The ANC should look beyond “selfish gains and greed” and seek to reconnect with the people, the ruling party’s secretary-general Gwede Mantashe warned on Thursday.
He invoked the memory of liberation leader and former ANC president OR Tambo, who died in 1993, to scold the party of today.
Mantashe told an audience of ANC leaders and members at a memorial lecture at Abedare Primary School in Delft that they should learn from Tambo’s pattern of leadership.
OR Tambo, who served as ANC president from 1967 to 1991 and would have been 99 on Thursday, was honoured at a number of events across the country, including a wreath-laying ceremony led by President Jacob Zuma.
“Oliver Reginald Tambo brought into the movement some exceptional attributes,” Mantashe said. “Collectively, his experience moulded the nature and character of our movement, including how we tackled the liberation struggle. As leaders, we must all ask ourselves what have I learned from the life of OR Tambo?”.
Mantashe said Tambo had the ability to understand his organisation and his cadres, something which was “missing today”.
“Any liberation movement aspires to represent the interested aspirations of the majority. It is not a threat for the ANC in power, it is a threat for the liberation movement not to represent the vast majority. When you lose that (the focus on representing the vast majority), you risk becoming something else,” he told a cheering crowd.
“The questions that we must ask in our organisation is: What kind of leadership are we?
“What is the basis of our leadership? Can we elevate ourselves over our actions or are we enslaved to them? If actions imprisoned us, we cannot move. We must ask when was this decision taken? Is it a decision of a faction? What kind of government have we become?
“Are we asking ourselves what people are even saying? Are they asking what we are doing, what have we done so wrong that people question the ANC of Oliver Tambo?”
Mantashe said society expected the ANC leadership to act with decorum, according to high standards. “The leader must invoke the loyalty and dedication of the people. OR Tambo established himself as principled, he proved beyond a doubt that when there were allegations against someone close to him, he did not just reject that, he took a hard line…. We must not condone labelling because it destroys individuals”
Mantashe concluded by saying members of the ANC should look beyond “selfish gains and greed” and “become the ANC Tambo had died for”.
Faiez Jacobs, the ANC’s provincial secretary, could be heard cheering with the crowd as Mantashe spoke.
Earlier on Thursday, Jacobs had appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court after a colleague accused him of assault last year. Jacobs is said to have punched and kicked him. The case will head to trial.