Number. 37, 4th Quarter 2011 (December)

Table of contents


The ANC Centenary
Free State leads the way towards the Centenary - Seiso Mohai
Women of uMkhonto weSizwe - Ayanda Dlodlo
The search for identity: the burden of history - Joel Netshitenzhe
How Congress Began - RV Selope Thema

Biographies of ANC Presidents
- Rev. JL Dube
- SF Makgatho
- JT Gumede

Debating the issues
Organisational renewal towards the Centenary - David Makhura
Is there still room for the sunset clauses? Thando Ntlemeza
The KZN Volunteer Corps Movement - Sihle Zikhalala


Umrabulo the official organ of the ANC is closing this year - the 99th anniversary of this great movement - on a high note. Our revolutionary morale is high precisely because in the space of few weeks the ANC will become a hundred years of age.

The ANC centenary celebration on the 8th of January in Mangaung is creating waves and large dozes of excitement throughout the length and breadth of the movement. The masses of the people of South Africa cannot wait to see what really is going to happen on this historic occasion and for this to be successful, the masses must be an integral part of this celebration. The people of the continent of Africa are also waiting for this day in great anticipation because they see the ANC as an inspiration and not only as neighbors but their own flesh and blood. Many of their great-grandfathers and mothers were part of the formation of the ANC in 1912.

The most important political significance for the entire movement on this occasion is that the ANC will go back and reflect on the different historical stages of its evolution and the noble values that have inspired countless South Africans to commit themselves to the struggle for national freedom led by the glorious movement of the people. These values of self sacrifice, unity, non-racialism, democracy, solidarity, respect and humility that were the foundation stone of the creation of the ANC must continue to inspire South Africans to come into the next hundred years.

The ANC is the creation of the people of South Africa: it's their movement, it exists for them and they in return keep it alive. The ANC does not represent any single sectional interest but represents the people of South Africa as a whole in their true colours and diversity.

What has kept the ANC going for the last 99 years is steadfast commitment to the above principles. The most important principles are unity and discipline of the membership and leadership of the movement. Without unity and discipline no movement can survive even for one day. ANC members must understand this and internalise it. This understanding of the importance of discipline derives from a deep political consciousness of individual members of the ANC and their unshakable commitment to the ideals of the movement.

Whilst we will be celebrating this historic moment with all our friends, next year the uppermost challenge will be how to ensure that the ANC remains alive and leads the South African people for the next hundred years.

We wish all Umrabulo readers a good and restive festive season, a prosperous new year and a splendid Centenary celebration on January 8th 2012.

Fidel Castro once said ' the most difficult part of the revolution is defending the gains of the revolution'.

Please do not drink and drive during the festive season. Enjoy..!


Leading the ANC Centenary celebrations: A Free State perspective

By Seiso Mohai

This document will outline a perspective for defining the significance of the Centenary of the ANC and therefore how it should be celebrated by the Free State, as the host province. It has been discussed, enriched and sanctioned by the ANC PEC in the Free State. The spirit of the document is to underscore the profound historical significance of the Centenary and to explain how that heritage of the liberation struggle should inspire the present movement for the attainment of the goals of the NDR. In this sense, the choice of the form the 100 years celebrations of the ANC is an ideological struggle; the struggle against forgetting and for the development of ideas for the renewal of the ANC.

100 Years of ANC existence

The occasion of the centenary of the ANC is not an event we take lightly because very few political parties or movements in the world succeed to exist for 100 years and still remain a powerful political force as the ANC is today.

As we approached the 100th anniversary, two challenges stood out. The first one is to preserve the proud heritage of our liberation values of selflessness and service to the people. The second one is how to keep the ANC united, dynamic and strong in executing its historic mission of completing the process of national liberation and bring about a fully national democratic society, which is genuinely non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and egalitarian.

In a sense the centenary will be the biggest political festival in the life of our movement and arguably a watershed moment in the history of our country. This is because in many ways the ANC has been central in shaping the political landscape in South Africa over the last 100 years. And, as the ANC turns 100, it is still by far the most powerful political force in South African politics. It is therefore no exaggeration that few precedence exist in the world in this regard.

To meet these challenges, the centenary celebrations should unleash the spirit of service and voluntarism that made the ANC a true parliament of the people. The values of service should be given free reign, because they are not just a utopia but have been a potent force that drove the South African history and sustained the mobilization of the people behind the vision of national unity and social progress. The vision of the movement as enshrined in the Freedom Charter projects a long-term view of a future of national unity, modernity, social progress and equality. Our festivities will therefore in no way signal the end of history. Our work to change South Africa, Africa and the world is far from over. Through the centenary festivities we mark the continuation of history as an odyssey for social progress, drawing inspiration from our glorious past as we confidently march to the future.

In the Free State, we particularly draw inspiration from gallant freedom fighters that hailed from our shores and left an indelible mark through their contribution. Their recognition came not only from the whole country but also from countries far afield. Among the galaxy of these heroes and heroines, we can mention Thomas Maphikela, Reverend Mahabane, Bram Fischer, Caleb Motshabi, Albert Nzula, Martha Mohlakoane and Thabo Mofutsanyane.

The significance of the Free State in the centenary celebrations

That Mangaung is the founding place of the ANC is not to be taken lightly, particularly by the residents of Mangaung and all the people of the Free State. It means we are the immediate heirs of a great revolutionary legacy and heritage that the ANC represents.

While in the early years, the ANC reflected some characteristics of elitism and accommodation within the colonial system, over the decades of struggle the ANC developed to appreciate the place and role of the working class and the masses both as a critical social force in production and as a militant contingent against apartheid colonialism. Thus the ANC grew to be a revolutionary mass movement of popular participation.

The ANC Strategy and tactics as adopted at the 52nd National Conference, 2007, therefore points out: "As such, the liberation struggle by oppressed communities, even in the midst of bitter confrontation, developed moral values of human compassion and solidarity far beyond the narrow confines of its opposition to the apartheid social system. It represented something good, not just something better than apartheid. It asserted the humanness of the human spirit - the search for societies at peace within and among themselves. It developed to advocate the use of human intelligence to advance collective social comfort and to preserve the endowments of our planet and outer space for the sustenance of current and future generations."

In this sense therefore, it is both an honour and a challenge for the ANC broadly and us in the Free Sate - the mother province - to claim the legacy of the liberation struggle, to occupy the high ground of its moral persuasion and wield its compass.
For the Free State, this therefore means we must celebrate the centenary in ways that revive the revolutionary values of service, sacrifice, political education and foresight. Something that should be regarded as a rare and a noble privilege, particularly considering the trying times we are in today.

The momentum of the occasion of the centenary must therefore serve to strengthen the exercise of organizational renewal. Any real renewal of the movement will have to be based on the revival of revolutionary idealism. That genuine pursuit of the ideals of the revolution, instead of pursuit for material rewards, should inform and guide our activism and participation in the movement. These ideals of the revolution are about building a truly democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, prosperous and egalitarian society!

So how should we build and unite the ANC in the Free State to articulate and give expression to these values? In preparing and organizing our celebrations we should answer this question. Whilst a comprehensive answer will obviously come from an elaborate programme activities of the centenary here we will only give out major tenets that should find expression in such a programme, they include:

These three approaches will help to strengthen the core approaches of the ANC: that it remains a people's movement and its ability to unite and lead not only its own members, but the people as a whole.

Enhance national celebrations

That Free State, Mangaung in particular, is the founding place of the ANC and therefore the host of these centenary celebrations should find resonance in all centenary celebrations throughout the country. And at the same time the celebrations in the Free State should not just be merely provincial celebrations but should depict host status of the province in national centenary celebrations.

The Free State provincial celebrations should therefore enhance national centenary celebrations. Meaning we should always be conscious that our provincial programme for the centenary has great value for reinforcing the national programme of celebrations. Our activities should always be planned cognizant that they should have a national profile and therefore boost not just the image of the province, but also enhance national centenary celebrations. The Free State approach should therefore not be provincialist; it should enhance the national processes.

Centenary of the ANC and the centrality of the Free State Province

The symbolism of the Centenary in the Free State as a birthplace of the ANC should never be lost throughout the celebrations and beyond. To this extent the Free State should play host to all major national celebration events. The monumental legacy should be so strong that Bloemfontein and Free State should never be the same after the centenary. Part of the major tourist attraction of Bloemfontein should be that of the birthplace of the oldest liberation movement in Africa whose influence on the South African political landscape over the last 100 years is unmatched.

The legacy infrastructure and symbols of the ANC in Bloemfontein is therefore something that has to be treated with a great sense of seriousness. In this regard, the renaming of strategic landmarks in the province will need to be given fitting names in commemoration of the significant epoch in the history of South African liberation struggle. The declaring of sites as monuments/ heritage sites and the establishment of an ANC monument/ fountain of knowledge is something that should be pushed vigorously. In doing so, we must ensure the three tenets referred to above are observed, involvement of our local structures, uniting our people across race and involving as many sectors as possible.

The 50th Anniversary of uMkhonto weSizwe will also feature very prominently in our countdown activities to the Centenary. In this sense we will be celebrating the fighting character of our movement that was displayed during a very dark moment in history when we were left with only two stark options: to submit or fight, and the movement chose, rightly so, to fight.

The struggle for a non-sexist society and women emancipation should also find prominent highlight in the centenary celebrations. This should also include the pioneering role of women in the struggle for gender equality and in the broader struggle for national liberation. Free State women were pioneers when they first protested against pass laws way back in 1913.

If the past 100 years have seen profound changes in the political power relations, we say the time is now to bring about a radical rupture in the economic power relations and transform the South African economy to change patterns of ownership, create jobs, eliminate poverty and reduce inequalities, and redistribute national income and wealth for all. Struggles on the economic terrain are already dominating the consolidation of our democracy at this moment of the centenary. The Free Sate must therefore never be left behind in this economic struggle.

The provincial centenary programme

At the end of it all, these ideas about the centenary celebrations can only be actualized through a programme of activities to prepare and mark the centenary. Our programme of the centenary should serve as a mobilizing and rallying force for all our members, the alliance and our people to celebrate the Great Movement of the South African Revolution. The success of the actual centenary celebrations will stand or fall on the planning, preparations and the strength of the ANC structures. Like we always do with big campaigns, we should take advantage of the centenary and strengthen our branches and structures and the leadership position of the ANC in our society.

We should seek to make good use of the great human resource we have in our experienced cadres by actively involving them. We should use all our living veterans to orally tell our history, particularly that of the 50's, 60's and 70's as they lived through it and experienced it. Centenary is a big occasion to reread and rewrite the history of South Africa as we search further and struggle for social progress.

The structure of the programme should have the following categories of activities: propaganda, communications, media and marketing (before and during 2012); rallies and mass meetings; public lectures and seminars, as well as sectoral meetings.

The broad themes for Public Lectures and Seminars on the history of the ANC could include subjects such as: social origins of the ANC; formation and the ANC; self-determination and anti-colonialism; diverse movements: the trade unions, the Communist Party, Youth league, Women's League, movements of Coloureds, Indians and white democrats; phases of struggle: early wars of resistance (1652-1906), ANC formation and the 1910 Union (1909-1919), radicalization of the ANC (1930-1949), defiance and new strategies (1949-1960), armed resistance (1960-1969), revival and reemergence of the ANC (1969-1985), transition and negotiations (1987-1994), reconciliation and transformation (1994-2007), post-Polokwane; challenges and tasks for resolving the National Question in 21st Century and The ANC and South Africa - the next 100 years.

Conclusion: hosting compels us to excel

The ball is in the court of Free Sate to live up to the historic responsibility of making the best of the ANC Centenary. We are the founding place of the ANC and therefore the immediate heir of its revolutionary heritage. Whilst the Centenary is a national event the hosting status of Free State leaves very large room for innovation maneuver in making a great contribution to the Centenary.

Our programme of the Centenary and its implementation must never lose the necessity for great performance that comes with hosting. It's easy to make all manner of excuses, as Free State must rise up to the challenge of hosting one of the greatest historic events.

Towards 100 years of Selfless Struggle!

Celebrating 50 years of uMkhonto weSizwe

50 years of women in arms

Ayanda Dlodlo

We are looking for the women edited out of history, whose stories have been erased, misrepresented, distorted. . Women are relegated to the footnotes. As Sandra Cisneros said of the search for Latina heroines, "We are the footnotes of the footnotes."

They were not afraid of the frontline. uMkhonto weSizwe was a thriving home for many of our women. Veterans who defied patriarchal restrictions. These are women who sacrificed their families, left their husbands and lovers, abandoned their education and even rejected employment. Theirs was a revolutionary national war of independence, waged against a brutal, arrogant and patriarchal state.

Unlike in many military camps and combat actions where women were prohibited, uMkhonto weSizwe was more open and progressive. Women were subjected to the same training as their male counterparts in line with the African National Congress (ANC's) policy of non-sexism.

The colonial perception of the military as a purely male institution and the post-colonial litany of coups, civil wars and instability have contributed to the small presence of women in the armed forces.

The MK women were legendary. Women fighters' determination for combat had its apparent contribution to a more radical and military zeal of the liberation movement. The success of MK was the dynamic involvement of women. The role of women was indispensable. Women saw themselves as fighting for political justice, development, social progress and gender equality.

The formation of uMkhonto weSizwe 50 years ago was a result of a series of political events: the Defiance Campaign, the Congress of the People and launch of the Freedom Charter and many other milestones in history.

It was not the organisation's first option. Many of these women died brutally for their cause, others were tortured, detained and arrested, but their unshakable spirit was for the libration of the people.

The 50-year commemoration seeks to also remember all our combatants who took part in various operations. We also recognize the pain of families whose loved ones died as MK in various parts of the country and around the continent.

This day should also make us pay tribute to members of the Luthuli Detachment that participated in one of the most daring MK operations where the MK-ZAPU force faced the battle lines valiantly and sternly against the South African and Ian Smith forces. These MK soldiers displayed courage and effective soldiering. They refused to move back, and fought the enemy to the last bullet.

Oliver Tambo's Flowers of the Revolution

August was the one month that all women of the military wing of the African National Congress, uMkhonto weSizwe would look forward to every year. August 9 was the day to celebrate our being, to recognize our selflessness, to emulate the bravery of South African female revolutionaries, the Sandinista women combatants, the ZIPRA women in the liberation trenches of the Zimbabwean people, the FAPLA female combatants of the Angolan liberation war, Rosa Luxemberg of the German Socialist Movement, Nadezhda Lenin, a revolutionary in her own right, and many other women of the world that were luminaries in the struggle for the emancipation of the struggling masses of the world and women.

During this time, chances of a visit to the camp by the President of the ANC comrade Oliver Tambo were great. Even greater were the visits by the MK High Command, Commander, Chief of staff, National Commissar or the Head of the ANC Women's section.

This was the day amongst a few where we were sure of a wholesome meal with lots of meat and two bottles of the local Angolan beer, Cuca or Nocal. Now for some of us who were teetotalers, we bartered with our booze, for that prized ration of baked bread, some of the meat, shining of your boots and your belt, whatever you could barter for.

This was the day that the male soldiers of our revolution treated us to some cultural activity, no guard duty for the flowers of the revolution, it was a day of sheer bliss under the scorching Angolan heat amidst the forest and the dense vegetation of the Angolan landscape

I would like to observe this month, as we approach the 50th Anniversary of the people's army uMkhonto weSizwe, on the factory floor, in the classroom, in our lounges and boardrooms sharing the beautiful stories of those who have been edited out of history, the unsung heroines of our liberation.

These are the women who are footnotes of footnotes as Sandra Cisneros puts it in her quest to unearth Latino heroines.

This is the story of Caroline and JJ who were the first female casualties on the Eastern front in Angola, in the Province of Malanje. This is the story of the three flowers of our revolution who were ambushed and killed in the Piet Retief massacre (Makhosi Nyoka, Lindiwe Mthembu and Nontsikelelo Cotoza). The story of Zandi (Phila Ndwandwe) and Priscilla (Sheila Nyanda) who were kidnapped by the enemy in Swaziland with Zandi subsequently assassinated in Vlakplaas, the story of Minah (Dipuo Mvelase) and Refiloe (Susana Tshabalala) arrested in Operation Vula.

The story of Florence (Pumla Williams) and Lillian, 'soldiers biscuits' (Eva Gabashane) who were captured while on assignment inside the country, the story of Doctor Nomava who died in an accident in Angola and Mary (Nomkhosi Mini) who was killed in the Maseru massacre. This story captures the lives of Thandi Modise, Marion Sparg, Helen Pastoors, Mpumi Mpofu, and countless others that I have not mentioned

JJ died in her teens, Caroline had barely graduated from her teens, and Dr Nomava would have been a treasure to the health sector in a liberated South Africa. Sadly I never got to know the real names of both JJ and Caroline. Zandi left her few months old baby boy in a car with someone when she was kidnapped and killed. Priscilla lived to tell the story of this horrific ordeal. Minah and Refiloe were principled revolutionaries who would fight for the liberation of their people if they had to do it all over again.

Tholi, (Makhosi Nyoka) of the Piet Retief massacre, would still do reconnaissance even if she was sick, just to ensure that other units had a safe passage into South Africa from Swaziland. Pumla would not have refused a command to be infiltrated into the country for mass political work. Lillian had all her nails torn from her fingers and toes and the story is not about whether she broke at the hands of the enemy or not, she experienced barbarism second to none.

Our MK, our ANC, our fellow fighters were proud of us, we were few but mighty. Barely adults and in the spring of our adolescence, these are but some of the many girls from Soweto, Tumahole, Mdantsane, Sobantu Village, Gugulethu, Potchefstroom and many other townships who would and did not spare neither limb nor life for the liberation of our people. These are the teenagers of yesteryear who responded proudly when the leadership asked: "who do you serve Comrades", and in their shrill military voices said, "we serve the people of South Africa".

This is the military generation of our armed struggle that carried the 25-kilogram base plate on their backs for kilometers on end in a tactics or artillery class.

This is the breed of women who sang "Dubula ibhunu" and many other liberation songs with such commitment and aplomb as if their world depended on it. These are the women who traversed the gorges, swamps and springs in the bushes of Angola, learning the art of war, with bazookas, PKM's, AK 47's, maps and compasses to hone their military skills to use in their fight against a brutal system of criminality perpetuated against the people. These are the women who read Marxism, Leninism, the history of other liberation movements, the Volokolomsky Highway and other politically motivating pieces of literature

'Flowers of the revolution' was a term coined by one of the best leaders that this world has ever produced. This was a term of endearment given to the women of MK by the commander-in chief, Comrade President Oliver Reginald Tambo.

As we celebrated Women's day towards the 50th Anniversary of the formation of MK, we salute the young girls of the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's who sacrificed neither comfort of home, their childhood and their youth for the liberation of all South Africans.

Let us recognize these heroes and heroines whose names are not etched on any monument or heritage infrastructure. These are women whose names do not appear in any history book. Heroines that nobody sings about or shouts slogans about or even mentions in any salutation. As we unburden these sacred and gallant memories, let us do so with humility and grandeur. Theirs was a journey filled with resilience, audacity and love in the face of a coercive political and military force.

This is to all flowers of the revolution - tell your beautiful story to your children, you at least owe it to them.

Long live the memory of our fallen heroines!

 A continuing search for an identity: carrying the burden of history

Joel Netshitenzhe

"Populations that are multiply wounded as a product of permanent stress lose their capacity to make decisions and plan for the future due to the excess suffering they have lived through and not processed... Reconstructing the sense of our national and personal histories ... allows us to go forward in life. But going forward is only possible if people can find new energy."(1)
[Martha Cabrera]

The centenary of the African National Congress presents a unique opportunity to interrogate the ideals that spawned and sustained a movement that has assumed the status of a towering giant in the consciousness of South African society and humanists further afield.

Whilst our reflections are about history, the subliminal question exercising our mind is whether there should be and indeed whether there will be another hundred years! Are South Africans able, in the words of Cabrera, to transcend the "excess suffering" and "find new energy"?

Historians are better able to organise and articulate the detailed facts about the evolution of the movement and their significance. Out of such disciplined scholarship, we will be able to understand the ANC historical narrative and how it is intertwined with the evolution of South African society. However, in the discourse on the centenary, we should be inspired by more than just inquisitiveness about the mysteries of the past. Though that in itself is a noble undertaking, this exercise should help us draw lessons that will help South African democrats find new energy.

This presentation tries to examine some of the current challenges facing the ANC against the backdrop of relevant developments in its evolution. The fact that the ANC is able to touch a hundred-year milestone with its organisational integrity intact - a feat that few political organisations have attained - is deserving of serious intellectual reflection.

The central argument in this brief treatise is that survival and success are a product of a continuing search for an identity and thus a healthy uncertainty.

A few themes in current debates which intersect with the ANC historical narrative have been selected. The choice of these themes is subjective, inspired by the question, how in its theory and praxis the ANC should define its identity and project itself into the future. The views expressed in this regard are personal.

The movement, 'the party' and the nation

As the centenary approaches, the very challenge of how to celebrate this achievement brings out in bold relief the current posture of the organisation in relation to its history and how this relates to its current status as a 'ruling party'.

Over the years, the organisation projected itself as a parliament, first, of the African people; and it later sought recognition as the legitimate representative of all the people of South Africa. As a liberation movement with the greatest reach, the widest presence and the most effective leadership capacity, it came to be recognised by friend and foe alike as the primary agent of change and the central protagonist in the processes towards the resolution of the antagonisms in our society.

This was confirmed in broad terms in the elections of 1994, and subsequent ones.

As such, it can be asserted that the history of the ANC is in essence about the struggle of the South African people for self-determination to achieve a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society - ideals that are now codified in the country's Constitution and are part of South African society's DNA.

