Perhaps the issue of the stages of membership should be considered, linked to long term induction and political education of members – not just passage of time. When this is done, serious care will have to be taken to prevent gate keeping. The digitalisation of membership should be a straightforward and an urgent initiative. One of the areas to look at is whether there should not be different categories of members.
2019 marks 50 years since the watershed Morogoro Consultative Conference. A gathering that was not a full conference, held in conditions of illegality and intense differences on perspectives. And even shortly after a mutiny.
It was immensely optimistic, intensely forward thinking and life-changing.
Half a century later, considering the intensity and complexity of issues that have come to light in South Africa, is the right time to accelerate a search for renewal and re-building. Morogoro took place in a context of intense and dramatic challenges facing the organization and global changes that impacted the country and the organisation. The responses that emerged from the collective wisdom of leaders, members and allies in those complex objective circumstances resulted in an organisation that was “new again.” In one word – renewed – mostly.
The Importance of Ubuntu
For renewal to result in the turning of a new page, I believe it must draw on the African value system of Ubuntu. A lot of sources of our country and world’s political systems were based on the premise of conflict over resources or outlooks. And behaved as if the solution is just about who will get victory over whom.
Ubuntu moves from a premise that we are all our neighbour’s keepers – we are because the next person is. That our collective survival and prosperity is measured by how much we enable the same for the next person. This would mean a new view of what victory means. A new view of what success means – of what are the strategies and tactics that must be activated to achieve such a situation.
Such an effort would require an Ubuntu oriented leadership. While theorists must define in more detail what this should be. It definitely includes:
- Leaders who look out for their people before themselves
- Leaders who do not harvest where they did not plant
- Leaders who are as concerned with the next election as with the next generations
- Leaders who have a sense of shame, of honour of compassion
- Leaders who have a sense of service, humility and empathy (uvelwano)
- Leaders who put people’s interests before deal-making
- Leaders who are proud of their African heritage and committed to an inclusive future that has redress and equity
The importance of 4IR
Also, this renewal will need to take into account that the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is not a festival of equals. It’s a continuation of the unbalanced global binge, where Africa and Africa’s resources were on the menu. What do we then do to be more competitive, to be more human, to be more empathetic, to be more kind, to be more helpful? The equations, artificial intelligence and machinery do not know the language of humane-ness, of kindness.
Therefore, the renewal process must engage vigilantly with the 4IR. The direction of engagement must be favourable to Africa and aligned to its realities. It must be committed to a truly humane Africa and world. 4IR is not only about machinery and thinking. It is also about how society will continue to feel and be more caring.
The present and the future we are building demands superlative skills. Slates may have been of use to get into lists and into deployments. However, 4IR and the future that we are building does not allow for under-skilled cadres and leaders – whether political, administrative or technical. If slates continue, they will have to draw on the best skills – people’s skills, technical skills, administrative skills and ideological skills.
One of the major discussions of any renewal agenda, is the character of the state. At the time of the Morogoro discussion, the global discussion about the state was:
- Socialist vs Capitalist State
- Colonised or Coloniser
- The centre vs the periphery
- The Native Republic Thesis
Morogoro articulated the notion of a National Democratic State to the South African context. It found that none of the state systems that existed elsewhere would be transplanted. Instead aspects would be adapted to a new type of state that is aligned to the vision of a united, non-racial, and non-sexist democracy.
Imperatives put across as the character of the national democratic struggle are even more relevant as they were before. They also ask about the kind of state needed to deal with an increasingly globalised world with an increasingly complex global economy. A world with a complex relationship between state owned enterprises, private business and the state.
Sins of Incumbency
The other issue of renewal is preventing and curing many diseases that affect liberation movements, especially after assuming power. Joel Netshitenzhe refers to this as the “sins of incumbency”. Ndebele and Nieftagordien quote Joe Slovo’s observation that the organisation in the 1960s was suffering from this disease of exile.
