Bayanda Mzoneli for ANC Deputy President 2022
South Africa

What are the future credentials for leadership in the ANC?

The 2012 Constitution of the ANC provides that any member has a right to elect and to be elected to any structure of the ANC. It has implicit exclusion of those whose first time membership is less than 6 months. During that period, a provisional member can neither vote nor be voted for.

However, the constitution further imposes additional requirements for election to specific structures. It prescribes that for election to the NEC, a person must have been a member for at least 10 years. For the PEC, a person must have been a member for at least 7 years, five years for the REC and two years for the BEC.

In theory, this means anyone who filled in a form any time from 2005 backwards and have paid the annual membership fee of R12 covering the successive years and R20 since 2013, has a right to be elected in any structure, including to the President of the ANC, and by extension of the country.

The constitution, understandably, does not explicitly impose a requirement that once a member earns a right to be elected after being a member for the prescribed minimum periods for various structures, they still have to qualify through an additional criteria whatsoever. Political consciousness and other traits are probably implied.

According to the audited membership numbers of the 2002 Stellenbosch Organisational Report, the ANC had 416,846 members (in the 2004 National Elections, 10.9m [69.69%] people voted for the ANC out of an estimated population of 44.8m South Africans).

The 2012 Mangaung Organisational Report indicated that the ANC had 1.2m audited member as of June 2012 (in the 2014 National Elections 11.4m [62.15%] people voted ANC out of an estimated population of 51.7m).

  Long ago Recently Numerical Changes %Change
SA population Census(2001 vs 2011) 44,819,778 51,770,560 +6,950,782 +15.5%
ANC Membership(2002 vs 2012) 416,846 1,220,057 +803,211 +192.69%
ANC Votes(2004 vs 2014) 10,880,915 11,436,921 +556,006 +5.11%
ANC % voter support(2004 vs 2014) 69.69% 62.15% -7.54 -10.82%

Membership growth is a great achievement, for the mass movement, that is in line with the 1942 ANC Conference Resolution of reaching 1 million members.

Having said that, the numbers suggest that there are more relatively new members in the ANC who have joined since 2002 than there were before then.

There are probably new challenges that are presented by this development, such as whether can the 400 000 members induct the new 800 000 members into the ANC or the 800 000 members bring with themselves a new culture that will dilute the old 400 000 members.

But that and other more difficult questions are matters with which the great thinkers, both old and new, more politically qualified than I am, will be seized. For example, they will explain while the ANC membership has numerically increased by 800 000 but the votes numerically increased by 550 000. Were there 300 000 already voters who just opted to take up membership in recent years? The membership increased by 192% but electoral support dropped by 10%. This is beyond the scope of this text.

The intention of this text is to argue lighter issues such as qualification for election into structures and deployments.

In the past it was easier to present credentials of candidates for election or deployment. Comrades had credible (selfless) struggle credentials that were common cause and could not be contested.

Some comrades had been to exile (including MK). Others had been to Robben Island or other prisons as freedom fighters. While others were active in various liberation movements within the country.

There will soon be a gray area on what constitute credible credentials worthy of election to leadership structures or deployment to positions of responsibility.

A 2001 NWC Discussion Document is usually mentioned; at least it used to be, towards Conferences. Although it is not an official policy of the ANC, there is general consensus about the appropriateness of its use as a guide to evaluate candidates for leadership.

Although it is a lengthy document, it essentially lists only 8 traits that it recommends an ANC leader should poses in order to be worthy to be a candidate. Those traits are;

  1. An ANC leader should understand ANC policy and be able to apply it under all conditions in which she finds herself. This includes an appreciation, from the NDR stand-point, of the country and the world we live in, of the balance of forces, and of how continually to change this balance in favour of the motive forces of change.
  2. A leader should constantly seek to improve his capacity to serve the people; he should strive to be in touch with the people all the time, listen to their views and learn from them. He should be accessible and flexible; and not arrogate to himself the status of being the source of all wisdom.
  3. A leader should win the confidence of the people in her day-to-day work. Where the situation demands, she should be firm; and have the courage to explain and seek to convince others of the correctness of decisions taken by constitutional structures even if such decisions are unpopular. She should not seek to gain cheap popularity by avoiding difficult issues, making false promises or merely pandering to popular sentiment.
  4. A leader should lead by example. He should be above reproach in his political and social conduct — as defined by our revolutionary morality. Through force of example, he should act as a role model to ANC members and non-members alike. Leading a life that reflects commitment to the strategic goals of the NDR includes not only being free of corrupt practices; it also means actively fighting against corruption.
  5. There are no ready-made leaders. Leaders evolve out of battles for social transformation. In these battles, cadres will stumble and some will fall. But the abiding quality of leadership is to learn from mistakes, to appreciate one’s weaknesses and correct them.
  6. A leader should seek to influence and to be influenced by others in the collective. He should have the conviction to state his views boldly and openly within constitutional structures of the movement; and — without being disrespectful — not to cower before those in more senior positions in pursuit of patronage, nor to rely on cliques to maintain one’s position.
  7. An individual with qualities of leadership does not seek to gain popularity by undermining those in positions of responsibility. Where such a member has a view on how to improve things or correct mistakes, she should state those views in constitutional structures and seek to win others to her own thinking. She should assist the movement as a whole to improve its work, and not stand aside to claim perfection out of inactivity.
  8. The struggle for social transformation is a complex undertaking in which at times, personal interests will conflict with the organisational interest. From time to time, conflict will manifest itself between and among members and leaders. The ultimate test of leadership includes:
    1. striving for convergence between personal interests — material, status and otherwise — and the collective interest;
    2. handling conflict in the course of ANC work by understanding its true origins and seeking to resolve it in the context of struggle and in the interest of the ANC;
    3. the ability to inspire people in good times and bad; to reinforce members’ and society’s confidence in the ANC and transformation;and
    4. winning genuine acceptance by the membership, not through suppression, threats or patronage, but by being principled, firm, humble and considerate.

