The immediate task of the elected leadership of the National Executive Committee of the ANC is to ensure that there is unity and renewal within the ranks of our national liberation movement. This important political task constitutes the cornerstone of the present phase of our struggles for socio-economic transformation.
The success of this important strategic objective rests on the determination and political will by the leadership and membership of our movement across all levels of our society. The principal task is the fulfillment of the noble objective of our revolution which is the building of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society.
The historic plenary session of the 54th elective national conference of the ANC which took place at the NAZREC conference center brought this important political question to the center stage. As a result, we need a robust and deeper understanding of its significance to the leadership role of our movement in the current historical period of our National Democratic Revolution (NDR).
It is the responsibility of all tried and tested men and women of our movement to rise to the occasion and strive for the achievement of this common purpose. We all need to be more vigilant and work for the consolidation of the unity and renewal of our Movement.
Over the past few weeks, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC embarked on a political pilgrimage of interacting with all the structures of our movement across the provinces and regions of our country. The focus of the political pilgrimage was to create a platform for the assessment and evaluation of the strength and the weaknesses of our structures.
This task was necessary from the point of view that we have to give a complete appraisal of the readiness of our structures for the coming regional and provincial conferences. The task was also of necessary importance for the obvious fact that we have to oil the wheels of our machinery into motion for the coming national and provincial general elections.
The outcome of the strategic visits to our regions and provinces convinced me, more than ever before, that together we can do more to foster the unity and cohesion of our revolution. I became convinced that together we can ensure the victory of our struggles for the attainment of a better life for all.
A revolution which cannot demonstrate its commitment to its own principles and traditions is doomed to fail. We need therefore to appreciate that our revolution was never built on the precarious foundations of expediency and forsaking principles.
Frederick Engels said the following about the opportunism of forsaking principles, ”one must not allow oneself to be misled by the cry of unity. Those who have this word often on their lips are the ones who sow the most dissent. The biggest sectarians and the biggest brawlers and rogues at the times shout the loudest for unity”.
The traditions of unity bought by forsaking principles and by wallowing in the mire with opportunists cease to be proletarian unity. History of shared principles and traditions is a necessary condition for the success of any revolution.
Over the years of the history of our struggles for liberation, the question of the unity and cohesion has been the powerhouse of the theory of our revolutionary movement. Our conceptualization of unity is not amorphous but an important theoretical question based on concrete principles of the struggles of our people.
Therefore the basic cause of unity of purpose is the achievement of the strategic objectives for the construction of a better society. Unity is about serving the best interests and the wishes and aspirations of our people.
The fundamental principle of unity and cohesion is about learning how to serve the best interests of humanity. Unity was never about self-serving tendencies of self-aggrandizement.
The unity of our revolution must reflect the objective realities of our concrete conditions and not our wishful thinking. The goal of our revolution is about advancing what is in the best interests of the people.
It is our desired hope, as the National Executive Committee (NEC), that the unity and renewal of our movement, gather the necessary momentum, to prepare our movement for the tasks ahead. We need to prepare our structures to withstand the complexities of the current period of our transition for the development of human society.
The internal processes of the application of unity and cohesion are guided by the principles of criticism and self-criticism. This is the task of the posture and character of our movement we should inculcate within the ranks of especially our young generations.
One of the finest philosophers of our modern times and the leader of the former Soviet Socialist Republics, Vladimir Lenin, says the following about the political significance of the principle of criticism and self-criticism.
“The attitude of a political party towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how correct the party is and how in practice it fulfills its obligations towards its people.
Frankly admitting a mistake, ascertaining the reason for it, analyzing the conditions that led to it, and thoroughly discussing the means of correcting it, that is the earmark of a serious party, that is the way it should perform its duties, that is the way it should educate its people.
All revolutionary parties, which have hitherto perished, did so because they grew conceited, failed to see their strength and feared to speak about their weaknesses. But we shall not perish, for we do not fear to speak of our weaknesses and learn to overcome them”.
Taking wisdom from the teachings of this great philosopher of the present times of humanity, as a movement and the people, we are duty bound to embark on this long journey of hope, of ensuring that there are unity and cohesion, within the ranks of our revolutionary movement, for the sake of the victories of our struggles, for radical socio-economic transformation. Our revolutionary movement, the ANC, is a movement of principles, collectivism, humility, and discipline.
It is important, therefore, as part of fulfilling this momentous task of unity and renewal of our movement, that we look at our own mistakes, of judging how correct our movement is, and how in practice it fulfills its obligations towards our people. As revolutionaries, we need to at all times to rise to the occasion, and admit our mistakes and strive towards correcting them.
