I am honored to have been invited to address this January 8th celebration rally in this great province of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Your province made a huge contribution to the formation of the ANC 108 years ago. An ever-increasing list of leadership that emanates from this beautiful province details that story.
The first President of the ANC, John Langalibalele Dube, was a son of Kwa-Zulu Natal; and over the decades it is unthinkable that the ANC would have become the liberation colossus that it turned out to be, without the contributions of Pixley ke Isaka Seme (who played a seminal role in the formation of the ANC, and became our 5th President), Chief Albert Luthuli (who was our 8th President, and the first African and South
African to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize), Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma (one of the most illustrious Commanders of Umkhonto we Sizwe [MK] and the 12th President of the ANC), Anton Lembede (who was a founding member of the ANC Youth League [ANCYL], and it’s first President), Archie Gumede (who led the delegates from KZN to the Congress
of the People in 1955 at Kliptown, and later became the co-President of the United
Democratic Front [UDM]), and Bathabile Dlamini (the current President of the ANC
Women’s League [ANCWL]). I mention only a few of the many great sons and daughters of KZN, who helped to build and sustain our Liberation Movement.
It is also for me of special significance to be here at the beginning of this year when we celebrate the centenary of the exemplary revolutionary life of another great son of Kwa-Zulu Natal, and of South Africa, comrade Harry Themba Gwala, known among us as, Munt’omdala, The Lion of the Midlands. A liberation fighter and teacher, indeed a political
commissar, who always understood the importance of the golden revolutionary thread, woven through the long and rich history of the ANC, that the character of our Movement is in essence that of a mass based people’s movement in service of the poor majority of our people.
To put it simply: That the ANC is nothing without the people of South Africa, and that the day the ANC becomes detached from the masses of our people, and no longer is rooted among our people in the villages and vast rural areas of our country, the cities and the townships, it will literally disintegrate and die. We must always be conscious that the ANC receives its mandate to lead society from our people.
Without that mandate we are nothing. As Munt’omdala always taught us, the most important questions for any true revolutionary are: “What is the will of the people? What do our people want?”
Comrades, a true revolutionary is a better listener than a speaker. We must learn to stop loving the sound of our own voices, and instead let our people speak through us in their voices.. The father of the People’s Republic of China, Chairman Mao Zedong, taught us the same when he declared that a true revolutionary is like a fish that swims in the water among the people. That is in essence what PEOPLE’S POWER means.
It was with this understanding that the longest serving President of the ANC, comrade Oliver Reginald (OR) Tambo, during the long and difficult years of an ANC in exile, insisted that the 8th of January, as the birthdate of the ANC, after years of unfortunate neglect had to be restored to its former glory, as the most important date in the annual revolutionary
calendar of the ANC. Because our Movement’s birthday is right at the beginning of the year, comrade OR insisted that the January 8 Statement had to become the most critical declaration of the ANC’s revolutionary priorities for every upcoming year.
From 1972 onwards this was exactly what the January 8 Statement became, under the immensely capable leadership of this great son of our African soil. Those of us who are a bit older, and who lived through the harshest days of apartheid oppression, and who were part of the ANC and MK underground structures inside the country, will recall how we found ways to always listen to the Radio Freedom broadcasts of comrade OR’s January 8 Statements. Those Statements were always filled with solid, and sober, revolutionary
analysis of the objective conditions on the ground. Based on that analysis of the true
balance of forces, comrade OR would declare what the revolutionary objectives were that the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC had set for the upcoming year. Throughout the length and breadth of our country we literally hanged on the lips of our beloved leader, and the same was true in the training camps of MK and the missions of the ANC scattered throughout Africa and the world. We were truly receiving our marching orders for the year.
What characterized those seminal January 8 Statement broadcasts by comrade OR, was the sobriety and clarity of the NEC’s analysis of the objective conditions on the ground in our country. Comrade OR was never one to ‘sugar coat’ the harsh realities of our multiplicity of challenges, and the apartheid enemy that we had to face. He never sold us pipe-dreams, he provided us with collective attainable revolutionary goals. But he was always filled with a sense of revolutionary optimism and hope. Comrade OR understood the critical importance of what the great Amilcar Cabral said: “Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…” Those goals were never about individual self-promotion and aggrandizement, they were always about the advancement of our people as a collective, and building a united nation.
