for inclusion. The next approach was to build mass democratic organisations with the view to capacitate our people to fight for the overthrow of an unjust system.

Our people intensified the struggles against racism and its symbols such as the pass laws, influx control, forced removals, Bantu Education and the Group Areas Act.

After its assumption of power in 1948 the Nationalist Party was obsessed with the desire and determination to send a very strong message to Africans that they will be “put in their place.”

Oppressive laws such as the Criminal Law Amendment Act, the Bantu Education Act, the Suppression of Communism Act, the Native Resettlement Act and the Group Areas Act were passed in an alarming speed. All these laws were passed within the first five years of the assumption of office of the National Party.

The ANC had come to accept the centrality of the unity of our people as a potent weapon against racism and minority rule.

The victory of the Nationalist Party in 1948 was an attempt by the new Afrikaner rulers to foist a Nazi style stranglehold over the African people.

The ANC was faced with a critical task of navigating the complex maze of the South African political scene when it decided to work closely with the white, Indian and coloured organisations while at the same time retaining its hold on the aspirations of the African people.

This creative approach towards a non-racial political posture and activism required serious soul searching and handling of complex relations that involved at first the Liberal Party, the Indian Congress and the Communists Party of South Africa including the trade Unions.

The ANC took a conscious decision that the struggle against racism in South Africa should include White and Indian political parties.

With such a groundswell of mass based national support, victory against the racism regime was assured. This was a new and strategic direction that the ANC crafted for a non-racial broad political fulcrum whose opposition against the racist regime was to prove formidable.

The repression of the Nationalist Party also played into the hands of the strategic thrusts that the ANC had fashioned for itself as many organisations soon realised that their political salvation rested with the broad ANC led mass based and non-racial movement.

This would substantially increase people’s fighting chances against the apartheid system. At a time of serious national crisis, the ANC conceived of a strategic direction that would harness and marshal the South Africa populace into a single national democratic front.

Such was the display and expression of foresight on the part of ANC leaders at a time of great strife.

As we are faced with the threat of the resurgence of barbarism, we too are called upon to be more creative and farsighted and foresighted in our response.

Our history, to date, is such a pivotal beacon that must always guide and show us the light and the way.

As the marauding forces of darkness are making their rehearsed debut in many fronts in our democratic state, we must remain assured that the pillars of a non-racial and non-sexist state are firmly in place – and that nostalgia for the bad old days of racist rule will remain nothing more than a pipe dream.

What we are witnessing in recent South African politics are mere acts of racist nostalgia born of the historical hangover of White political power.

These are not institutional actions with the potential to undermine the eclipse of a new democratic state.

However there are signs of nostalgia on the part of those that still long for the dark days of racist minority rule.

We must not think that we all shared the victory against a racist apartheid regime and its brutal machinery. There are many who still mourn its loss and they will occasionally display signs of relapse.

The emotional scars that are a result of the loss of political power by our fellow White citizens must not be undermined.

The loss of the benefits that came with a racist society are still being felt to date and these are compounded by the still existing economic privileged status of most White South Africans.

That their privileged economic status cannot alter the trajectory towards a non-racial society is distressing and frustrating to most, if not some.

So the occasional resurgence of isolated cases will not and must not deter us. Instead they must embolden us to continue on our chosen course of action.

Let us also be reminded of the fact that even amongst Africans, there are those who will still wish and long for the days of the mater – servant relations.

There are those Africans who still cannot get rid of the inferiority complex which underpinned the policy of apartheid.

The lack self-confidence, coupled with an eagerness to please, prevents many of our people from ridding themselves of inferiority complexes even though they are empowered by the laws of their country.

Bantu Steve Biko argued that the most important weapon in the hands of the oppressors is the mind of the oppressed. We need to invest in the mental liberation of our people and not just accept that given a new democratic and human rights based constitution, they will necessarily embrace a liberated mindset and outlook.

The many Africans who have joined the ranks of the Democratic Alliance (DA) suffer from such a mental inferiority complex.

We need to ask hard questions as to what is it that could be done to rescue them from this inferiority status that always make one to seek tutelage from ‘baaskap’?