Backward political postures (including tribalism) and alien ideas had come into the life of the party because of the absence of organized contacts. Behaviours in conflict with behaviour that the party has always insisted on and expected to uphold.
This could easily be a description of the ANC when, 50 years ago, calls for renewal came loud from different quarters. I can safely say the disease taking over the ANC is, what a number of leading thinkers have been calling the sins of incumbency.
This demands that something be done to renew and re-orient the organisation if it is to sustain its historic mission. They go on to say:
“a number of critical issues arose within the ANC and between the Congress movement allies. Matters that dominated the Morogoro conference had been festering within the ANC since it was banned: integration of diverse ethnic groups into the organisation; coordination of the political and military elements of the struggle; and building a new leadership echelon, not only to replace those who had been imprisoned, but also to deal with the internationalization of the struggle.”
The disease of government-ness/incumbency offers a serious test of how power affects a person’s and group’s access to power. Especially considering the kinds of people it attracted when there was not a proper vetting measures
Perhaps the issue of the stages of membership should be considered, linked to long term induction and political education of members – not just passage of time. When this is done, serious care will have to be taken to prevent gate keeping. The digitalisation of membership should be a straightforward and an urgent initiative. One of the areas to look at is whether there should not be different categories of members (i.e. supporters and active members).
Today festering issues may have grown since unbanning and escalated with ANC move into government as ruling party. It may mean building a new leadership echelon and not just replace those who had gone to government or were aging.
One of the important outcomes of the Morogoro Conference was the systematic rebuilding of the organisational political machinery. There is no doubt that the present period demands rebuilding the organizational political machinery. It’s not just about getting more people to join branches, but also to ensure these are functional and that majority of members are ideologically grounded and oriented.
Even though there’s easily available technology to massify ideological awareness and deepen analysis, poverty of ideology is multiplied in the current period. The rich and diverse heritage of solidarity, struggle, analysis and ideologically informed action is not available to the organisation as it should be.
50 years after Morogoro, the areas of renewal that we can benefit from include:
- Building political consciousness – nationally and ideological consciousness for members and cadres;
- Building and capacitating the organisation and its units
- Greater Integration / Better definition of political work, administrative work and government work
- Remembering that politics leads
- Faithful to non-racialism, faithful to anti-tribalism, to gender situation.
- More effective structures and institutional arrangements
- A pipeline of cadreship development, including a functional pioneers and youth structures;
- Addressing of ethical lapses, corruption, theft, abuse of power
- Strong alliance partners are in the interest of the ANC and its mission
- As a country we now face a drastically changed world political economy, in a similar way that when Morogoro took place, two major powers were at logger-heads, even now two powers are at loggerheads;
- More and more discussions are happening about issues like:
- what should be the role of the state
- how the state should work
- what should be the character of the state
- what philosophy should underpin it
- what should be the role of the party in a multi-party democracy
- what should be the role of civil society, trade union movement and business
- What is character of the movement
- Dealing with globalisation
- Dealing with the economic challenge
- Relating to society, social structures
- The future of the family and community
- How people can become more safe and less afraid of crime
- The character of the state is changing and expectations on the state are changing. There are contesting views of how much role should the state play in present and future circumstances;
- The character of the ANC, as not only one of the parties that contest elections, but also as a leading agent for change in society – places demands on it to be in tune with and ahead of the times.
- The duty to build non-racialism, such that all communities and individuals want to and feel they belong to the ANC and to the country,
- One of the intense discussions in the run-up to the Morogoro Conference was the warm and intense keen-ness to join and participate under the banner of the ANC – what needs to be done to restore the ANC to that level of popularity among the leading thinkers and activities of all neighbourhoods, language groups and professional sectors?
We owe it to Morogoro 50 years later, to renew our organisation and renew our society. We owe it to future generations to use the lessons of Morogoro in building the present and the future that they deserve. To create an accountable organisation, an agile organisation, a strategic forward looking organization.
Let us build the future that is deserved by future generations. The next 25 years must see a different life for our people and our movement.