In the months and weeks that preceded every January 8 Statement, during all those
arduous years of banishment and exile, the ANC structures in the underground inside our country provided the ANC NEC with invaluable information about the conditions and the revolutionary readiness of our people. As the objective conditions, mobilization, and revolutionary will of our people garnered strength in action, the January 8 Statements became more confident and strident. Every year we knew that liberation was tangibly closer, and that it would be achieved in our lifetime. However, throughout, every year in every January 8 Statement, comrade OR was careful to remind all of us that ours is a
revolutionary task saturated in humility, to lead our people to achieve our own collective liberation.
Comrade OR also never omitted in any of the January 8 Statements that he delivered to locate the historical mission of the ANC in the overall context of being an international revolutionary movement, against imperialism and colonialism. It is critical that we continue to identify and present ourselves as such on the international stage, and never waver in
our support for the struggles of the people of the world against imperialism and
colonialism. Here we involuntarily, and with specific reference, think of Cuba, Iran,
Venezuela, Palestine, SAHARAWI, and all other oppressed nations of the world.
Comrades, since the unbanning of the ANC, and our return from exile, we have
endeavored to keep as an important tradition, and good democratic practice, some of the best characteristics that accompanied the resuscitation of the January 8 Statements and birthday celebrations, that comrade OR so capably led. That is why we hold the January 8
celebrations every year in a different province, so that we acknowledge the importance of all our people and every part of our country. That is also why in the days immediately after every New Year, up to the actual January 8 anniversary rally, the leadership of the ANC (national, provincial and regional) go in their numbers to the province where the celebrations are held, and criss-cross the province to engage with our people in the villages, towns and cities where they live and work. This process of grassroots engagement, or on the ground contact, with our people to experience and understand the conditions of their lives, and the challenges that they are faced with, is exactly what a
revolutionary, caring and especially listening organization should be doing.
As I have indicated this is done as the continuation of that great, and correct tradition of engagement and listening to our people, and deriving our mandate and power from the people, that comrade OR as a value in ANC cadre-ship instilled. I therefore, do not agree with those who say that this is too costly an exercise, and that the ANC should no longer continue with it. It is an essential part of our revolutionary character, and how the ANC derives it’s mandate from our people, in order to continue to be the leader of society.
However, the critical issue should be about HOW we carry out this process of
engagement. In recent years some tendencies of arrogance and insensitive displays of material opulence, crass materialism, have crept in. It is entirely unacceptable to display conspicuous wealth and opulence when we engage with the majority of our people who despite political freedom remain poor, many of whom are unemployed, and who daily battle just to have something to eat.
This year in the Northern Cape, when moving from community to community, the
leadership of the ANC was nakedly exposed to strenuous conditions of severe poverty and deprivation. We witnessed some of the most awful consequences of dehumanizing and grinding poverty, and in some instance we experienced some of the grossest of failures in service delivery. While we saw the successes of 26 years of ANC governance in the delivery of housing, education and social grants, we equally sadly experienced failures in service delivery that defies the caring organization comrade OR reminded us to be. We walked the streets where sewage was literally flowing, and saw the dehumanizing
consequences of unemployment. These are undeniable evidence of a lack of proper
governance, failure to lead where it matters most, and a failure of basic service delivery
that warrants more than introspection, but actually consequence management.
We heard the desperation in the voices of our people, and saw the pain in their eyes. This cannot be allowed to continue, and we will not allow it to continue. We brought those experiences with us, and those are the critically important issues that we as a collective leadership of our Movement were ceased with during the National Executive Committee meeting, and NEC Lekgotla, of the past weekend.
The leaders of the ANC, and the vast majority of our members and supporters, are decent and caring people who truly want to build a united nation and ensure that the lives of all our people improve.