White patronage and White tutelage is still firmly entrenched in our society. The struggle to liberate our people from it must be sustained.

We should not be side-tracked by occasional outbursts of racism.

Ours should be a long term and sustained struggle against racism and all of its manifestations. There are few remedies that are at our disposal that we should activate to continue the struggle against racism in South Africa.

One is Public Education.

There is a serious need to ensure that there is a sustained and protracted public education programme against racism. Government and its various entities should embrace this campaign and some of its public statements and expressions must be intended to foster a    campaign against racism. Public and private institutions must also be brought on board to lend their support and commitment to the fight against racism.

Another is developing an anti-racism curriculum for society.

The younger generation should be inducted into a society that eschews racism and upholds a democratic and egalitarian culture.

At an early age, we need to deliberately foster a non-racial culture that is in keeping with our constitutional state.

It is to this end that we need to and must bring about a conscious anti-racist curriculum at  all levels of educational institutions in our country. This must affect all universities, colleges and basic education institutions. This anti-racist curriculum must also be strongly hinged on fostering a patriotic culture. To engender a love and appreciation of the country will go a long way in promotion of anti-racist culture.

A third is sustaining the fight against poverty.

Racism thrives on condition of material and spiritual. Poverty engenders feelings of self-hate, inferiority and underclass. The poor feel that their poverty is brought upon them because they are the unwanted and are thus rendered weak to fight against racist acts and undertones.

The continued lack of social infrastructure, lack of sanitation, lack of housing, lack of access to work and work opportunities contribute to absence of self-worth.

Victory against Apartheid was thought to have been as impossible as the duel between the whale and an elephant, to borrow the expression from Professor Edgar Brookes.

We have managed to undress apartheid’s self-professed mantle of divine inspiration and exposed it for what it is.

We have managed to unmask the monster of its monstrous façade and have debased its lofty pretensions of invincibility. It was exposed for what it was.

We have come a long way and need not allow those detractors who wish to pour scorn on our hard worn victory. Ours are no half measures, but long term and sustainable solutions.








This month’s local government elections, as with all the successive national and municipal elections preceding them, were a victory for participatory democracy – with the ultimate victor being the people of South Africa, whose will was expressed resoundingly.

We have witnessed a maturation of our democracy with these elections. We acknowledge this fact with Sir Winston Churchill in mind when he told the House of Commons in 1947 that “no one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise”.

There are many lessons that we, as members of the ANC, can draw from the results of the 2016 municipal elections. As before; the people have spoken.

Bold actions are required immediately to arrest our electoral decline as identified by the ANC national executive committee (NEC). These challenges are critical if we are to maintain our position as the leader of society with the capacity to continue driving a transformative and developmental vision; to rid South Africa of the legacy of apartheid. Historical inequalities continue to stand in the way of realizing a country free of poverty, discrimination and injustice.

The ANC has always affirmed that healthy debate and engagement with the citizenry is the lifeblood of democracy. And, equally so, critical engagement within the ANC itself has been the hallmark of our movement since its inception.

This necessitates robust engagement, open to a variety of views and streams of political thinking. South Africa has a robust and free press, bolstered by a strong civil society that makes it possible for this sort of engagement. Hence Plato’s notion of democracy as “a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder” becomes relevant.

Regretfully, it has become easier to mobilize on social media platforms and newspaper columns than to engage in critical and factual dialogue with both the party and government. We must critically interrogate what has now become the accepted perception that the organization has alienated the electorate to a state beyond redemption.

This includes the perception that the ANC has become “arrogant” – something said to have contributed to the trust deficit between the government and its citizens. In the absence of proper interrogation, myths such as “nothing has changed since 1994” will go unchallenged.

Despite the impressive gains made by the governing party in the years since the birth of democracy, gains that are regularly cited by bodies such as the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on its human development indices, we are endlessly bombarded with news and media coverage that paints a picture of a country in disarray, wallowing in poverty and underdevelopment, as well as a governing party that’s resting on its laurels.

Although dissonance and dissent are critical facets of our democracy, it is important to also consider whether the society we wish to build should be one that is devoid of constructive criticism, where only the voices of the naysayers hold sway.