Yet, in assuming the status of an equal participant in elections and of the leading force in government - and proceeding from the perspective that, under democracy, all the other parties reflect legitimate opinion within the bounds of the Constitution - the ANC somewhat also diminishes its status to become just "another party" in a democratic dispensation. Outside of a noble history, to which it should legitimately lay claim, and its electoral performance and track record in government, it cannot in an electoral democracy, formally, assert legitimacy above the status of others.

How then should the ANC and society at large address this tension both in relation to the commemoration of the organisation's centenary and in the formal teaching of history? This question arises because of the following challenges:

This is a tension that requires continuing reflection - both in terms of professional management of the teaching of history, and in relation to the ANC's own psychology about whether it should cede to all of society a part of itself in order to win 'non-partisan' allegiance to its long-term ideals! In other words, are the ANC's pre-1994 historical milestones and their celebration a property of 'the ruling party' or of the nation as a whole?

Related to the above is the question of how the fate of the ANC today is intertwined with that of the nation at large.

Having evolved over time from being a repository of the interests of the African people to reflecting non-racialism in its outlook and organisational structures, the ANC became a symbol of national unity as an antithesis to the ideology and praxis of colonialism and apartheid.

Consciously, it strove to transcend and indeed largely succeeded in transcending the fault-lines of race, ethnicity and geography. Similarly, it mobilised, and articulated the interests of, all the classes and strata among the oppressed. In large measure and compared to any of the other parties in South Africa today, the ANC still reflects these attributes.

Combined with its electoral preponderance, these traits bestow on the ANC the responsibility of being a critical ingredient of the glue that holds the South African nation together. Whatever view one may have about its policies as a 'party', the quality of its current leadership, and the mischiefs that attend to its internal dynamics today, this mantle is both a function of history and of its objective place and role in the present.

This does not subtract from the emphases that the ANC has placed on the hierarchy of oppression and super-exploitation over the years: its assertion that the main content of the struggle is the liberation of Africans in particular and blacks in general; and its recognition of the central role of the working class.

These emphases, and the appreciation of gender equality, are informed by the logic that freedom should have as its core content attention to those who were the most marginalised and largely remain so.

In a society with deep divisions and the ever-present danger of fracturing along a variety of fault-lines, the thinning of that glue - be it along ethnic, geographic, racial or ethnic lines - would present a real danger to South African society.

This assertion arises not because one holds a brief for the ANC; but rather to emphasise that, for the foreseeable future, an ANC that in theory and practice evinces deep cracks on matters of race, ethnicity, gender and geography, would in fact imperil the whole project of nation-building, reconstruction and development.

The principle and the discomfort of a founding settlement

These challenges are closely intertwined with the narrative of South Africa's founding settlement of the early 1990s. On the one extreme, everything in that settlement is portrayed as a manifestation of a leadership that overly compromised in negotiations, thus constraining possibilities for faster social transformation. On the other extreme, the extent of the compromise is underplayed, thus evading the central issue of the mutual responsibility that is demanded of the leadership of the historically-contending forces.

At the risk of oversimplification, it can be argued that a critical element of that settlement, from the point of view of the ANC, was the logic of capturing a bridgehead: to codify basic rights and use these as a basis for more thorough-going transformation of South African society. From the Interim Constitution to the Government of National Unity and all kinds of acts of accommodation to ensure a smooth transition, there were compromises galore. However, the final Constitution (2), with its assertion of various generations of rights - civil and political; social and economic; resources and the environment; as well as gender and communication (what some refer to as Fourth Generation rights) - provided the space for policies and programmes to effect such transformation.

This understanding is critical from three perspectives.

Firstly, unique in the 1994 settlement was an acceptance on the part of the leadership of the majority that there would be an orderly transition and a process of transformation based on legitimate legality: that transformation would not entail grabbing from whites even the material privileges illegitimately accumulated under apartheid. The political leadership of the black community, in large measure located in the ANC, thus committed to counsel caution and patience in pursuit of social transformation that would take longer than preferred - beyond the sheer logic of sustainability of the transformation project.

In the same vein, it was expected of the white community to reciprocate with an acknowledgement of the historical grievance and a commitment actively to contribute to righting the historical injustice. The political leadership of the white community, located mainly in the National Party and the Democratic Party, were meant to promote this among the white community. Again at the risk of oversimplification, the evolution of party politics within the white community post-1994 reflects patent failure in this regard, with a race to the bottom during the second half of the 1990s. This found expression in the appeal to base sentiments, as in the "fight back" campaign of the Democratic Party and an attempt by the New National Party to compete in that space, which ultimately saw to the party's demise.

The question today then is whether the ANC should join that race to the bottom in frustration at what many may perceive as a lack of reciprocity, which they view as largely responsible for the slow pace of change!

This brings us to the second perspective in understanding the transition from the point of view of the theoretical approaches of the ANC about leadership of the nation and the role of the African majority in this regard.

Former Secretary-General and Deputy President of the ANC, Walter Sisulu, captures this succinctly in his assertion that "non-racialism is a leitmotif in the programme" of the liberation movement; but further that the liberation of Africans is "a necessary condition for removing the oppression of all other national groups". Rather than lowering themselves to a warped and populist approach, Africans - and Blacks in general - need to rise above the constraints suffered by most whites who "put blinkers on their vision and thereby confine their outlook to their short-term interest" (3).

The third perspective arising from the experience of the transition is the confounding of principle on the one hand and compromise on the other. This arises mainly as a result of the impatience of leading and governing in a law-governed society, especially in relation to the judiciary. And so, while the ANC accepts "the doctrine of separation of powers" as part of the achievements of human civilisation and commits to "encourage mutual respect among the three arms of the state - the legislature, the executive and the judiciary"(4), suggestions are falsely made that these principles are in fact compromises from negotiations that should be got rid of.

This ignores the principled positions adopted many years before negotiations, and elaborated in the detail in the 1992 Ready to Govern document:

"The Bill of Rights will be enforced by the courts, headed by a separate newly created Constitutional Court, which will have the task of upholding the fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens against the state or any body or person seeking to deny those rights. The judges will be independent, and will consist of men and women drawn from all sections of the community on the basis of their integrity, skills, life experience and wisdom." (5)

In other words, the principle in our Constitution that there "shall be a separation of powers between the legislature, executive and judiciary, with appropriate checks and balances to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness"(6) and that no one branch would wield more power than other branches, is a matter of conviction on the part of the ANC and not the convenience of political compromise.

Many countries, including India, have had intense debates on these matters. On the one hand, some argue that judges should be insulated "against vulnerability to public criticism and [should] preserve their image of neutrality, which is regarded as necessary for enhancing their credibility". Others view this approach as helping "judges escape accountability for what they decide. They can plead helplessness by saying that it is a law made by the legislature and they have no choice but to give effect to it", thus finding "plenty of dignified exits from the agony of self-conscious wielding of power" (7).

While there will always be tension among the three branches of the state - at times deriving from a grievance in the executive or legislature about perceived judicial activism that encroaches on the powers of other branches or from perceived threats to the judiciary issuing from the executive or the legislature - this should not be attended to in a manner that questions the very principle of separation of powers.

As an aside, perhaps it is appropriate here to comment on a current issue that is exercising the mind of many South Africans, the recent judgement on the singing of a certain song (8). In my view, the matter is about judicial banning of a historical expression which, as others have said, cannot be correct. However, as society, by avoiding to give leadership through discussion on political sensibility, we are on a slippery slope of what Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke calls "lawfare": expecting the judiciary to resolve matters of political reason on behalf of the political leadership. We need to differentiate between a right on the one hand, and sensibility on the other. In other words, even if we had the right to sing the song, is it politically sensible to do so? On the other hand, was it correct in the first instance to take this matter to the courts - if there were opportunities to resolve it through dialogue?

The refracting impact of distorted lenses - challenge of leadership

Martha Cabrera bemoans that challenge of leadership faced by the people of Nicaragua thus:

"Our leadership model has traditionally generated problems rather than resolving them as our leaders feed off political polarization and foment it. This is currently a very relevant problem: we recycle political and social leaders and they recycle ideas. Meanwhile, organizations don't know how to confront such leadership, whether out of a lack of capacity or exhaustion." (9)

Over the past fifteen years, the ANC has been grappling with this challenge of leadership. In essence, the issue has been about how to encourage and deepen internal organisational democracy, while at the same time ensuring that it is not practised in a manner that undermines the outlook and character of the movement.

The celebrated 2001 ANC document, Through the Eye of the Needle, on how to manage this issue poses the challenges of the new environment quite starkly:

"How do we deal with individual ambition, lobbying, promotion of friends and pursuit of selfish interests? How do we ensure that electoral processes do not tear the movement apart? How do we prevent attempts to use the movement as a step-ladder towards self-enrichment?

"Besides, the door can be left open for corrupt individuals and even enemies of change, to exploit the movement's internal democracy to sabotage the struggle and create their own ANC. Further, those who fail in positions of authority can use all kinds of excuses to cling to power, when the time for change has come." (10)

It speaks to the depth of the 'sins of incumbency' that the efforts at containing these problems have not been entirely successful, to say the least. As the problems deepened, especially at sub-national level, there was a realisation that what was required was an over-arching organisational review that addressed fundamental questions about recruitment, the relationship among structures in the organisational hierarchy, political education, political management of leadership contestation, more precise criteria for leadership, discipline and so on.

Yet these attempts have suffered from three interrelated challenges.

The first one is about the rising bubbles of deviation. In 2001, when Through the Eye of the Needle was drafted, the problem seemed somewhat distant from the national leadership: it was "down there" and needed to be nipped in the bud. But such is the nature of political organisation that the bubbles of deviation always rise to the top. This is in part because of the challenge of electoral politics, where a party steadily comes to depend on mediators - who enjoy the status of leadership at local level - to interact with constituencies that it desperately needs for electoral success or for support in intra-party contestations. Instead of the party ensuring that its culture permeates to this level as should normally be the case, that dependence creates a sense of impunity where provincial and national leaders start to turn a blind eye to deviant conduct at local level. Unbecoming conduct becomes the norm; and generations of new members internalise this as the 'new culture'.

The second challenge is about timing, coincidence and self-interest. In the nature of the ANC's decision-making cycles, grave matters such as these are decided upon at national conferences or general councils. However, inserted into the maelstrom of electoral contest in the build-up to elective conferences, these issues can hardly be dealt with objectively. While mid-term National General Councils can ameliorate this challenge, such has the intensity and immediacy of leadership contestation become that the movement is virtually in permanent electoral mode. The 2005 National General Council where comprehensive reflection on these issues was meant to take place was the starkest manifestation of this failing.

The third challenge, even more relevant to our understanding of history, is the tendency to confine the definition of the 'culture of the movement' to periods not entirely suitable to the management of the present. There is much that can and should be extracted from the difficult years of 'illegality' and underground organisation, in relation to appropriate doses of democracy and centralism.

However, the history of the ANC in the period before its banning and the experience of other progressive parties are replete with profound lessons in addressing this issue.

It is important to appreciate that political ambition cannot be eliminated; it needs to be managed. Besides the stories recounted by former President Nelson Mandela and others about the 1949 ANC National Conference and how Dr James Moroka was plucked from his home to become ANC President, the late Joe Matthews recounts the 1952 Conference that elected Chief Albert Luthuli thus:

"On the issue of elections, the leaders were completely divided about who should replace Dr Moroka. Some said Mandela must replace Moroka; others backed Dr Njongwe, who had become very famous because of the success of the Defiance Campaign in Port Elizabeth; and then you had Chief Luthuli. When the leaders couldn't agree, nominations were put to the floor and over 50 nominations for president were proposed. Chief Luthuli...was elected in the end..." (11)

Of course today the ANC, with profound responsibilities for social transformation, cannot afford this level of disorganisation. But if there is any lesson to draw from this, it is the fact that competition and contestation should be handled in good spirit and not become a make-or-break issue for the unity and organisational integrity of the organisation as such.

Parties such as Chama Cha Mapindudzi in Tanzania and FRELIMO in Mozambique, among others, undertake processes which variously include:

Quite clearly, the ANC has to come back to this question, and find an open, fair and properly regulated system of managing leadership elections. Appeals to 'culture' which conveniently ignore the very history of the movement and experiences of fraternal parties can in fact be as destructive as the maladies that they seek to eliminate.

Searching for a higher level of abstraction: the joy of failure in success

So, will there be another 100 years of a pre-eminent ANC?

In the discourse that attaches to social transformation and electoral politics, matters of performance in government, particularly so-called 'service delivery', do assume special significance. Quantitative measures on provision of such services as subsidised housing, water, electricity, access to education and health - and sometimes even qualitative assessments - are utilised to demonstrate progress. This has been the case over the past 17 years, and it was even more evident during the 2011 local government elections.

But is it correct to confine discourse about social transformation to matters to do merely with performance in elections and in government?

It is appropriate and understandable to focus on these issues, for the practical realisation of the ideal of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa should manifest in concrete progress in improving the human condition. The issue though is whether in the clamour for bean-counting, the inspiration of a higher calling and a transcendental ideal is not being sacrificed!

In the ANC's history, the best among the leadership of the ANC have always asserted what constitutes a common golden thread: the emergence of a new civilisation in South Africa and the African continent as a whole. To quote just two examples:

Pixley ka Isaka Seme (12):

"The regeneration of Africa means that a new and unique civilization is soon to be added to the world.... The most essential departure of this new civilization is that it shall be thoroughly spiritual and humanistic — indeed a regeneration, moral and eternal!"[Columbia University; Published in The African Abroad, April 5, 1906]

Chief Albert Luthuli (13):

"Somewhere ahead there beckons a civilisation which will take its place in God's history with other great human syntheses: Chinese, Egyptian, Jewish, European. It will not necessarily be all black: but it will be African". [Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 10 December 1961]

This high level of political abstraction challenges the current ANC discourse, the conduct of leaders and the articulation of mission. While an attempt is made in the 2007 Strategy and Tactics document to resuscitate the idea of change as pursuit of a 'new civilisation', it can indeed be argued that the ANC is not adequately evincing that sense of an overarching vision - articulated so eloquently by Seme and Luthuli - which should inspire the nation to greater heights.

On the contrary, it is precisely at this moment when there seems to be a convergence of views that South Africans need to unite and attend to socio-economic issues, in the same manner that we did with the political settlement, that the ANC is least prepared to rise to the occasion, consumed by its own internal battles.

Related to this is a failure to appreciate the responsibility of the ANC to lead all of society while emphasising the needs of those on the lowest rungs of the socio-economic ladder.

This is a failure, more critically, to define an identity in a changing macrosocial environment. That changing environment, including greater inter-racial interaction and inter-racial class solidarity reflects the success of the ANC in building a national democratic society. Yet the driver of such progress may be caught in a time warp, not nimble enough at adapting to changing circumstances.

The 2007 Strategy and Tactics document describes this joy of failure in success quite instructively, if rather too obliquely:

"Much clearer than before, the concentric circles of united action are taking shape, with Black workers at the core and Black communities broadly as the motive forces.

"Unlike before, when white support for non-racial democracy and social transformation was an exception to the rule, large sections within this community accept at least the imperatives of the National Constitution. As such, tapering off towards the outer edges of the concentric circles of drivers of change is the balance of the nation's majority - made up of all races - steadily forging a social compact of common interest.

"Across these circles the intertwining of Black and white interests is taking shape, with the definitions of the past starting to fade. As these circles intertwine and the currents across them flow into one another, so will the objectives of the NDR be reaching maturity. Common interests will increasingly be forged across the racial divide within the various social classes and strata. And so, other defining issues in pursuit of other strategic objectives may become the paramount driving forces for continuing change." (14)

This is an injunction for the ANC to heed the warning by Cabrera: rather than feeding off social polarisation and fomenting it, the movement should, to use a famous phrase by a notorious personality, "adapt or die"!

Eschewing the shapelessness of form and content

Historically, the ANC has always defined the character of the democracy it pursues as having profound social content.

In the discourse on some of the earlier policy documents, this fact is usually under-emphasised. The Bill of Rights contained in the 1943 Africans' Claims in South Africa, drafted by ANC President Alfred Xuma and others in the aftermath of the Second World War (and the War Allies' Atlantic Charter) makes interesting reading in the context of debates today about social rights and specific policies on workers' rights, health and education.

In the list of "full citizen rights and demands" (15), the African Claims which was adopted by the ANC Conference of December that year calls, among others, for:

Education: "The right of every child to free and compulsory education and of admission to technical schools, universities, and other institutions of higher education"; and such education "must be financed from the General Revenue on a per capita basis".

Health: "[T]he establishment of free medical and health services for all sections of the population"; "a drastic overhauling and reorganisation of the health services of the country with due emphasis on preventative medicine with all that implies in modern public health sense"; as well as an emphasis on "a substantial and immediate improvement in the economic position of the African".

Industry and labour: In addition to rights of collective bargaining, "the African worker shall be insured against sickness, unemployment, accidents...; the contributions to such insurance should be borne entirely by the government and the employers"; and "the extension of all industrial welfare legislation to Africans engaged in Agriculture, Domestic Service and in Public institutions or bodies."

What this illustrates is the persistence of a profound social humanism in the ANC's approach over virtually the entire history of its existence. The Freedom Charter takes the matter further with regard to economic policy and the role of the state in this regard.

As is widely appreciated in the context of the current debate on "nationalisation", there have over the years been varied interpretations of the 'economic clauses' (16) of the Freedom Charter. However framed, these interpretations in essence boil down to the dynamic of the relationship between means and ends, mechanism and outcome. As the African Claims and Freedom Charter assert, the professed outcome on social policy is the continuing improvement of the human condition, with state resources deployed to this end. And so, the issue is whether the main or sole mechanism to attain those ends should be state ownership of productive assets, or whether this should be informed by the 'balance of evidence'. This deserves separate comprehensive treatment; but sheer logic suggests that the former would be too simplistic an approach (17).

In this context, the 52nd National Conference of the ANC adopted an approach premised on consistently high rates of economic growth, as experienced in developmental states. But unlike in some of these states, especially in Southeast Asia, the ANC qualifies this by asserting, firstly, that ours should be a democratic developmental state and, secondly, that it should "reflect elements of the best traditions of social democracy, which include: a system which places the needs of the poor and social issues such as health care, education and a social safety net at the top of the national agenda; intense role of the state in economic life; pursuit of full employment; quest for equality; strong partnership with the trade union movement; and promotion of international solidarity" (18).

As the ANC positions itself in this way - tentatively starting to nail its colours to the mast of more definitive 'ideological trademarks' - the question does arise whether such adaptation should not include a redefinition of the form of the Tripartite Alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)!

The historical ebbs and flows in the relationship between the ANC and the SACP/CPSA had to do with a recognition of a common strategic interest to destroy apartheid colonialism and with adept management of inter-personal dynamics among the leaders. In many respects, similar subtleties (over and above the appreciation of the role of the working class on the part of the ANC and of the indivisibility of black workers' rights and national liberation) influenced the development of the relationship between the ANC and COSATU (and its predecessor, SACTU).

The multidirectional osmosis of ideas strengthened the Allies individually and collectively. Indeed, the management of this chemistry in forging and sustaining alliances is one of the unique contributions of the South African Left to the theory and practice of broad fronts.

However, in the past 17 years, with the SACP operating as a mass party and in the context of democratic governance, and with a governing ANC as both employer and ally of the working class, new challenges have emerged. The recurrent tensions as well as periodic threats of a messy parting of ways by both the SACP and COSATU reflect this challenge. And so does the danger of co-option and even self-liquidation from too intimate an embrace with a governing party. More often than not, the tensions seem to be informed largely by personal chemistry than fundamental ideological issues.

Is the informal arrangement still appropriate and is it sustainable? Is it not time, as part of the adaptation into the future, for the Allies to codify their relationship in a formal pact with clear objectives and programmes?

Whatever the answer to this question, it is patently clear that an appeal to history and tradition cannot be sustained as the underlying motivation for the current arrangement.

Where are the angels?

An attempt has been made in this treatise to demonstrate the depth of the ANC's historical narrative and its relevance to the evolution of the South African nation. These experiences in many respects carry over to the present, and they will continue to manifest well into the future.

Yet it would be instrumentalist in the extreme to interpret that history as the playing out of static attributes imposing themselves inexorably on each epoch. Rather, these are a hundred years of continuing adaptation to changing circumstances, a continuing search for an identity, an uncertainty that drives innovation.

Will there be another hundred years of a dominant African National Congress?
The answer lies partly in whether the ANC develops appropriate responses to the challenges posed above, and indeed many other questions thrown up by a changing political, socio-economic and demographic reality. A critical element of this reality are the positive and negative effects of Colonialism of a Special Type - a concept the ANC borrowed from the SACP - on the evolution of post-apartheid South Africa. The existence of the colony and the metropolis in one geographic entity means, among others, that:

These factors will be fundamental in defining South Africa's future course and indeed that of the ANC. As such, that higher level of abstraction, that sense of an overarching vision so eloquently articulated by Pixley ka Isaka Seme and Chief Albert Luthuli, becomes critical in pondering the ANC's trajectory going forward. The attainment of that vision is the task of all South Africans.

And so, in answer to the question whether there will be another hundred years, one can argue that the organisational forms or names that will continue giving expression to the pursuit of that vision are - in the larger scheme of the logic of social development - a secondary question.

What we do know is that that trajectory will not be handed down from on high. It will depend on whether the ANC and South African society at large continue to produce and reproduce the angels here on earth to build the heaven to which we aspire; or whether we fall into the rut of a recurrent rise and fall of cadres who get transformed by the very system they seek to change!

Based on speech delivered at the South African History Archives Conference, "Debating liberation histories and democracy today: One hundred years of the ANC", 21 September 2011.