Unfortunately, on the margins of our January 8 celebrations certain tendencies of debauchery, hedonistic pleasure and the grossly insensitive display of opulent wealth equally manifested. These are the challenges that come with the changing conditions that we face as a governing party, where there are tangible temptations of wealth and self-enrichment, at the cost of the people, which were far less prominent during the early parts of the history of our Movement, and the years of exile. As comrade OR, warned us in exile,
the challenges of governing would turn out to be even far more challenging than those of the struggle years.
Comrades, regardless of how challenging these are we must confront these demons head-on and solemnly resolve not to allow them to devour the essentially people’s centered and revolutionary character of the ANC. Those who debase our January 8 celebrations with all kinds of excesses, from the conspicuous and grossly insensitive display of wealth and
consumption, the abuse and exploitation of young and poor women, and everything else that detracts from the essentially pro-poor and revolutionary character of the ANC, should in no uncertain terms be exposed and enemies of the ANC ethic and order. It is here we say again, Enough is enough! These tendencies cannot be allowed to continue to fester, and undermine our true revolutionary character.
Comrades, the NEC of the ANC has declared this year to be, THE YEAR
OF UNITY, SOCIO-ECONOMIC RENEWAL AND NATION BUILDING. These are truly
noble goals, which all of us should fully dedicate ourselves to. Beyond noble goals these are essential components for the longevity of the ANC going forward. This theme has not been conjured or plugged from thin air, these come from what the people of our country are telling us what they want us to do. In line with the best of our democratic traditions, the ANC has carefully listened to our people, and heard what they said and want for a better life for all.
From what our people have told us, SEVEN critical tasks have been distilled as identified for the African National Congress, and these are set out in the January 8 Statement.
Without going into detail about each, I think it is important to highlight them. (As
conscientious members of the ANC I urge all of you to fully acquaint yourselves with the full content of the January 8 Statement, that President Ramaphosa presented):
1. We will renew the ANC as the most effective force for social change.
2. We will build a movement united in action.
3. We will prepare for a decisive local government mandate.
4. We will mobilize all social partners to grow and transform the economy.
5. We will strengthen governance and tackle corruption.
6. We will work to end gender-based violence and femicide.
7. We will work for peace, integration and development in Africa.
As Secretary General, it is my duty to make sure that these tasks are carried out, and also find expression in how we execute them as the governing party. I am happy that the eight main priorities for our government, also clearly extrapolated in the January 8 Statement, dovetail with these tasks that our Movement has set itself.
It is now our revolutionary task to ensure that 2020 will in essence be a year of ACTION, rather than good intentions and words. That is what our people demand of us!
As the call for UNITED ACTION in the January 8 Statement reads:
“The fundamental transformation of South African society and the economy requires the efforts, ingenuity and energy of all South Africans working together in pursuit of a shared vision”.
This is our latter day call for unity, and it is essentially the very same message that Pixley ke Isaka Seme delivered 108 years ago at the formation of the ANC in the Waaihoek Methodist Church in Mangaung, when he said:
“The demon of racialism, the aberrations of the Xhosa-Fingo (Mfengu) feud, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tongas, between the Basutho and every other Native must be buried and forgotten; it has shed among us sufficient blood! We are one people”.
I have noticed with dismay that there are already those unpatriotic, journalists, editors and some political commentators, always at work, who try to stoke disunity that the January 8 Statement and the outcomes of the NEC Lekgotla indicates that one so-called ‘faction’ in the ANC prevailed over the other. They go even further and claim that the Economic
Transformation Resolutions of the 54th National Conference have now been ‘shelved’, and that some mythical door towards the ‘whole sale’ privatization of SOE’S has been opened.
What nonsense! These are the stories peddled by wedge-drivers. No-one can change the Resolutions that were taken at our 54th National Conference, because that is the mandate of our branches. Anyone who may wish to change these democratically arrived at policy positions, will simply have to wait for our next National Conference to see if they can
garner enough support to do so.