This is the only way to preserve this monument of the struggles of our people, which has become the oldest liberation movement on our continent and probably the whole world. In our hands, we do not have anything, no land, no ownership of our mines and factories, but our movement the ANC, which is the only precious gift and effective instrument of transformation is the bulwark from the forebears of our struggles.
It is in this context, that we appreciate the immense challenges posed by the realities of our historical period, of the second phase of our transition for radical socio-economic transformation. We need a much deeper reflection to diagnose the challenges facing us.
As the Movement and the people, we need a much more conducive climate for a more robust and deeper analysis of our own strength and weaknesses. We need an impetus of a more rigorous moment of self-introspection and capacity to appreciate our own shortcomings.
Some of the challenges are so devastating that if not attended to, have the propensity to reverse back the gains of our struggles for transformation. The time is now that we must combat them head-on in order to defend the gains of our hard-won freedom and democracy.
We need to combat the growing phenomenon of tendencies of triumphalism, I’ll discipline, factionalism and opportunism tearing our Movement apart. Our Movement has to confront the growing culture of arrogance, corruption,
Individualism, self-preservation and craft materialism.
Our leadership and membership have the responsibility to conform to our decision making processes. We have to adhere ourselves to the culture and traditions of democratic centralism and inner party democracy.
The provisions of our constitution state that every member in good standing, have the democratic right to stand for or to have his or her own preferred candidate, for any position of responsibility, within the ranks of our movement. This is a practice consistent with the culture and traditions of our movement.
The tradition of our movement is that even if we all have the democratic right to shape debates and policy positions of our movement, in the end, the views of the majority prevail over the other.
It is therefore within the provision of our constitution, that every one of our members in good standing, have the democratic right, to stand for or to have his or her own preferred candidate, for any position of responsibility within of our movement. This is a practice consistent with the revolutionary culture and traditions of our movement.
We need to derive a deeper understanding of the meaning of our theoretical concept of unity and renewal. We have to give a clearer perspective of its true meaning to our movement and our people in general.
Many of our people believe that unity and renewal are about changing the leadership of those who could not have their majority views during elective conferences. The tendency is to remove those who could not win during the conference from their positions in government or even disband structures of those perceived to be not towing the line of their factions.
It is heartening to witness how some of our members go to an extent of even asking for apologies to those they did not vote for during conferences. This is a dangerous culture against the democratic practices within the structures of our movement.
The ANC says we must make those who are from within happy before we can attract others. Making those from within happy is about teaching them the true culture and traditions of our movement.
Making those who are from within happy before you can attract others, is about teaching them about our revolutionary theory, the tools of analysis which have over the years of our struggles, distinguished our movement, from the rest. The ANC is a movement of revolutionary theory and practice.
During the 54th Conference of the ANC which took place at the NASREC conference center, our branches unanimously agreed on the policies and the collective leadership to steer our movement in the next five years. We have to respect the decision of our branches, which are essential, the basic units of our movement.
The political responsibility of the elected leadership is to ensure that the resolutions of our National Conference are implemented as mandated by the general membership of the ANC across the breadth and the length of our country. No one has the powers to undermine the decisions taken by our National Conference.
The speedy implementation of the resolutions of the 54th national conference is what will unite the ANC and the motive forces of our revolution. It is against the traditions of our movement for any of the member of our movement, to ridicule and undermine the decisions of the conference.
We have to be firm and decisive in ensuring that deployed cadres face consequences for not implementing decisions of the conference. All leaders of the ANC must be loyal to the decisions of our conferences without any measure of doubt.
In conclusion, leadership is there to serve the interest of the entire membership of the ANC and the people of our country, especially the poor and the working class, and not the interest of any of the warring factions. The leadership will unite the people as long as we meticulously follow and recognize elected structures of our movement.
Our unity is about the top structures respecting the views of the lower structures and the lower structures respecting the views of the upper structures. With these principled organizational approaches, the future of the ANC will be brighter.
Our message to all our cadres is, do not marginalize, do not purge, do not be wedge drivers, do not be personal and angry, do not be arrogant and lead with humility and love.
Our unity is also about the unity of our revolutionary alliance. This is the time for the alliance to unite in action. It is the time that the alliance partners support each other for the victory of the struggles of our people.
We need to support genuine struggles of the South African working class. We need to support genuine demands by the workers of the country that May Day and the day for our national elections must be a non-trading day.
This is a mammoth task we have to fulfill and ensure that we carry into the able hands of the future generations to come. We dare not fail them.
Comrade Ace Magashule is the Secretary-General of the African National Congress.