Challenges of Leadership in the Current Phase, 1 July 1997


One of the tasks the National Conference is charged with is the

responsibility of electing a leadership collective. This is a matter that should

be discussed openly within constitutional structures of the movement. Such

discussions should be informed by the strategic tasks of the organisation and

the challenges that it faces in the current phase.

In this process, it is natural and necessary that there should be contest

among individuals and lobbying by their supporters. Our challenge is to ensure

healthy and comradely competition, so that we emerge from this process united,

with a leadership suited to the current phase. On the other hand, if persued in

dark corners, and in a spirit of self-interested sectionalism, the process would

degenerate into debilitating contests which divide the movement and divert it

from the major task of social transformation. It could also be easily exploited

by forces of counter-revolution.

This paper looks at the context in which leadership debates should occur and

proposes criteria for the type of leadership the ANC needs in the current phase.

Strategic Objectives and the Implications for Leadership

The central objective of the ANC is the transformation of South Africa into a

united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society. These tasks

are further elaborated in the RDP and other documents. They refer to meeting

people`s basic needs, developing our human resources, building the economy,

democratising the state and society, and building a united nation. Running like

a thread through all these tasks is mass involvement.

The ANC should ensure that power in all sectors of government, in the economy

and in the ideological arena, is truly in the hands of the people and that it

mobilises the people to continue being their own liberators. In deploying the

movements cadres we should ensure a proper balance among these various centres

of power Furthermore, account has to be taken of the balance within the

leadership between cadres in government and outside, as well as the class and

national forces the ANC relies on to effect transformation.

While it is correct to look at the traditions of the ANC from years of

struggle, we should also acknowledge the new situation within which we operate

as the leading organisation in government. This has thrown up new tasks which

are in many ways of a different nature. Indeed, as we alter our social

environment through the act of social transformation, in the same measure we

alter elements of our own character as a movement.

Character of the ANC and Implications for Leadership

The ANC is a broad mass movement, as distinct form a narrow cadre-based party.

This will thus find an expression in its membership in general as well as in the

style of leadership, including how "popularity" is sought and gained.

The ANC is a. non-racial movement. In this context, the main content of the

National Democratic Revolution (NDR) remains the liberation of the black people

in general and Africans in particular. The Strategy and Tactics document from

Morogoro goes further to underline that this principle should find expression in

the composition of leadership structures of the ANC. From its birth, the ANC

called for unity among the African people - to bury the "demon of

tribalism", and ensure that in its geographic spread and public face, the

movement is seen as truly national in character.

The ANC is, in class terms, a liberation movement representing the interest

of the working class, the rural poor, professionals and Black business which was

by definition, small business. Because of national oppression, these forces were

defined essentially along racial lines. The organisation also recognises the

leading role of the working class in the NDR. By implication workers should have

a central role to play in both the membership and leadership of the ANC. The new

situation may require that this general definition is broadened somewhat, but

the essence remains.

Over time, the ANC has embraced the principle of gender equality as one of

the central features of national liberation. As with the working class, the fact

of holding the view of gender equality should be reinforced with equitable

representation of women at all levels of the movement. In the same way, the ANC

also recognises the important role played by various other sectors of society

such as youth, the educational sector, civic associations, the religious

community, traditional leaders and so on.

To be national in character and be seen as such, and to ensure that the ANC

is in constant touch with the people, the movement allows for ex

officio representation of the provinces on the National Executive Committee

(NEC). However, it is also critical that among the directly elected NEC members,

there should be as even a provincial spread as the democratic process can allow.

Leadership Background and Experience

Individuals are shaped also by their own experiences in struggle. In the ANC,

one of the positive qualities has been to unite various strands of political

experience. Historically, this finds expression in the form of those who, before

1990, were "mainly" in prison, in exile, in MDM formations, in

professional work and in broad patriotic front organisations. This may include

some capable members who may not have been at the forefront of the struggle but

have joined the ANC in the 1990s and are making an invaluable contribution in

the new phase of the NDR.

It is however, a fallacy to treat these various streams as rigid and distinct

categories, each walled in from others. The truth is that the majority of

individuals are found in two or more of these categories. In addition, while

such political background and experience will contribute in shaping individuals`

approaches to issues, the consciousness and identity that define individuals

cannot be confined merely to these political experiences.

