Mosiuoa Lekota, the former ANC chairperson who recently resigned from the cabinet, sent an open letter to the ANC yesterday, lambasting the movement for forsaking the values of the Freedom Charter. Jeff Radebe responded on behalf of the ANC — rather viciously.
This public spat could signal the birth of the much anticipated breakaway party. The greatest indication of this is Lekota’s words: “This state of affairs leaves me and many other comrades, no doubt, with a clear sense that our membership to the organisation is an endorsement of practices that are dangerous to the democracy that many people in our country struggled to bring into being.”
Far from wanting to extend an olive branch, Radebe replies to this with, “you and those who share your views are giving notice to leave the ANC.”
It is wonderful that this debate is out in the open, instead of behind closed doors. It is perhaps the most empathic sign of vibrant democracy there has been for some time.
The letters are published below:
Open letter to ANC Secretary General Comrade Gwede Mantashe
Dear Comrade Secretary General
I have decided to take the unusual step to write you an open letter because the unusual situation that has now arisen in the ANC and the tripartite alliance requires extraordinary steps.
I write to place on record the concerns I see as gnawing away at the ANC, with the hope that the leadership might wake up to the dangers our movement faces.
When I joined the ANC, I was attracted by its policies, political culture, values, history and its commitment to the interests of our people – black and white. I am still as fervently committed to this cause as when I first joined the organisation.
However, for some time now, I have lived with the growing sense that our leadership has veered the organisation away from the established policy priorities and customary democratic norms of the ANC.
(i) For instance, those who express views that are contrary to popular opinion in meetings and conferences of the organisation are later hounded out and purged from organisation and state structures. This is contrary to the ANC’s democratic culture.
(ii) Sectoral and individual interests other than those flowing from the people’s interests expressed in the Freedom Charter are elevated to levels of national priority. Thus we are expected to show up at criminal court cases or carry shoulder high individuals convicted of crimes unrelated to the demands in the Freedom Charter.
(iii) Instead of instilling respect for institutions of democracy, our leaders issue threats that if judicial proceedings do not result in outcomes they prefer, the country will be brought to a standstill.
(iv) Lately, the leadership has taken a direct and unadulterated departure from the Freedom Charter by calling for a political solution in the matter of the National Directorate of Public Prosecutions vs the President of the ANC. What happened to “There shall be equality before the law?”. Or are we now to have political solutions to every citizen’s criminal case?
(v) Blatant threats to kill for certain individuals if desires other than their own are not satisfied are made with impunity. When democracy-supporting institutions intervene to stop such delinquent behaviour, more of our leaders come out in loud support for threats to kill.
The lists of these excesses and the arrogance that accompanies them grows by the day. What resistance is put up by some in the ranks of members and leaders is harshly suppressed into tame acquiescence.
This state of affairs leaves me and many other comrades, no doubt, with a clear sense that our membership to the organisation is an endorsement of practices that are dangerous to the democracy that many people in our country struggled to bring into being.
I appeal to you to reply to my concerns in an open and frank manner so that everyone can be assured that the deduction that I and many other comrades have made, that the organisation is no longer pursuing the original policies of the ANC, is correct.
Open Letter to comrade Terror Lekota
I have been mandated by the Secretary General on behalf of the National Executive Committee of the ANC to respond to your open letter to us.
First and foremost it is great sadness that, those entrusted with the leadership of our Movement and country should find it normal to communicate with their organisation through the media. This is even more strange coming from one who is the former Chairperson and, therefore, well averse with policies and traditions of our movement.
The answer to the apparent puzzle seems to be contained in the second but last paragraph of your letter. For purposes of clarity I wish to quote. ‘
This state of affairs leaves me and many other comrades, no doubt, with a clear sense that our membership to the organisation is an endorsement of practices that are dangerous to the democracy that many people in our country struggled to bring into being.’
Put bluntly, you and those who share your views are giving notice to leave the ANC. For the record, the ANC is a voluntary association of individuals who believe in it, and who a free to leave as and when they cease to do so. History is full of examples of such individuals. In the majority of cases, these were leaders who had grown too big for the ANC. These people could no longer subject themselves to the discipline of the organisation. As such they either had to leave voluntarily or be expelled. We hope we have not reached that stage in your case.
I now wish to respond to some of the allegations in your letter. May I take this opportunity to remind you of the many comrades you refused permission to speak in the NEC, abusing your position as chair, simply because you disagreed with them. In so far as conducting meetings, the NEC, was reduced
to an animal farm, where those who shared your views had a field day whilst the rest banished to the twilight. The unlucky ones were subject to your verbal assaults, privately and publicly.
Again, in case you have forgotten. You presided over a disrespectful discourse, which insulted comrade Nelson Mandela in the NEC you were chairing. In this regard, we challenge you to deny the fact that you did so. Your individual and sectoral interests prevailed upon you to officiate over such unwarranted attack upon an old man who thought of you as his own son. As a brotherly advice we suggest you visit Madiba and apologise.
Your behaviour and public utterances prior to the Polokwane conference were, to say the least, un-ANC.
Judge Nicholson found in the case of the State vs. J Zuma, that the Executive violated the constitutional rights of the ANC President. We hope that all of us will respect all institutions that serve our country without fear or favour.
To you and all your cronies, we at the ANC say that what you are trying to demonstrate to the country is nothing, but the last kicks of a dying horse.
Remember that the ANC as an institution will stay forever while individuals like yourselves will go.
I wish to assure members of the ANC and the country at large that the ANC has not deviated from policies it has adopted at various conferences some of which you presided over as our National Chairperson. We are looking forward to engagement within our structures in line with the traditions of the ANC.
By Jeff Radebe
NEC Member and ANC Head of Policy