Bayanda Mzoneli for ANC Deputy President 2022
South Africa

As the African National Congress (ANC) faced a multitude of challenges, in January 1969, Chris Hani, and his comrades, wrote a memorandum that came to be known as the Hani Memorandum. Among others, the Hani Memorandum said, “The development of the Revolution has necessitated a renewal and rejuvenation of those who are leading it. We must guard against the fossilization of the leadership as this is likely to hinder the progressive development of the Revolution.

Hani’s generation, includes those born in 1942, like him, such as Thabo Mbeki, Victoria Mxenge, Jacob Zuma, Pallo Jordan, Zola Skweyiya, and others born in the 1930s and 1940s, including Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Mavuso Msimang, Max Sisulu, Steve Tshwete, Essop Pahad, Aziz Pahad, Alec Erwin, Baleka Mbete, Kgalema Motlanthe and others. Many in this generation cut their teeth in politics under the leadership, and guidance, of the generation that founded the ANC Youth League in 1944.

The 1944 ANCYL generation, had, within 5 years of the ANCYL establishment, managed to have Walter Sisulu elected ANC Secretary General in 1949, at the age of 37. In terms of leadership, it was not so much a generational takeover, as it was a generational mix, since other older members remained within the leadership of the ANC. However, in terms of ideas, it was a generational takeover. The ANCYL brought with it relatively radical ideas and programme, relative to what had been the practice at the time. It is important to point out that the election of younger leaders to the ANC leadership in 1949 was not without resistance, from some within the older leadership of the time.

The ANC continued to face various internal challenges, continuing to wage the struggle on all fronts, as outlined in its four pillars of the struggle at the time. While both the 1969, and the 1985 Consultative Conferences, addressed internal challenges, as well as each adopted modifications in tactics of struggle, the leadership of the ANC did not change significantly.

However, when the time came, 1944 ANCYL generation were ready, and willing, to handover the baton to the next generation, without resistance nor being wrestled.

At the ANC 50th National Conference, the outgoing President Nelson Mandela started his closing address with, “The time has come to hand over the baton.” He went on to say, “The time has come to hand over the baton in a relay that started more than 85 years ago in Mangaung…” In the same address, President Mandela admitted that, “When we ourselves received the baton from Dube, Sol Plaatjie, Ghandi, Abdul Abduraman, Charlotte Maxeke, Gumede, Mahabane and others, we might not have fully appreciated the significance of the occasion, preoccupied as we were by the detail of the moment.

President Mandela went on to emphasise, “And so the time has come to make way for a new generation, secure in the knowledge that despite our numerous mistakes, we sought to serve the cause of freedom; if we stumbled on occasion, the bruises sustained were the mark of the lessons that we had to learn to make our humble contribution to the birth of our nation…” Evidently, at that moment, President Mandela “fully appreciated the significance of the occasion.” He had the presence of mind to speak for himself as well as his generation.

He further said, “I am certain that I speak on behalf of the veterans who graced this historic Conference, and many others, when I say that, if we were fortunate to smell the sweet scent of freedom, there are many more who deserved, perhaps more than us, to be here to witness the rise of a generation that they nurtured.” And reiterated that, “I know that among you there are many who have such great potential – revolutionaries suited to the new age: organisers, intellectuals, mass leaders, activists and strategists at all levels of the movement. We must nurture you all, and let your strengths shine through.

At its 24th National Conference in 2011 the ANCYL adopted Seven Cardinal Pillars of Economic Freedom in our Lifetime. It was an outline of the radical changes proposed to rejuvenate the ANC. For its part, the same Conference further agreed that when nominations of ANC leadership open, the ANCYL would nominate its former President, Fikile Mbalula to be the ANC Secretary General. Some in the leadership of the ANCYL that was elected at the 24th National Conference were later suspended, and others expelled. The ANCYL was tamed.

However, the important question is about the baton.

At the ANC 50th National Conference in 1997, twenty five years ago, where President Mandela made his closing address, President Mbeki had been elected President of the ANC, with President Jacob Zuma as his Deputy. Most of the people from their generation, who were alive at the time were re-elected into the ANC National Executive Committee.

As witnessed on the weekend of the 22nd October 2022, most of the leaders from that generation continue to dominate the discourse in the ailing ANC, with speeches from all living present and past Presidents of the country that weekend. The question is, just as, in the words of President Mandela, they were “nurtured” and handed the “baton” are they confident that “there are many who have such great potential – revolutionaries suited to the new age” to whom they willing “hand over the baton.