Notes and References

1. Martha Cabrera, Nicaraguan Psychologist, Living and Surviving In a Multiply Wounded Country
2. Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani, The Jakarta Post, 09/04/2006
3. Walter Sisulu in Reflections in Prison: Robben Island Memories Series (edited by Mac Maharaj)
4. Building a National Democratic Society, ANC Strategy and Tactics document, 2007
5. Ready to Govern, ANC Policy Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa, 1992
6. Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Constitutional Principle VI
7. Former Indian Chief Justice P. N. Bhagwati, Judicial activism in India,
8. Judge Colin Lamont's ruling in the Equality Court, 12/09/2011 on the song, Dubul'ibhunu(Shoot the Boer)
9. Martha Cabrera, Nicaraguan Psychologist, Living and Surviving In a Multiply Wounded Country
10. Discussion Document, Through the eye of the needle? Choosing the best cadres to lead transformation, 2001
11., Stories (Joe Matthews)
12. Pixley ka Isaka Seme, ANC President, 1930 - 1936, The regeneration of Africa, Columbia University; Published in The African Abroad, April 5, 1906
13. Chief Albert Luthuli, ANC President, 1952 - 1967, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech, 10 December 1961
14. Building a National Democratic Society, ANC Strategy and Tactics document, 2007
15. Africans Claims in South Africa, December 1943
16. Economic clauses popularly refer to: The people shall share in the country's wealth; and The land shall be shared among those who work it
17. Refer State ownership and the National Democratic Revolution: Debating the issue of nationalisation (Author)
18. Building a National Democratic Society, ANC Strategy and Tactics document, 2007

How Congress began

RV Selope Thema

Drum, 25 July 1953

Pixley Ka Izaka Seme, the founder of the African National Congress, was born in Natal of a Christian family. But like any African boy of the nineteenth century he grew up in an environment which was neither African nor European: at home he was under the influence of his Christian parents and the guidance of American missionaries, but outside on the hills, in the valleys and on the banks of the rivers of his beautiful country, he came into contact with the ancient life of his people and learnt about the brave deeds of his warrior kings, such men as Dingiswayo, Tshaka and Cetyewayo.

And that is the reason why perhaps he remained a Zulu to the core in spite of his high educational attainments. After receiving his university training at Columbia (New York) and Oxford (England) and being called to the bar at the Middle Temple, London, Seme did not forget that he belonged to the Zulu nation - a nation founded and built by Tshaka, the Black Napoleon. Undoubtedly he must have entertained hopes of rebuilding this nation which had been reduced, after the Zulu War of 1879, to such a state of poverty and helplessness that the descendants of the heroes of Isandlwana were compelled to work in the kitchens of the whites, cooking their food and washing their dishes, scrubbing and polishing the floors of their homes.
After finishing his studies in America and England, this ambitious young African thought of returning to South Africa, his fatherland. The free life of the United States and Great Britain, with its pleasures and happiness could not hold him. He realised that the knowledge that he acquired was not only for his self-aggrandisement and enrichment, but also for the upliftment and the emancipation of his down-trodden people.

His return to this country was preceded by that of the late Alfred Mangena who also studied law in London, and was called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn. Mangena's arrival in South Africa paved the way for Pixley Seme and made it possible for him to be admitted as an attorney of the Supreme Court of South Africa without having to fight for this right.

Travelled in Trucks

Pixley Seme returned to this country in 1910 and established himself in Johannesburg. The conditions under which Africans lived and worked, particularly in the Northern Provinces, shocked him and stirred his mind to action. In those days the black man was treated as a beast of burden. He was knocked and kicked about with impunity. In the magistrate's courts his voice was hardly heard and his evidence hardly believed.

He was stopped at street corners by policemen demanding the production of his pass and his tax receipt. He was not allowed to walk on the pavements and had to dodge motor cars in the streets. He was not allowed to travel first, second or third class on the trains. He travelled in trucks almost similar to those used for cattle and horses. His education in the primary schools, which were few, did not go beyond Standard III, and not beyond Standard VI in the training school, which were only two in the Transvaal and none in the Orange Free State. Politically he had no voice in the making and administration of the laws. Economically he was kept in a state of abject poverty.

These, briefly, were the conditions under which the African people in the Northern provinces lived and laboured when Alfred Mangena, Pixley ka I. Seme, D. Montsioa and R. W. Msimang - a group of African lawyers - returned to South Africa from overseas. But among them, the man who was deeply shocked by these appalling conditions was Pixley Seme whose Zulu blood boiled as he saw the injustices and humiliation to which the African people were subjected And his patriotism made him see a vision of a united African people working together for their salvation.

Unity of Tribes

When he was studying at Columbia and Oxford universities and eating his dinners at the Middle Temple, Pixley Seme's mind was wholly occupied with the idea of how to rebuild the broken Zulu nation. But when he saw what was happening to all Africans of all tribes, he changed his mind. Probably he remembered that the ultimate object of Tshaka in building the Zulu nation was to bring all the tribes under Zulu sway so as to eventually create a powerful nation of all the Africans.

'Why should he not undertake this idea of Tshaka to fruition?' he asked himself as he paced to and fro in his office at the corner of Rissik and Marshall Streets. He turned over the idea in his mind and finally came to the conclusion that the scheme was worth while attempting.

So one day he called his colleagues together for consultation.

All his friends agreed that the idea was excellent and that the unity of the tribes was an absolute necessity. So, the four lawyers, at the suggestion of Pixley ka I. Seme, decided to call a conference of all the Chiefs and prominent educated Africans to meet in Bloemfontein on January 8, 1912, two years after the establishment of the Union of South Africa.

It was a gathering of tribes that had never met before except on the battlefields. It was a gathering of Chiefs who had never seen each other before. And they had come from the four provinces and the High Commission territories. It was a gathering of educated Africans who had never exchanged views before. It was a gathering, if I may say so, of the departed spirits of the African race, among whom were such men as Sandile, Tshaka, Moshoeshoe, Cetyewayo, Moroka, Khama, Sekhukhune, Sotshangana and Ramapulana.

Formation of Congress

Pixley Seme explained the purpose of the conference in these words: 'Chiefs of royal blood and gentlemen of our race, we have gathered here to consider and discuss a scheme which my colleagues and I have decided to place before you. We have discovered that in the land of their birth, Africans are treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water. The white people of this country have formed what is known as the Union of South Africa - a union in which we have no voice in the making of laws and no part in their administration. We have called you, therefore, to this conference, so that we can together devise ways and means of forming our national union for the purpose of creating national unity and defending our rights and privileges.'
The conference finally approved of the plan to form an organisation for the unification of the various tribes along national lines. That is how the African National Congress, which at the time was named the South African Native National Congress, came into existence.

No sooner was the Congress established than Pixley Seme conceived the idea of establishing a newspaper which could be used as a mouthpiece of the national organisation. There were two newspapers printed and published in Johannesburg at the time. They were Morumioa, founded and edited by D. S. Letanka, and Molomo Oa Batho, founded and edited by L. T. Mvabaze. Pixley Seme approached these men with a view to forming a company which could launch a strong national newspaper. The scheme appealed to D.S. Letanka who agreed to merge his newspaper with the proposed company which was formed in due course, through Pixley Seme's enthusiasm and indefatigable energy. The promoters of the company were Pixley ka I. Seme, D. S. Letanka and the old Queen of Swaziland. The newspaper Abantu-Batho was launched with C. Kunene as English and Zulu Editor and D. S. Letanka as Sotho Editor.

Another enterprise undertaken by this man of vision was the establishment of an African Farmers' Association, and an African settlement at Daggakraal in the Eastern Transvaal. The association gave impetus to the purchasing of land by Africans in the Transvaal.

The Daggakraal settlement caused consternation among neighbouring farmers, who declared that unless the buying of land by Natives was restricted South Africa would never be a white man's country. Indeed it was no exaggeration that it was the Daggakraal settlement which precipitated the enactment of the Natives Land Act in 1913.

Restless and Impatient

That Pixley ka I. Seme was a man of action and a patriot no sane man can deny. But his weakness, and that perhaps is the weakness of every brilliant man, was that he believed in his mind only, and therefore could not listen to the advices of other men. Had he wisely curbed his youthful ambition, restlessness and ambition he would not have lost interest in Congress, Abantu-Batho and the Farmers' Association simply because other men did not always agree with his point of view. Had he understood the value of compromise and co-operation he would have achieved greater things for the African race. But his plans were 'wrecked,' to use Lord Rosebery's phrase, 'by the extravagance of his own genius.'

In spite of all this, Pixley ka I. Seme has made a notable contribution to the development of our consciousness and national spirit, both creative and driving forces in our forward march. He has thus left his mark on our unwritten history, and when this history comes to be written by African historians his name will certainly find a place of honour among the great men of our race.

Centenary Focus Months

Each month of 2012 will see a focus on one of the twelve Presidents of the ANC, reflecting on their lives and the era of their leadership. For the first four months, the focus will be on the following Presidents:

John Langalibalele Dube

John Langalibalele Dube was born in Natal in 1871. He was the son of Rev. James Dube one of the first ordained pastors of the American Zulu Mission. John Dube's grandmother was one of the first Christians to be converted by the American Daniel Lindley.

There are many contradictory views and judgements on Dube's life. Let us take a few samples.

B.W. Vilakazi, a poet and author, wrote in 1946 that Dube was "a great, if not the greatest, black man of the missionary epoch in South Africa" and earlier A.S. Vil-Nkomo had written in the same vein: Dube was "one who comes once in many centuries - No one else in his education generation has accomplished so much with such meagre economic means. He was scholar, gentleman, leader, farmer, teacher, politician, patriot and philanthropist".

There were other judgements. To the Governor of Natal in 1906 Dube was "a pronounced Ethiopian who ought to be watched" and John X. Merriman, a Cape "liberal" described Dube in 1912 as a "typical Zulu, with a powerful cruel face. Very moderate and civilised, spoke extraordinarily good English ...". A little later he commented:

"Dube in conversation gave me a glimpse of national feeling which reminded me of Gokhale. How they must hate us - not without cause."

Howard Pim, another "liberal", found Dube frankly "puzzling": "I should say he was strong-willed and a great egotist; but his effect on me is curiously neutral. I am neither attracted nor repelled by him. Apparently the people who get on with him do so with the aid of a little flattery".

I.B. Tabata - in his characteristic style and fashion - referred to Dube (in his 1948 letter to Mandela) as a "principal of some secondary school in Natal" who was simply "a willing stooge in the hands of the Herrenvolk" and has 'led the Zulu back to tribalism, where they stagnate today".

One can only agree with Shula Marks who comments that some of these remarks reveal more about the commentators rather than about Dube.

Significance of Ohlange

Dube was educated at Inanda and Amanzimtoti (later Adams College). In 1887 he accompanied the missionary W.C. Wilcox to America. There he studied at Oberlin College while supporting himself in a variety of jobs and lecturing on the need for industrial education in Natal. He went back to Natal but soon resumed to the U.S. for further training and to collect money for a Zulu industrial school - as he called it - along the lines of the Tuskegee Institute.

In 1901 he was able to achieve his ambition on 200 acres of land in the Inanda district where he established the Zulu Christian Industrial School at Ohlange. Ohlange is within a stone's throw of Phoenix settlement where Gandhi started the newspaper, Indian Opinion, and not far from the dense religious settlement of AmaNazarethi, the Nazareth people, founded the prophet Shembe. One of Dube's achievements at this time was the establishment of a Zulu/English newspaper Ilanga lase Natal (Sun of Natal). He began to establish his political reputation.

The establishment of Ohlange signified a general ferment in the Amakholwa community at the turn of the century. This ferment expressed itself in the independent churches and political organisations which were being formed. There were other sources of influence. Dube was drawing on the prevalent thinking among Blacks in South Africa at the time, and this in turn was influenced by some trends in black thought in the USA. In Natal this black American influence was particularly strong at the time as a result of the American Zulu Mission. Dube's experiences in the States, especially the influence of Booker T. Washington and the Tuskegee Institute had shaped his ideas on Ohlange; the finances for his school came largely from the States and from the same sources who supported Tuskegee. But this was not more than inspiration for the founding of Ohlange.

His formative influences came from the American Zulu Mission in Natal. In the 1880s Dube was still a student at Amanzimtoti. The new head of the school, the missionary W.G. Goodenough, realised that the only way to obtain more aid was to satisfy the new government requirements to provide "industrial education' . In 1884-85 Jubilee Hall was built by the pupils of the school themselves. An industrial department was established which came to lay an increasingly important role in the life of the school

By the time Dube left for the States for the first time, printing, shoe-making, blacksmithing, bee-keeping, bricklaying, bookkeeping, book-binding and cartography were being taught at Amanzimtoti. This "industrial education" was the brain-child of the colonial government and what the missionaries did, was to support it as the American Zulu Mission general letter for 1889 confirms:

"If the Zulus are ever to occupy any worthy status in this colony they must be educated in every kind of labour. Missionaries are looking forward with more and more favour upon the industrial training of the native as a valuable feature of: missionary work"

This was Dube's introduction to "practical education" and self-help. He lectured and wrote on this subject. At the age of seventeen he preached to American congregations.

The colonial government soon changed its tactics: they no longer supported it, on the contrary they aimed at its suppression. The white workers and the government in Natal feared "competition" from African - and Indian - artisans in the 1890s. In 1893 government regulations discriminated against secondary schools and substituted an emphasis on "training the mass of the Africans to the lowest level of skill necessary for the labour market" with the result that Amanzimtoti was on the verge of collapse. In 1895 government grants were withdrawn from schools if the products of their industrial work were "allowed to be sold or disposed of in such a manner as to compete with general trade, or if the school was in any way responsible for or associated with the panting and publishing of any newspaper.

This regulation was directed against the Anglican St. Alban's College which produced the African newspaper, Inkanyiso, but the proviso was later used against Dube. We relate this story to dove home the point that Dube's choosing to start an African industrial school and three years later to pant and publish a newspaper on its premises was almost a path of confrontation - a direct challenge to the colonial authorities and the white workers.

Dube and the Bambata Rebellion

Dube bitterly opposed the arrest and trial of Dinizulu in connection with the 1906 Bambata rebellion and actively assisted in raising funds for his defence. Dinizulu, son of the last Zulu king was,.for Africans in South Africa, the symbol of past independence and at their identity as a people - and this is something which Dube, with his recollections of and pride in his African past, was to remain acutely aware of for the rest of his life. The Natal government attempted to suppress Ilanga lase Natal before and during the Bambata Rebellion - it was the object of constant suspicion.

Dube publicised Dinizulu's arrest. His relations with the Royal House were to be strong and so enduring that by the 1930's he was acting as their chief adviser, and worked closely with the Regent, Mshlyeni. In 1909 Dube was a member of the delegation to Britain to protest against the Act of Union and in 1912 he accepted the Presidency of the ANC in spite of the pressures put on him by his preoccupation with education. It is said that in 1912 Dube addressed a group of Africans in Zululand to explain the new movement (the ANC) and appeal for unity. A member of the audience shouted:

"I thank Bambata. I thank Bambata very much. Would this spirit might continue! I do not mean the Bambata of the bush who perished at Nkandla, but I mean this new spirit which we have just heard explained".

Dube's Political Role

When Dube came back from the States in 1905 (after his third visit) there were signs of tension between him and the white missionaries. Ilanga lase Natal attacked the decisions of missionaries on land allotment on the Reserves, and the Mission Reserve rent, as well as the social aloofness of missionaries and their lack of trust for the converts, inadequate selection of African officers and failure to defend African interests. In 1908 he resigned from the pastorate of Inanda. The tension between Dube on the one hand and the government and missionaries on the other hand was resolved in 1907 but he was constantly warned that he was "playing with fire". But in the columns of Ilanga and as part of many delegations of Amakholwa he protested and petitioned the government against the proposed legislations.

But ideologically Dube had accepted the missionary gospel It is true that generally the impact of missionaries on African culture and value systems has been superficial in Africa but for Dube and his generation and the one immediately after him .the "psychological conversion" if not "psychological colonisation" was almost complete.

This was one of the sources of contradiction in the views and ideas of this generation.
Talking about the religious aspects of Dube we have said that the Whites were suspicious of Ethiopianism. If by Ethiopianism they meant that Dube and his colleagues were determined to prove and to demonstrate to the whites that the black man can run an educational institution without any white assistance, then we agree with them. That was basically the essence of Ethiopianism. But to them Ethiopianism meant something different - an equivalent of a devil, a black one at that.

Talking about Dube's political baptism, it should be remembered that he was detained during the Anglo-Boer war for alleged seditious statements. The Natal Native Congress was formed during the war Dube, together with Saul Msane, J.T Gumede, Stephen Mini, Mark Radebe, B. Cele, S. Nyongwana, Martin Lutuli expressed African feelings and brought African grievances to the attention of the government. Ipepa lo Hlanga, a non-missionary paper in Natal appeared, sponsored by the same group which rounded Congress and edited by Mark Radebe, but was later to be replaced by John Dube's llanga.

Ilanga, from the outset, was overtly political. Dube used his paper to stress the need for African unity and African representation and to air more specific grievances. It emphasised the need for education, financial help from white philanthropists. In September 1906, Dube was calling for a meeting of the Transvaal, Cape and Natal congresses and "welcoming signs that tribal antagonisms are dying down as indications of progress".

He was a bitter opponent of the 1913 Land Act. He spoke and wrote on this subject. In an article in 1914 he wrote:

"It is only a man with a heart of stone who could hear and see what I hear and see and remain callous and unmoved. It would break your hearts did you but know, as I know, the cruel and undeserved afflictions wrought by the hateful enactment on numberless aged, poor and tender children of my race in this their native land. From the ashes of their burnt out kraals, kicked away like dogs by Christian people from their humble hearths, from the dear old scenes where their fathers were born and grew up in simple peace, bearing malice to none, and envying neither European nor Indian the wealth and plenty they amass themselves from this their land, these unfortunate outcasts pass homeless, unwanted, silently suffering, along the highways and byways of the land, seeking in vain the most unprofitable waste whereon to build their hovel and rest and live, victims of an unknown civilisation that has all too suddenly overwhelmed and overtaken them..."

Dube wrote and spoke strongly and emotively on the government's land policy. The 19i3 Land Act was so hydra-headed that it affected every stratum of African rural society. In 1914 Dube was one of the ANC delegates to London to protest against the Act. This delegation caused some controversy within the ANC. It was fed Dube had made some compromises on the principle of segregation. The bone of contention within the ANC was the Land Act. Dube was ousted from the presidency of the ANC. From this time onwards Dube concentrated his activities in Natal but in the 1940's Xuma influenced him to participate in the movement nationally with some success.

In the 1920s, like some of his generation (and the stratum of mission-educated Africans? he became involved in a series of. "liberal' attempts to establish "racial harmony" between black and white, such as the Smuts' Native Conferences established under the 1920 Act (which Dube left in 1926 on the grounds of their powerlessness) the Joint Councils and many missionary conferences. In 1926 he was one of the South African delegates to the international conference at Le Zoute in Belgium, a visit he combined with fresh fund-raising for Ohlange. He was involved in replacing the left-wing Gumede with Seme as president of the ANC in 1930 and in 1935 became a member of the All African Convention. He represented Natal on the Native Representative Council from 1936 until his death, in 1946, when he was replaced by Chief Albert Luthuli on the Council.

One of Dube's controversial actions was in 1930. He openly flirted with Hertzog's bills in the hope that they would at least Provide some extra additional funds for development. It should be remembered that Dube was ousted from the presidency of the ANC in 1917 for his apparent acceptance of the principle - if not the contemporary practice - of segregation. Dube forged an alliance with the segregationist, Heaton Nicholls, and he toured the country soliciting the support of African leaders in Johannesburg, Kimberly, Bloemfontein and the Eastern Cape for a bill on Land Settlement promoted by Nicholls. This provided for the allocation of seven million morgen of land, to be added to the already scheduled areas, and the provision of adequate funds. The problem was that, like Hertzog's proposals, Heaton Nicholls coupled his land schemes with an attempt to end the franchise of the Cape Africans. This scheme also envisaged the representation of Africans in-the senate. But this never materialised.

But all this did not discredit Dube. In 1935 he was elected to the Executive of the All African Convention. He became disenchanted with the government schemes -- at a meeting of the Natal Debating Society in 1935 he made a sharp attack on the government's policies, which Jabavu printed as a pamphlet: "Criticisms of the Native Bills". In it Dube expounded his nationalism and his rejection of African inequality and his belief in the principle of African representation.

Dube and Champion

John Dube's political history is a complex and contradictory picture - a reflection of the social contradictions in Natal and in South Africa - which were affecting the Africans most acutely. It was, in a sense, also an expression of a need for survival.
Long before the advent of Whites in Natal "traditional authority" and "custom" was breaking down through Shaka's wars and the consequent upheavals and repercussions. No wonder that the missionaries had it relatively easy to evangelise the Africans and the Africans responded by forming the Ethiopian movement. The Whites were hostile to Ethiopianism which to them was tantamount to a swear-word.

Dube's elite straddles two eras: he witnessed the dramatic changes in African life consequent upon industrialisation. He saw the destruction of African independence and conversion of his people from independent freedom fighters and warriors into "house-boys" and "garden-boys", of independent peasants into dispossessed rural and urban wage workers. He recognised the creation of an urban proletariat and tried to articulate some of its grievances but he could not provide the leadership this new class needed, nor could he empathise with its aspirations.

