The Road to Mangaung, exemplified in Presidential race has another dimension if the office of Secretary General comes into contention.
I have exhausted the presidential debate with my unsolicited individual commentary of the four claimed contenders (Sexwale, Phosa, Motlanthe, and Zuma).
It is time to move on and take the position of Secretary General under the spotlight, that we may conclude the personality (individuals) issue and move on to discuss the real issues of policies to be reviewed and discussed at Mangaung.
I hold that we all spent too much time focussing on personalities instead of the much-needed engagement of the proposed policies.
Let me then conclude by focussing on the position of secretary general, which second to that of president is the much made of discourse of change if you listen to some.
The incumbent Gwede Mantashe former Chairperson of the SACP is occupying perhaps the de-facto CEO of the ANC position, arguably the most powerful individual in organisational context.
The debate around the office of the SG similar to the Presidency change debate engineered by ANCYL or should we says some of the ANCYL who have chosen to divide the ANC into factions for their own benefit.
The youth league has been brave enough to suggest they want the SG replaced, and substituted with one of their own, former ANCYL leader, Fikile Mbalula, whom they claim should step up and fill this position. Citing the history of such generational mix leadership firstly evident in the election of the late icon Walter Sisulu, who occupied this position at the tender age of 37 as the premise for such demand?
It is therefore perhaps time to assess Mantashe as Secretary General and the term he served.
Mantashe the former mine worker born in rural Eastern Cape Lower Cala in Transkei to be precise at some point in time worked in the Northern Cape mines has come a long way. This unionist, whose contribution in organised labour is very recorded and decorated is since 2007 occupying the seat of Secretary General of the ANC.
He brings together the combination of the workers interest, the plight of the poor yet he understands the macro realities informing our political economy and has an epistemology that deserves admiration to say the least.
1. Very few people may want to know but Mantashe holds a Master’s degree of postgraduate qualification from Wits University, besides his B. Comm (Hons) from UNISA obtained in 2002. This in a country that is obsessed with political leadership exemplified in degrees of decoration, as a sign of true capacity to lead. This should silence all those who argue the current leadership bereft of intellectual capacity.
2. Mantashe known for his frankness of opinion proves at times controversial for the media to contain, for he airs the prism of his mind even on thorny issues. This has set him apart from many. Yet anyone that leads an organisation like the ANC and have to contend with a plethora of issues from within and equally from oppositional disposition must prove frank, for ambiguity can be a sign of weak leadership.
3. Mantashe, in his term had to deal with the expectations of the assortment of the wounded who came together for a variety of reasons and agendas and he quickly placed the interest of the ANC above that of the individual ambitions of many who thought Polokwane meant an opportunity to also move closer to the trough.
4. Mantashe managed in a very difficult season of his term to prove his leadership in instituting disciplinary procedures. There will be those who will attempt to give it a spin of factionalism, which remains an opaque claim, but no one, can argue there is a better sense of organizational discipline as we speak in the ANC in November 2012 than a year ago. He too this day defends the decision to institute disciplinary action against the former ANCYL leader Julius Malema, this whilst his colleague and deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe is on record for believing the opposite.
5. Mantashe, shares the glory of an expanded ANC in membership sense. If and since the ANC has grown in leaps and bounds and exceeds the 1million target set for itself Mantashe can rightfully claim that in comparison to his predecessor current Deputy President Motlanthe he has led the process of growing the ANC.
6. Mantashe goes to Mangaung having left his claimed youth league nominee Min. Fikile Mbalula in the dust. Mbalula who now practically rejected by the vocal and manoeuvring Gauteng ANC Leadership seems to playing Russian roulette with his own political future. The latest slates reveal that Gauteng has had many mind shifts for they started with Mbalula then groped for a Joel Netshitenze now they have Mantashe as their preferred candidate for SG at Mangaung. This speaks volumes for he has entrenched himself in uniqueness as one who simply cannot be replaced at whim predicated on the contribution he has made.
7. Mantashe’ is at times accused of a sense of reactionary behaviour manifested for some inconsiderate lending him as an authoritarian, yet whilst that in my assessment possibly may be a characteristic trademark of the person (let us not forget he at one stage would have been like so many others a candidate to be priest of vocation).
The truth is the position of SG is one where many fights and wars rage against the movement its leaders, policies, and it warrants a SG to be vocal and at time authoritative if, leadership is required.