Ours is a social compact between the governing party and society. We have – as the ANC – made a call on all sectors of society to engage us as part of the project of rebuilding – to help us realize the future to which we all aspire.

This cannot be achieved through shouting from the sidelines. It needs us to commit to talking to each other rather than at each other as has become the norm.

As the ANC engages in critical introspection following these elections, we take cognizance of the fact that the people are unhappy with our performance on many levels, and that we have to take their concerns seriously. This is a commitment made by the ANC NEC in its statement last week.

The ANC is calling on all South Africans to be part of the nation-building project. This necessitates that we do not sugarcoat our shortcomings but pursue avenues of citizen engagement that will actually make a difference in the way our country is governed.

To accelerate the pace of socio-economic transformation, we need social activists and public intellectuals to work with the governing party and give voice to the concerns of the electorate, not the concerns of those beholden only to power and privilege.

Critical voices are indeed part of a vibrant society but, at the same time, they must help to point us in the right direction by offering concrete and workable solutions to the problems we face as a country.

Sloganeering, blanket condemnations and sweeping statements do not serve the public good, but unfortunately engender greater despondency and despair.

As a country we can do without what Edward Said called “the free-floating intellectual, whose technical competence is on loan and for sale to anyone” (1993 Reith lecture, “Representations of an Intellectual”).

We are calling upon such citizens to engage critically with the instruments that drive the government’s vision and the project of nation building. We need them to engage with understanding and appreciation of the underlying causes of our societal challenges.

We are calling for robust engagement that catalyzes progress and helps move the country forward. As Said has outlined, the intellectual in society should be responsive, audacious, innovative, represent change, and not stand still.

Throughout its history, the ANC has been the home of intellectual engagement and debate. Where an impression has been created that such is stifled, we must then revisit our actions to reopen that door.

The people are their own liberators and we cannot attain the vision of a just society without the active involvement of the citizenry.

Together we must re-imagine platforms of engagement, appreciating both the necessity of the ANC’s structural and constitutional integrity, as well as the imperative of an accessible, open and engaging organization.

As we take stock of the tumultuous political events that have taken place, we have no doubt that they will further shape our democracy in time to come.

We remain convinced that the ANC is the only reliable tool in the hands of the South African people to realize the vision of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous country.

The ANC still remains the only political home for all South Africans who share this vision.

In her book In Quest of Democracy, Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi said of democracy: “Like liberty, justice and other social and political rights, it is not given: it is earned through courage, resolution and sacrifice.”

Indeed, it is also earned through brave and patriotic voices willing to be part of the solution to address weaknesses and shortcomings where they are encountered.





Africans have always held a firm belief that death and birth in our communities have great significance. It’s an incessant umbilical cord linked to nature reminding us that time is but a borrowed currency. That birth remains a symbolic significance of hope and continuity and death is an abrupt yet necessary end to life or a cycle.

Yet the two extremes are interdependent and co- exist, for a balance in the cycle of life; that an end of a season ushers us to the next. That even for re-birth a certain death must happen. Yet death in itself can signify a new dawn, a new beginning – change or even a transition.

However the nature of death seems like an imposition, even expected it can never be accepted. Death is always been described as untimely yet there are deaths as timely as the change of seasons, timely as the shedding of dead skin by a snake, timely as the fall of rose petals and leaves from trees- signifying tentacles of a winter dawning upon us.

On the 22nd of August 2016 Mama Nonhlanhla Mthembu used the last currency of her borrowed time.

Like any of us she woke up with no pre-emption of how the day’s chapter would close and no anticipation of the fate of the ANC in Johannesburg.

She carried the hope that the organization she so loyally served, would still be afforded the currency of time to improve her life and the lives of her community. Anxious as she might have been, naturally given the political events, she still harbored hope as the abrupt alternative might have been unimaginable.

The African National Congress has been going through various transitions that have seen the organization shape and re-shape itself through deaths and new beginnings. Other transitions seemed so fatal that it was close to impossible to imagine survival and yet despite the shedding of leaves, its roots remain entwined with the society it leads.

