Johannesburg — Former President Thabo Mbeki has described a political party he once led as captured.
He asked ANC stalwarts, its alliance partners and the country to help liberate the 105-year-old party.
Mbeki, who has spent the past three days attending the ANC’s veterans and stalwarts’ national consultative council, was given a chance to address the conference ahead of its closing on Sunday.
The event, which was attended by several ANC leaders in their personal capacity, was not sanctioned by the ANC and its national executive committee, which also refused to deploy any of its leadership collective to address attendees.
“The NEC has done itself and the entire ANC a great disservice by distancing itself from the NCC. It was the wrong decision,” said Mbeki.
It’s clear the NEC didn’t want this to happen, he earlier commented. “There must be some in the NEC who can think,” added the former president.
Mbeki’s remarks come after the older generation of the ANC had spent a year attempting to host the consultative conference, with the NEC at first agreeing that it should take place, then insisting it must be done simultaneously with the June policy conference.
But they ultimately rejected the stalwarts’ suggestion for a standalone event which wanted to introspect and seek solutions for the liberation movement’s challenges.
“The ANC has been captured by a dominant faction which is not ANC, in terms of its values,” Mbeki said to a crowd who applauded and nodded in agreement.
Mbeki asked what needed to be done to liberate the ANC from a faction which “was in fact not ANC”, urging the veterans to continue with the mission they have started through the hosting of the NCC.
“What we are dealing with is a rot that has infected the organisation as a whole,” said Mbeki.
Speaking to the room after several participants complained about his successor President Jacob Zuma and the quality of leadership in the NEC, he warned that the party needed a comprehensive approach instead of focusing on individuals.
The former leader also suggested that outcomes from the three-day gathering be shared with regions and branches in the ANC, further explaining that people were interested in what was happening in the party because it had practical implications on their lives.
In congratulating some of the older leaders of the ANC, he said they were giving the country the gift of hope.
“Through this they must communicate to South Africans that the age of hopeless is over,” concluded Mbeki. — Sapa