I challenge those who make these reckless claims to show us where, and how, the
economic Resolutions of our 54th National Conference have been undermined, and that they will no longer be implemented. This is certainly not the mandate that I as the Secretary General of the ANC received, and I assure you that there is similar clarity and unity among all six of the National Office Bearers (NOB’s), and our whole NEC, about our mandate. Let me reiterate that the central strategic objective of the ANC remains the liberation of the black majority (Africans in particular), and that objective will never be fully achieved until the majority of our people are included into the commanding heights of our economy.
This is exactly what our 54th National Conference Resolutions about the
nationalization of the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), and the expropriation of land without compensation, and the further expansion free education, speaks to. We are fully
committed to the full implementation of those Resolutions.
We understand that there are those enemies of the ANC who would like to try and divide us, because they fear a united and strong ANC. They think they can weaken, or even destroy the ANC, through divide and rule tactics. As a collective leadership we will make sure that they will fail dismally!
As part of this campaign to try and divide the ANC we have also noted the nonsense
stories that the ANC has abandoned President Zuma. Nothing can be further from the truth. President Zuma continues to be an active member of the ANC in good standing. We honor and respect him as our former President, a veteran of our struggle with outstanding credentials as one of our most illustrious liberation struggle heroes, and a former Commander of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). The ANC believes in the constitutional principle that every citizen is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law, and we will never be part of the lynch-mobs who are baying for President Zuma’s proverbial blood
through media kangaroo courts. We wish Nxamalala well, and a speedy recovery from the health challenges that he has been struggling with.
The ANC is also not blind to the cheap propaganda stunts of some journalists who try to peddle a narrative that only black people are corrupt, and concentrate exclusively on government corruption, while giving the private sector – and specifically white monopoly companies – a free ride. We say to those media wedge-drivers that we see them, and will expose their tactics to try and undermine and destroy the ANC. The ANC is committed to
the rooting out of all corruption, but we will not tolerate a deliberate bias and skewed
narrative to specifically target ANC leaders as corrupt, with the sole intention to undermine our unity.
Some of our journalists really do their country a huge disfavor with their factional and ideologically driven agendas. We need journalists who will report honestly and objectively, instead of trying to be political role payers themselves. They should leave the politics up to us politicians, and rather start doing their jobs properly. Perhaps we must ask how journalists tasked with the responsibility to report a story inadvertently became ‘political analysts’ and commentators to give their opinions when they suppose to report and inform
the public affording the public to determine its own truth.
The ANC continues to be the only hope of the majority black and poor South Africans. The past year exposed the lies of opposition parties that they care for the people our country, and can be an alternative to the ANC. The fake narrative that the Democratic Alliance (DA) tried to peddle that it was a party representative of black people has literally fallen apart,
and the DA is disintegrating. They stand exposed as a party with a pro-white agenda of defending monopoly capital, and those who were privileged during apartheid. We call on our people not to easily forget about the brutality of the apartheid regime, and to see that the DA is nothing else but the metamorphosis of that very same racist agenda.
The ANC leadership emerged from the ANC NEC Lekgotla more united, with clear
objectives that will serve our people, and address the serious economic challenges that we are faced with.
We understand very well that ultimately the policy positions that we have articulated in the January 8 Statement, and at the ANC NEC Lekgotla, are only valuable in as far as they can deliver a better life for all South Africans.
Comrade Harry Gwala had a favorite quote from Amilcar Cabral that he always used, with great effect, to remind us of our ultimate task:
“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children …”
In order to achieve this objective I call on all our members, and supporters, of the ANC to make unity and cohesion a principled task. This must, as a matter of necessity, be accompanied by the unity and cohesion of our revolutionary Alliance. Our common programme must be the total economical emancipation of our people, who are the blacks in general and Africans in particular. I say this with the understanding that the Alliance is a product of the struggle of our people, and is essential to ensure the successful conclusion of the struggle of our people, and the implementation of the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution (NDR).
In practical revolutionary terms these objectives must find their expression in the work that we do in order to ensure a successful, and impactful, National General Council (NGC), as well as to secure a decisive majority mandate in the upcoming local government elections