Former President Kgalema Motlanthe said the African National Congress (ANC) is in need of an overhaul to reinstate trust between itself and society.
In conversation with independent policy analysis and advocacy think tank Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), he raised concerns about the way the governing party had been going about its business and policy in the last decade, particularly at a disadvantage to small businesses and the economy at large.
When asked about the deterioration of the ANC in the last decade and widescale corruption, the former President said the leadership of the party is accepting that unless they do something about the current trajectory, they will no doubt lose the elections and eventually become irrelevant in South African politics.
He added that he could notice the ANC becoming corrupted financially and ethically during his term as secretary general for the party around 2007, and said that, perhaps the ANC was not actually prepared for the challenges of operating as a governing party.
For example, Motlanthe mentioned that as far back as 1992 there were discussions on the importance of training ANC members on how to deal with people offering gifts and who, at first, ask no favours in return, but return later to make demands.
“People who feel indebted will feel obligated to help those making demands, and that is how honest people get sucked into corrupt relationships. More broadly and more concerning was the growing tendency among members to manipulate processes of internal democracy to ensure that certain people received nominations for leadership positions. These were acts of corruption and warning signs of things to come.”
Motlanthe at the time presented a report to the national elective conference on behalf of the National Executive Committee (NEC), which relayed his concerns and encouraged the NEC to tackle this scourge.
However, he said the report would have had a much greater chance of success at a time when there were signs that the value systems and democratic practices of the ANC were being eroded. At that time, members of the NEC were still inclined to frown upon wrongdoing.
The former President added that, today, these corrupt practices are seen as business as usual.
Motlanthe continued, highlighting the increasingly prominent role the Gupta family started playing in senior appointments within the ANC, and that the NEC later got captured by the President of the time, Jacob Zuma, which made it easier for the State as a whole to be captured.
He was confident that the Zondo Commission’s findings would result in prosecutions of those who have been accused, and would have to be subject to a trial and be expelled from the ANC if found guilty.
Motlanthe shed some light as to how many implicated individuals have remained in Parliament. He explained that there is often a grey area in the law if one is convicted for any offense with the option of a fine, since there is no criminal record in such instance.
“They all pay fines and continue with their lives. At a level of ethics and morality, no public representative should enter into office when they have been found guilty of betraying the public’s trust. However, the law creates this grey area.”
Motlanthe said the biggest shock stemming from the Zondo Commission for him was the finding that Bosasa was essentially running the Department of Correctional Services, which proved that an entire government department could be taken over by a private service provider.
To counter cadre deployment and ensure that a single President did not have the power to make appointments on any basis and without appeal, Motlanthe said a President ought to delegate the authority to make appointments to the Public Service Commission, and this commission should not itself act as an interviewing panel,
Rather, it should put together experts and practitioners in the respective field, who will then conduct interviews and made recommendations. The same applies to the Judicial Service Commission when conducting interview for judges.
“That is the advice we should follow if we want to have a capable State, selecting only the best talent available in the country. If we improved the appointment process and appointed capable people, the problem would go away.”
Motlanthe said the ANC is within its right to embark on efforts to renew itself. However, in the meantime, he believed South Africa should move on and not be bound by the party’s timelines.
“It will be up to the ANC to try to catch up. I think the kind of formations that are going to take this country forward are still to come and will be fashioned by a realignment of political forces.”
ON SOUTH AFRICA
Further, Motlanthe said South Africa suffers from a number of handicaps, including the education system.
For example, the former President holds the German Technical and Vocational Education and Training system in high regard.
“Unless we raise our artisanal skills, it will be difficult to grow the economy.”
Moreover, Motlanthe believed Parliament needed to amend the Labour Relations Act to create space for small entrepreneurs and exempt them from being compelled to live up to the standards of the collective bargaining councils and large employers.
“It should be easy for small businesses to obtain a licence and they should not have to comply with complicated regulations when they are still struggling to become established.”
He continued, highlighting the need to create microfinancing facilities in townships so that people can have better access to start-up capital. And if a person sets up an operation that employs more people, government should not interfere.