When we say that Madiba was an ANC member, we are not saying that to reduce his great legacy, we are saying that to show the ANC is capable of remarkable things.
When we say that Mbeki is an ANC member in good standing, we are not saying that to claim his continental vision of African renewal. We are saying that is, in fact, a vision of the ANC.
All the documents that anchor this country, from Freedom Charter, to the Constitution and the National Development Plan – all the profound documents which have pumped life into this nation, are born of ANC, out of our deeper appreciation of the society we are privileged to lead. As the ANC we have always possessed an almost divine clarity about what needs to be done to give this country a leap forward.
The greatness of the ANC began right at the point of its founding in 1912. The founding fathers of the ANC broke the mould and exceeded the very system that was built to prove them less human, not only receiving what has always been considered the best education in the world, they had taken that very education to its highest levels possible, threatening the world with that which has always been feared the most: #BlackExcellence.
Pixley ka Isaka Seme, one of the founders and presidents of the African National Congress, was the first black South African lawyer. At 17 years of age, Seme left to study in the US, first at the Mount Hermon School and then Columbia University. In 1906, his senior year at university, he was awarded the Curtis Medal, Columbia’s highest oratorical honour. He subsequently decided to become an attorney. In October 1906 he was admitted to Oxford University to read for the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law. This was already enough to inspire the black nation to demand their rightful place in their own country and among the people of the world.
Solomon Tshekisho Plaatje, another ANC founding father, was a South African intellectual, journalist, linguist, politician, translator and writer. Plaatje traveled to England to protest the Natives Land Act of 1913, and later to Canada and the US where he met Marcus Garvey and WEB Du Bois. Plaatje was the first black South African to write a novel in English. Again the black nation, conditioned to believe that they deserved the inhumane conditions they were living with had a reason to believe differently.
John Langalibalele Dube, yet another ANC founding father, was a South African essayist, philosopher, educator, politician, publisher, editor, novelist and poet. He attended Oberlin College in the US. He later founded the newspaper Ilanga.
ANC founding fathers, in their advanced education, intellect, way about the world and strategic thinking, inspired the black nation to stand up and start demanding their humanity back. Irrespective of the odds black people have always faced in this country, they have always believed in their leaders, that through their dedication and their mastery of the world, we shall overcome. For over 90 years, the biggest thing the ANC ever gave to this country was inspiration and hope.
Some 104 years later, and 22 years into a new country our fathers never lived to see, with so much that has been provided for and accomplished by the ANC for its people, it turns out, black people still ache for inspiration and excellency. This proves that they are still looking for the highly educated, foremost thinkers who founded the ANC and have carried it forward for 100 years. As long as there exists in the most real sense the chance of a black child being doubted and measured of less competency, such leaders must carry on.
Governing is more than providing tangible things. And this current administration has provided more tangible things than the past administrations combined.
More houses have been built, social security expanded and piped water and sewerage systems put in place than in the history of this country. More houses have received electricity and more kids have received a tertiary education through NSFAS (a number that has quadrupled in the last two terms and the number of black graduates has similarly surged). Even more support has been given to entrepreneurs and those who want to start small business. There is practically no group of South Africans that the current administration has not provided assistance to and given a hand-up.
In the last 22 years, the ANC formulated and implemented some of the most progressive policies in the world. We put in place institutions, checks and balances and effective systems to ensure that our country stays on a rising trajectory. It is because of these mechanisms, put in place so skilfully, that we may have thought the black question has been answered. The rebuilding of both country and people will feed into the mechanisms put in place.
Why then has this current administration gotten such a backlash and vote of no confidence at the polls on 3 August this year? Why have commentators and South Africans alike pointed to our descent as a nation? Why have the very beneficiaries of the extensive work of this administration found it failing greatly in its duties? Is this administration doing so poorly that these beneficiaries are willing to nullify all that has been done as of little consequence?
In an ideal world, competency has no colour. But in a country where there has been social engineering for centuries with its vestiges still predominant today, to present black people as of lesser abilities, leaves no room for black people to be anything but the best. In other places it’s called “black tax”: to have to work double as hard as a white person just to be seen as capable. This is unfortunate, but a prevailing reality.
Black people live to prove they are great. Some wonder when this will end. When will black people’s greatness be an established phenomenon so that the failure of a black leader is not an indictment on blackness?
Whatever the reason for this stubborn edge for black people to be inspired by being better than whites if not as great than whites, remains and we must embrace it as a reality if we are to transcend it.
We remain a people that need constant reassurance over and against a world force that has consistently been telling us we are sub-par, incapable, and much earlier, not even really human. #BlackExcellency has been the ANC’s potent weapon through which it has been able to soften even the hearts of the hardest critics.
That ANC has long been the epitome of #BlackExcellency. We cannot falter now.
* Diko is a spokesperson for the ANC in the Western Cape.