It was the new crop of leaders, notably Alison Wessels George Champion, a man of completely different style and background, with an urban constituency who were to play this role. From the mid 1920's until Dube's death in 1946 the two contended for dominance in African politics in Natal. Not that the views of the two were mutually exclusive. The same contradictions in Dube's politics were evident in Champion's activities as well. But Champion appealed to much more of a mass audience and was a leader of the "industrial" workers whilst Dube was still part of the religious Amakholwa community. Both showed the same swing between belligerence and servility in their attitude to Whites. But because of land shortage their priorities and even the political philosophy of self-help overlapped. Champion as president of the Natal ANC tried (not unlike Dube) to run the Natal ANC independently of the National Executive Committee.

Dube held contradictory beliefs and values: he was anti-communist but at the same time invited Edward Roux from the Communist Party to coach boys at Ohlange which Roux did.

The depression and drought in the 1930's made the land question even more acute. Dipping schemes were being violently rejected and tax-collectors forcibly ejected from villages; growing militancy in the towns particularly in Durban where squalor, stagnation wages and political repression were ever present; opposition to beer halls and pass laws was the order of the day and police brutality ever present - Johannes Nkosi; communist activist was murdered in Durban on December 16 1930. These were the years of depression and drought and the population increase convinced Dube, more than ever before, of the futility of "violence" in the face of white power; he tried to find an alliterative. The aftermath of the Bambata rebellion was still fresh in his mind; his deeply ingrained desire for law and order - an African tradition "reinforced" and distorted by missionary education - led to some of his inconsistency.
Dube took great pride in his Zulu past - and like many Africans from other ethnic groups - on occasions allowed it to dominate his actions but he was consistent in stressing the great need for African unity. He sympathised with the independent church movement: in 1936 he wrote a short biography of the prophet Shembe, founder of the influential independent church in Natal, the church of Ama-Nazarethi. He strongly believed that education and knowledge were the key to advance. Dube, being exempted from Native Law, could not be dealt with as summarily as both the Minister of Native Affairs and the Governor might have wished.

What should be noted is that Dube's strategy and ideology were outflanked by the times. He had not changed from being a radical to being a conservative as Eddie Roux suggests in his debatable book "Time Longer Than Rope". He died believing in racial equality; demanding justice and striving for African unity. These were revolutionary goals directly challenging the basis of white power and he believed in this to the end of his life. He fought all his life for the unity and liberation of the Africans - a unity and liberation he saw as coming through education, through working with sympathetic whites, through adoption of Christian values and, more importantly, through political organisation under the umbrella of the ANC.

Vil-Nkomo summed up his life when he wrote in Umteleli we Bantu on February 26,1946 that Dube:

"has revealed to the world at large that it is not quite true to say that the African is incompetent as far as achievement is concerned".

Sefako Mapogo Makgatho

Sechaba, June 1985

"We ask for no special favours from the Government. This is the land of our fathers. "S.M. Makgatho, ANC Presidential Address, 6th May 1919 The purpose of this article is to give a brief outline of the manner in which S.M. Makgatho carried out this mission under the changed conditions of his times.

Some highlights of the Makgatho era

S.M. Makgatho was born in 1861 at GaMphahlele, Pietersburg district, Northern Transvaal, and died in Pretoria, full of years and experience and wisdom in 1951, aged 90 years old. A cursory glance at the years - 1861-1951 shows that Makgatho was born the year King Sekwati died and Sekhukhune succeeded to the Marota throne in 1861; that in 1882, when Sekhukhune died, Makgatho was 21 years old and at school in Ealing, Middlesex, England, reading Education and Theology. As a keen student of South African affairs he followed Sekhukhune's odyssey closely, especially since they were blood relations and since these events were reported adequately in the British press at the time. He also witnessed at close range the politics surrounding the signing by Britain, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, the United States of America, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Sweden, Norway and Turkey of the General Act of the Conference of Berlin respecting the freedom of trade in the Basin of the Congo, navigation of the Congo, navigation of the Niger and rules for future occupation of the coast of the African continent, 26th February 1885.

From the very beginning Makgatho opposed this rape of Africa. He understood the immediate threat that it constituted not only to the vast natural resources of Africa but also to the freedom, independence and self-determination of her peoples. And so it was that in after years when he and his compatriots founded the African National Congress (1912) they adopted a political slogan that was applicable not only to South Africa but also to the whole continent of Africa - "Mayibuye i Afrika" (Come back, Africa) they cried. They also adopted a national anthem that expressed the hopes not only of the people of South Africa but also those of the people of Africa as a whole - "Morena boloka sechaba sa hesu; Nkosi Sikalel' i Afrika" (God save my nation; god bless Africa). The same Africa-wide spirit informed their choice of colours of the flag of the African National Congress - black, gold, green. It took decades of struggle and sacrifices by liberation movements across the continent to free Africa from the chains of political bondage forged for her at the Berlin Conference, 1884-1885. Makgatho played his part in that supreme effort.

Again, as a student in England, Makgatho was inspired by Keir Hardie of the Miners' Union and others who were to establish the British Labour Party in 1906. Indeed, in 1906, back home in South Africa, he and a group of young African teachers joined hands to form the Transvaal African Teachers' Association (TATA) as a trades union for African teachers and an instrument for the transformation of 'Native education' into a non-racial system of universal education for all of South Africa's children.Creation of the Racist State

In 1909 Makgatho witnessed the Imperial (British) Parliament enact the South Africa Act, which brought the Union of South Africa into being. He was revolted by Clause 35 (1) of the Act, which provided that henceforth no Black man could become a member of Parliament, no Black man could vote for others to represent him in the all-White South African Parliament, and that the handful of Black voters who had acquired franchise rights in the 19th century in the Cape Province and Natal Province would remain on the common voters' roll until disfranchised by a two-thirds majority obtained at a joint session. of the two houses of Parliament sitting together. That result was achieved by General Hertzog, leader of the first Afrikaner Nationalist government in South Africa, in 1936.

He also lived to see the 1936 legislation repealed in 1951 and replaced by the Bantu Authorities Act, 1951, which laid the legislative foundations for today's Bantustans. Needless to say, he opposed these developments with might and main.

But of course the South Africa Act did more than that: the inclusion of Clause 35 in the Act, by a Liberal Government headed by Liberal Prime Minister Asquith, created the first explicitly race state of our times. After that no~ serious-minded Black man could be a Liberal. For Blacks, Liberalism was dead as a dodo. Henceforth Black men looked elsewhere for salvation. This was so especially because after 1910 successive South African governments put one race law after another on the statute book. A few examples to illustrate this contention must suffice:

Time and space do not permit us to go into details of other race laws, covering all aspects of South African life, enacted by successive South African governments from 1910, when the South Africa Act was enacted, to 1951, when S.M. Makgatho died. Suffice it to say all these laws, so-called, lacking the consent of the vast majority of the population, the African majority, and therefore illegitimate, derived their cue from the Act of Union of 1909 itself. Africans had no choice but to fight back. For Makgatho only one instrument was ready to hand - the African National Congress.

The ANC aimed to unite Africans

The African National Congress had established, with Makgatho's active participation, on the 8th January 1912, in response to the race clauses of the South Africa Act, 1909, and race laws enacted under that Act. The ANC aimed to unite Africans not just in S Africa but also in Lesotho, Botswana Swaziland in particular; to fight the fore imperialism generated by the General A Berlin, 26th February 1885; to spearhead common struggle for freedom and determination; to destroy racism and to create on its ruins a nonracial South Africa w traditional democratic rights would available to all, irrespective of race, colour, religion, sex, possessions, formal education and so on.

As stated earlier, S.M. Makgatho had helped establish the Transvaal African Teachers' Association in 1906 and its journal, the Good Shepherd, in 1923, to fight for equal education opportunities for Africans in South Africa. From 1906 to 1908 he served as President of African Political Union. He was President of the Transvaal Native Organisation from 1908-1912. Both organisations merged with the ANC in January 1912. From 1887-1930 he was an influential Methodist lay preacher. He participated in delegations and petitions to London (after World War 1, 1914-1918) on behalf of our people. When the ANC was established in 1912 he was elected President of its Transvaal section, the Transvaal Native Congress, from 1912-1930. He was President-General of the ANC itself from 1917-1924. From 1930-1933 he was a Senior National Treasurer of the ANC.

It may be said, in a nutshell, that during these momentous years Makgatho led our people as an educationist, theologian, editor of the Good Shepherd, and, with Advocate Alfred Mangena, of the Native Advocate. He led anti-pass campaigns, calling the pass "infernal" and "a badge of slavery. " He vigorously opposed the extension of the 'dompas' to African women. He successfully took the government to court over the Transvaal Poll Tax of 2 pounds (a lot of money in those days). He led Africans in Pretoria in a successful campaign for the right, then denied them, to walk on street pavements in the city instead of competing with vehicles and horses for space in the middle of the road. Under his leadership Africans-won the right to use first class and second class facilities on South African trains instead of being confined to goods trains.

Lessons from Makgatho's experiences

One could go on to write about Makgatho and the wars in Sekhukhuneland and Zululand in 1879; about him and the Bambata Rebellion of 1906; about his attitude to the Boer War, 1882-1884, the Anglo-Boer War, 1899-1902, and the two world wars, 1914-18 and 1939-45; about his attitude to the League of Nations and the United Nations; his reaction to the two socialist revolutions of our times, the October Revolution that erupted in Russia in 1917 and the Chinese revolution of 1949; his anger at Fascist Italy's rape of Abyssinia in 1935; his reaction to the electoral victory of apartheid's Afrikaners in May 1948; his relations with Liberals, Socialists, trade unions, and with chiefs and villagers and so on. But space and time forbid. We cannot, therefore, elaborate on his leadership on all these issues. Suffice it to say that there are lessons to be learned from his experiences in all these fields of political thought and action. None of these achievements came anywhere near winning political, financial, economic, military, social, cultural power for the dispossessed and exploited African majority. None of this amounted to a root-and-branch transformation of South African society. But to apply such tests to Makgatho and his generation is to benefit from hindsight - and that is poor historiography. Let the last word be Makgatho's. It is taken from his Presidential Address to the Eighth Annual Conference of the ANC held on the 6th May 1919. He said this, inter alia:

"Chiefs, ladies and gentlemen, many changes have taken place since we last met at Bethlehem. The Native Lands Act still operates as mercilessly in different parts of the Union, and as a result many Native families are still working for White farmers only for their food. It will be remembered, after the representations of this Congress and the pleadings of our missionary and other friends, the government has consented to postpone for a year enacting the Native Affairs Administration Bill, which was nothing but the confirmation and perpetuation of the harsh provisions of the Native Lands Act and all its sorrows. Another Bill has likewise been postponed: that is, the Native Urban Areas Bill ... It says: no White man, under pain of #100 fine or six months' imprisonment, shall rent sell a house to a Native in any town or village in the Union, unless that Native be a registered voter. This means that only a few Natives will retain the right to acquire town property in the Cape Province; and none at all in the other three provinces. How such a provision can be acceptable to us, only the government knows. It adds that men and women should not get work unless they carry passes, and pay a shilling a month for them."

Passes Can Never Be Acceptable

"And it is a proposition our people can NEVER accept. When the Bill came out, 1 was assured in the Transvaal that our people there would forestall it by organising a movement against the present male pass laws before their extension to our women. The passive resistance against male passes is now history in the Transvaal. There have been serious strikes and labour troubles among Europeans in South Africa. In every instance, where well paid White men, getting as much as # 1 a day or more, struck for higher pay, they got it; but our first strike for sixpence a day over two shillings and two-and-sixpence was met on the part of the government by violence, arrests, heavy fines and imprisonment. The White man, on the other hand, can strike at any time because he has no pass, but a Native worker going on strike commits a breach of contract - his service pass.

"Thereupon, at Bloemfontein, last July, the Johannesburg branch of the Transvaal Native Congress brought to the Executive Committee a resolution demanding the abolition of the pass law, so that Natives must work unshackled by contract passes. The resolution was duly sent to the government and the matter was discussed at various interviews between the Transvaal Congress leaders and the government officers, and also with the Prime Minister and other ministers at different times; the reply in each instance being that the matter will be attended to. Eventually, in March of this year, the Johannesburg Branch, followed by the Benoni and other Witwatersrand branches, decided to throw away their passes and secure the government's attention to our grievances by courting arrest. Thousands of men and women have been arrested and sentenced to fines and various terms of imprisonment with hard labour, and, refusing to pay fines, they nearly all elected to go to gaol. They were driven like cattle, trampled by mounted policemen under their horses' hoofs, shot at by White volunteers, and some men and women are in their graves as a result of their refusal to buy any more passes.

Compulsory protection

"The principle involved has wide ramifications from both points of view. The authorities insist that they cannot abolish the passes, which are a 'great help to the Natives' ...

"What is so difficult for us Natives to understand is that a form of help should be forced upon us against our wish, that we should be fined, imprisoned and ridden to death by mounted policemen, with our women also under the horses' hoofs, and shot at, simply because we say we are not in need of the help that is offered. What kind of protection is so compulsory? While our people were shot at and clubbed by civilian Whites, and our womenfolk ridden down by the mounted police of Johannesburg, there was, at the same time, a strike of well-paid White men in the same city, agitating for more pay and less work.

"Not content with doing that, they forcibly seized the local government property, and practically ejected the constituted authority. Nobody shot at them. Their wives were not rid-, den down or beaten with sticks. The real reason for this insistent enforcement of the pass law is kept in the background. No mention is made of the amount of revenue raised from our people by means of this badge of slavery. The government retains a share of the spoils. The Transvaal Provincial Council alone gets #340 000 annually, from the scant earnings of our poorly-paid people, to build and maintain schools for White children, while our educational needs remain unattended.

Thousands of Natives are suffering imprisonment at the present time, and, in spite of the law, many thousands since last month are courting arrest by working without any passes. And it is for you to call on the government to abolish the Transvaal and Free State passes ...

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, I am told that there is a difference of opinion as to the wisdom of sending a deputation to England. 1 cannot understand how anyone could call it a crime to send a delegation to the headquarters of the Empire. What sorts of a king have we that we should never go to see him? Have we got the Republic already that we should not go to the seat of the Empire? At the December Special Congress he (that is, Sol Plaatje, Vice-President) was elected with myself and seven others to carry our grievances to the British public. Two of the delegates have already left, and as funds are forthcoming others will follow shortly ...

"Today we are informed that we are represented at the Peace Conference by Generals Smuts and Botha. Did any of the two generals ever inform any Native that they were going to represent him? I read that General Botha, on leaving Cape Town in a Japanese ship, told some Europeans that he was going to represent the two great races. So, where do we come in? And what do our two generals know about the abomination of the pass laws or the atrocities or the Native Lands Act, enacted by them? What do they know about our starving widows and dependants whose breadwinners fell during the Great War in German West and East Africa, on the ocean, in France and other battlefronts?

"Chiefs, ladies and gentlemen, if we send no representatives to the seat of the Empire now, our families will only have ourselves to thank; so let us do our best at this moment, so that when the hard time comes and the threatened class laws are enacted,
posterity may not charge us with inattention.

"Our people in the Free State have also had their chapter of misfortunes. Like us in the Transvaal, their troubles are twofold - the need for a living wage and the infernal 'pass.' All this on top of the mischief of the Natives Land Act, which, in the Free State, allows the buying of land from Natives by Europeans, while it strictly prohibits any purchase or lease of land by a Native. Even sales between Native and Native are strictly forbidden.

Shooting Outrages

"Chiefs, ladies and gentlemen, when we met at Bethlehem last year the Free State Natives were very restless because of the easy manner in which Natives were shot by farmers, without any protection from the courts, as the juries could always be relied upon to discharge every White man who shot one Native or a Native couple.

"When the Bethlehem Congress rose, four fresh shooting outrages were again reported in rapid succession. At a time like this, when we are face to face with some of the worst upheavals that ever overtook our people, it is imperative that we should stand together. We ask for no special favours from the government. This is the land of our fathers, and, in it, we wish to be treated at least as well as foreigners and with the same consideration extended to foreigners, including foreigners of enemy origin.
It is my pleasant duty to express the thanks of our people to the small band of Englishmen in and out of parliament, together with our friends and sympathisers of the Missionary Associations, who have stood by us throughout the dark days under the pitiless yoke of the Native Land Act, and also during the present no-pass' agitation. It is for us to see that their confidence in us is not misplaced. (2)

These are not the words of a dead man addressing dead issues. They are words addressing live issues concerning the day-to-day life of the Black man in South Africa today.

And so we pay homage to Sefako Mapogo Makgatho (1861 till 1951), national figure from 1906 till 1951, founder member of the ANC, and its national President from 1917 till 1924 and President of the Transvaal ANC from 1912 till 1930, Senior National Treasurer from 1930 till 1933.

We pledge ourselves to continue his lifelong struggle for a South Africa that is legitimate, non-racial, non.-exploitative, free, independent, democratic, and playing its proper role amongst the nations of the world.


1. This Clause was based on Article 9 of the Grondwet van die Suid Afrikaanse Republiek, 1858, which denied equality between Black and White people. It in turn was followed by the Draft Constitution issued by the fascist Broederbond in 1942 and by the Republican Constitutions of 1961 and 1983.

2. Karis and Carter, From Protest to Challenge, 1882-1964, Vol. I, pp. 107-110 (Hoover, 1972).

Josiah Tshangana Gumede

Sechaba, December 1982

Responding to a question posed by the Africa Report editor Anthony J. Hughes on the ANC's traditional links with the South African Communist Party and the ANC's relations with the socialist countries, President O.R. Tambo replied:

"The South African Communist Party supports and actively fights for the realisation of the demands contained in the (Freedom) Charter. It accepts the leadership of the ANC and therefore cannot but be an ally of the ANC as would be any other organisation that adopts the same position.

"Official contact between the ANC and the Soviet Union goes back as far as 1927, when a delegation of the ANC, led by its president, Josiah Gumede, visited the Soviet Union and came back convinced of the support that our struggle enjoys from the Soviet government and people. Practical experience has shown our people and the ANC that President Gumede was not wrong in his assessment of 55 years ago. We stood together with the Soviet Union and the allied forces in fighting nazism during the Second World War. True to those positions, the Soviet Union and other socialist countries stand with us to this day fighting the apartheid system, itself and its leaders pawns of nazi ideology and practice". (Africa Report, September - October, 1981)

It is for this reason that we shall attempt to trace the life, activities and ideas of Josiah Tshangana Gumede. (For one reason or another Mary Benson and Edward Roux call him James T. Gumede).

It is 55 years since Gumede went to the Soviet Union. This was not only a brave deed those days, it was a pioneering act. His work was not in vain. Today there are millions fighting for his ideals. They have taken up the banner that slipped from his hands.
There is another reason for assessing the life and times of Gumede namely to explain the whole policy of the ANC on unity in action - unity of African nationalists, Black nationalists, Hindus, Christians, Moslems, atheists and communists. A brief biography of Gumede will help to understand - to quote a phrase from Mandela's Rivonia speech - "why experienced African politicians so readily accept communists as their friends".

Early Life

Gumede's early life is little known. Born in Natal in the mid-19th century Gumede attended school in Grahamstown (Cape) and taught for some time at Somerset East in the Cape before going to Natal where he became advisor to Natal and Orange Free State chiefs.

It was in 1899 that Gumede and Saul Msane met Hariette Colenso to discuss the formation of an African political organisation and in 1900 together with Martin Lutuli and Saul Msane he became a cofounder of the Natal Native Congress and was for several years its general secretary.

In 1906 Gumede was a member of a delegation to Britain over the land laws of the Orange Free State. He acted as the agent of the Sotho people who had bought land in the Orange Free State. For leaving Natal without a pass (for which he had applied but which had not been granted) he was arrested and fined 10 pounds or 3 months on his return. This was regarded as a "piece of insubordination".

With Z.M. Mazuku he co-signed the constitution of Iliso Lesizwe Esimnyama - The Eye of the Black Nation - an organisation of Wesleyan Methodist converts and chiefs formed in the Dundee and Newcastle area of Natal in 1907.

Surely Gumede belongs to that generation of the founding fathers of the ANC. He was a member of the ANC delegation which went to petition the British Government in 1919. His name appears and reappears in the petitions of the time.

African nationalism and socialism

African nationalism - in the modem form and socialism emerged almost simultaneously. They ran parallel to each other but were facing a common enemy and therefore there was a basis for cooperation. The socialist movement emphasis on internationalism in South Africa at this early period was of great significance not only for the anti war propaganda (antimilitarism) - something very topical today in South Africa - but for the orientation of the white labour movement towards the plight of the emergent, racially discriminated and nationally oppressed black workers. It should be remembered that one of the greatest fears of the regime of the time was a united action of militant white workers/socialists and Africans.

There were joint actions of the ANC and the socialists. The socialists organised African trade unions. When the Communist Party of South Africa was formed in 1921 a firm basis for the elaboration of the relations with the ANC was laid. But the problem was that within the Communist Party at this time events seemed to outstrip theory.

The CP recruited Africans; black communists established ICU branches and therefore strengthened that organisation and they were elected to the National Executive of that body. There emerged the first generation of African communists such as Albert Nzula, Johannes Nkosi, Moses Kotane, J.B. Marks, Edwin Mofutsanyana, Gana Makabeni and many others.

Such was the situation in the 1920's. Things were not running as smoothly as we describe them today. There were problems. Many problems. All the same this background gives us a picture of what the situation was when history thrust Gumede into the forefront. He was not only a product of history but he influenced the course of events.

Gumede travels abroad

In the late 20's important developments took place within the ANC. The ANC attended the inaugural Congress of the League against Imperialism which took place in Brussels from the 10th to the 15th of February 1927. At this congress at the Palais Egmont there were 174 anti-colonial fighters from all over the world. For the first time in history, representatives of the progressive labour movement of the capitalist countries were united with delegates from the labour movements and national liberation movements of the peoples still under the yoke of colonialism and imperialism on all continents. The aim of the participants was to take up the struggle for the independence of those countries and against imperialism on a wide front.

