African National Congress (ANC) National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe has poured cold water on a call for the party to hold a consultative conference to specifically discuss its renewal agenda.
The call was revived by former ANC and South African President Thabo Mbeki during the funeral service for the late ANC veteran Andrew Mlangeni earlier this week.
“Calls have been made, for instance, for the ANC to constitute a consultative conference specifically to look at this matter of renewal. We need that so it can discharge its responsibility to the people, the nation and the continent, and allow the old man Andrew Mlangeni to rest in peace,” Mbeki said.
However, speaking on Thursday during a virtual centenary celebration of another ANC veteran, the late Harry Gwala, Mantashe said a consultative conference could lead to further divisions in the ANC.
He added that ANC conferences in exile were designated as “consultative” because the party “had no access to its membership base.” He cited the consultative conferences held in Lobatse in Botswana, Morogoro in Tanzania and Kabwe in Zambia.
“We must listen to those who propose it – why do you want a consultative conference? And I ask two questions – who should be consulted, and consulted by whom? Because it you don’t answer those questions, we can convene a meeting and further weaken and divide the ANC,” Mantashe said.
Attempts to hold an ANC consultative conference failed in 2017 as the party prepared for its 54th national conference held in NASREC, Johannesburg. However, ANC stalwarts held a consultative conference in November 2017 which, among other resolutions, called on former President Jacob Zuma to resign.
Quantity vs quality
Mantashe also waded into the debate on whether or not the ANC should focus on the quality of its membership instead of quantity. Some have proposed that the party should ask all its members to reapply for membership as a way of weeding out “bad elements.”
ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) member Joel Netshitenzhe made the proposal recently in an article published in the party’s Umrabulo Journal. The article is titled Impact of Balance of Forces on the Cause of Social Transformation.“
“As we introduce the new digital membership system, we may want to ask every ANC member to reapply for membership. Our vetting mechanism should include a police clearance certificate for every member,” he wrote.
However, Mantashe argued that simply discarding quantity is a “lazy” approach to renewal. “Everybody started at that level, but somebody took a resolution to throw punches on that quantity to convert it into quality, something we are very lazy to do.
“Instead of wanting to transform quantity into quality, we tend to want to disown it. The ANC is operating under conditions of legality. It allows everybody to come in,” he said.