In the context of the current phase of the NDR, account also has to be taken

of the capacity of individuals to play leadership role in governance. While

education may not be the only factor, we have to acknowledge the reality

that the current technological age requires certain general academic and

specialised knowledge. And the presence of such leaders in the NEC will enhance

the role of the ANC as the governing organisation. On the other hand, the

profile arising from their work will make such leaders more visible than others.

Therefore, care has to be taken to ensure that the advantage arising form such

deployment does not result in an NEC made up mainly, or only, of those leaders

in government.

Adherence to all these principals all these principals in considering

candidates for leadership does not mean reductionism: in the sense of counting

heads and doing "class, racial, ethnic, provincial,

ministerial/parliamentary and gender arithmetic". Various leaders will at

once represent various streams Further, we should discourage attempts to

mobilise on narrow sectional tickets. Individuals cannot project themselves as

representatives of exiles, of the MDM, ethnic groups and so on. An attempt to

use these attributes as a basis for opportunistic mobilisation is divisive and

misleading. Rather, emphasis should be placed on the contribution that

individuals make or wish to make to the task of transformation.

Leaders should be elected on merit. In the NEC they are not sectoral

representatives but part of an integrated collective. However, the emphasis on

integration should not subtract from the requirement that the NEC "melting

pot" represents and is seen to represent a synthesis of not one but the

cross-section of various strands and identities. Overall, the ANC should strive

to be the microcosm of the motive forces of transformation and in broader terms,

the microcosm of the South African nation being born.

Principles of ANC Organisation and Qualities of Leadership

The challenge of ensuring balanced representation in an integrated leadership

is not merely for appearance. Different strands should bring their experiences

to bear on decisions taken by the leadership, to reflect the interests and

aspirations of the motive forces of the NDR

This is important not only because of the NEC is the highest decision-making

body between conferences, but also because the ANC is not a federal

organisation. Therefore, the central leadership structures have an important

position with regard to defining policy and in its implementation which affects

each level of the organisation. Certainly, far-reaching decisions should, as a

matter of principle go through thorough consultation. One of the organisational

principles of the ANC is active participation by members in decision making. But

the NEC remains the highest body between Conferences to take final and binding


Like with all social phenomena, such final decisions will not necessarily

reflect the passionate views of the people directly affected precisely because

national considerations have to be taken into account. In other words, a policy

decision will often reflect what Frederick Engels referred to as a

"parallelogram of forces". The parallelogram of forces reflects the

complex equilibrium of various forces pulling in different and sometimes

opposite directions. NEC leaders are obliged to promote and defend the

collective decisions that emerge from their discussions.

In broad terms, an ANC cadre and more particularly NEC members should have,

among others, the following political qualities:

An NEC member should understand ANC policy and be able to apply it under

all conditions in which s/he finds him/herself . This includes an

appreciation , from the NDR stand-point, of the country and the world we

live in, of the balance of forces, and how continually to change this

balance in favour of the motive forces of change.

An NEC member should constantly seek to improve his/her capacity to serve

the people. S/he should strive to be in touch with the people all the time,

listen to their views and learn from them. S/he should be accessible and

flexible and not give her/himself the status of being the source of all


An NEC member should win the confidence of the people in their day-to-day

work. Where the situation demands, s/he should be firm, and have the courage

to explain and seek to convince others of the correctness of decisions taken

by constitutional structures, even if such decisions are unpopular. S/he

should not seek to gain cheap popularity by avoiding difficult issues,

making false promises or merely pandering to popular sentiment.

An NEC member should be above reproach in his/her political and social

conduct - as defined by our revolutionary morality - and through force of

example, act as a role model to ANC members and non-members alike. Leading a

life that reflects commitment to the strategic goals of the NDR includes not

only being free of corrupt practices. It also means actively fighting

against corruption.

Individual Personalities and Organisational Environment

There are no ready-made leaders. Leaders evolve out of battles for social

transformation. In these battles, cadres will stumble and some will fall. But

the abiding quality of leadership is to learn from mistakes, to appreciate one`s

weaknesses and seek to correct. them.

