Durban – ANC presidential hopeful Zweli Mkhize says the rise in violent service-delivery protests over the past five years showed the growing impatience from the electorate and communities who felt that the current leadership was aloof and not sensitive to their hardship.
He warned that the protests would continue to grow in intensity, and only the party delegates going to the ANC’s elective conference at Nasrec next month could put a stop to this by electing accountable, honest and humble leaders.
Mkhize was delivering the Oliver Tambo memorial lecture in the Pietermaritzburg City Hall on Saturday night as a part of his presidential campaign.
He was invited to speak by the ANC’s Moses Mabhida region, which is his home turf.
The former KwaZulu-Natal premier, who will challenge sitting president Cyril Ramaphosa for the ruling party’s top position next month, said while the ANC had done well in providing services to citizens across the country, the emergence of selfish individuals who sought to use money in order to gain access to power had tarnished the image of the ruling party.
He lamented corruption, fraud and incompetence in public office, saying such actions by ANC members and leaders would have left Tambo disappointed.
According to Mkhize, South Africa had demonstrated the ability to face tough challenges when it managed to defend itself against the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had never been experienced before.
He pointed out that despite this, the past five years had unmasked the depth of the country’s social challenges – wealth gaps, food insecurity, job and income insecurity, poverty, access to healthcare and access to clean water and efficient energy.
The presidential hopeful noted among the challenges facing the country were:
High unemployment soaring to levels last seen during apartheid.
Rising inequality that was the worst in the world.
Rising fuel and food prices that were becoming uncontrollably high.
“As leaders of the ruling party we must accept our failures, apologise and commit to do things differently to restore the hope of our people in the ANC as the instrument for liberation in the hands of our people,” Mkhize told the packed hall.
He noted how a few years ago Ramaphosa had unveiled a statue of Tambo at the OR Tambo International Airport and how the towering statue represented the colossus that Tambo was.
He added that there was a need to honour the former ANC president by following his example. “We need humble, respectful leadership who remain in touch with our people. There is no place for arrogant and self-serving leaders who believe it is their birthright to be elected to high and well-paying positions,” he said.
Mkhize added that good governance built trust between communities and government.
According to the former premier, the electoral system should be balanced to creates stronger accountability to the electorate.
“People must be assured that they can recall an arrogant public representative that does not show them respect and who no longer represent their views and concerns. The ANC must guarantee our people that those who fail to implement resolutions meant to transform our society will be replaced.
“The next conference of the ANC should focus single-mindedly on implementation of the good policies that have been praised by ANC supporters and detractors alike,” Mkhize said.
He lamented the emergence and continuing rise of factionalism in the party, noting that since the last elective conference five years ago it had reached its worst level.
“This term of office has been the worst, tearing the ANC into an unenviable spectacle akin to the Chinese mythology of ‘The house of flying daggers’.
“The ANC does not belong to the leaders. Most of all it does not belong to the leaders of factions, the chief lobbyists and the founders of slates and factions. It belongs to the people of South Africa,” Mkhize said.