J.T. Gumede represented the ANC and the communist and ANC leader J.A. La Guma was there as well as D. Colraine of the South African Trade Union Congress. This Brussels Congress was attended by communists, anti-colonial freedom fighters from Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean, bourgeois humanists and social democrats. Despite the heterogeneous nature of its composition and the difference in ideological and political conviction the necessity and the will to unite was an overriding factor. by Gumede spoke twice in Brussels. According to Otto Schnudel from Switzerland who was at this Brussels Congress and later became a friend of Gumede: "Its speeches made a deep impression on the assembly". (Basle, 19th December 1977).

Gumede analysed the plight of our people, their living conditions and resistance and on an optimistic note, he stated:

"I am happy to say that there are communists in South Africa. I myself am not one, but it is my experience that the Communist Party is the only Party that stands behind us and from which we can expect something. We know there are now two powers at work: imperialism and the workers' republic in Russia. We hear little about the latter, although we would like to know more about it. But we take an interest and will soon find out who we have to ally ourselves with".

Gumede was not making a "diplomatic" statement - he was sincere in what he was saying and this sincerity did not stem from some moral and value judgements but from what he himself experienced. Gumede repeated this theme - or message - in his Presidential report to the annual conference of the ANC in June 1927:
"Of all political parties the Communist Party is the only one that honestly and sincerely fights for the oppressed people".

It is interesting to remember that Gumede, this sincere nationalist and devout Catholic had strongly opposed "Bolshevism" in 1917.

Back to the Brussels Congress. It is important to note that in Brussels, Gumede, La Guma and Colraine drafted a joint resolution and signed it adding "South African delegates" before it was adopted by Congress. This unity of South African revolutionaries, though it took place outside the country, was significant. The resolution demanded: the right to self-determination through complete overthrow of the capitalist and imperialist rule. Surely this was a step forward and Jack and Ray Simons are of the view that this resolution introduced an impetus and a new dimension in our view of the struggle; a concept which was later incorporated in the slogan of the "Black Republic".

After the Congress Gumede and La Guma travelled to Germany where they addressed large crowds in rallies organised by the Communist Party of Germany. Otto Schnudel has some interesting things to say about Gumede in Berlin:

"Following the Congress there was in Berlin an informal meeting of the delegates who had come to the German capital, among them our friend Gumede. Berlin was to be the seat of the League Against Imperialism formed in Brussels.

"I was present at that meeting, since for the next three years I was to work on the International Secretariat of the League Against Imperialism and for National Independence. Josiah Tshangana Gumede and I were standing side by side. He towered over most of those present with his tall, powerful figure. Most of the whites he had met until then had treated him with contempt, and that was why this Berlin meeting was so infinitely important. For the first time he stood as an equal among people of all races, all colours and various beliefs, united in brotherhood with the purpose of putting an end to the contemptible system of colonialism. Josiah Tshangana Gumede was so overwhelmed by this experience that his eyes were filled with tears. "I am so happy!" he stammered. Then he drew himself up and added: "I am going to fight!".

Gumede and La Guma proceeded to the Soviet Union. They returned to Moscow at the end of the year to attend the celebrations and commemoration of the October Revolution. They also participated at the Congress . of the Friends of the USSR. Gumede then made a trip through the Soviet Union. He chose to go to Georgia. A photograph of Gumede in Russian winter clothes with Georgian peasants shows how cheerful a man he was. Fifty years later his former interpreter, A.F. Plate, then a student now professor. of chemistry at the Moscow state University, told Sechaba:

"Gumede considered as one of the greatest achievements of our country that the Socialist Revolution managed to united people of different nationalities in their struggle for common ideals. He emphasised the significance of this experience for all nations struggling, for their independence and considered that success in this struggle would highly depend on the unity of action of all forces fighting against racism and colonialism".

Back in South Africa

Gumede never forgot this experience. Back in South Africa he told large crowds:
"I have seen the world to come, where it has already begun. I have been to the new Jerusalem".

Gumede called for a united front in the form of unity of action between communists and non-communists. He crossed the borders of South Africa into Basutoland (now Lesotho) where he addressed meetings of Lekhotla la Bafo (Common Man's League) which. was led by Maputseng Lefela. He was preaching the new gospel. The masses responded to his message: he was elected President-General and E.J. Khaile (a known Communist) was elected Secretary-General of the ANC.

Surely Gumede's trip to Brussels was a turning point in his life. He met anti-colonial revolutionaries from Asia (including Nehru), Latin America, Caribbean and Africa some of whom were "blacker than myself, speaking languages I could not understand". (He was surely referring to French). In the Soviet Union Gumede learnt a lot and his former interpreter, Plate, remembers:

"In Tbilisi Gumede was given a good reception and had various conversations with Georgian leaders and Georgian peasants. One of these meetings was held in the 'house of the Peasant' a - place Where peasants coming to town could have a place to shop. Gumede asked the peasants about their lives in detail ... We visited a number of Georgian villages and returning to the hotel every time Gumede compared the way of life of the Georgian peasants with the mode of life and labour (conditions) in his motherland".

The growing influence of the Soviet Union seems to have had an impact on many genuine black leaders of the time. Dr Du Bois himself confessed in 1926:

"I stand in astonishment and wonder at the revelation of Russia that has come to me. I may be partially deceived and half informed. But if what I have seen with my own eyes and heard with my ears in Russia is Bolshevism, I am a Bolshevik".

And the 4th Congress of the Pan African movement in 1927 stated:

"We thank the Soviet Government for its liberal attitude toward the coloured races and for the help which it has extended to them from time to time".

These statements by leading black radicals demonstrate that Gumede's reactions were not an exception to the rule; the ANC was moving with the times and reflecting the dynamism characteristic of a revolutionary organisation. The very existence of the Soviet Union; the fact that in the Soviet Union racism has been completely eradicated and that the Soviet leaders treat any manifestation of racial chauvinism with great severity and the fact that the Soviet people show great sympathy - and actually render assistance to - the oppressed colonial people: these are factors which impressed Gumede and many black radicals.

The Tsar was 'a great man'

There were other forces at work within the ANC. The conservative wing could not - and did not - remain neutral to the remarks and development of Gumede. One chief warned:

"The Tsar was a great man in his country, of royal blood like us chiefs and where is he now? ... If the ANC continues to fraternise with them (the communists) we chiefs cannot continue to belong to it".

And another chief (not without regret and a sense of fear for a future social revolution) said:

"It will be a sad day for me when I am ruled by the man who milks my cow and ploughs my field".

These forces succeeded in forcing Gumede to leave the position of presidency of the ANC in 1930.

But Gumede remained president of the League of African Rights on whose committee sat Modiakgotla, Bunting, Baker, Thibedi, Kotane and Kotu - communists and non-communists.

ANC - CP relations

We have already stated that the resolution of the Brussels Congress introduced a new dimension in our concept of the struggle in South Africa. This was elaborated, enriched and developed in the discussions La Guma held with Bukharin and other Comintern leaders. These leaders viewed our struggle from a somewhat different angle and perspective. Whereas up to then the Communist Party of South Africa regarded the struggle in our country as a working class struggle for socialism, the Comintern saw the importance of a national struggle uniting all oppressed people and classes against white domination and imperialism and for national liberation. The Comintern suggested the adoption of the slogan: An independent Native Republic as a stage towards a workers' and peasants' republic with full, equal rights for all races.
For the CP which had up to then advocated working class unity as the only way to socialism and equality of black and white, this new call for the support of the liberation struggle led by the ANC which was then regarded as reformist was indeed a new departure. The CP had reservations about the ANC; the communists were ready to unite with the ANC on specific campaigns and issues but the ANC was basically reformist -- they argued. The question of communists working to build and strengthen the ANC was never raised partly because the ANC was said to be serving the interests of the "African bourgeoisie" - and some of these people called "bourgeoisie" were very poor indeed!

Speaking about this period and these attitudes, Lionel Forman remarks:

"The Party believed it was necessary to rally the masses on national slogans but under its own banner. Experience had still to teach the vital lesson that it was not in spite of, but in alliance with Congress that the Party would lead the struggle against national oppression".

In other words, the Black Republic slogan was a theoretical and practical political framework which set in proper perspective the relationship between African nationalism and socialism by stating that the concept of class struggle In South Africa must of necessity incorporate the principle of national self-determination for the Africans and other nationally oppressed Blacks. Gumede contributed tremendously to this realisation.

Gumede was instrumental in the leftward development of the ANC in the late 20's - though this was short-lived. He played a leading role in the move by the ANC to affiliate to the League Against Imperialism and by this act the ANC identified itself with the world-wide anti imperialist forces.


We have dealt at length with this question of the historic roots and genesis of relationship between African nationalism and socialism in South Africa. It is necessary. There are reasons for this. We shall mention a few:

  1. Our enemy - whatever form and colour it takes -- has always at different times deliberately distorted the relationship between the ANC and the CP. The ANC is portrayed either as a brainless organisation, without independent thought or initiative "controlled by communists who are white." The aim of and reasoning behind this distortion is clear. They are trying to tell our people that whether you are in or outside the ANC it is the same: "white control" is everywhere. They are trying to demoralise our people, disarming them and instilling a sense of hopelessness and preventing them from joining the ranks of the freedom fighters;

  2. The second reason why we deal with this topic at this length is that we want to make it abundantly clear that the ANC made its impact and contribution to the realisation of the urgent need for a solution of the national question. If perhaps the ANC was not articulate enough in bringing this point home, its very existence spoke louder than words. This contribution of the ANC was made independently. But this does differences, as a Christian, with communism not mean that the ANC was immune or insulated from the liberatory ideas of other organisations. But there is a difference between influence and control.

  3. Thirdly, and this is a fundamental, if not vital, issue - the question of relations between the ANC and CP was not only a theoretical question. This is a bread and butter issue. The two organisations emerged separately and independent of each other, fought separately and on different premises. At times they ran parallel to each other but were united by the struggle against the common enemy. As the struggle developed the two organisations came closer to each other and began to discover each other. As it happens in such cases the great teacher was our common experience and school was the practical political struggle. At times the fees were high - our sacrifices were great but we are sure to graduate at this school as comrades, friends, equals and countrymen.

President Lutuli expressed himself on the question of relationship between the ANC and the C.P. He expressed his differences as a Christian, with communism but went further to say:

"Let me make it clear at once that I do not feel in the least defensive or apologetic about the position as it actually is it is often misrepresented. For myself I am not a communist ... In religion I am a Christian ... There are communists in the South African resistance and I cooperate with them ... The Congress stand is this: our primary concern is liberation, and we are not going to be side-tracked by ideological clashes and witch hunts. Nobody in Congress may use the organisation to further any aims but those of Congress ... Even in the days when the Communist Party was in its infancy, Congress did not debar them...

Resistance movements cannot afford the luxury of McCarthyism, nor can they allow themselves to be divided up into innumerable little homogeneous groups. We are not playing at politics, we are bent on liberation".

President Luthuli was talking the language of President Gumede which is the language of President Tambo; the language of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.


Tasks of organisation-building and renewal: forward to the centenary of the ANC

David Makhura

A discussion document towards the 3rd National General Council of the ANC, September 2010


The formation of the ANC on 08th January 1912 was a watershed moment in the struggle against colonial powers across Africa. The birth of our movement was the beginning of the African people's organised resistance to colonial conquest. The movement also succeeded in forging unity in action among diverse peoples of the continent and the world at large in the global anti-apartheid struggle that declared apartheid a crime against humanity. From these struggle experiences, the ANC became located in the traditions of progressive nationalism, non-racialism, internationalism and anti-imperialism.

At its inception, the ANC advanced the perspective of organising on the basis of African unity: cooperation and solidarity of the African majority across ethnic and tribal lines. This was a unity not just born out of common African identity. The African majority were to become recognised as the core motive force in the struggle for the liberation of all the oppressed in South Africa. As the struggle developed, the strategic task of the ANC became that of the liberation of Africans in particular and Blacks in general (understood broadly to mean Indians and "Coloured people"). Thus, it is no accident that our major organisational task and mobilisational efforts centred around uniting, leading and liberating the Africans in particular and Blacks in general. Over time, the mobilisation and unity of all South Africans moved to the centre-piece of the ANC's strategy and tactics.

In the year 2012, the ANC will mark one hundred years of its existence. The Centenary is a great moment to pause and ponder how far progressive humanity has come in its mission to build a just, equitable and more humane world. It is a moment to celebrate the proud history and traditions of a world-wide struggle against apartheid. It is also the right moment to pause and ponder the future of the ANC over the next fifty-to-hundred years. We must ask and answer difficult questions about the future of our country and the longevity of our movement.

For how long will the ANC survive as the leading force for progressive change in our country and continent? What are the identifiable threats to the longevity and durability? What should be done by current generations to ensure that future generations inherit the type of ANC that continues to represent the interests of the majority in society? Addressing these long term concerns is the central focus of organisational renewal.

No organisation is guaranteed eternal life or long term success. Sustained success and long term survival result from conscious decisions and conscientious actions of those charged with the responsibility to lead. The goal of organisational renewal is to address the organisation's success, sustainability and long term survival.

Renewal is often triggered by the following conditions or circumstances:

  1. A yawning gap between the organisation's stated ideals and its day-to-day practices and operations;
  2. Major changes that have taken place in the external or internal environment;
  3. Dramatic failure or profound internal weaknesses in the organisation;
  4. Attempts at anticipating emerging trends that will impact negatively on the life of the organisation;
  5. Major shifts in the organisation's vision, mission and strategy and tactics;

Most ruling parties undertake renewal only in the aftermath of electoral defeat: too little too late. Loss of electoral support or political power has been a major trigger for parties to undertake renewal. Others undertake some "modernisation" to repackage the core message and public image of the party so that it can be acceptable and attractive to the electorate. Often, the objective is to just remain in power or regain lost power, without any deep commitment to pursue a grand vision or project of social change. The "modernisation" school of renewal is ameliorative rather than transformative.

However, there is an alternative approach to renewal: a transformative school of thought in the renewal discourse. This approach is followed mainly by parties that have long term goals and ambitions to change society for the better. Such organisations do not have to wait for dramatic failure and terminal crisis in order to search for renewal. Self-renewal and self-correction are part and parcel of the anatomy of successful and sustainable organisations or social systems.

The ANC prides itself as a movement that has internalised transformative self-renewal in its mode of thinking and style of work. Few political parties or movements would have overcome the incredible difficulties and survived the difficult terrain that characterised the struggle for freedom in our land. How many organisations have survived (and become qualitatively better) the rapid and profound political, social and economic transformations of the past hundred?

And yet, disturbing developments and worrying trends that pose a threat to the survival of the ANC prompted the 52nd National Conference to instruct the NEC to establish or declare "a period of renewal of the values, character and organisational practices of the ANC as a leading force for progressive change in our country".

What are the implications of the call for renewal? What is the relevance of the current historic mission, character, values and practices of the ANC in the new phase of struggle post-1994?


The ANC's mission remains that of uniting all South Africans around the vision and programme around building a united, non-racialism, non-sexism, democratic and prosperous society. As governing party, the ANC seeks to use state power to move as rapidly as possible towards realizing its historic mission fully.

The progressive character and unique features of the ANC evolved with the struggle. From the onset, the ANC was a multi-class movement that embraced all Africans regardless of their social status, religion and culture. As the struggle developed and South Africa became more industrialized, the working class occupied a vanguard position in the national liberation struggle. The ANC's multi-class character continued, but the movement adopted a clear bias towards the toiling classes - the working class and the rural masses. It evolved from a federal structure to a unitary organization. Further, it evolved into a movement with a democratic, mass-based, non-racial, non-sexist and internationalist character. It places huge responsibilities on its cadres and accords a special status to the branch in its organizational structure. It is our view that the character of the ANC remains relevant and should therefore be defended against corrosive tendencies that will be discussed in detail later in this discussion document.

No political movement or party is born with ready-made values, character, principles and culture. They are forged and tempered in the concrete conditions of struggle. A vibrant organizational culture and acceptable practices are also developed over time and tested in practice during the course of dealing with and resolving problems.

The ANC has developed a set of core values, principles and practices that reinforce its character: unity, service, sacrifice, collective leadership, democratic centralism, internal debates, humility, honesty, hard-work, constructive criticism and self-criticism, discipline and mutual respect. How were these values, principles and practices forged? How do they guide the ANC's approach to difficult situations?


The ebbs and flows of the formative years: 1912 - 1937

By the end of the first decade of its existence, the ANC had succeeded in bringing together disparate African organizations such as the provincial Native Congresses, Independent Associations, Vigilant Committees and royal houses into a coordinated national and Pan-African political voice and opinion on matters as the 1913 Native Land Act, Pass Laws and First World War. This was the most significant achievement of the first decade of the ANC's existence.

The main organizational weaknesses identified in this period were issues such as fluctuations in membership, irregularity of meetings, inadequate finances and intra-organisational disputes arising from the absence of a coherent organizational structure and standards across the country. The fact that the "first generation" leadership of President-General JL Dube and Secretary General Sol Plaatje spent most of the time on delegations and deputations to England, away from the newly formed organization was a challenge. The absence of a fully-fledged Constitution somewhat undermined the emergence of a coherent national organization. It is only in 1919 a full Constitution was adopted that a clearer relationship between the national organization and the provincial organizations and associations emerged.

At the level of strategy and tactics, petitions and deputations remained the main form of engagement by leaders of National Congress. However, peaceful protests militant and demonstrations featured occasionally. In 1913, African women in the Free State embarked on hitherto unknown methods of struggle that later became prominent in the 1950s: public demonstrations against and defiance of pass laws. These radical forms of protests were later a regular feature in the Free State, Transvaal and Port Elizabeth between 1918 and the early 1920s. Charlotte Maxeke, President of the Bantu Women's League, was the key pioneer in these early forms of militant action. The pioneering spirit of militancy and open defiance of apartheid laws is often limited to the 1956 Women's March and subsequent years of struggle.

However, the nascent attempts at radicalization in the 1920s were undermined by the fact that the ANC's main political activity shifted towards its annual conferences, whose resolutions were hardly implemented by its constituent organs. This created a vacuum on the African voice and opinion on major issues of the time. This space was occupied by the Industrial and Commercial Workers' Union (ICU), which began to play an active role as a mass movement rather than a trade union federation.

A ferment of radical ideas among younger members of Congress led to complaints and dissatisfaction with the focus and methods of petitions and deputations, including the posture and language of the older generation. Josiah Gumede, a founder member and veteran of the Natal ANC became the figure around which the call for change rallied, leading to his election to the Presidency of the ANC in 1927.

President Gumede called for greater co-operation between the "right and left wings of the great movement". He also supported co-operation between the ANC, the ICU and the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA), which was the early beginnings of the politics of non-racialism and the Tripartite Alliance. He saw the ANC as an integral part of the international anti-imperialist forces, what is today known as "the disciplined force of the left". His views generated a backlash from a conservative section among the founders of the ANC who mobilized for his ousting. He was subsequently replaced by Pixley ka Isaka Seme in the 1930 National Conference.

 The 1930s was lowest point in the first decades of the ANC's existence. The movement became a moribund organization torn apart by a debilitating ethnic conflict and factionalism, hardly able to convene national conferences. Some among its leadership and many in society believed the ANC's heydays are over and were beginning to look elsewhere for inspiration. This prompted President Seme to write a pamphlet titled "The African National Congress - Is It Dead?" The CPSA, a natural home for left-wing African leaders of the time, was going through an equally debilitating sectarian strife in this period. The ICU had reached its heydays in the 1920s and later rapidly declined.

And yet, at a broader socio-economic, the oppressed needed strong leadership and inspiration. Their conditions deteriorated rapidly during the Great depression. They also needed leadership on matters pertaining to the 1936 Land Act and the Second World War. The white ruling coalition of Hertzog-Smuts consolidated its power and gained more confidence as the representative organizations of the oppressed were getting torn by internal strife. The movement had lost its spark as the voice and centre of political activity for the oppressed.

The first wave of successful renewal: 1937- 1949

The return of ZR Mahabane to the Presidency (in December 1937) to work with James Calata (elected Secretary General in December 1936) marked the first wave of the renewal (referred to in those years as "resuscitation of the ANC"). These two leaders travelled all over the country talking to ANC members and veterans about the need to re-build the ANC and bring it back to the centre-stage of the struggle. They rallied people around the celebrations of the twenty-fifth anniversary or "Silver Jubilee" year of the ANC. Some members were very optimistic about the reawakening of the ANC, arguing that "Congress lives in the hearts of the people" and will never die. However, there were also those who were pessimistic about the future of the ANC.

The Silver Jubilee "resuscitation campaign" helped the ANC to regroup. One of the main areas of focus for renewal, according to Calata, was to ensure that the ANC appeals to university and college graduates. He argued that the ANC needed to be led by younger and educated leaders. He campaigned for the election of AB Xuma to the Presidency of the ANC in December 1940, who narrowly won the closely contested election against President Mahabane.

After his election, President Xuma enthusiastically led a process of the re-organisation of the ANC into a coherent administrative and organizational machinery with clear a vision and policies, functioning structures and systems. He championed and supported a number of innovations - establishment of the NWC, regular meetings to chart the way forward and a collective style of leadership; restored the unitary and membership-based character; emphasized that provinces should account on their work and often suspended provinces and branches that were not fulfilling their responsibilities; intense focus on the recruitment of young graduates, although he subsequently treated youth Leaguers with serious suspicion; put finances on a sound footing, including giving audited financial statements to conferences; support for the formation of the ANCWL and ANCYL, and advocated for the employment of a full-time organizers and other functionaries, though it never happened until 1949.

