Clear message that abuse of power and position will not be tolerated by ruling party

Given all the sex scandals and controversies that have wracked the ruling party this year, it is difficult to see what I am about to talk about here.

Given all the sex scandals and controversies that have wracked the ruling party this year, it is difficult to see what I am about to talk about here.

But, believe me, there is another ANC.

It is an ANC of beauty and honour and caring. It is a noble ANC, this other ANC.

It is a movement of history, of principle, of integrity and of action.

It is unlike the power- obsessed, corrupt, dog-eat-dog ANC that one has come to know these past few years.

It is unlike the sexist, chauvinistic ANC whose leaders view women as mere fodder for votes.

This other ANC is non-racial, it is non-sexist, it tolerates debate, it respects women, and it upholds the right of the vulnerable without fear of the power of the wealthy.

It is the ANC of the underdog. It is an ANC that has seduced millions over the years because it not only stood for what is right, but promised and seemed to practice what is right.

For a long time, I thought this other ANC was dead. I was wrong.

I saw it on Thursday.

On Thursday afternoon, after a six-hour meeting, the disciplinary committee of the ANC emerged from its deliberations and announced that it had taken the extraordinary step of expelling its chief whip, Mbulelo Goniwe, from the party's ranks.

Saying it was a "painful and difficult" decision, the committee, led by former education minister and ANC veteran Kader Asmal, said Goniwe would be forbidden from standing for public office or publicly representing the ANC for three years.

As a result of their decision, Goniwe immediately loses his standing as a member of parliament and thus his position as chief whip.

Everyone knows the sordid facts of the case by now.

Goniwe, described by Asmal as probably the most powerful ANC leader in parliament, had a birthday party at his house on October 25.

Nomawele Njongo, a 21-year- old parliamentary administrative assistant, was summoned by Goniwe to help serve food at the party.

Later that evening Goniwe allegedly asked Njongo for sex, citing his position as chief whip as entitlement to getting his way.

When she turned him down, he allegedly said: "I thought you were a real Xhosa girl. How can you say no to your chief whip as if I am an ordinary man?"

Asmal and the other members of the ANC disciplinary committee found the young woman's testimony to be clear and convincing. Goniwe's defence, however, was "contradictory, inconsistent and therefore ... unreliable".

Why is this case so important?

Well, for one it shows the ANC throwing aside its slide to ambiguity on matters of principle.

The party has been less than explicit when many of its leaders have made utterances that are in clear contradiction to the party's non-sexist stance.

Jacob Zuma is the clearest example of this through his chauvinistic and backward utterances at his rape trial.

Zuma asserted that "in Zulu culture" a woman wearing a short skirt was basically asking for sex.

This is rubbish that any ANC leader should be sanctioned for, yet in Zuma's case it is not even mentioned.

But it is in its actions that the ANC's leaders have failed on matters of principle and integrity.

Why, for example, would the Limpopo provincial government go and hire a man accused of, and still under a cloud for, abuse of his power as an ambassador and the harassment of women?

Clearly the party should have acted more decisively in discouraging its anointed leader in Limpopo from hiring the man.

The second important factor of the Goniwe matter is the swiftness with which the party acted on hearing of the allegations.

We do have to thank members of the ANCwomen's caucus here, for they played a fantastic role in calling for action and protecting the young woman from harassment.

Justice for the young woman was swiftly dispensed and the ANC did not drag its feet, citing issues such as "innocent until proven guilty" and other smokescreens.

It knew that a lot was at stake; it knew that it was within its power to act and it acted.

The triumph in this decision is that those who have taken it for granted that they can abuse women with impunity will now know that they stand to lose everything that they have worked for.

Those who believe their positions buy them privilege will begin to know that this is not the case.

They will know that they can easily lose their positions for indiscretions of this nature.

The past year has been terrible for the ANC in many ways.

Let us hope that there are more people in the party like the members of the disciplinary committee.

They represent the only hope for the ANC.