The writer believes there are many, including those who have read it several times and some who were in the 2001 NWC, who did not know that it only identifies no more than 8 traits of a leader. Some will find their copy (or google it) in order to verify whether this is true so they can challenge this author.

Since this is not ANC Policy but just an NWC Discussion Document, which is an opt-in guide for leadership, there is no disincentive for not following it. You use it as a guide in your choice of leadership if you opt to do so. It is not a prerequisite for nomination to be a branch delegate to a Conference.

The Discussion Document cannot be used to disqualify candidates who qualify constitutionally. However, strange as it may sound in recent years, some comrades would be aware that they have disqualified themselves in the past in favour of the comrades they felt were politically better equipped than them despite enjoying the support of the members, sometimes even more than the other candidate. This really did happen.

Comrades who sufficiently understood the NWC Discussion Document and the general organizational culture, were not only willing to unavail themselves for election but actually did unavail themselves (the emphasis here is practice more than belief).

It must be exhausting that the author of this text is calling the NWC Discussion Document an NWC Discussion Document instead of calling it by its title that it is commonly known with, including by people who only know it from hearsay.

Any faction can make their candidate fit the 8 traits defined in the NWC Discussion Document. It is unfortunately not as much an eye of a needle as it is often made out to be. Perhaps that is part of why the ANC 52nd National Conference resolved that it “Instructs the incoming NEC to initiate a review of ‘Through the eye of a needle’, including guidelines on lobbying and other internal practices, learning from the experiences of what happened in the run-up to this Conference.” I am not saying that eight years later, this has not happened, but I have not came across the reviewed document (if anyone has seen a copy please share).

In the near future struggle credentials are no longer going to be a factor, as the generation of struggle veterans hand over the baton.

The subject of this text is to pose a question on what will replace ‘struggle credentials’ as a yardstick of worthiness of leadership. No one will be arrested anymore for political reasons.

Will there be an emergence of ‘service delivery credentials’ with which we will measure each other as comrades regarding our worthiness of standing for leadership? But service delivery is primarily a domain of public servants and public representatives. Would occupying office in itself be a service delivery credential on its own or would it need to be accompanied by evidence of performance? But performance is varied for different reasons. Even in instances where performance could theoretically be universally evident, factional views have the ability to trivialise good performance while adding a spin to poor performance.

Will popularity be the future standard? Already, the ANC practice on the nomination of its councillor candidates is taking this direction due to the practicality of how councillors are elected. A councillor needs votes of that ward. So the ANC recommends that an ANC candidate should be nominated by a community meeting rather than just a branch meeting. But where does that leave the political consciousness? There are other variants of populism such as vocal abilities of those who sing the revolutionary songs the loudest, drawing attention/admiration of delegates at any given event, e.g. the former SG of SASCO who, at the time of writing this text is DA.

Will it be holding paid up membership the longest? It is unlikely that the constitutional requirements for membership length for election mentioned earlier will be elongated any farther. Anyone with a card can claim activism and thus be justified to lead. But what form would the activism need to take? Does regular attendance of meetings qualify as activism? Participating in door to door campaigns? Lobbying for a specific leaders in a particular period. At some point, I learned that one of the ANC leaders had court trial support attendance in her portfolio credentials as one of the credentials.

The erstwhile student activists and youth activists would also fall in the category of long membership. But beyond membership, what features of an individual’s activism would stand out enough for an individual to be considered for leadership, ahead of others who may have held membership at the same time or even earlier? Or would their presence at certain congresses amount to great contribution in themselves.

For example, I may have served two terms in the NEC of a progressive student movement. But what would that mean? Beyond attending the standing NEC meetings and attending to provincial deployment, what exceptional contribution did I make? And what if my student activism resulted in the neglect of what defines a student, resulting in the deficit of academic progress? Would my credentials still hold?

Will political consciousness remain a factor? Even if it did, it is too intangible a factor to be useful in distinguishing individuals. What further erodes the utility of political consciousness is that the ANC is a broad church and thus not renowned for coherence of ideology.

Perhaps, what is indisputable is that some form of academic training would be necessary for anyone who wishes to be a leader. Even if it may not be a credential but it should be a requirement if the future challenges of the NDR are increasing in their complexity, including the terrain of struggle and the global context. In fact, the requirement for Post Secondary Education and Training (PSET) should be as minimum as holding paid up membership and be included in the constitution.

The youth movement, in particular ought to be seized with these questions. While democracy is a noble ideal, having too many candidates for leadership may be a reflection of depth of leadership or the opposite of it.

In this text, I have outlined the constitutional requirements for election to leadership. I have highlighted the changing context, nature and composition of membership. Finally, I raised a questions on what would be the future standard of electing leadership. In case someone asks about my credentials, do mention that I have made my contribution through this text, even though it lacks a thorough depth of analysis typical of matured leadership.

NB: This article first appeared on ANC Today Vol 15 No 08, 06-12 March 2015

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