At the level of policy, strategy and principles, the African Claims and new ANC Constitution were drafted and adopted in 1943. This period marked the beginning of the tradition of planning for the future (African Claims) and the politics of non-racialism and alliances (Doctors' Pact), laying the basis for the Natal and Transvaal Indian Congresses to work closely with ANC over many decades. Despite his organisational successes, Xuma's renewal failed to harness the potent energy and anger of the social forces that objectively stood to gain from a more vibrant organization and renewed ANC - the youth and African workers and the growing squatter movement on the outskirts of major cities.

The National Party came to power in 1948 under the platform of grand apartheid policy. This changed the mood among the oppressed and calls for a change of tempo and tactics were heard among the trade union and ANCYL leaders. The 1946 African miners' strike raised the level of confidence among the masses that direct action in the form of peaceful protests, public demonstration and strikes can have to replace the old tactics and methods of struggle. Xuma failed to read the mood!

It is against this context that the 1949 ANC National Conference took place. This Conference was a watershed - a turning point changed the tone and tempo of the struggle for several decades ahead. It became a key moment for self-reflection and self-renewal. It adopted a programme of action (POA) with far-reaching strategic and tactical implications, direction action and mass defiance of apartheid laws. The new NEC had a significant presence of leaders from the Youth League, trade unions and CPSA, with a common commitment to the POA and all its strategic and organisational implications. This included the election of Walter Sisulu as Secretary General, who brought new meaning and significance to the role of the Office of the Secretary General as the "engine of the organization".

The decisive rupture and second wave of successful renewal: 1949 - 1969

The National Party regime was determined in its publicly stated ambition to pass laws to increase state repression and oppression against the leaders and organizations of the people and further institutionalise racial segregation through grand apartheid schemes. This marked a new era of entrenched national oppression and racial discrimination. This posture of the apartheid ruling bloc was a critical factor that mobilized and forced larger numbers of people to join the campaigns of the Congress movement.

For the ANC, the 1950s was not only the turning point but also the highest point in the four decades of existence. While its historic mission remained the same, its strategy and tactics shifted to mass mobilisation and the building of alliances across the colour line. Its language and mode of politics changed fundamentally to a more fiery rhetoric and revolutionary discourse. The organizational machinery built during the 1940s was no longer suited for the new phase of the struggle. Hence, a new wave of renewal kicked in, led mainly by the younger generation and militants from trade unions resulting in a major re-organisation and repositioning of the ANC into an effective instrument for mass mobilization, dedicated volunteers and vibrant grassroots structures "to maintain full dynamic contact with the masses" (Mandela, 1951). The volunteers and the branches assumed greater centrality in the organization.

The Defiance Campaign was a major experience from which lessons were drawn on mass struggle, and the need for training, discipline and sacrifice among the volunteers (rudimentary cadre policy). The lessons of the Campaign were key during the mobilisation for the Congress of the People which adopted the Freedom Charter as the alternative vision for South Africa. The Freedom Charter represented democracy and non-racialism in theory and practice - the participation of people from all walks of life - black and white, rich and poor, rural and urban, men and women. The 1956 Women's March and the Women's Charter marked a major reassertion of women's emancipation as a key element of the national liberation struggle and reaffirmed the central role played by women in the struggle since the 1913. The four years of the Treason Trial prepared the organisation to be able to survive repressive laws and further publicly demonstrated the non-racial and non-sexist nature of our struggle as men and women, black and white were being tried for taking a stance against white minority rule.

By the close of the decade, the ANC was never the same. Notwithstanding the continuity of its historic mission, it had become a bigger organisation (100 000 members) with a clear vision, ideological outlook of progressive African nationalism, mass-based, non-racial and non-sexist in character. Organizational principles and practices that emphasised collective leadership, sacrifice, and service emerged. The critical role of women, workers and youth in its campaigns and leadership structures gave it a more vibrant and dynamic character very different from earlier period. The Congress Alliance emerged as a critical organizational force for mass mobilization and defiance. These changes were to become an enduring feature of the ANC over the next fifty years of the struggle. President Chief Albert Luthuli, who became President in 1952, was the central figure behind the renewal of the ANC during that decade, a leadership collective that was composed of the most resilient among the older generation, former youth leaders, women, communists and trade unionists.

By the time the regime decided to ban the ANC and PAC after the 1960 Sharpeville massacre, the ANC had already anticipated this eventuality. From 1953, the M-Plan was adopted to prepare the organization for a possible shift to underground work. Throughout the 1950s, the movement was preparing itself to continue the struggle even under conditions of illegality and exile. The call to arms was already being echoed in different mass meetings as a response to the intensification of state repression and violence against peaceful protesters.

The banning of the ANC in 1960 was major attempt by the regime to crush the ANC and popular resistance to apartheid. The movement's response was far-sighted and bold in sending key leaders out of the country and launching Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) in 1961. However, the movement took some time to respond adequately to the post-Sharpeville and post-Rivonia strategic and organisational challenges. The 1962 Lobatse Conference and subsequent meetings of the NEC and the Alliance could not adequately define a new way forward that could take the liberation struggle to a level higher than the 1950s. The heroic military campaigns of Wankie and Sipolilo lifted the spirits of MK fighters but there was no follow through at the level of strategy and organisation and this caused demoralisation and dissent in the ranks. Like it was the case during the late 1930s, the question of whether the ANC will ever reach the level of organization of the 1950s was lingering in the minds of many! The Morogoro Consultative Conference was convened in 1969 to grapple with all the challenges.

Revival, resurgence of mass struggle and ungovernability: 1969 - 1989

The 1969 Morogoro Conference was another watershed conference of the ANC. It was a moment for self-reflection, self-correction and renewal. A new Strategy and Tactics document was adopted and a major re-organisation of the movement to redirect the struggle back home. Post-Morogoro, all revolutionaries were integrated into the ANC and the underground machinery was rebuilt. The release of some key leaders from the Robben Island strengthened renewal. The 1973 Durban dock workers strike and the 1976 student uprisings challenged the ANC underground to rise to the occasion and give leadership and contest the Black Consciousness Movement.

Post-1976, the ANC was the most successful among all organisations that sought to harness and harvest the anger and energy of the youth to rejuvenate its machinery.

The ANC emerged from 1970s as a renewed organization with heighted activities in the underground, mass mobilization and military operations. The seminal visit of the NEC delegation to Vietnam in 1978 resulted in a theoretical consolidation of the main ideas contained in the 1969 strategy and tactics. The concept of the four pillars of struggle emerged from this visit - mass mobilization, underground work, armed struggle and international solidarity. Mass mobilization assumed greater emphasis while MK operations and underground work needed to inspire the people more and more into mass action and defiance. The idea of a progressive united front of popular organizations was born of this process of finding creative ways of moving the struggle to a higher level.

The ANC entered the 1980s as a rejuvenated and renewed movement, organisationally and strategically. In line with the programme to escalate the mobilization of the masses so that they can take charge of their own destiny, a new wave of mass political activity among the youth, students, women, workers and residents of townships and villages across South Africa. The proliferation of mass democratic formations culminated in the formation of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in 1983. The increase in MK's military operations inside the country, hitting the symbols of apartheid power, gave greater impetus and confidence to the masses and spurred a mood of defiance among the people, especially the youth.

The 1985 Kabwe Conference gave impetus to mass insurrection and the surge to un-governability. Kabwe elected a fully non-racial NEC and adopted far-reaching resolutions to take the struggle to a victorious conclusion. For the first time since the ANC was banned, the level of organization and mobilization of the masses, effectiveness of armed struggle and international solidarity reached unprecedented levels. The country was being rendered unworkable and country ungovernable as the legitimacy of the apartheid state was being challenges on all fronts. The regime was forced to seek a negotiated settlement in the late 1980s and ultimately unban the movement and release its leadership in 1990.

Looking at the entire history of the ANC, the 1980s is arguably the highest point. The depth of strategic and tactical savvy and level of organizational coherence far surpassed the 19050s. By the time it assumed power, the movement had developed into a mature people's movement and agent for change, with a strategy and tactics, set of policies and a tried and tested leadership. President OR Tambo was the central figure who kept the movement together and unfailingly inspired our people during period between the banning in 1960 and the unbanning of the ANC in 1990.

Rebuilding the movement after unbanning: 1990 - 1994

The 1991 Durban Conference had to grapple with major strategic and organizational questions that arose from the unbanning of the movement and release of political prisoners in the context of negotiations. The movement needed to integrate all its cadres - from the mass movement, underground structures, prison and exile - into one coherent and cohesive organization, with common strategic and tactical perspective on negotiations. These cadres came with various political sub-cultures and diverse experiences. It had to absorb large numbers of new members who had no political experience. All these put new demands on the organization.

In the midst of the negotiations and state-sponsored violence against the masses of our people in Natal and Transvaal, the movement had to re-establish itself as a legal mass organisation. This, among others, meant the establishment of structures and offices across the country along the lines of the mass-based movement of the 1950s. The ANC needed to have an organizational presence in every community and engage directly with sectors that would previously been the exclusive domain of Congress-aligned mass organizations.

Overall, the movement managed the daunting challenges very successfully, refusing to be diverted from the urgent need for a peaceful transition to democracy as rapidly as possible. By the time of the April 1994 elections, the ANC had a nation-wide organizational presence, with a fair degree of coherence and cohesion.


The 1994 democratic breakthrough ushered in new conditions of freedom and democracy. The ascendancy to power imposed new strategic and organisational imperatives such as the need to develop new skills around political management of governance, running election campaigns, involving the people in governance and mass work on the democratic terrain.

Both the Bloemfontein Conference (1994) and Mafikeng Conference (1997) grappled a great deal with the strategic and organizational challenges of the new situation. Among the major organizational questions was the need to clarify the relationship between the party and the state. The first few years of governance have already thrown to the fore the need to transform the inherited apartheid state machinery into an effective instrument of change. The role of the Alliance in the new period, especially on matters of governance was under-theorised.

Organisationally, the ANC needed to re-organise itself in a manner that will address two imperatives: 1) it is now a governing party; 2) it remains a liberation movement that must mobilize and lead the people in the new phase of struggle. For a while, these two imperatives where almost in tension, leading to articulations such as "the ANC in government and the ANC outside government". One of the major challenges was to balance the deployment needs of the movement with that of the state. In reality, the ANC suffered an unmanaged exodus of cadres out of the organization, into the state, leading to the view that "we have behaved in a manner that could endanger the revolution" (former President, NR Mandela).

The reality and impact of incumbency was beginning to make its mark on the movement. State power is a potent instrument for transformation of society. It gives the legitimate authority, power, influence and resources to make our agenda, vision and policies those of the entire nation and gives us the instruments to realise the dreams of our forebears as outlined in the Freedom Charter.

However, all ruling parties have to contend with the corruptive and corrosive effects of power, in varying degrees depending on the ideological strength of each party and the socio-economic structure of each society. Progressive parties and individual revolutionaries tend to manage state power more conscientiously, conscious of its destructive potential. To be "ready to govern'' as we said in the early 1990s, means to mature and know how to survive "sins of incumbency".

What are the "sins of incumbency'' and how have other ruling parties managed to overcome or minimize them? Once in power, the incumbents face the dangers such as bureaucratisation of the party and state; development of social distance; arrogance of power; ideological decline among rank-and-file; corruption and use of state institutions to settle inner-party battles; party life revolves around winning elections and sharing the spoils of power - positions and state resources. Incumbency can transform the nature and essence of the party.

Within a few years of coming to power, the movement began to indentify trends that were not consistent with its culture and traditions. Both Mafikeng and Stellenbosch Conferences and the 2000 and 2005 NGCs lamented the negative impact of state power on the movement. Unfortunately, the dominant thinking was that the problem was with the "organisational design" of the ANC. The debate on organizational design focused principally on the "modernization paradigm".

Polokwane Conference framed the problem more profoundly as a steady erosion of the character, culture and values of the ANC. Polokwane raised the alarm that a silent transformation of the ANC into a shadow of its former self is underway and it must be arrested and reversed through a vigorous campaign for organisational renewal. This is one of the distinct mandates of the NEC from Polokwane. For this reason, Polokwane could be a turning point in reversing the ANC's quiet drift to self-destruction and atrophy. We dare not fail! 

Polokwane Conference may not be a watershed in the classical sense of a strategic change of direction. It cannot be equated with the ANC Conferences of 1912, 1949 and 1969. There was no major shift in the strategy and tactics and organisational structure of the ANC. However, far-reaching strategic decisions were taken on major questions of our time:

  1. The relationship between the party and state: the ANC was defined as the strategic centre of power. This helped to clear theoretical confusion and reverse a trend of the past decade-and-half where the ANC was trailing behind the state on major strategic and policy issues.

  1. The centrality of the people: the ANC should remain the servant of the people. Going forward, ANC members must regard service to the people as a sacrosanct principle. Both the ANC and state belong to the people of South Africa. Nobody should be allowed to use the ANC or the state to pursue personal, sectarian, or factional agendas.

  1. The ANC belongs to the rank-and-file members and ordinary people: whenduty calls, the loyal ANC members and supporters come to the fore, without any promise of a reward. Such people never expect the movement to do anything for them. Their courage and commitment tend to rise when the movement faces trying times. When there are negative developments that threatened to divide the ANC, members intervened decisively at Polokwane Conference to point the way forward. Post-Polokwane, members defended the unity of the movement successfully when a renegade group tried to split the movement and form a breakaway party.

  1. Organisational renewal is the principal task of our time to prevent the degeneration of the movement: the key mandate of the newly-elected NEC and the entire membership is the need to fight tendencies that are steadily eroding the ANC's character, values, culture and traditions through the launch of organisational renewal. This is a life and death struggle that must be won!

  1. The relevance and central role of the Alliance in the transformation of society: the ongoing relevance and central role of the Alliance in the transformation of South Africa was reaffirmed. This central role needs elaboration in terms of correct conceptualisation and organisational mechanisms. Properly understood, the centrality of the Alliance in our ongoing struggle is not in conflict with the perspective of the ANC as the strategic centre of power and leader of the Alliance. It is only when there is an attempt to replace one by the other that confusion and tensions will arise. We need to deepen debates on this dialectic.


There are many lessons that can be drawn from the ANC's century of existence. How has the ANC survived over the past century? What has sustained the movement up to its First Centenary? Are there timeless principles that should continue to guide the thinking and work of our movement into the future?

The following tried, tested and timeless principles constitute the ANC's internal defence mechanisms and sources of renewal and survival into the future:

  1. Unity is sacrosanct: the ANC is the embodiment of the unity and collective will of many generations of South African revolutionaries and freedom fighters. Equally, the unity and cohesion of the Alliance and the democratic movement is crucial. National unity among all South Africans is its goal. Anything that undermines unity poses a threat to the survival not only of the movement, but the revolution in its totality.

  2. Putting people first: the interests and aspirations of the people have always been the driving force behind the policies and actions of the ANC - "Batho Pele". Once the ANC shifts its focus away from the people, it is bound to lose its stature and standing in society. And yet, political parties and ruling parties in particular tend relate to "the people" only through election time rhetoric.

  3. Capacity for self-reflection and self-correction: the ANC must never lower the guard on criticism and self-criticism. Ruling parties are prone to claiming easy victories and hiding their weaknesses and shortcomings in the interest of winning elections. And yet, the movement should strive to remain its own harshest critic, boldly admit mistakes and swiftly correct any deviations and failures when they arise. Robust internal debates on all matters of policy, strategy and organization, including contestation for leadership, are the life-blood of the ANC. The ANC needs to jealously safeguard and deepen this culture of self-reflection and self-correction under current conditions.

  4. Ability to adapt to new conditions and preserve its essence: the ANC has been able to adapt to new conditions and new environments, while at the same time preserving its essence. Over years, the ANC developed the ability to see problems and take pre-emptive action long before they happen. Once in crisis, the ANC has also been good at turning crises into opportunities to learn. In a world characterised by rapid and pervasive technological change that has profound social and economic implications, the ANC will do well with its dynamism.

  5. Pivotal role of the membership: the rank-and-file members are the guardians of ANC policy, culture and traditions and the agents for change in society. If their political empowerment and ideological development is neglected, they can become a readily available force that is harvested by those who want to hijack the movement for their own personal, factional or sectarian agendas.

  6. The role of leadership: leadership has a distinctly important function in our movement. The membership of the ANC elects a leadership that is, in their view, able to represent their collect views, feelings, fears and aspirations. ANC leadership has always been composed of men and women who are ahead of the pack in terms of foresight, experience, commitment, hard-work and courage. Leadership must be earned through force of exemplary conduct and self-discipline. The ANC should invest in leadership development consciously and continuously if it is to avoid the shock of being led by a generation which has no resonance with its history and traditions.

  7. Approaching problems with sustainability and posterity in mind: steadfast on matters of principle, the ANC has shunned the politics of both "short-termism" and "populism" in its approach to problem-solving. That which appears exigent today may not be relevant tomorrow. Similarly, that which is popular today may not be the lasting solution. When dealing with difficult situations and daunting challenges, the ANC's approach is to identify principles that will outlive the heat of the moment.

  8. A learning organisation imbued with progressive internationalism: the ANC was born out the lessons of the progressive struggle at the turn of the century. The first generation of its leadership sought to understand and grapple with the problems of the world in their time in order to contribute to changing the world for the better and draw lessons for the struggle at home. The First and Second World War, the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles and national liberation revolutions across the developing world impacted on the ideological outlook, strategy and tactics of the ANC during the different phases of the struggle. And yet, the ANC and its allies, especially the SACP, also contributed immensely to progressive internationalism. As a disciplined force of the left, the ANC must continue to be part of the forces that call for and contribute to the renewal of the progressive agenda in the 21st century.


The problem referred to as sins of incumbency has destroyed many national liberation movements or left parties in power during the 20th century. This remains a problem in our time. In recent history, parties such as the Chinese Communist Party, Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, Brazilian Workers' Party and Tanzania's Chama Cha Mapinduzi have written extensively on how they are grappling with problems such as bureaucratisation, corruption, factionalism and abuse of power.

The question of bureaucratism

The bureaucratisation of the state or the party has occupied revolutionaries over the past century. Lenin, during his last days, was increasingly concerned about the state becoming too bureaucratised, warning about a "bureaucratic ulcer". His main concern was how state apparatus stifle genuine participation of the masses (1).

Among the main manifestations of bureaucratism is the demobilisation of the popular forces after liberation or independence. The role of popular forces is reduced to celebrating official "revolutionary days" and mobilisation for elections.

Bureaucratism tends to reduce participation of the masses to attendance of rallies and meetings where the state or party officials come and talk to (and not with) the masses. Often, the leaders are bringing reports and absorb very little of what the masses see as the solutions to the problem in their own areas. The views of the people, including on the prioritisation of allocation of resources, are often completely ignored.

The ability of the Cuban revolution to fight and resist bureaucratism and corruption is one of the main reasons why Cuban socialism has survived for so long. In his address to the Committee for the Defence of Revolution (CDR) in 1970, Castro emphasised the importance of shifting more power at the level at the grassroots, especially on decisions that people themselves can effectively exercise:

"Imagine a baker's shop on a street which provides bread to all who live there and an administrative apparatus that controls it from above. How does it control it? How could the people not care how that bakery operates? How could they not care whether an administrator is good or bad? How could they not care if people there had privileges or not, if there was negligence or not, insensitivity or not? How could they not care how it provided its services? How could they not care about the hygiene problems there? And how could they not care about the production problems, absenteeism, the quantity and quality of the goods? It is impossible not to care... Can anyone think up a more effective means for controlling that bakery than the masses themselves? Could there be any other method of inspection? No! The person who runs that micro-unit of production could go bad, the person who inspects it could go bad, everyone could go bad. The only ones who are not going to go bad are those affected [by all these], those affected!" (2)

The question of corruption

This is a problem affecting ruling parties across the world, regardless of their ideology. Both American capitalism and Soviet socialism have been prone to corruption scandals. Leftwing parties speak more openly and honestly against corruption, while the liberal and rightwing establishment only speak loudly if it involves their opponents. The Chinese Communist Party owes its survival and success partly from its successful fight against corruption. Harsh measures against corrupt party or state officials send a strong message in society. Any ambiguity or prevarication in dealing with corruption will ultimately result in the erosion of the revolutionary noble ideals and values of the left. Both the ANC and Brazilian Workers' Party (PT) are grappling with this challenge. The fight against corruption is a matter of life and death.

The question of factionalism

One of the problems that have plagued the left in the past century is the issue of incessant sectarianism and serial factionalism. Factionalism assumes a new dimension once the party is in power. Different factions contend over party leadership using the instruments of state to tilt the balance of power in their favour, including using patronage to reward those who are loyal to a faction in power and punishing opponents in all manner of ways. The experience of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party is very illustrative. 

It is instructive to note that while sins of incumbency have and are destroying several liberation movements and parties on the left, there are also cases of parties that are fairly successful in mitigating and overcoming the destructive and corruptive impact of power. For instance, the Tanzanian ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, and Chinese Communist Party are among the most outspoken parties against the sins of incumbency. There are many case studies of successful renewal of the left in Latin America, although most are born out of the experience of losing power. All these cases of successful renewal should be studied by the Alliance and democratic movement as we undertake the massive and difficult task of organisational renewal. Renewal is indeed a matter of life and death for the left and progressive forces in general.

Given all the rich historical and international experiences on renewal what should be done to take forward our movement and the democratic state?


Given the mandate of Polokwane Conference on renewal, what should be done to turn the tide against the silent transformation of the ANC away from its deep traditions of principled struggle and selfless service to the people?

