NewsSouthern AfricaGwede Mantashe:
 The ANC will be the leading force for the next 100 years


Posted on Monday, 17 September 2012 15:23

Gwede Mantashe:
 The ANC will be the leading force for the next 100 years

GWEDE MANTASHE ANC SECRETARY GENERAL/PHOTO©STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFPAt the helm of South Africa's ruling party, the former trade unionist 
is in a unique position to influence the ANC elections in December 
which will ultimately determine the country's president.

In 2002 Gwede Mantashe failed to make it onto the ANC's powerful National Executive Committee in Stellenbosch, where Thabo Mbeki was re-elected as party president. But this did not deter the secretary ­general of the country's largest trade union movement, the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM). He was set for greater things and was to rise to a much higher position in the party five years later.

Back in 2002, however, Mantashe went back to his roots and stayed with the NUM until 2006. A year later, he would be a key architect in the plan that led to the demise of Mbeki. Mantashe was part of Team Zuma and instrumental in the campaign that ensured Jacob Zuma's victory at the ANC's Polokwane conference. Mantashe was elected as ANC secretary general. In 2008, it was Mantashe who announced to the world that the President of the Republic of South Africa had been "recalled" by the ANC.

As party secretary, Mantashe is a force to be reckoned with. He runs the day-to-day operations and activities at Luthuli House (ANC headquarters) and is effectively in charge of Africa's oldest liberation movement. "I am not the CEO, I am the secretary general of the ANC," he told The Africa Report. But there is no denying that Mantashe is one of the strongest leaders in the party's top six and has become its public face. "Mantashe is the driving force. He takes the political decisions and drives the political agenda of the party. He is very, very powerful. In some cases he doesn't even have to consult anyone," a senior ANC official told The Africa Report.

I am not the CEO, I am the secretary general of the ANC

If Jacob Zuma wants to ensure re-election at Mangaung in December, Mantashe is the key person in that battle. The history of the ANC has shown that having the secretary general on your side is essential. He is the official who decides whether you are a member in "good standing" and chooses which members ultimately attend the elective conference. It is difficult, however, to assess whether Mantashe is as ambitious as his predecessor (now-deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe), despite rumours that different factions are courting him and offering him the prized deputy president position. Mantashe insists that until nominations open in October, any names being mentioned should be seen as part of the consultation process. 

Mantashe has juggled several posts in the past few years, serving on the powerful central executive committee of The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and as chair of the South African Communist Party (SACP), from which he recently stepped down. With the decks cleared and more time at his disposal, Mantashe seems to have the appetite for a second term at the helm of the ANC. As part of the "old guard" of the party and a committed comrade, Zuma is all too aware of Mantashe's power. He is likely to keep him close, favouring both Mantashe's re-election and his own. 

The Africa Report: Some have hailed the ANC's recent policy conference as a success; others have called it a talk shop. You described it as a "festival of ideas".

Gwede Mantashe: One thing you must remember, the ANC is 100 years old and it is an organisation that has gone through thick and thin. The system of soliciting ideas is a tested system. When people write about it they are confused. They think when we draft documents we send them out three weeks before conference. They think it's symbolic. It's not. Branches sit down, they meet in provinces and they bring their views to policy conferences – and it becomes a festival of ideas.

Analysts say they are still not clear what the party's position is on nationalisation. What has the policy conference decided?

There is clarity. In the resolution we used the term 'strategic nationalisation' and said we rejected wholescale nationalisation. That means we qualify strategic nationalisation based on the balance of evidence. We can't have 'one-size-fits all' in policy; we will review each case on merit and take a decision. The commitment is that the state takes an active interest in economic transformation.

And land reform?

We looked at various land tenures. One of most important decisions is that government land must not be sold but should be leased. Foreign owners can lease land in the long term on conditions. We are setting up the institution of the Evaluator General. Market forces cannot drive transformation, this is clear. 

What happens now?

The festival of ideas continues. In Dec­ember we put it to the national conference and, if adopted, it becomes policy. 

Reports are time and again surfacing of how money is becoming the tool to gain power and a powerful post in the ANC. What is the party doing about this?

It's nothing new; it's a challenge that faces any liberation movement when it takes power. You have cadres committed to the movement [who] get freedom and then they are in government, and you unleash them to be in charge of resources. What happens is that greed creeps in and you have to deal with a problem called corruption. You find it everywhere. 
Being elected into a powerful position in the ANC goes with the power of dispensing patronage and even allocating tenders and that gives you immeasurable power. Cadres of the movement tend to abuse that space and we accept that and say let's talk about it and do something about it. The fact that we are talking about it is the beginning of wisdom. When you go through the numbers you find out that it is a minority in the movement, but it is so glaring that it appears to be everything and people can talk of a corrupt ANC. 
If you go into who people are, it is a very small number of people involved in corrupt activity. Corruption in itself is a cancer; it starts very small and destroys the body. We are talking about it and must be hard on it; we must put our foot down and anybody pointed out as corrupt must follow the proper process. 

Discipline and infighting have become all too familiar in the party, what is being done to deal with this?

The protest we see is also about infighting within structures of our own movement where one group wants to overthrow another and take leadership. The desire to take power and control becomes the dominant feature of contestation and it translates as people mobilising people against leaders. Many people, like in Heidelberg [Gauteng], who were responsible for burning the houses of councillors, were ...


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