As a bearer of social experience, an individual`s personality traits play an

important role when in positions of leadership. A key quality is the ability to

influence and to be influenced by others in the collective without losing one`s

identity. Yet another is the conviction to state one`s views boldly and openly

within constitutional structures of the movement. In addition, without being

disrespectful, an individual should not cower before those in more senior

positions in pursuit of patronage, nor rely on cliques to maintain one`s


The struggle for social transformation is complex where at times, personal

interests will conflict with organisational interests. From time to time,

conflict will manifest itself between and among members and leaders. The

ultimate test of leadership includes:

striving for convergence between personal interests - material, status and

otherwise - and the collective interest. Yet the movement itself should

strive to take personal interests into account when deploying cadres, and

ensure that the willingness to sacrifice is rewarded in an appropriate


handling conflict in the course of ANC work by understanding its true

origins and seeking to resolve it in the context of struggle. Whatever

difficulties individuals face, attempts should be made to resolve them

through constitutional structures.

the ability to inspire people in good times and bad, to reinforce members`

and society`s confidence in the ANC and transformation. The authority that a

leader exercises should come from genuine acceptance of the leader by the

membership, not through suppression, threats, patronage or connivance in

promoting defiance.

Broad Challenges of Conference in Electing the New NEC

Over the pest few years the ANC has gained a wealth of experience from its

work in government. This naturally has affected the character of the

organisation and its leadership, with a new emphasis on building the capacity to

govern and implement programmes to uplift conditions of the poor. This is an

important, if not most critical, terrain in the current phase: the success or

otherwise of the ANC depends on how it performs at this level.

Yet it would be a mighty error to separate this function from the tasks of

building the ANC as an organisation. It is not individuals as such who are in

government, but ANC members deployed to fulfill a function. The parameters

within which they carry out their functions are defined by the ANC and they

should account to it. Mass participation, which is so central to the success of

the RDP, requires that the ANC mobilises the people to take part in transforming

their own lives. It is the ANC as an organisation that should strengthen the

forces which objectively stand to gain from the success of the NDR. These forces

include the Tri-partite Alliance, the mass democratic formations, the broad

patriotic forces and so on.

This critical element has suffered because of a lack of a deployment strategy

In the period leading up to the formation of the democratic government. As the

President said at the opening of the 1994 Conference:

Ours was not a planned entry into government. Except for the highest

echelons, there was no plan for the deployment of cadres. We were

disorganised, and behaved in a manner that could have endangered the


This has weakened the ANC`s role as an organiser of the people and political

centre of the broader movement for transformation.

In so far as leadership elections are concerned, Conference will need to

ensure an NEC that reflects the main areas of ANC work which are government and

full-time mass work. The latter entails ensuring that there are sufficient

full-time NEC members in the ANC, as well as leaders from the working class and

other sectors of society not deployed in government. With regard to the working

class in particular, at its recent Lekgotla, the NEC undertook to consult Cosatu

about the principle of their leaders making themselves available for election to

the NEC. This is besides the call for organised and unorganised workers to take

active part in ANC structures and the recognition of the fact that the interests

of a class are not necessarily and mechanically articulated only by members of

that class. In terms of gender balance, members should deliberately identify

women who are capable of and/or have the potential to assume leadership

positions. And, in nominating leaders in general, the question of their

commitment to gender equality should be put on the agenda.

An issue that needs thorough examinations is that of rejuvenation of the

leadership in terms of electing young cadres who have done well in various

fields. There are graduates of the Youth League, MK, SASCO, etc. or other young

workers and professionals - young men and women who have a contribution to make

at this level. This is important not only for purposes of the unique

contribution the youth can and should make in the NEC, but because we should

actively start building the leadership of the future in actual practice today.

It is also critical that Conference address the question of the track record

required for individuals to be elected into the NEC, and similarly into other

levels of leadership. For instance, we could include in the ANC constitution the

condition that a member can stand for the NEC if s/he has been a member for 5

years, 3 years for the PEC, 2 years for the REC and 1 year for the branch. This

will help ensure that people demonstrate a consistent track record in ANC work

before serious responsibilities are thrust on them.

The movement`s cadre policy should include a deliberate process of

"career-pathing", where areas in which cadres can make a decisive

contribution are identified and they are deployed in such a way that their

future career is broadly mapped out. Through such deployment and multi-purpose

training, cadres should be able to advance from the lowest to the highest levels

within the movement and in other sectors of society. This should include

systematic political training of cadres and leaders alike in the form of the

various courses, workshops and "schools" that are part of the

movement`s programme.

Broad Challenges of Conference in Electing Officials

The criteria applying to the NEC as a whole are even more relevant with

regard to the officials. In addition, the NEC has made the strong proposal that

the SG, Deputy SG and TG should be full-time in the ANC. The temptation in

recent years has been conveniently to relax such a requirement in order to

accommodate individual candidates. To continue doing this now, with the glaring

weaknesses of the past three years will be irresponsible.