8. Mantashe’s term as secretary general has seen no claimed business shenanigans performed or engaged by his office, at least as reported. He therefore has respected the office of the Secretary General by not making it a wheel-deal office with personal benefit as the core.
We know that for example the Treasurer General is a businessperson and conducts business whilst serving in his position of Treasurer General (I am not saying he is conducting business from his TG office). One is not sure if the ANC will develop a clear policy for its officials being involved directly in business at a later stage, but currently its remains open-ended. That is a topic for another day.
9. The credit for a successful Policy conference in preparation of Mangaung is another shared feather in the cap of Mantashe’s leadership as Secretary General. This though the policy development process resorts under the chairperson of the policy subcommittee, Jeff Radebe, in a collective sense ultimately Mantashe similar to the President can claim a role in the success of such.
Despite the wild claims of how divided the ANC purports to be policy conferences often is a true indication of where the organisation finds itself.
The last policy conference of July, vocal as it always is delivered critical policy considerations for the ANC to discuss and conclude on at Mangaung. The managing of this process is therefore another reason why the current SG will stay in power.
10. Under Mantashe’s leadership as SG, the ANC is listening to opinion makers, intellectuals, and people who shape discourse in the SA political canvas. The current intervention led by Thami-Ka Plaatje to make the ANC more accessible to the intellectuals is a commendable effort, which again shows foresight on the part of Mantashe as a proactive leader willing to learn from those who may not agree with the ANC. (As one who participated in the last session at the Soweto – University Johannesburg Campus, it proved a cross-breed of diverse views and ideologies gathering to engage the policy platforms for a Mangaung reality)
11. Under Mantashe, the ANC continues its agreed reach out programme to the “minorities” by engaging a multiplicity of groups of various definitions. We have seen concerted efforts to engage the Afrikaner communities, we have seen engagements with the Khoi-San leaderships, we have seen engagements with groups of people of right or wrongly Coloured definitions. This confirms the ANC in its DNA a sensitive organization and under the SG leadership of Mantashe, this principle lives.
12. The Mantashe SG leadership saw a fierce defence of the president for some myopically interpreted as a defence of Jacob Zuma the person, yet those who advance the latter fails to accept that an attack on the presidency constitutes a de facto attack on the ANC and such must be challenged regardless who the president may be. So rightly Mantashe led the campaign against the much made of Brett Murray claimed art. Equally so, Mantashe defended the sitting democratically elected ANC leadership when Malema and others proved disrespectful.
13. Mantashe feared not to reprimand the Treasurer General Matthews Phosa on his divisive tendencies, exposing chasms of divides.
14. He rightly challenged the Top 6 and 80 plus members of the ANC to respect the principle of Collective leadership and to accept the successes and failures of this current ANC leadership as their own and quit blaming one person conveniently in selective amnesia sense.
16. Mantashe as SG proved frank on the subject of a claimed BEE entitlement subculture that has shaped the canvas of black empowerment in a wrongful sense. He did this to the annoyance of some involved as black business when he honestly ask the question as to why building a school costs 4/5 more if a black company builds it then a white company.
This in my assessment starts an honest discourse as to how BEE is enslaving many to entitlement and an abuse of state resources.
17. Mantashe realising and possibly advised saw the need to step down from the position of SACP chairperson to focus whole-heartedly on the ANC work; this was a brave but commendable move because he was not doing justice to the SACP office since the office of SG proves very demanding. Maybe he like all has his own rightful ambitions, and has made that move conscious of such.
18. Mantashe has consistently maintained the ANC as one ANC and not factions of groups constituting the ANC in division. Yet he was honest in conceding that factionalism is gnawing at the ANC, with self-interest as the fuel for such.
19. The Secretary General’s report which really is a progress report of the implementation of the adopted last conference policies would attest that the Polokwane resolutions a type of KPA for the office of the SG in implementation remains on track and there has been no serious deviation.
20. Five weeks before the claimed Mangaung of Revenge ( which I have long said nothing will come of), there is no conclusive evidence to suggest Mantashe will not serve his second term. His youth nominee simply is no challenger and Mbalula finds himself in the hell-hole of questioning, betrayal, rejection and serious potential of being off loaded from his cabinet post by January 2013.
Therefore, the SG will be retained without any challenge! The truth and not emotion would confirm there was never a contest for this office.
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Courtesy ‘Road to Mangaung – Pretenders to the Throne’
December 8, 2012