JOHANNESBURG – The beleaguered South African President Cyril Ramaphosa used yesterday’s closing remarks of his party’s lekgotla to distance the governing party and its alliance partners from the perceived attacks on the constitution and the judiciary, saying they are not warranted.
That was in an apparent reference to the recent opinion piece by senior ANC NEC member and minister Lindiwe Sisulu, where she questioned the constitution, the judiciary and the role of some black judges.
Ramaphosa opened his veiled swipe by saying the ANC was undergoing a period of worrying “decay” and as a result, it was harbouring counter-revolutionaries.
The spat over the opinion piece deepened on Friday when Ramaphosa’s office issued a public statement claiming that Sisulu had retracted it and apologised. A few minutes later, a seething Sisulu denied this, saying overzealous communication staff in the Presidency twisted what was discussed when she met with Ramaphosa over the matter.
Not to be outdone, Ramaphosa and allies took Sisulu to task over the article when the NEC (national executive committee) met for four days in Pretoria. According to those who took part in the meeting, Sisulu was left to defend herself alone as even those who are perceived to be RET forces did not back her when the issue came up for discussion.
Ramaphosa said the NEC lekgotla dealt with the matter of those trying to undermine the constitution and the judiciary.
“The lekgotla recognised our movement is going through a period of decay and degeneration; the ANC has been able to extricate itself from similar situations in the past. It is important not to lower our guard against counter-revolution. The threat to our democratic gains is also a result of an era of loss of moral and ethical principles within the congress movement,” Ramaphosa kicked off his frontal attack.
Ramaphosa implied the lack of morals among leaders could be the reason behind the challenges of the governing party.
“Divisions and factions in the ANC are becoming a threat to our democracy. Economic challenges of income and wealth inequality and the triple challenges threaten state security and these require urgent interventions from Nedlac.
“Regression of ethical and moral leadership has resulted in an existential crisis. Our credibility and legitimacy are being undermined by our inability to act. As the ANC we should analyse and assess threats caused by others and threats caused by own acts of omission and commission.
“This requires a multifaceted and co-ordinated approach by the cluster and the government institutions where self-reflection is practised. The ANC needs to commit towards deepening and defending the NDR. Counter-revolution is wearing a different countenance in our country. There are expressions of democracy under threat which are a result of loss of ethical compass and moral direction.
“The ANC and the alliance reaffirm our support for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the judiciary and distance ourselves from narratives that seek to negate its transformative intent and gains,” he said.
Although Ramaphosa’s closing speech touched on several topical issues such as the economic devastating brought by Covid-19 and the need to double efforts in the fight against unemployment, the divisions within the ANC featured prominently as he signed off by dwelling on the matter.
He said there is widespread acceptance that the ANC, as an organisation, is beset by severe challenges, such as weak structures, internal conflicts, factionalism and members and leaders acting in self-interest rather than in furtherance of the cause of the people.
“This has damaged the ANC’s standing as a servant of the people and leader of society. If we do not make a decisive break with the practices that have caused this decline in our standing, we will cease to be a trusted and effective agent of change.
“The ANC will therefore intensify the fundamental renewal of our movement as mandated by the 54th national conference and reaffirmed by the January 8th Statement.
“We will be principled and decisive in ridding our movement from practices that prevent us from serving the people with distinction. Renewal is a process, and we will experience successes and setbacks.
“However, we will not deviate from the mission to restore and rebuild our movement to become more effective and dedicated servants of the people.”