DESPITE maintaining that the African National Congress (ANC) has never been more capable of addressing its challenges, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe spared no punches against members who divided the party.
He delivered his report on the state of the ANC on Sunday to delegates attending the party’s conference in Mangaung, saying it was "better, stronger, more united and has more capacity to deal with the contradictions" it faced.
But he used strong language when he spoke about factionalism and ill-discipline, singling out the ANC Youth League, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and provincial structures of the ANC for censure.
Mr Mantashe defended the ANC’s decision to recall former president Thabo Mbeki in 2008, saying he had "paralysed the organisation". With the ANC and the government vying to be centres of power, this led to problems in decision making, he said. The fallout of the recall, which saw the defection of senior leaders to form the Congress of the People, was a long-term threat and frequent "splintering" would cause a loss of momentum, he said.
He said factionalism appeared to have become "institutionalised" in the ANC and members had become bolder in their factional activities, leading to the collapse of discipline in some structures, notably the youth league.
Mr Mantashe said the ANC’s inability to arrest factionalism threatened to "bleed it to death". The youth league, agitating for the adoption of its economic policies, "behaved like a body opposed to the movement" and had "cost the movement heavily over time".
Relations between the ANC’s alliance partners — Cosatu and the South African Communist Party — had been at a high after the party’s conference in Polokwane in 2007, but cracks emerged soon after, when the federation became increasingly critical of the party.
Cosatu has been opposed to the government on several issues, including e-tolling on Gauteng highways, labour broking and the proposed youth wage subsidy.
The effect of "being attacked" by an alliance partner was greater than coming under fire from "all the opposition parties together", Mr Mantashe said.
He said the "ease" with which Cosatu called for strikes during talks with the ANC "may make Cosatu appear bold and strong in the short term, but it weakens the governing party in the public eye and indirectly weakens Cosatu".
The next five years may usher in a new era for relations between the partners as senior Cosatu leaders are likely to be elected to the ANC’s national executive committee — including its president Sdumo Dlamini.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who has declined nomination to the ANC’s leadership, took to social media on Monday to rebut Mr Mantashe.
"If (the) alliance was working with tighter co-ordination mechanisms that allow meaningful consultation, allied formations would not be reacting to government policies in public," he said.
On Sunday, President Jacob Zuma delivered a report in which he called for internal engagement among alliance partners. He said there was a need to resolve differences, instead of "shouting from podiums if one partner is unhappy with the other".
Mr Mantashe said when ANC leaders were deployed to the provinces to attend to problems, provincial leaders often "saw red immediately", and did all they could to resist the party’s efforts.
Provinces had to recognise the authority of the higher structures of the ANC, the secretary-general said.
With political staff