In the build up to the furore over Pravin Gordhan, the African National Congress (ANC) delivered a slap in the face to scores of its biggest names who endured prison and faced death to put the party into power. It spoke of a yawning gap between the principled roots of the party and its current remote and embattled leadership.
Sixty five ANC stalwarts wrote a letter to the General Secretary of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe, addressed to President Jacob Zuma and the top five in the leadership, castigating the ruling party and calling for change in way it runs.
The letter, in the possession of FORBES AFRICA, was signed by scores of the biggest names in African liberation politics, including three survivors of the so-called Rivonia Trial in 1964 who faced death with Nelson Mandela in 1964. Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg and Andrew Mlangeni were all found guilty, with Mandela, of sabotage and spent a lifetime in prison.
Other signatories to the letter: former Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus; former Director General of the Presidency of South Africa Frank Chikane; former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel; former Trade and Industry Minister Alec Erwin; former Speaker of the National Assembly Frene Ginwala; and former ambassador to London Cheryl Carolus.
“We have observed the ill-begotten wealth among some of our leaders at all levels and the resulting ruinous effects on the organization’s moral and political fabric and on society as a whole,” says the letter.
“We have watched as the leadership of the ANC became mired in a cycle of in-fighting occasioned not by any ideological or political difference but personal interest. We believe that many of the factors outlined have contributed significantly to the political assassinations to which we are sadly becoming accustomed.”
The letter calls upon the president and the leadership to acknowledge its shortcomings, including failing to act against corruption, nepotism and factionalism.
In reply, on October 3, came a standard letter that astonished many party stalwarts.
The letter, signed by Mantashe, asked why the concerns were not coming through the structures of the ANC. It included the following questions of people who had been loyal members of the movement for more than 50 years.
Which branch of the ANC are you currently a member of?
What has caused you to mobilize a group of 65 comrades outside of the structures of the ANC?
Please advise us of who, if anyone, has paid for the costs of the mobilization of your group?
Please provide a brief summary of your understanding of the objectives of the group?
Many of the ANC veterans on the list were flabbergasted at being brushed off in such a manner and vowed to take the matter further; yet another rift likely to cause conflict and ructions in Africa’s oldest liberation movement.