The document on organisational renewal prepared for the 2010 National General Council reads: “since its founding in 1912, the ANC has place a strong premium on the pivotal role of unity within its ranks. This unity was built on a culture of debate and discussion, and the commitment of everyone to implement decisions once they are taken. The unity of the ANC was also seen as important to the broader task of unity in action amongst the motive forces, in addition to pursuing the widest possible unity amongst those struggling for a better life.”
When President Jacob Zuma led delegates on a rendition of “Oliver Tambo lala ngoxolo” (Oliver Tambo rest in peace) in Polokwane 2007, pundits commented that the new leader was confirming that democracy and debate had prevailed and unity in the movement was cemented.
Many are not sure anymore because it would seem like both leadership of the ANC and the youth league, at some point, miscalculated the political fallout that could result from their latest public spat that involves disciplinary charges against Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu.
The incumbent leadership of both structures has failed to learn that the historically radical character of the youth league could be a double-edged sword if not handled correctly and with caution.
The manner in which both the party and the youth league reacted to their differences of opinion in the public arena has landed itself to a theater of speculations, bringing the party deeper into disrepute, while weakening the principle of unity.
Speculation is abound that at the end of the drama, Jacob Zuma would either be recalled or re-elected as party leader for the second term, while Julius Malema would either be gunning for presidency of the mother body or going straight to jail. So says the commentators and analysts across the mediascape, and it is undeniable that the rumour mill would be fed for a long time to come.
What is even more frightening is that Malema and Shivambu are dealt with as if they are factional leaders within the movement who were speaking on behalf of a faction, and not as elected leaders of an official structure which articulates the positions of a collective.
The secondary allegation that both Malema and Shivambu “sow divisions” within the party further attests to this observation. And even if such suspicions might appear to be valid, it would be shaky to take an official decision on those grounds.
A party document in 1997 reads: “The ANC has leadership collectives, instead of a single leader, at all levels of organization…The constitution sets out the powers of each of these structures and they are expected to operate as a collective…In addition, it means that all members must take responsibility to explain and ensure the implementation of decisions taken by these collectives.
I could be wrong but there seems to be no precedent of such an occurrence – where individual leaders are isolated from the collective – in the party’s 99 year old history, and the move projects the mother body leadership itself as acting in the interest of a faction that seeks to deal with another using organisational authority. At best it raises unavoidable questions about the motives behind the charges.
In Zuma and Malema the public sees two comrades who not long ago were willing to pay the highest price in the struggle for each other, but now find themselves in a difficult position as their opponents and detractors have succeeded to pit them against each other.