Many have spoken of the ANC as a mammoth organization with the ability to cleanse itself. The ANC has always been the gargantuan institution of liberation movements even bestowed the status of immortality. It’s always been the phoenix that rises even from particles of burnt ashes.

Yet these local government elections unveiled the abrupt reality of a death which might even severe the roots which sustain the evolution and survival of the ANC.

From the 3rd of August 2016 death seems eminent, yet this might be a death that the ANC might never resurrect from. The scars, pain and ruptures in the ANC have taken their toll on the movement, the price heftier than imagined.

Evidence that even the immortal is not immune to fallacies of mortality. Yet this reality wasn’t abrupt, the loss of power in key areas wasn’t surprising as painful as it seemed at that time.

It was a manifestation of the state of the ANC, a harsh consequence of unfolding travesties that have left the ANC ailing, vulnerable and bleeding. It was a necessary sign that it’s an organization that can no longer be subjected to exploitation and yet continue to upsurge from it. Its screams were heard through the antagonistic sentiments of many South Africans who used the ballot to affirm this.

Whilst we arrogantly dabbed to the notion that the “ANC is big and shall cleanse itself”, we forgot that it’s us mortals who destroy and tamper with laws of nature. That it’s us mortals that tamper with organic processes of life and death and it will subsequently be through our actions that the ANC will lose any chance of revival.

Whilst it’s easy to submit to the comfort of blame and vent towards each other, at some point we need to all leave the temporary comfort zone and take responsibility not only for the state of paralysis of the ANC but more importantly, to safeguard the revolution and protect the future of those that still have vested hopes in the ANC as the true champion of the people.

It becomes tempting to abdicate the responsibility of rebirth and renewal in times of despair and cowardly concede to the shelter of sidewalks.

Yet if this was the attitude of our golden generation, the attitude of Mama Nhlanhla Mthembu, we wouldn’t even have a chance to revive the ANC.

As we battle publicly and privately, vent and antagonize each other lest we forget that the greatest responsibility and task has finally befallen us.

These are extra ordinary times requiring extra ordinary measures. These are times where unfashionable documents of leadership analysis such as ‘Through the Eye of the Needle’ become necessarily prominent.

These are times where documents of the movement that gathered dust as they were not favorable rhetoric for parasitic bourgeoisies, must be more powerful than the tender document. These are times where building a branch can no longer be a prerogative of a faction.

This is the time where every ANC member is on the back-foot despite his factional convictions. These are times where renewal means back to basics.

Mama Nhlanhla Mthembu’s heart failed her- the most important organ of the body. The heart of the ANC is barely beating; beating against a tide of recurrent sin. She took her last breath just as it dawned that we are fast losing the currency of borrowed time and reigns borrowed from society.

It took her life and many others as we witnessed in our election campaign bodies of murdered comrades piling up unnecessarily in a democratic dispensation, to see that the ANC is no longer bleeding its members but society as well yet we remain an organization in denial of its state of paralysis.

Extra ordinary reactions to these realities are inevitable. The leadership has dismally failed to contain and more importantly deal with causations. Some will be labeled ill disciplined as they frantically attempt to take action. Yet the time for action has arrived, whatever this action might be.

Unfortunately the ANC and its Leaders have lost the moral high ground to even dictate what action in this trajectory means- the outcomes were evidence of this. A plethora of “introspection” documents in the form of organizational and secretariat reports gather dust in Luthuli House, yet we still seem to have the luxury of time to further introspect what is evidently glaring at us.

Mama Nhlanhla Mthembu’s death is profoundly timely, the ANC lost a woman of the movement on women’s month, lost a mother who invested everything in the organization and clearly vested all her hopes in it.

Her heart stopped when it appeared that the ANC had lost the City of Johannesburg. How many are like her in the organization, which see no hope or alternative in politics and would rather die with the ANC than walk away.

Should we fail to see the significance of her death and many comrades unnecessarily murdered when we celebrate democracy, we would have betrayed her and many others waiting with abated breath for drastic change, a beacon of hope, a gleam of courage, for assurance that the ANC will not die an untimely death in our lifetime.