Firstly all the interventions on renewal should be based on the strategic perspective that the ANC is both a national liberation movement and the governing party - the ultimate strategic centre of power for all its members deployed to work in the state and society at large. Accordingly, organisational renewal should seek to build and strengthen the ANC's capacity to give moral, political and intellectual leadership to the state and society in general. What are the immediate and medium term interventions that will begin to turn the tide against the erosion of the ANC's character, values, culture, principles and practices? How does the ANC strengthen its sources of renewal and survival?

Build and safeguard unity and cohesion

The ANC needs to combine mass political education with strong action against factionalism and all divisive tendencies in the ranks. The membership of the ANC needs to be educated to understand what constitute factionalism and divisive conduct so that healthy internal debate, contestation and disagreements are not conflated with divisive conduct. Going forward, all levels of the organisation should take firm action against individuals who are known to be experts and professionals in factional and divisive conduct.

Restore discipline and cultivate the values of the ANC in the ranks

High level of political discipline has been one of the key features that have distinguished a member of the ANC from other people in society. At the core of discipline is the need to cultivate the core values of the ANC among the membership and leadership. Ultimately, we should measure discipline in terms of whether the conduct of members and leaders mirror the ideals of the ANC. We must promote and instill the type of conduct that inspires confidence among the masses of our people. We need to emphasise positive behaviour.

And yet, lack of discipline and blatant ill-discipline is becoming a distinct feature of the current situation. Inconsistency of application of rules and reluctance to act against ill-disciplined elements is rife, especially in the run-up to and during Conferences. The leadership is often afraid to take firm action if this will threaten their prospects for election. The police and courts are called upon regularly to help resolve internal disputes. The culture of our movement is getting eroded at a frightening pace. The situation is a grave emergency that requires decisive action and extra-ordinary measures:

  1. Summary dismissal and expulsion of members who disrupt meetings of the organization or resort to violence to deal with organizational matters.
  2. Dismissal of leaders found guilty of manipulating internal processes such as membership recruitment, audit and credentials to try and influence the outcome of the conferences in their favour.
  3. Dismissal and criminal prosecution of members found to have raised money outside the formal structures and processes defined by the organization, in order to influence the outcome of our conferences.
  4. Dismissal of members found guilty of corruption and abuse of power.
  5. Dismissal of members who cause and perpetuate divisions and factionalism in the structures.
  6. Compulsory political education and community service as a corrective and correctional measure for those found guilty of offences that are not dismissible.

The ANC needs to put in place measures to protect its integrity and image as a movement with a high moral ground and a governing party that is clean and incorruptible. As a matter of principle, all members of the ANC are free, like all South Africans, to engage in legitimate and clean business activities in the public and private sector. The ANC members who are in business should be upright - ethical, competent, conscientious and law-abiding in their business dealings. Public representatives, public servants and serving members of the constitutional structures require organisational protocols that will conflict of interest and abuse of office for commercial gain.

In order to protect the image and integrity of the movement and its leadership, it is proposed that an Integrity Committee should be established at national, provincial and regional level. The Commission will manage the interests of those who hold office in the state and organisation and investigate any allegations of improper conduct. This will protect ANC leaders from false accusations and malicious allegations of corruption and abuse of power. This will go a long way in preventing misdemeanours by some in our ranks and in society who give a bad name to all genuine black businesspeople and entrepreneurs who have links with the ANC a bad name.

Invest in membership development and growth

Having reaffirmed the centrality of the membership in resolving problems faced by our movement and the people as whole in each given phase of the struggle, the ANC leadership needs to take the membership very seriously. We have tended to limit the interaction of upper structures with chairpersons and secretaries of branches or BEC members. We do not make adequate time to visit ANC members and engage them to hear their views on different issues of concern and empower them to lead communities effectively. Going forward, the NEC, PECs and RECs should schedule regular interaction with branches in order to politicise and be politicised by the membership. The launch of Imvuselelo Campaign nation-wide should be used to bridge the gap between the leadership and membership. Every branch should have a standing monthly or bi-monthly political workshop or seminar on a key topic of interest to the general membership and national, provincial and regional leaders should be invited.

The One Million Membership Campaign is a key resolution of Polokwane Conference. The campaign is not just about the numbers. It is an important opportunity to strengthen the mass, non-racial and multi-class character of the ANC. Necessarily, the recruitment drive has to be targeted in order to enhance the sociological profile of our membership. We need to recruit individuals who will enhance the ANC's ability to serve the people. No one should join the ANC on the basis of a promise for reward. All new members should be given tasks after they are inducted on the history and role of the ANC and its members in society. A system needs to be put in place in every branch so that the active role of members in the life of the organisation is monitored and reviewed regularly and those who don't participate need to be tracked down and reminded of their responsibilities. This will help to eliminate the spectre of BGMs that fail to quorate because members cannot be found. The problems of the membership system need to be resolved in accordance with the 52nd National Conference resolutions.

Invest in the development and strengthening of the Branches

After the relaunch of the ANC in 1990, we have spent too much time focusing on changing the structure of the branches. Not enough attention has been given to clarifying the distinct function of the ANC branch. What is even worse is that we have not paid enough attention to adequately improving the capacity of the branches - training and development as well as resource allocation. The focus of branches - the content of their programmes and agenda of their meetings - should shift towards service delivery and development issues in the localities.

As proposed earlier, the NEC, PEC and RECs should interact with and engage ordinary members in BGMs more regularly. Imvuselelo Campaign should have strong component that ensures that the leadership of upper structures assist in building branches under the banner "Empower the Membership: Visit the Branch". By the end of 2011, all the branches should have been visited by NEC and PEC members to engage them on the Centenary of the ANC.

The ANC structures need to always look for opportunities to mobilize people around specific issues of concern such as crime, education, health and other development issues. Imvuselelo Campaign and other campaigns should be sustained over a period of time, with trained volunteers who will focus on each campaign. Among other specific objectives, campaigns should be seen as a training ground for cadreship and leadership. Those who are active in campaigns should be given priority on political education.

Invest in ideological renewal and the building of a New Cadre

As a disciplined force of the left, the ANC has a responsibility to contribute to the renewal of progressive ideas and policy alternative suited for the current problems faced by humanity. We in the ANC must refuse to be passive consumers of ideas and policies churned out by conservative and neo-liberal think tanks across the world. Our movement and its allies have rich theoretical and ideological traditions that were developed over many years of involvement in the national and world-wide struggles of the oppressed peoples and exploited classes.

The Political School and Policy Institute are critical institutions around which to build a confident ANC in a theoretical and ideological sense. And yet, such an ANC should continue to eschew dogma and place emphasis on the balance between theory and practice.

The development of the ANC's comprehensive system of political education is on course. It is clear that this matter is seen as one of the most critical interventions and a key pillar on which the survival of the ANC depends. Great strides are being made across the country in reviving a culture of "Umrabulo" in the ranks. More needs to be done to ensure that ANC members understand the history, politics and policies and conduct themselves in a manner that approximates its values and culture. The political school should focus on the rapid and sustained development of the "New Cadre" in accordance with 2000 NGC resolutions: a cadre with the knowledge, competence, outlook, attitude, skills and ethics required for this new phase of the struggle.  

The movement's approach to deployment should be underpinned by a comprehensive Cadre Policy in the traditions of Kabwe Conference. Since coming to power, we have tended to focus too much on the deployment rather than cadre preparation and preservation. The assumption is that there are cadres who are ready for the tasks of the current phase of our revolution, and all we have to do is to deploy them appropriately.

This one-sided focus on deployment has put a lot of pressure on the movement. Most of the in-fighting arises from and is linked to deployment. Because of our history, too many ANC cadres and members cannot make a living independent of deployment by the movement. The deployment criteria are unclear and the deployment process is often shrouded in secrecy, only known to those who serve in constitutional structures. As a result, many stories are concocted about why specific comrades where considered or not considered for deployment. This contributes to unhealthy atmosphere.

The movement needs to encourage its members, especially the younger generations, to invest in their own self-development and self-cultivation. Members of the ANC should be encouraged to earn a decent living through their own legitimate initiatives. The ANC does not owe anyone of us a source of income. The movement will nurture and utilise our positive attributes - values of integrity, competence and service to the people - in order to carry the struggle forward at each given moment. Deployment process should be done in a way that promotes predictability, transparency and accountability.

Leadership renewal and development

The question of leadership renewal has received detailed treatment in the discussion document on "Leadership Renewal, Discipline and Organisational Culture". In this paper, we want to address matters of principle. Once more, it is important to emphasise that leadership is a critical factor for the survival and success of any organisation. Any organization that neglects the task of developing leadership continuously and systematically, neglects its future.

Over a century, the ANC has been the best leadership school to train and produce leadership for our country. Renewal must ensure that the ANC continues, right into the next century, South Africa's best leaders are trained. The political school would need to be more deliberate on leadership development.

With regard to the leadership election process, there is a need to defend and deepen the democratic character of the ANC. The Leadership Renewal paper identifies some of the major problems regarding the electoral processes of the movement and further proposes interventions (3). The integrity and credibility of the election processes should be restored. We also need sound internal dispute resolution mechanisms that ensure that the courts and the police are not drawn into matters that can best be resolved organisationally.

The ANC also needs to pay strategic attention to the management of the transition from one leadership to another in a way that ensures stability. When there is change of leadership in the movement, we should ensure that government and the state in general continue to function normally. Generational transition needs to be discussed openly in the ranks. The critical principle that should be safeguarded at all times is that membership determines the policy and leadership of the ANC. In this regard, we should review and strengthen involvement in the discussion of policy and nomination and election of leadership.

Enhance the governing capacity of the ANC

Having defined the ANC as the strategic centre of power, more needs to be done to enhance its capacity to give strategic leadership to all its cadres in the society and across society. The institutions of the ANC - Policy Institute, constitutional structures, sub-committees - should be jerked up. It should be compulsory that all ANC leaders should have basic knowledge and competence on matters of governance, service delivery and development. Governance should be one of the core areas of the political school curriculum. The internal capacity for monitoring and evaluation should be built at all levels, including at branch level. The ANC should always be able to anticipate governance challenges and develop appropriate policy responses and not trail behind the state.

Renewal of the Leagues

Both the ANCWL and ANCYL have played a critical and pioneering role in the evolution of the ANC into a revolutionary national liberation movement and agent for change. They are an integral part of the ANC - its historic mission, its democratic, non-racial, non-sexist vision and mass character and its principles - because they contributed immensely to what it is today. They are autonomous organs of the ANC, with their own Constitutions, structures and decision-making processes that have to be observed and upheld by their leaders and members alike. The supremacy of the ANC Constitution has to be upheld. It grants the Leagues autonomy so that the ANC does not interfere in their day-to-day operations.

At the same time, the ANC cannot await an invitation when there are problems in one of its constituent organs. The movement has to intervene in a fair and even-handed manner, guided by its own Constitution, traditions and standard practices. This is a matter that needs to be fully understood and appreciated across the movement in the current environment. Renewal should create space to debate this matter.

As we move to the Centenary, each organ of the ANC needs to review its own state of affairs honestly and frankly - self-reflection and self-correction. In varying degrees, the Leagues suffer from the chronic problems of the mother body outlined in this report. The programme of renewal should be based on the general challenges facing the movement as well as the specific issues facing women and youth in society. For instance, the 2009 election campaign has provided useful experiences on how the ANCYL was able to draw new generation of voters into ANC politics - "Ayobaness" campaign - exploding the myth of youth apathy. The ANCWL's outreach programmes and work among young women bear important lessons for renewal. With regard to the Veterans' League, it has to start playing a confident and more assertive role as the custodians of the history, traditions, culture and values of our movement. ANC veterans should not allow themselves to get caught up in the contemporary quagmire of sins of incumbency. It should therefore be made up of real veterans of the struggle who can add a great deal of value in the campaign to preserve the character, values, culture, traditions and principles of our great movement.

Build financial sustainability

The ANC needs to restore a culture of resourcefulness and self-sufficiency that existed in the years before it was banned in 1960. Beyond 2012, every branch, region and province should be able to finance its major activities. This can only be the case if we implement the Polokwane Conference resolution on membership fees and levies of public representatives being directed to fund branches, regions and provinces. The way we finance the ANC needs to protect the integrity and image of parties. In this regard, we have to promote greater public funding of political parties as it is the case in other democracies. We also have to get ready to a dispensation of greater transparency of private funding. We have to strengthen accountability and financial management and set ourselves a goal of achieving audited (clean audits) financial reports to all conferences at all levels.

Modernisation of the organisation's operations and offices

The ANC is an organization held in very high regard by most South Africans and our friends across the continent and the world at large. However, the ANC's operations and offices are often dogged by a terrible image of inefficiency, incompetence and dysfunctionality. The 52nd National Conference instructed the entire organization to take decisive steps to restore the professional image in all offices.

The ANC needs to employ highly skilled, competent, talented and committed staff. We need to harness the ICT revolution to build a modern, dynamic and effective organisational machinery. In particular, we need to aggressively use the new information and communication technology platforms effectively for campaign purposes and communication with membership and society. This includes entering a period where we will never again talk of the problems of a dysfunctional membership system.

Renewal of the Alliance and Mass Democratic Movement

Collectively and individually, all components of the Alliance and MDM have suffered from and have been affected by the sins of incumbency in varying degrees. They have also been grappling with redefining their role in the aftermath of the democratic breakthrough of 1994 and the impact of the collapse of the Berlin wall and crisis of developmental states in the early 1990s. One of the issues around which the Alliance has an unresolved debate is the question of the relationship between the Alliance and state power. To address this question, we can't entirely rely on models of interface and interaction that have worked in the past. We have to maintain a posture of principled adaptability.

At the level of principle, we have to maintain the perspective that ours is a strategic alliance whose roots are much deeper than any coalition of parties. Organisationally, the main area of weakness is the ability of the entire ANC-led democratic movement to engage in common campaigns, outside the election campaign, that capture the imagination of society on matters of development, transformation and democratic consolidation. For example, we still lack a popular movement on key socio-economic issues such as education, health and crime. Renewal should get us to focus on finding new and creative ways of mobilizing society for change, rather than spend a disproportionate amount of time hurling insults at one another.


For renewal to have a far-reaching transformative impact, it has to be a societal project. The ANC is not an island. Renewal will only succeed in preserving the values of the ANC if it simultaneously address the values of broader society and the structural and economic context that fosters and promote such values. For example, unless the ANC makes rapid progress in the transformation of our economy and society to benefit the majority, it will be unable to withstand the prevailing logic of colonialism of a special type. Renewal has to permeate all aspects of society to produce the new person and new environment.

It is for above reason that we should welcome the fact that President JG Zuma has not only been raising the question of renewal in the NEC meetings. He has also made renewal a key theme of his Presidency in the current term of government, underscoring the point that government should work with the people in a new way. Some of the new ways of working for the entire system of government and the emerging national democratic state are as follows:

Policy renewal

The ANC has never been a dogmatic organization. In fact, it eschews dogma and encourages its members to be critical thinkers. In its approach to policy review, evidence informs its attitude to whether a particular policy should be adopted, not ideological obsession. It neither subscribes to neo-liberalism's "primacy of the market" paradigm or the ultra-left's "omnipotence of the state". The Freedom Charter is the main policy framework of the ANC against which we must review the performance of the movement in government. If policy does not produce the desired results and intended outcomes, it has to be reviewed and changed.

In the sixteen years of democratic rule, we have recorded progress in many areas - access to housing, healthcare, education, social assistance, water, electricity, bulk infrastructure. We have put in place new policy frameworks and institutions that support our young democracy. However, there are areas where we need new ideas precisely because we are not producing desired results i.e. human development deficit, unemployment, poverty and rising inequalities. Societies with a profile like ours are beginning to turn the tide (Brazil) because they are paying attention to policy outcomes, not dogma. It is in sense that we need policy renewal.

Building capacity for implementation and delivery

The ANC is acknowledged, including by the opposition, as the party with the best policies for the problems faced by our society. However, the track record of the civil service to respond promptly and compassionately to the needs of the people leaves much to be desired. This has a negative impact on the image of the ANC as the ruling party. Competence, commitment and integrity should inform the recruitment and deployment of senior political and administrative cadres. Our movement needs to show its members and the public that poor and mediocre performance will not be tolerated. Cadres who fail to perform should be removed from the positions that are demanding because they can hold back the whole institutions.

Renewal of values and ethics of governance

The preservation of the core values of the ANC will be valueless unless such values find expression in the ANC-led government. "Batho Pele" integrity, honesty, service, hard-work, sacrifice, ethics and accountability among civil servants and public officials. There must be consequences for incompetence, corruption and lack of accountability.

Institutional renewal and optimal organisation of the state

The state requires both institutional stability and renewal. A substantial amount of work was done during the past fifteen years on putting the appropriate institutions to carry out the developmental vision espoused in the Freedom Charter and Constitution of the Republic.

However, the developmental state model requires greater capacity and effective planning, coordination, monitoring and evaluation. Further re-organisation and realignment of government was necessary after the 2009 elections. The impact of the latest institutional re-organisation will only be assessed against the outcomes that will be achieved. What ANC cadres should avoid at all times is to introduce changes in government in pursuance of "individual legacies" rather than sound organizational and policy objectives.

Democratic renewal

The democratisation of our society is one of the central objectives of our national democratic revolution. Over the past sixteen years, we have built strong institutions of liberal democracy - periodic elections, multi-party contestation and representation, separation of power, free press, etc.

However, the ANC-led democratic movement has always combined representative democracy with participatory democracy i.e. popular involvement and self-empowerment of the masses is a key aspect of our concept of democracy: "the people shall govern". It is in the area of popular democracy where there is a huge deficit. This is illustrated, among others, by the sense of alienation that communities on matters of governance. Protest action is another manifestation of the feeling of alienation, particular because most protests take place where there is significant delivery underway.

We need to find new ways of active mobilization and engagement of our citizenry, for there can be no popular revolution without the mobilization and active involvement of the people. Izimbizo and IDP processes are seen by many among our people as talk shows and talk shops. There is a need to build structured partnerships between the developmental state and key sectors of society in working to achieve the change we need. This partnership should be built around our transformative and developmental agenda.

There is also need to introduce an activist approach to parliamentary and constituency work. Public representatives at all levels should do direct interaction with households more regularly and provide effective political oversight on government. This will help to strengthen and deepen the democratic character of our movement and state.


In this discussion document, we have raised issues that warrant the urgent and decisive attention of our movement as it approaches one hundred years of its existence. Most of these issues were identified by the 52nd National Conference as the agenda that must be driven by the newly-elected NEC. Consequently, we have made the point that Polokwane Conference was not just about a change of leadership. It was a moment for self-reflection, self-correction and the beginning of renewal. The watershed decision of Polokwane was that we should not only analyse and complain about the negative impact of state power on our movement, but we should act firmly and decisively against the steady erosion of the character, values, culture and traditions of the ANC. Hence the call for renewal.

Since Polokwane Conference, our movement had to focus on other pressing issues, the most critical of which was the defense of the unity and legacy of the ANC. A section of those who were not elected into the leadership at Polokwane orchestrated a major attempt to cause a split in the movement, similar to the historical precedents of the formation of the PAC and the Group of Eight. They had a clear intention to harm the ANC's prospects in the 2009 elections and dislodge our movement from power. The ANC had to skillfully direct all its energies and resources towards winning the elections decisively and protecting its rich traditions and near-century legacy as the genuine voice of the people and their agent for change. The elections were a major success. The group that tried to split the ANC is now disintegrating at a rapid rate - this is the same fate that befell those who tried to split the ANC in the past.  

However, the movement has had a delayed response to Polokwane's call for renewal. As the biggest political school and festival of ideas, the NGC is the best platform to generate the necessary attention and build momentum for renewal. Renewal is a matter of life and death for our movement. The NGC should capture the imagination of the membership of the ANC, Alliance and broad mass democratic movement and society in general on the urgent necessity for renewal, in the interest of the longevity and sustainability of the national democratic society and the progressive movement that leads our revolution.

Like the Silver Jubilee of 1937, the process to the Centenary gives us the best opportunity to turn the tide against the erosion of the 'revolutionary personality' of our great movement.

The history of the ANC teaches us that for renewal to succeed, three pre-conditions have to be met: (a) leadership that is resilient, courageous, principled and decisive; (b) committed, skilled and politically conscious and active cadreship and membership; and (c) an active civil society and mobilised population that refuses to succumb to apathy and cynicism in the ongoing struggle to improve their lives;

The time to seize the moment is now! Forward to the Centenary!


(1) Lenin, "10th Congress of the RCP(B)," 16 March 1921, Collected Works, Vol. 32, pp. 165-271
(2) Fidel Castro, "Speech for the 10th anniversary of the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution", 28 September 1970.
(3) ANC (2010). "Leadership renewal, discipline and organisational culture", a discussion document toward the ANC 3rd National General Council, September 2010.

Does South Africa still have room for the sunset clauses?

Thando Ntlemeza


The arrival of Jan Van Riebeeck in 1652 marked the beginning of colonial settlement in South Africa. This was followed by complex battles and wars for their survival and dominance. While they fought among themselves at particular intervals, these colonial settlers fought bloody battles with African people who refused to allow dispossession of their treasured land and livestock without putting up a fight.

With the defeat of Bhambatha rebellion in 1906 which symbolized defeat of armed resistance that was waged by various African Kingdoms, African people became exposed and subjected to oppression, economic exploitation and suffering of unprecedented proportion.

While apartheid as an official policy gained prominence after the 1948 victory of the National Party, oppression and exploitation of the people long preceded de jure apartheid. This situation forced the oppressed people to engage in the struggle to liberate themselves from oppressive and exploitative colonial system. Their liberation struggle assumed different forms at different times.