Another challenge is the fact that President Nelson Mandela will not be

standing as President and Conference will have to find a new leader to take the

baton - a personality with the qualities to continue the traditions of Dube,

Makgato, Luthuli, Tambo and others. Needless to say, it is a challenge that

cannot be taken lightly.

While the issue of "a single presidency" is appreciated, the

question has been posed whether the ANC Deputy-President should automatically

translate into Deputy-President for the country.

There are obvious disadvantages of having two Deputy-Presidents (ANC and


It my create a sense of power and fiction between them. This will

undermine an integrated approach to both governments and the ANC, and

perpetuate the false notion of "two ANC`s",

Both the President and Deputy President should get/receive mandates from

the ANC Conference to ensure that the movement as a whole participate in

determining who the country`s Deputy-President should be.

While it is critical that the SC and other officials are full-time in the

ANC, one of the most critical tasks in the current phase is to use the main

lever of change - the state -to good effect, and the presence of both the

President and the Deputy-President of the ANC in government will help ensure


However, the following advantages of having 2 Deputy- Presidents (one in ANC

and one in government) need to be considered

This will allow the new President, in consultation with the NEC/NWC, the

time and space to select the country`s Deputy-President taking into account

the needs of government, whereas the ANC`s organisational needs may dictate

election based on entirely different criteria.

It may undermine broader cadre policy to seek to elect a Deputy-President

for both the ANC and the country in preparation for succession beyond 2009 -

if the next President serves two full terms. Rather than cast this in stone,

in the form of a "10-year guarantee heir-apparent", it should evolve

naturally over the years, with a wider pool of young cadres from whom the

leaders would be elected.

The Deputy-President of the ANC does not have to be based necessarily at

national government level nor even full-time in the ANC. This will allow the

ANC the space to select from a wider canvass of leaders, rather than

being constrained by the narrow requirements of government.

The decision of President Mandela not to stand as ANC President has also

evoked questions such as the need to continue to bring his experience, strengths

universal popularity and other qualities to bear on the work of the ANC. Both

formally and informally, mechanisms should be found to ensure this. For example,

for him to continue as a member of the ANC "Presidency".

Additional Questions for Consideration

The experience that the movement has gained in the past 3 years has brought

to the fore the question of ensuring a. commitment from candidates for any of

the senior positions that they will serve their full term. When we were still

new in the current terrain, and were struggling with matters of appropriate

deployment, it was understandable that there would be destabilisation. But this

should be avoided from the beginning at the approaching Conference. How this can

be ensured is a matter that requires further discussion.

Because of the nature of the ANC as a mass organisation, members of the

movement come to know about leadership mainly from media exposure. As such, good

cadres in positions that do not allow them such exposure are not given the

necessary recognition when it comes to election into positions of leadership.

Another upshot of this is that individuals then seek recognition by clamouring

for positions that would give them such media exposure. How do we enure that the

background, experience and qualities of all potential NEC candidates are brought

to the attention of the membership and, particularly, Conference delegates?

Related to the above is the question of the parameters of lobbying and

campaigning. What rule, should be developed to ensure healthy and comradely

contest, rather than campaigns of denigration or hero worshipping of

individuals? To what extent should the media be used in this regard - if at all,

A proper understanding of` "full-time ANC work" should be

developed. This could mean working on a daily basis at ANC HQ, or holding the

position of a member of a legislature, but with the necessary space to work most

of the time at HQ. The advantages of the former are obvious. With the latter, it

will ensure that the leader/official concerned is in touch with the

parliamentary caucus and governmental business


These issues are meant to generate open and robust discussion within our

ranks. In these discussions, we cannot avoid, against the backdrop of the

current phase of the NDR to call for maximum vigilance. It is only natural that

forces of counter-revolution will seek to influence the process, try to use it

to divide the movement, and even manoeuvre to place their own candidates at the

highest possible levels.

While the machinations of the counter revolutionary enemy should be kept in

mind, the fact of their existence should not be used to stifle debate. In the

final analysis, the right to elect the national leadership resides nowhere else

but with the membership and their elected delegates. Democratic engagement,

vigilance, ingenuity and integrity are the qualities that have characterised the

ANC as a collective over the years, and they are the mainstay of its strength


"Leadership" does act only entail being a member of the NEC. In any

case, all ANC members arc meant to be leaders of communities and sectors in

which they operate. The corps of ANC leaders of branches, regions and provinces

form a critical layer of the leadership of the NDR. While the NEC is the highest

decision-making body in-between conferences, its success depends on other levels

of leadership and the membership in general.