I dedicate this poem to my generation and for many generations of the ANC to come

Cries from ANC graves

I have fallen once, I have fallen a hundred times

Yet my sturdy will keeps my unstable feet on the ground

I cry for my children, I cry for generations to come

For what will become of them

The day I wither and die

We care for we have no home but the ANC.







 We gather here today to bid farewell to one of the Eastern Cape’s finest sons. Comrade Stof, a beloved comrade and friend, embodied more than most the values and qualities that we seek in ourselves.

The African National Congress (ANC) shaped his life the organization that he loved so deeply and to which he remained loyal.

He was a revolutionary reverend and a revolutionary politician. He was unwavering in his faith and firm in his political convictions. He lived his life in pursuit of the Biblical injunction that the oppressed shall be set free and the hungry shall be fed.

As we gather here on this sad day, we can say with conviction that Makhenkesi Stofile was an architect of hope and a combatant for social justice. We celebrate a life lived in service and devotion and the outstanding contribution that he has made to our country and to its people.

Even as we pay tribute to his outstanding contribution, we yearn at this moment in the history of our nation for people of the caliber and character of Makhenkesi Stofile. He was a person of great courage. He risked his life for his people and his movement. He is one of the many leaders and members of our movement who endured persecution and imprisonment.

Leaders who are prepared to sacrifice in the way that he did are rare.

Now, at this moment, we need people of courage like Cde Stof. We need people who understand, as he did, that politics must be about putting the country first, people who will stand up for what is right, people who will stand up and uphold the values of our movement. We need people who will not only ask difficult questions of ourselves, of our movement, of our leaders, but people who are prepared to do the demanding and exacting work required to truly transform our society.

Makhenkesi Stofile was a person of outstanding integrity who lived his life based on the values of our movement. He had an essential honesty rooted in his profound respect for the rights, dignity and humanity of others.

He was humble, unassuming, not given to affectation.

Now, perhaps more than ever, we need people of integrity like Cde Stof. We need people who reject the notion that politics is about the promotion of one’s narrow self-interest, people who will not succumb to the temptations of public office; who will not take for themselves what rightly belongs to the masses. In a society that prizes status and wealth, we need people who, like Cde Stof, regard the lowliest among us as the most significant, the most valued.

He believed that politics should fundamentally be about morality. Rev Makhenkesi Stofile was a disciplined cadre of our movement. He knew that leaders must earn the trust of the people by articulating a coherent moral vision that is compelling, that describes and exemplifies a national democratic society and that reflects the values enshrined in our Constitution.

He paid great attention to the detail of running an organization, believing that the ANC was only as strong as its branches.

If we are to be the honest leaders that Cde Stof urged us to be, we cannot lay him to rest without acknowledging the anguish that he felt at the state of our movement and our national democratic revolution.

In the weeks before his passing, he expressed a concern that the ANC may lose Nelson Mandela Bay and other key centers. As the results of the local government elections came in, his fears were confirmed.

We must recognize, as he did, that unless we act with urgency and determination to correct our flaws, to address our weaknesses, we place many of the gains of our democratic revolution at risk.

It is at moments like this – as we confront new and difficult challenges – that we need people like Cde Stof, people who will rise above the petty jealousies that infect our public life, people who will work tirelessly for the unity of the oppressed and for the unity of the movement that leads them.

He worked tirelessly to bring together South Africans of all races into a common effort to build a new, united nation. He firmly believed in gender equality and in the advancement of women in all spheres of national life.

His sense of humour was legendary. Who can forget his mischievous chuckle, his belly-deep laugh, and his love of life?

On behalf of government and the people of South Africa, I convey to the Stofile family and friends our deepest condolences on this profound loss.

May you find comfort and strength, as we seek to do, in the fact that he lived his life to the fullest and served his people with courage and distinction.

Reverend Stofile has now joined the illustrious legion of departed stalwarts from this province who served their country with commitment, passion and selflessness.

Hamba Kahle Mkhonto.

Your struggle, our struggle, the people’s struggle, continues.

May your soul rest in eternal peace.