Is Ma Lindiwe Sisulu proud of those she has nurtured to take over from her? Is Ma Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma content with the generation that has learned from her? Is Dr Zweli Mkhize at peace with letting go of the baton to those he has prepared to take from him? Is Paul Mashatile excited to witness the rise of his proteges? Is President Cyril Ramaphosa confident that the renewal he has led has inspired those he has nurtured to take it forward? Are the longest serving NEC members, President Mbeki and President Zuma ready to let the strengths of those they nurtured shine through, just as President Mandela said to them in 1997?

Is former SACP Chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, proud to witness the rise of David Masondo and Buti Manamela? Is Deputy President DD Mabuza content with the potential of Ronald Lamola to take forward his legacy? Are Ma Sisulu and Ma Dlamini-Zuma pleased with the maturity and readiness of Mmamokolo Kubayi and Vuyiswa Tuelelo?

Are all these leaders, with their illustrious contribution to the revolution, ready to handover the baton, or they would like to hoard it a bit longer? One more term, because their proteges, if any, are not ready yet, despite over 25 years of nurturing? Will those proteges ever be ready? Did they even remember to nurture the next generation, or they laboured in their indispensability? Have these icons of our struggle nurtured political activists who are ready to take the organization forward, or have they cultivated stooges and cheerleaders who are beholden to them to inherit and fight their political battles for them?

Have these leaders, who have gradually emancipated our country further away from its apartheid past, reflected, as individuals, on why is the baton difficult to let go? What is it that they fear?

The baton, in a relay that President Mandela said started 110 years ago, has been hoarded by one generation since they took it from Mandela’s generation 25 years ago. Is the hoarding of the baton a consequence of a lack of post-activism occupation or is it never-ending commitment to improve people’s lives? If it is the commitment to better lives, is leading being in the ANC NEC the only available platform to them, 30 years later?

Are these leaders, who have made themselves available for election, not worried about the quality of members that supports them? President Ramaphosa was 39 years old when he was elected Secretary General of the ANC in 1991. He subsequently ably led the negotiations as the co-chairperson of the constituent assembly. Does it not bother him that 31 years later, no member of the ANC has the potential to lead the country into negotiating an economic social compact other than himself?

Does it not bother Dr Mkhize, Dr Dlamini-Zuma and Ma Lindiwe Sisulu that none of them have a clear set of solutions that make them distinguishable from President Ramaphosa, and from each other? Are they content with getting support from ANC branches based on affinity, rather than solutions to the persisting challenges of the country? Do they even have the workable solutions to the country’s challenges, or they just want to have their turn at Presiding over the challenges? Do they also anticipate that they will be available for re-election at the ANC 56th National Conference in 2027? It is unclear why they would not be available then, if they are available now? Are these freedom fighters not worried about the “the fossilization of the leadership” that Chris Hani and his comrades warned about?

Of course the ANC leadership has no age limit. But that is not a sufficient basis for leaders to avail themselves until they are 101 years old.

Is the new generation of leaders perfect? Are David Masondo, Mmamokolo Kubayi, Buti Manamela, Febe Potgieter, Ronald Lamola, Vuyiswa Tulelo, Mdumiseni Ntuli, and others in their generations, perfect? The question is absurd. As President Mandela admitted when he handed the baton, “despite our numerous mistakes, we sought to serve the cause of freedom; if we stumbled on occasion, the bruises sustained were the mark of the lessons that we had to learn to make our humble contribution to the birth of our nation.” Another thing President Mandela highlighted in the same address is that, “More often than not, an epoch creates and nurtures the individuals which are associated with its twist and turns.

The ANC members, themselves, also need to reflect on the state of the organization as well the kind of leadership that can take the organization forward. The survival of the ANC is more important than baseless loyalties. The delegates to the 55th National Conference should heed the message from the Hani Memorandum, “The development of the Revolution has necessitated a renewal and rejuvenation of those who are leading it. We must guard against the fossilization of the leadership as this is likely to hinder the progressive development of the Revolution.

Bayanda Mzoneli is an ANC BEC member at King Nyabela Mahlangu in Greater Tshwane Region. He has been nominated for election at the upcoming National Conference. He writes in his ANC member capacity.

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