Material gain not ideology the great divide in the ANC for the last 22 years!
“I didn’t join the struggle to be poor” are the words accredited to Smuts Ngonyama. Those who condemn him as articulated in this statement are not truthful to themselves. This statement remains a statement of truth. To appreciate this one liner of simple words you must understand that colonialism and apartheid was about wealth and poverty, it was about land and no land. It was about control and no control. It was about human beings and sub-humans. It was about privilege and those not privileged
Like Ngonyama, I didn’t join the struggle as 17-year-old boy in a home where apartheid police constantly harassed my dad, to be poor. I didn’t sacrifice my school career, and went on the run after I was expelled for activism as vice-SRC president of the school Woodlands High in Mitchells Plain where I was a matriculant in the mid – 80’s, to be poor. I didn’t join the struggle to see how others who were with me and after me benefit materially whilst some of us still wait for economic emancipation. If I may add we didn’t struggle to have our people 22 years later still using a bucket toilet system and live in shanties for homes far from places of employment opportunities.
We have seen a wave of unrest, protests, violence and even deaths as all accredited to what is called ANC nomination lists for the 2016 Municipal elections.
It is not the first time that nominations and lists fuels a divide and manifests in sordid activities of violence and mayhem.
Yet hardly 6 weeks before the actual elections event the intensity of the unrest and protest visits with more frequency with a deeper sense of violence and less regard for life.
This naturally brings the question – but why?
The ANC prides itself on being very democratic in listing and nominations processes exemplified in all its relevant structures from branch, region, province to national for being a part in giving content to this confirmed claim of a democratic election process. Let me hasten to add it is very plausible that the ANC remains very democratic in its nomination and electioneering processes, yet despite this confirmed democratic practice the problem of nominations and lists persists.
It appears we therefore won’t find the answer in question of the democratic process. Perhaps it lays somewhere else. The nomination and lists processes has come to and end as I pen this note with ANC confirming its new nominee Thoko Didiza for the Tshwane metro. Yet despite the process having reached its administrative and consulted end it has catapulted into a crisis where violence and the destruction of property through arson rages tonight in the townships of Tshwane.
There are those who in armchair convenience call these the works of thugs, this argument regardless to how sardonic proves challenging because these are ANC members rallying around a nominee. Blaming third forces regardless how romantic and easy will not help us deal with the issue at hand.
There was a time when the ANC members were divided in engaging along ideological lines. When ANC members engaged it was from convicted positions informed by defendable argued ideology be such rhetoric or real.
We can safely contend the current crisis in the ANC when it comes to elections and lists has little if anything to do with opposing ideology but it’s directly linked and borne from access to material benefit perceived or real.
Perhaps it’s time the ANC becomes real with itself on the issue of what it means to be on the list of this movement who has made multi- millionaires of its leaders since Mandela. It can thus be categorically argued being on an ANC list directly translates to the potential of economic access and material gain. This reality cannot be denied. The ANC it seems is in denial as to this reality because conceding to this established reality might sacrifice its history in values imminent of selflessness. What is indisputable is that ANC leaders become wealthy, thus being on a list is a dividing line in being empowered or not.
The ANC in its values prides itself in being against a form of careerism and its twin crass materialism. Yet the reality is that an aspiring to political power becomes the bedrock for a career and access to economic empowerment.
An attempt in dissecting the history of material gain compels us to look at the ANC before political power. The ANC before political power lived from handouts and the choice benevolence of individuals sometimes groups of those who identified with its fight for freedom from apartheid. Thus the ANC benefitted from the benevolence of what I coined ages ago “white privilege and Indian cuisine”. Whether it was a small business Indian family business guy or a rich Jewish Family business, an Afrikaner or an English who shared some of their colonial and apartheid made wealth.
These were considered cadres because they shared the pain and agony of what it was to be ‘black’ in a white mans world, though they never lost their whiteness. There is enough evidence of how the ANC and its leaders benefitted from the benevolence of ‘white’ privilege. When ANC leaders came out of prison they were hosted by white privilege, they slept in the homes of white privilege and were driven around in vehicles and flown around from the benevolence of white privilege. It appears hanging around white privilege will make you fall pregnant with it; its manifestation material gain is the seed that was left in the ANC after its affair with white privilege.