The 4th local government electoral results have shocked the consciousness of the oldest liberation movement on the African continent and imposed the maxim famously affirmed by the late Nigerian literary giant, Chinua Achebe, who averred that when attempting to understand a profound and history altering crisis – we must seek to know ‘where did the rain first beat us’.

The maxim posits an ethical dynamic that, if pursued honestly, should lead to a reflection by those among us whose spiritual character has been moulded in the central ethos of the African National Congress (ANC).

We must examine the ethics that govern the relationship between ourselves, as leaders of the ANC from the local to the national, with our people who have entrusted us with the responsibility of leadership.

Whilst undertaking this difficult exercise, we must abandon conspiratorial thought and machinations as this will only deepen our afflictions.

The facility of serious self examination has served the movement of Luthuli and Tambo well in its more than hundred years of glorious existence.

In fact, it has been the ability to self examine and alter course that has turned some of our perilous moments in history into triumphs. The ‘Non Aggression Pact’ of 1984, popularly known as the Nkomati Accord, between the then President of Mozambique, Samora Machel, and the neo-colonial apartheid regime of South Africa headed by P W Botha represented such a calamitous moment.

The Nkomati Accord meant, in the first instance, the legitimization of the apartheid criminal regime and chocking off of the critical frontline states (Southern African States) transit routes. The treacherous Nkomati Accord had a debilitating effect in that it dislocated the ANC’s operational infrastructure.

Particularly affected was the ability of infiltrating man and weapons into South Africa. This was a serious setback for an organization whose central tactic was the ability to freely enter what was then enemy territory.

The ANC responded with composure and foresight to the crisis. Firstly, the ANC restructured and intensified its underground structures and decidedly reverted to its core business of clandestine work. Secondly, the movement of Plaatje and Dube acuminated its diplomatic dexterity, a resource that had been encoded in its DNA since its founding, and would be on full display in the early 1990s when negotiating the democratic breakthrough and spurring the country towards a bloody civil war.

Diplomatic efforts were undertaken by numerous ANC leaders with SADC (frontline states) leaders. This was an extraordinary feat, considering that these were guerrilla leaders engaging with legitimate heads of states to arrest the contagion from the Nkomati Accord. Lady history was also kind to our movement because most of the frontline states were headed by revolutionary luminaries like Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania who were supportive to our struggle for self determination.

The second calamitous moment of crisis that was turned into a triumph was the   Nkatashinga Mutiny in Angola, precipitated by our (Mkhonto WeSizwe) involvement in what was in essence an Angolan civil war. We were engaged in bloody and distracting skirmishes with the reactionary Unita led by Jonas Savimbi.

Casualties in our ranks, led to mutiny within MK. Soldiers complained about the lavish lifestyles that senior leaders were living, whilst they led austere lives in the camps. Soldiers also complained of the excesses and abuse by the MK’s intelligence unit, Mbokodo. And most importantly, rank and file soldiers were eager to be deployed into South Africa and militarily confront the apartheid regime.

After the mutiny was violently suppressed, the leadership of the ANC once again turned a painful moment into a lasting triumph. The most important and farsighted response was the establishment of the Stuart Commission whose findings had a jurisprudential cumulative effect of firm establishment of human rights and due process. That legacy is reflected in the Constitution of the republic.

Those amongst us who traversed our many communities campaigning for the ANC were confronted with excitement from the vast of our community members who have tasted and experienced service delivery by the ANC government. At the same time we were also confronted with seething frustration from those still waiting for services.

Despite all this, the vast majority of communities spoke of and expressed gratitude on the delivery of services by the ANC government. These ranged from houses or shelter, roads infrastructure, water and energy supply as well as health and social services which they considered an important aspect of restoring their dignity.

Whilst recognising the good, steady progress made by the ANC government, communities also raised a host of challenges and areas of dissatisfaction.

They spoke of the need to fast-track the delivery of services and the need for improvements in some of the shoddy work undertaken in the process of delivering services.

This included potholes that remained unfixed; erratic water and energy supply that occasionally disrupts daily life. They spoke of inaccessibility to government institutions and an unacceptable pace of job creation.

