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.
CDE ANDILE LUNGISA IS THE FORMER DEPUTY PRESIDENT OF THE ANC YOUTH LEAGUE (ANCYL) AND A MEMBER OF THE PROVINCIAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (PEC) OF THE ANC IN THE EASTERN CAPE