I contend that material gain crept into the ANC in pregnancy before 1994. Material gain the proverbial infant in the Mandela era became the adolescent under Mbeki and now is a full grown man with it’s own voice under Zuma. The difference is under Mandela the moment of reconciliation blinded us to the reality of material gain that was among us in infancy already.
Under Mbeki with his correct two-nations in one country analysis we were introduced to policy frameworks and footprints to ensure the transfer of material gain to those who never shared in such as denied by racial classification. South Africa proved it appears more tolerant if not oblivious to the Mandela era infant that was now growing into adolescence.
BEE in its first pajamas draft, and praxis though it was claimed back then was for the masses, we know today was never for the masses but for a few who shared close proximity to political power.
Being associated with political power directly translated to economic empowerment. So a few names kept popping up, the same faces at all the deals, the same families their spouses, cousins friends and ultimately their children. Aided by the white privilege group who lost political power the carefully selected families of the new small politically connected blacks were quickly roped into board memberships, shareholding offered by white privilege companies to ensure the latter had access to a purported changing political and economic landscape at least as was to be anticipated by the BEE policy frameworks that had as was claimed a sense of punitive action against uncontaminated white privilege.
In 2016 we have ANC members, veterans even stalwarts who condemn the grown man duly named Material Gain as selective moralists. They disown their direct and indirect role in this material gain. They pontificate to the youth how these must not gain wealth through political association. Even more caustically troublesome is the fact that those who condemn today have already gained materially and gained by way of political proximity. It becomes difficult to take these empowered ones serious because they don’t talk how they benefitted materially!
Perhaps it’s time the ANC admits it has made all its leaders at national, provincial and municipal wealthy in economic sense. It must perhaps admit it set a precedent for what it means to be on an ANC list. It would appear the municipal elections list has become for some the last bus to their economic freedom and since they feel they have lost out on the 22 years of gravy trains since Mandela, this is the last stop.
The ANC clearly didn’t foresee that material gain would tear at its soul attempting to shred it to pieces. We are dealing with a grown man called ” Material Gain”.
What is undeniable is that we are at a precarious place in both ANC and SA context. A blind ANC spells a blind SA.
How does the ANC fix this situation? It does not fix it by condemning others who are like them ANC members. It does no fix it by being arrogant out of a place of economic comfort. It certainly does not fix it in accusations. It must admit the road we have travelled till this hour; it must accept full responsibility for its decisions to have affairs with white privilege that impregnated ANC leaders who were engaging on ideology to ANC leaders who have become multi- millionaires. It must seek to find a way in listening instead of wanting to tell. It must refuse to be suffering of selective amnesia and admit economic freedom for the masses is a compromised reality when ANC leaders are empowered and has become a buffer zone for capital.
If you ask me, I agree with Smuts Ngonyama, I too have not struggled to be poor. Who in his right mind would not want to be on that list yes I too want to be on that list if the list is my meal ticket to material gain and ultimately economic freedom.
You see I too was in 1995 on the ANC list, to serve as counselor for Ward 33 in the City of Joburg in the first democratic Municipal Elections.
The issue became demarcation in which the cadre from Motsoeledi and myself were called for interviews. In that interview which was chaired by Cadre Khabs Sonkutu, he said to me in the presence of the Motsoaledi Branch candidate, comrade you are the better candidate in many aspects but we not sure if we can win Naturena which at the time was predominantly white. He then said to me it is your call, I accepted that Cllr. Stefaans from Motsoeledi became the candidate and I gave him my full and unreserved support until I determine to answer my call to the clergy office, as he himself will confirm. Our Naturena branch was not happy with the decision but we placed the greater good of the organization before material gain.
I however in hindsight have often been asked whether I did not shoot myself in the foot with that decision. I must admit from the heart I will say no but from my mind I think I did deny myself to be apart of my generation who today are wealthy.
I didn’t struggle to see the liberation aristocracy benefit alone. Until I share in that I cannot agree with ANC leaders who want to be the adjudicators of those who engage in unrest and fight to be on a list, from the comfort of their attained material gain.
What divide us today ANC Leaders, members and supporters is not ideology but material gain. We can theorize till the next century, we are divided in material gain and political proximity determines where one ends.
Clyde N. Ramalaine
Former ANC Branch Leader and ANC voter.