People spoke of complacency by ANC leaders who believed themselves to have a Divine Right to lead.

History has once again placed a perilous moment before us. We have been called upon to introspect and self correct. For the current day ANC, there can be no better moment to humble itself and be truly one with our communities.

The outcome of the local government elections has deeply humbled the ANC and without a doubt we can no longer afford not to act in a manner consistent with the reasonable desires of our people. We are going back to each household, both those who voted the ANC, and those who took a view to abstain, to engage them truthfully with sincerity.

We will be doing this, for we fully know that the masses of our people did not reject the ANC out of a desire to send it to a state of extinction, but rather to wake it from a slumber of complacency. History has once again placed a perilous moment before us. We must draw from our rich reservoir of history and respond with foresight, humility and service driven consciousness.







Monday the 23rd of August saw the first inaugural meeting of the City of Johannesburg’s new council.

As had been expected, the meeting was going to be a showdown between different political parties on who should govern the economic hub of the Gauteng Province.

The ANC, although receiving the highest amount of votes and seats in council, would like any other party need to inspire confidence in fellow councillors within council on the candidates it would nominated for the position of Speaker, Mayor and Chief Whip in order to get the above 50% plus one.

Thus the rights for councillors to vote and be voted for freely in these position was a critical component of a maturing democracy void of any intimidation.

One cannot proclaim to be a defender of democracy on one hand and in the work to its detriment.

Although such hypocrisy is to be expected from the Economic Freedom Fighters, never has one experienced it as such a close range as was the case with having to oversee the election process with the party’s deputy leader Floyd Shivambu as a counterpart party agent.

Perhaps one should have expected it when Shivambu decided to be a party agent (the only party to send a national leader to do this task) Indeed all parties have a right to delegate any member of their organisation to be party agent, but surprisingly the EFF choose him.

At first hand, one suspected that the EFF sent its second most senior member as a reflection of the lack of confidence they have in their ordinary member or leaders of their regional structures in Joburg. One can’t imagine the ANC, DA or IFP sending a National Leader of their organisation to oversee voting of regional areas when there are other layers of capable leadership at lower structures of the organisation. The EFF felt the process could only be managed by its Deputy President through the use of intimidation tactics.

So it started, first a scathing attack on the credibility of the proceeding officer before we had even agreed on the voting processes.

The words and phrases of “we are in charge here”, “we won’t be told by you” and “we are going to tell you how things are going to run here” flowed easily from the honourable Deputy President of the EFF’s lips.

What startled me the most is the lack of basic understanding of the right to cast your vote in secret, which was consistently undermined and wrongfully interpreted by the so- called commissar of the EFF.

Perhaps the EFF’s own insecurities, rightly or wrongly so, of the fighters they were deploying to Joburg council, was on display.

This induced such high levels of intimidation that EFF and DA councillors felt obliged to contravene Section 47 subsection 6 (B) and (C) of the Municipal Electoral Act, which not only require one to “mark the ballot paper of papers in secrecy” but further to also “fold the ballot paper or papers to conceal the voters vote”.

As the ANC raised this objection with the IEC that councillors must not open their ballots upon marking. This as was viewed on TV by South Africans translated to halting of voting for over 20 minutes. At this stage, it was remarkable to see the response and arguments of the “defenders of the democracy and constitution” in the form of the EFF and DA party agents.

It was clear, presented to them by the ANC in black and white as contained the Electoral Act of 2000 as amended.

Yet the second highest member of the so called government in waiting could not appreciate the need for the voting process to be in secrecy.

At the core of this procedure is the right to express your choose void of any intimidation even from the ranks of your one’s own party members. Thus the debate, or the lack their off from the EFF and DA party agent, ensued against a visibly clear clause which did not require for one to have a masters in law degree from Harvard to understand, but more importantly appreciate.

When it was clear that they had run out of insults against us and that their argument was slippery to say the least, they began to retreat to their station with what we thought was a free lecture on South African Constitutional law and the legislative requirement on voting.

This was however short lived when 5 minutes later the ANC had to once again object to fighters now taking pictures in the voting booth.

These are lessons we must not take lightly as a young democracy in the process of robust change in some of our areas in our country.

