During the opening address of the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal election conference on Friday, the party’s treasurer-general, Paul Mashatile, said the party would disappoint its critics by winning the general election in 2024, despite all the negative rhetoric doing the rounds at the moment.
Although he acknowledged that the ANC was facing “a mammoth task”, he urged delegates to start laying the foundation for the election campaign.
“We need to work hard to regain lost ground, especially in our key constituency areas. We must make it our mission to disappoint those who’ve already written the ANC’s obituary for 2024,” he said.
When the 1 600 branch delegates attending the conference at Durban’s Olive Convention Centre gave him a lukewarm response, he repeated:
This prompted applause from the audience.
Mashatile said the immediate task for every ANC member going to the crucial polls was “not only to re-energise our base, but also to reach out to all the people of South Africa. We must take our campaign to every city, every dorpie, every village, every township, every street corner, every highway and byway, every mosque, church, synagogue and place of worship, as well as every shop and factory floor.
Mashatile said the ANC needed to “maintain a permanent presence in and among our communities” and speak the language of the people.
He added that despite the party’s electoral decline during the municipal elections last year, the ANC remained the only hope for many South Africans – “especially the poor and those confined to the margins of the economy and society”.
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“They look up to us to do the right things and to provide decisive leadership in resolving the problems of our country. They don’t want to see us fighting among ourselves. They’re yearning for the return of the ANC they’ve always known – a renewed ANC.”
Mashatile warned that the party members had “a moral and revolutionary duty not to fail these South Africans”.
“They know no other home. The ANC is their only home. [Let’s move] forward to a decisive ANC victory in the 2024 national general election,” he said.
“Asijiki! [We’re not turning back!] No retreat, no surrender! We’re forging ahead! We’ll win that election! If we’re united, nothing will defeat us,” he chanted.
He said the ANC had embarked on an irreversible path of unity and its main task was to “accelerate the fundamental renewal and rebuilding of our movement”.
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“Renewal, comrades, is a necessary condition for the ANC to become a more effective and trusted agent for change. Equally, renewal is about returning the ANC to its historic, progressive and time-tested values of unity, honesty, hard work, selflessness, service, sacrifice, democratic centralism, criticism and self-criticism – values that have carried our movement for over a century of its existence.”
He said the renewal process would not be easy and there would be temporary setbacks.
“There’ll [also] be pushbacks, even from within our ranks, but we must soldier on. Comrades, it isn’t an exaggeration that our movement finds itself in a challenging period. This is a period when our values are being eroded and undermined. This is also a period when the level of trust in our leaders, our movement and the democratic institutions we’ve built is diminishing.”
He warned that the party faced the real possibility of losing the moral high ground and its position as the trusted leader of society. “Accordingly, we must act now to arrest this decline by renewing the ANC. We’ve also committed ourselves to dealing decisively with the reality that many ANC structures are in a poor state.
As a result, he said, the party’s ideological opponents were smelling blood, hoping to gain ground in the party’s traditional strongholds “and, more substantively, to erode the democratic gains we’ve made since 1994”.
“This is characteristic of the social distance that’s emerged between our movement and the people of South Africa. This social distance was evident in the outcome of the November local government election, last year,” he said.
Mashatile also offered some consolation to the audience. “The fact that our base simply stayed at home during the election and didn’t vote for the opposition is somewhat encouraging. It’s an indication that despite our weaknesses, both subjective and objective, the opposition in this country isn’t an alternative.”