After the merciless killings in Sharpeville and other areas on March 21, 1960, the oppressed people were convinced that prospects of negotiations and peaceful settlement of the South African question were non-existent. For them, it was no longer necessary to continue talking the language of peace and non-violence with the regime whose reply would be violent attacks on the unarmed people. This is the context within which Umkhonto we Sizwe was formed and engaged in the armed struggle.

However, resort to the armed struggle never changed the political character of the liberation struggle as Umkhonto we Sizwe was accountable to the political leadership of the ANC. Which shows that armed struggle was an instrument aimed at forcing the apartheid regime to the negotiation table because the ANC always believed in a political solution.

The ANC abandoned armed struggle when the apartheid regime was ready to negotiate a political solution for the South African question. However, some comrades argued at the time that elevation of negotiations reoriented the movement away from confrontation with the enemy to a search for common ground (1). This cannot be accepted because our revolutionary movement only resorted to the arms when the prospect of peaceful settlement vanished, while it was the failure of the arms that imposed the obligation on the apartheid regime to concede the need for the negotiations (2).

Apartheid economy

For many white South Africans, negotiations for a democratic South Africa were necessary as apartheid economy was on the brink of total collapse. For them, central in the negotiations would be a model of democracy that would guarantee retention of their economic privileges and dominance as captains of many industries going forward. How were these privileges and dominance acquired and developed?

The system of apartheid colonialism was deliberately and systematically designed and structured to create and sustain the apartheid economy through a stream of cheap labour for all the sectors of the apartheid economy. Africans and other black people were not only excluded from governance, but also from the main stream economic activities and structures of ideological influence. In this regard, Sam Nolutshungu states that:

Systematic exclusion from key economic positions, from effective political power and from major ideological structures and activities also reduces the class competences of the sections concerned, both technically and socially (3).

While the job reservation system reserved skilled jobs for white people, the system of Bantu Education was purposely designed to direct African people into unskilled jobs. This demonstrates that the apartheid political economy was one of white wealth and black poverty resulting from high structural unemployment of the black majority. Hence, Cosatu noted that:

while Africans make up 76% of the population, their share of income amounts to only 29% of the total. Whites, who make up less than 13% of population, take away 58.5% of total income (4).

With the economic subjugation of the majority of South Africans and the imposition of inward-looking economic policies of the apartheid regime that included protectionist policies aimed at limiting the impact of economic sanctions on white business; the liberation movement was expected to enter negotiations for a democratic South Africa determined to fundamentally change racial and gender inequalities in our society.

In the main, our revolution purports to resolve racial and gender inequalities. Put differently, it "does not seek to eradicate capitalist relations of production in general", [but] ... the specific relations of production that underpinned the national and gender oppression and super-exploitation of the majority of South Africans".(5)

However, some within the liberation movement believe that national and gender contradictions cannot be completely addressed without fundamental reconstitution of class relations in society." (6) In other words, [they believe that] the goals of the national struggle cannot be realized without the locomotive of the class struggle." (7)

While class contradiction remains fundamental in our society, resolving this contradiction cannot be a precondition for resolving national and gender contradictions that are manifest in our society. In our view, resolving national and gender contradictions create conducive conditions for resolving class contradiction as engendering class consciousness and advancing class struggle would be difficult in a racially divided and patriarchal society.

In a journey, alternative routes may be chosen to reach the same destination. However, in a revolution, choosing alternative routes has to be based on correct analysis of the situation as failure to correctly analyze the situation may present serious problems for the revolution. On which revolutionary theory has the movement relied in making situational analysis or in making tactical responses to difficult situations that could disrupt the revolution?  

Lessons and inspiration from Lenin?

Without necessarily advocating for total retreat in a revolutionary struggle, Vladimir Lenin introduced the notion of compromise in revolutionary politics. For him, compromise is necessary in a revolution, especially in situations that require flexibility and pragmatism. However, he believed in creating room for compromise only when compromise would take the revolution forward. Lenin-inspired Marxists and revolutionaries throughout the world continue to be inspired by Lenin's flexibility and pragmatism.

Having had benefit of Lenin's approach, revolutionary politics emphasize importance of flexibility and pragmatism in advancing and achieving revolutions.(8) This is the perspective from which South African people and others must understand the adoption of the sunset clauses by the liberation movement.

Informed by Lenin's thesis of tactical retreat, liberation forces understood that:

There are, however, certain retreats from previously held positions which would create the possibility of major positive breakthrough in the negotiating process without permanently hampering real democratic advance. (9)

Viewed from the angle of Lenin's thesis of tactical retreat, adoption of the sunset clauses was a tactical ploy which was aimed at taking the negotiating process forward, without necessarily abandoning the long term objective of the liberation struggle.

What were the objective conditions that led to the adoption of sunset clauses?

When South Africa was ungovernable and apartheid was unworkable; the apartheid regime was forced to go to the negotiation table to discuss with the liberation movement the way forward in terms of liberating the majority of South Africans who had been oppressed and exploited for many decades. In fact, ungovernability "did not mean that the power of resistance was able to defeat the enemy on the battlefield" (10), hence it was necessary for the liberation movement to negotiate.

Serious discussions ensued until the process reached a political log-jam. With the proposals making a sobering call for the liberation movement to face the realities that the apartheid regime had not been defeated in the battlefield and that its base in the security forces, bureaucracy and the economy largely remained in tact; the movement began to appreciate that compromise on contentious issues had to be reached to break political log-jam.

For some, transition based on compromise represented a "selling out" of the revolutionary cause for which the liberation struggle had been fought, a view which was advocated by some within our movement. (11) Hence, some believe that: the culture of liberation traditions the word compromise is often associated with a "sell out" deal, while regimes with state power consider compromise as a sign of weakness". (12)

Viewed from the perspective of Marxism-Leninism, the above criticism of compromise cannot be accepted because it may be necessary at times to make tactical retreats to achieve the ultimate objective - a route that was chosen by the ANC during a difficult process of negotiations. (13)

Evident during the process of negotiations was the fact that representatives of apartheid regime sought an outcome that would leave many elements of the apartheid system intact. (14) To them, sunset clauses had to retain white power in form of -

the accumulated, palpable privileges that the whites... enjoy in terms of ownership and control of productive property; domination of the professions and high levels of skill; control of the commercial and financial sectors of the economy; access to the best facilities in terms of education; access to and domination of the civil service and control over the decisive organs of the state." (15)

Have sunset clauses taken us forward?

With the breakthrough resulting from the sunset clauses, South Africa reached a significant turning point. Despite this, these clauses did not take us far in terms of fundamentally transforming the apartheid economy, something which made some people to down-play the breakthrough and claim that the negotiated settlement brought only about superficial change which does not change the quality of life of the people.

We would remember that at the time of adopting these sunset clauses it was envisaged that white capital would contribute in the efforts to liberate blacks in general and Africans in particular from economic bondages. However, except the guarded mentorship programmes and ventures mainly intended to continue benefitting themselves white businesses do not appear to have assisted historically disadvantaged people to take ownership and control of means of production. Instead, some have gone to an extent of making it their business to problematise the historically oppressed people's accumulation of economic resources in the private sector as well as in those areas of the economy over which they have no control, thereby demonstrating their consistent determination to deny historically oppressed people their economic liberation.

While some have glorified black economic empowerment for producing black business people in our country, this empowerment project failed to benefit the historically oppressed people broadly. Neither have material and other resources accumulated through the project have meaningfully contributed to the developmental agenda of the democratic state.

In reality, black economic empowerment created new generation of black business elite without substantially increasing the number of black people who own, control and manage significant and strategic sectors of the South African economy, thereby leaving apartheid patterns of economic ownership and control and structure of production intact.

Sam Nolutshungu reminds us that the political and ideological superstructures derive from the structure of production, but are also conditions for the existence of that structure. (16) In our case, apartheid structure of production remains intact and continues to determine political and ideological superstructures, while these superstructures sustain reproduction of the apartheid structure of production in the current conjuncture.

Worsening the situation is the unfortunate tendency in the private sector to informalize the jobs, contract out and utilize labour brokers - a tendency that has seriously undermined the quality of jobs, job security, and union activism in the affected sectors. (17) Be that as it may, negotiated settlement restored human dignity to black people in general and African people in particular. (18)

Reflecting on Zimbabwe sunset clauses, Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele stated that the effect and impact of these clauses was to slow down transformation of the state and property relations.(19) Same could be said about South African sunset clauses. Given this objective reality, can we give credence to a view that in adopting the sunset clauses the ANC was not riding into the sunset, but was "building its own funeral pyre."?

Without necessarily overlooking or downplaying the real challenges presented by the sunset clauses to the people of South Africa, we should remember that at the time of the negotiations for a democratic South Africa, especially when concessions were made; the liberation movement was very much alive to the reality that "the immediate outcome of the negotiating process will inevitably be less than perfect when measured against our long-term liberation objectives." (20)

Were sunset clauses meant to be permanent?

In general, sunset clauses are regarded as a transitional arrangement. In essence, this means that sunset clauses constitute a compromise which is meant to exist and operate for a fixed period. In confirming this, Lebogang Seabelo says:

[a] compromise in political terms is not permanent but is rather considered a tactical retreat informed by the balance of forces. (21)

Like other sunset clauses ours were meant to be transitional. However, lifespan of the sunset clauses may be extended when objective conditions justify the extension. Be that as it may, this extension does not appear to have been debated at the time of negotiations or anytime thereafter. What always existed is the possibility of re-opening debate on the sunset clauses as Seabelo argues that "It has been one of the salient and unwritten rules ... that the discussions around the sunset clause will be open." (22) He makes this argument "because the ANC negotiators at the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) in 1991 acknowledged that part of their negotiating mandates were not met, due to the political climate at the time." (23)

However, certain sections in our society continue to mislead people to believe that the sunset clauses were meant to be a permanent arrangement which would be part of our constitutional democracy forever. Those who propagate for their permanent existence are merely mischievous and self-serving individuals who must not be taken seriously.


Despite the challenges that still remain at political, economic and social levels; sunset clauses opened room for negotiating the future of South Africa. They created "the possibility of bringing about a radically transformed political framework in which the struggle for the achievement of the main objectives of the National Democratic Revolution will be contested in conditions far more favourable to the liberation forces...". (24) In particular, the sunset clauses created a possibility for democratic elections and democratic governance. In deed, our country witnessed the first democratic elections in 1994 and since then many political and socio-economic victories have been secured. This means that the sunset clauses have taken us forward in terms of deepening, consolidating and advancing the National Democratic Revolution.

However, the sunset clauses also left our country with a legacy of political economy characterized by a black controlled state and white-owned economy as well as continued mass poverty of the historically disadvantaged sections in our society. (25) In other words, "while progressive forces have attained political power, economic power remains largely in the hands of white minority." (26) For this reason, Ngoako Ramatlhodi says "apartheid forces sought to and succeeded in retaining white domination under a black government." (27) But, this does not mean that there has been no progress.

Despite the progress we have made thus far, South Africa still has high levels of unemployment and mass poverty in communities of the historically oppressed. However, roots of these challenges are to be found in the apartheid economy. This situation continues to strengthen the bargaining power of white capital because shortage of jobs and uncertainty of employment serves as a disciplining tool over workers, majority of who are blacks in general and Africans in particular. Given the persisting challenges of unemployment and poverty in our country, South Africa requires interventions that will benefit all the people, especially the historically marginalized.

In making better for all a reality for the poor and marginalized sections of our population, the democratic government is supposed to deliver services to these people because the imperative of the liberation struggle demands that we do not any longer postpone execution of the task of improving quality of people's lives. However, that should never be (mis)understood to mean that debate on transformation is no longer necessary or legitimate. While service delivery is imperative, let us be careful of those who masquerade as genuine advocates of service delivery, whereas they are hell-bent on shifting focus away from transformation discourse as they do not want anyone to talk about subjects which have a potential to temper with their ill-begotten privileges.

Therefore, as and when we engage on the equally desirable discourse on service delivery in our country, we must not engage in that debate at the expense of fundamental transformation of South African society as more still needs to be done to fundamentally transform all sectors of our society, especially the economy, to ensure that all the people of South Africa benefit from the economic resources of the country.

With apartheid patterns of economic ownership and control still manifesting themselves in our society, reopening debate on issues of fundamental transformation of our economy must have become desirable. Silencing those who raise debates on these issues will not assist the country in the medium to long term, but will in the short term benefit those who own means of production. Hence, they rejoice whenever internal organizational processes, in effect, silence those whose utterances threaten their ownership and control of means of production.

Despite disparities that continue to characterize our society, let us promote a sense of nationhood. This requires all of us to emphasize that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white and that all South African people must feel part of its political, economic and social life.

However, I do not believe that leaving the current patterns of economic ownership and control intact will help us realize the vision of building a united, cohesive and stable society. Instead, it will create an environment that is conducive for racial suspicions, mistrust, tensions, divisions, disunity and societal instability of unprecedented proportion.


1) An edited version of a paper by Dr Pallo Jordan (the then ANC National Working Committee Member) which appeared in The New Nation, 13 November 1992
2) Thabo Mbeki, who is quoted in Mayibuye, 30 November 1992
3) Sam Nolutshungu (1982) Changing South Africa: Political Considerations at p.52
4) Quoted in Richard Knight at p.1
5) ANC Strategy and Tactics, 2007, at para 58
6) African Communist, 2nd / 3rd Quarter 2003 at p.41
7) African Communist, 2nd / 3rd Quarter 2003 at p.46
8) Thando Ntlemeza "Now is not the time to go it alone" Umrabulo 30, November 2007
9) Joe Slovo "Negotiation: What room for compromise?" African Communist 130, Third Quarter, 1992
10) Raymond Suttner "The Zuma era in ANC history: New crisis or new beginning?" Concerned Africa Scholars Bulletin, No. 84 Winter 2010 (12 - 33) at 16
(11) James Hamill "A new deal for South Africa" in Contemporary Review, May 1993
12) Rev Frank Chikane (former Director -General). Address on the transformation process in South Africa in Ethelburga's Centre, London, 7 July 2004.
13) Ibid.
14) ANC Strategy and Tactics, 2007, at para 67
15) An edited version of a paper by Dr Pallo Jordan, which appeared on The New Nation, 13 November 1992
16) Sam Nolutshungu at 48
17) ANC Strategy and Tactics, 2007, at para 82
18) Christopher Saunders "The transition in context"
19) Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele "Moving forward to a prosperous and democratic Zimbabwe." ANC Today Vol. 5 No. 12, 25 March 2005
20) Joe Slovo "Negotiation: What room for compromise?" African Communist 130, Third Quarter, 1992
21) Lebogang Seabelo "Imbizo - My Debate: The sunset clause was open for far too long" Comment and Analysis, The New Age online
22) Ibid.
23) Ibid.
24) Joe Slovo "Negotiation: What room for compromise?" African Communist, 130, Third Quarter, 1992
25) Dr Neo Simutanyi - Harold Wolpe Memorial Lecture delivered in East London, 26 October 2006
26) ANC Strategy and Tactics, 2007, at para 79. Even the Medium Term Vision of the SACP states that the economic power still remains with the same capitalist class - See African Communist 2nd /3rd Quarter 2003 at 42.
27) Times Live, 1 September 2011

The ANC KZN Volunteer Corps Movement - a brief outline

Sihle Zikalala, ANC KZN Provincial Secretary

Background - the ANC and the centrality of mass mobilization

The ANC 52ND National Conference reaffirmed that the primary task of the ANC remains the mobilisation of all classes and strata that objectively stand to benefit from the cause of social change. The 2007 Strategy and Tactics document elaborates on this role; and affirm that the ANC seek to mobilise all South Africans to contribute to the ongoing transformation of our country and, in the process, foster responsibility for a common destiny among all citizens of South Africa, black and white.

Throughout the period of its existence, the ANC evolved into being a force for mass mobilisation, the glue that kept our people together and a trusted leader of forces that share the vision of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. Key in all programmes and campaigns is the central role of the masses.

This assertion resonates within the long and deep-seated conviction that the people of South Africa remain their own liberators. Thus, the role of the masses, in the movement, has become a unique feature that defines its character and our approach to programmes and campaigns.

The confidence our people have bestowed on the ANC is underpinned by an understanding that the ANC was essentially established to serve the people. The Polokwane Conference asserts: "thus, the primary task of all ANC members is to serve the people loyally and selflessly, without expectation of material reward or personal gain". Therefore, the ANC lives to serve the people.

The 1994 democratic breakthrough and the overwhelming victory of the ANC in the province in the April 2009 General and Provincial Elections provide for an opportunity to combine state power and mass power in serving the interests of the people.

Therefore, the ANC should master the art of mobilisation and the use of state power to fast track its socio-economic development agenda. This requires all our structures, in particular branches to become an active voice of the people and, therefore, take a central role on community development issues. This also requires the ANC to foster partnership with all progressive formations, including civic organisations in pursuit of social development and the fight against all daily challenges facing people. We have to build a social compact with all progressive forces informed by a strategic vision on of building a better life for all.

To achieve this, the ANC needs an arm of volunteers who will serve the people with loyalty and selflessness, deepen mass mobilisation and co-ordinate the participation of the people in community development programme. No revolution succeeds without cadres who serve the people loyally and submerging individual ambitions to those of the people as whole.

Volunteerism - a culture of service and sacrifice

In the quest to mobilise and unite the people of our country against the apartheid and its unjust laws, the ANC adopted mass resistance campaigns, which deepened the culture of service and sacrifice - Volunteerism. This emerged out of the need to heighten the mobilisation of the people to play a central role in the struggle, in particular during the 1952 Defiance Campaign against the "unjust laws" wherein an army of volunteers was mobilised and registered into a volunteer movement that sustained mass defiance campaigns throughout the country.

This formation of volunteer corps in the 1950s, which was the first of its kind that integrated African and Indians, saw the congress movement waging great resistance in various locations, but essentially introduced and cultivated the culture of service and sacrifice within the movement.

As the movement progressed, tactics of the struggle evolved and volunteerism remained a defining pillar of the struggle emulated by various successive generations that took the struggle to greater heights in difficult conditions. Whilst volunteerism was the central pillar of the 1952 Defiance Campaign, it also became a central pillar of the armed struggle led by the people's arm uMkhonto weSizwe. Throughout its history and, irrespective of dire circumstances, cadres of uMkhonto weSizwe were always ready for service and many paid supreme sacrifices for our struggle.

The 1980's rolling mass actions that unfolded against the backdrop of the brutal 1984 state of the emergency imposed by the Apartheid regime were also propelled by the same spirit of volunteerism - service and sacrifice. The theme "Freedom or Death. Victory is Certain" under which SAYCO rallied the youth and rendered South Africa ungovernable and the apartheid system unworkable was demonstrative of such service and sacrifice, constituting the core of the spirit of volunteerism.

This spirit remains relevant as it was during the 1952 Defiance Campaign and in the entire evolution of the ANC over the last decades. Hence, the Polokwane Conference reaffirmed that the ANC should deepen its mass work and continues to serve the people loyally and selflessly in the cause of social transformation. This, therefore, calls for the renewal of the spirit volunteerism among the cadres of the movement.

The role played by the ANC's Voting Districts teams established during the April 2009 elections serves to affirm the role and relevance of volunteers within the ANC. Affirming this strategic role of volunteers, the ANC President, Cde Jacob Zuma had this to say during the ANC KZN Provincial General Council held in July 2009:

"Thanks to the Volunteers. All volunteers were waiting for was the action day - no positions, no shining, just waiting for the action day. Thank you very much to the volunteers who are our instruments and are utilised by the ANC very successfully. Volunteers do not struggle for power. The weight of volunteers throughout the country was felt and that was how we got the results we received. Volunteers can help in carrying out any task for the organisation hence we need to form the volunteers of this campaign into volunteer corps."

In keeping with this call, the task of the formation of our elections campaign volunteers into a volunteer corps movement can therefore not be postponed. Thus, this document outlines the objectives, composition and tasks of this volunteer corps movement.

Formation of the KZN Volunteer Corp Movement (VCM)

To continue playing this task, the volunteer corps movement will be structured in a manner that locates it within the people. This means that the basic unit of VCM is at a voting district level, and keep the principle of one VD one Unit, one branch one ward. The VCM operates as a movement of volunteers functioning within the mandate of the BEC, with no powers to take organisational or political decisions.

The VCM Unit is composed of dedicated volunteers who are prepared to execute the tasks of the organisation without expectation of rewards. None will be allowed to join the VCM without being a member of the ANC, and therefore the membership of the VCM abide to the constitution and code of conduct of the ANC and are required to demonstrate a high level of discipline, humility, respect and activism.

Each unit of the VCM have a co-ordinator who co-ordinates the meetings and campaigns of the unit and submit reports to the branch secretary. For proper co-ordination at the branch level, a branch appoints one BEC member who shall be the Chief Volunteer in the branch and co-ordinate the campaigns and all units of VCM. The Chief Volunteer will, at least once a week, convene the meetings of all convenors of units to co-ordinate the work of volunteers in the branch.

The Chief Volunteer reports directly to the BEC, which in turn submit the report on the work of volunteers as part of monthly branch reports to the region. The BEC must also convene monthly volunteers briefing sessions to brief volunteers on the programmes and decisions of the organisation.

Objectives of the Volunteer Corps Movement

Chief amongst the objectives of the Volunteer Corps Movement are to:

Tasks and campaigns

The role of the volunteer corps movement is to carry out mass campaigns on behalf of the organisation, in particular the following:


This is an elaborate outline on the tasks that the volunteer corps movement. In addition to the above mentioned campaigns, each branch should conduct a thorough analysis of its ward and identify other relevant campaigns for the volunteer corps movement.

For the movement to fulfil its strategic objectives of the National Democratic Revolution, we need a new cadre who has a depth of understanding of our present conditions and dedicated to the service of the people.