The ANC has a responsibility in its defence of democracy not only to protect those who voted for it, but even those who voted against it even when it is their own party members who apply this pressure. Thus the IEC ruled in favour of the ANC in Joburg on both these issues, accordingly the ANC objection not only protecting the choice of its councillors but also that of its counterpart councillors in this new peculiar coalition of the EFF and DA.






We, from the onset, would like to say with a heavy and a bleeding heart that the ANC could not get governing majorities in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, Tshwane Metro, and the Johannesburg Metro.

This led to opposition parties forming coalition governments, unseating this glorious movement of our people from governing these Metros.

Undoubtedly, these Metros are critical to the economy of the country as they control serious budgets. Had we continued to govern these Metros with our pro-poor policies and informed by the National Democratic Revolution, we could have continued to change the lives of our people for the better as we have undisputedly already started to do so.

We, equally in the same breath, thank the millions of South Africans who voted us into the various municipalities and metros throughout the length and breadth of our country. We will not take your confidence in us for granted.

The losses we have suffered are not because any other party is better than the ANC. The losses and set-backs suffered in these elections are self-inflicted. The message sent to us by our people by not voting in their majority and including many who abstained and decided to stay at home has been loud and clear and we have heard it.

We will definitely change our behavior and posture including that of being perceived as being aloof, inward-looking, self-serving and arrogant.

We will also deal decisively with any perceptions of us being soft on corruption, whilst at the same time acting without any delay against those who manipulated our candidate selection processes for their narrow selfish ends.

We are confident that we will be able to correct our weaknesses, and when we have corrected our weaknesses we will regain the confidence of our people in these Metros and increase our electoral support everywhere in the country.

The ANC remains the people’s choice notwithstanding the bleeding and hurt caused by the losses in the Metros.

We are bleeding because even though we are democrats and revolutionaries and we accept the people’s verdict – we are not rocks. We have been affected by the losses we have suffered in these elections as human beings.

The 2016 Local Government Elections overall results confirm the ANC remains the people’s choice though with a reduced majority. Out of the 4392 wards in the country the ANC won 3435 amounting to 78,2% of the total wards.

As true democrats, we have accepted the outcomes of the local government elections as the will and voice of the people. Where we have lost we have not tried to win at all costs. We did not fight racist apartheid for ourselves but for our people. In this regard our strategic objective has always been to build a non-racial, non-sexist, united, prosperous and democratic society.

Let us underscore the point that it is because we do not seek to govern at all costs, including by selling our souls to the devil that we rejected and continue to reject a call for the ANC to forsake its founding principles and fundamental policies and embrace extremism, as a condition for governing the Metros. Had we been power mongers, we would have off-ramped from our path to nation building, national reconciliation, and social cohesion and service to the poor.

Notwithstanding the setbacks in these elections, the democratic project and democratization of our country is indeed on course. Even in our struggle for liberation we suffered serious setbacks – many of our comrades were exiled, imprisoned and murdered by the apartheid regime. These setbacks did not stop the ANC from moving forward to produce the 1994 democratic breakthrough. Even the current setbacks cannot deter us from reaching our strategic objectives.

We will be able to regain our losses in the national and provincial elections of 2019. We can say without any fear of contradiction that come the local government elections of 2021, we will definitely reclaim the governance of all the Metros and take them back from opposition parties who formed coalition governments.

We regret that we are perceived as being arrogant, self-serving and soft on corruption. We regret that the non-performing economy has made it difficult to overcome unemployment, poverty and inequality.

We further regret that some State Owned Enterprises have not been acting in the best interest of our people including the South African Airways, SABC and Eskom on renewable energy.

We want to say to our people that we will not burry our heads in the sand but we will jerk up our performance of government at all levels, with a full awareness that the satisfaction index of our people has gone down. We will continue to change the lives of our people for the better.

We will improve our communication of interventions we have made and continue to make in the lives of our people. We will rebut the negative narrative about our government by communicating what our government continues to do to create a better life for our people.

-This is an edited extract from an address delivered in the National Assembly Debate on the 2016 Local Government Elections