Lamola willing to quit lucrative law career to serve people

No one is safe from the effects of Eskom's failures, the sword of load-shedding strikes even high-ranking ANC members.

It's a sunny Monday afternoon when I meet ANC national executive committee member Ronald Lamola at his Midrand, Johannesburg, home during load-shedding. No electronic sound can be heard from inside his double-storeyed house.

Lamola has just returned from his office in Pretoria and is waiting for me outside his garage besides his glossy black Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

After exchanging pleasantries, he quickly rushes into the house to get a cloth to wipe dust off the three mini white garden chairs that he had placed at a corner of his yard.

"No one is not affected and no one is not worried as you can see even in my house there is no electricity," Lamola says.

" It also affects me. So what it tells us is that service delivery affects everyone and you've got a right to be angry."

Lamola has done well for himself since being suspended from the ANC Youth League in 2012 along with Julius Malema, who went on to form the EFF.

Seven years later, Lamola, who has been married for six years and is the father of a two-year-old boy, has made it to the top structures - the NEC and parliament list - of the party that once hung him out to dry.

"In my view, it [ascendance] has not been rapid. We have gone through trials and tribulations in the ANC. I think you would have seen ourselves when we were still in the youth league structures.

"There was a different of opinion in terms of what was our thinking with regard to the ANC's posture and its renewal and also in relation to the economic freedom policies that we were advocating as structures of the youth league.

"At the time, it was about the autonomy of the league because our view was that the youth league, if it is not autonomous, it becomes just a conveyor belt or a praise singer of the ANC mother body.

"It would not be able to generate ideas, it would not be able to play its role as a league of the ANC and I think that brought very serious and difficult trials and tribulations to the entire generation and that is why some from that generation left and others, although they did not leave, but they lived a very difficult life," Lamola says.

The issue the youth league was pushing was the resolution it took at its 2011 conference to nationalise mines and banks.

These were, however, not adopted by the 2012 ANC elective conference in Mangaung.

They did not agree with the decision to not adopt these and their fight with the mother body turned ugly until they were suspended and others ultimately expelled.

Lamola experienced first-hand the popular saying: "It's cold outside the ANC."

Lamola becomes a tad emotional when recalling the hardships he and his comrades faced outside the ruling party.

"We were left in the streets to fend for ourselves. It was very difficult. It was like we have leprosy," he recalls.

"No one wanted to talk to us, the entire generation. Others died and others were obliterated in the structures of the ANC so it was not an easy situation.

"We all lost everything that we had. All of us had to start from scratch."

After the dissolution of the youth league and his suspension, Lamola remained a loyal member of the ANC.

He used his law degree, which he obtained at University of Venda, to establish his own law firm with offices in Brooklyn, Pretoria.

He currently has two master's degrees which focus on corporate and extractive law.

He is now faced with a difficult decision of leaving the firm to fully focus on politics. Lamola is sixth on the list of people nominated for parliament, which guarantees him a cabinet position should the ANC win the elections.

"You must have your own career and even when you finally accept public office, at least you must be able to demonstrate your own success in running your own business or NGO or a church, something in society that shows that there is a capability of running something," Lamola says.

"I can demonstrate some level of success because, I mean, we have employed some people there, we have produced attorneys in the practise who can now practise on their own account as black young professionals.

"I think that is a good example for the youth of the country. Politics is not a career and we all can't use it as a career and that is what made it difficult to decide whether to go to public office or to remain but I had to make a choice to say I have done my part I think in practise.

"I have taken an oath to be an attorney but I also think I've got public duty to serve the country. That's why I accepted this nomination."

I have taken an oath to be an attorney but I also think I've got public duty to serve the country.

In 2016, Lamola thrust himself back into the political sphere when he staged a protest outside St George's Hotel in Centurion, Pretoria, where the ANC NEC had been meeting to call for action against the then-president Jacob Zuma following the Nkandla judgment.

The Constitutional Court had found that Zuma had unduly benefitted when national departments, including public works, police and security, undertook to upgrade his security at his private Nkandla residence where he lived with his five wives and 21 children.

The judgment was as a result of a report by the public protector titled 'Secure in Comfort', which the president had challenged in court.

Years later, Lamola still maintains that the delay in dealing with the recommendations and removing Zuma from office at the time of the public protector's report was a huge costly error for the ANC.

"We were saying that president Zuma must be made to leave office at that time because the situation was now untenable.

"I think it was an error which should not have happened. The NEC should have held the executive to account on this issues," Lamola says.

The ANC structures, I think, in their majority have affirmed that they want to see an accountable ANC

"It was an error which could have been avoided because we had a responsibility to show that we were accountable to the people of South Africa.

"So that's why we were feeling a sense of unease because we could not understand why can't the NEC do the right thing because it was a difficult situation."

The NEC, however, failed to act on this and Lamola says they accepted defeat.

The following year, Lamola was voted into the very same NEC structure at Nasrec elective conference which voted Cyril Ramaphosa as the leader of the ANC.

"The ANC structures, I think, in their majority have affirmed that they want to see an accountable ANC.

"An ANC that is renewing itself. An ANC that is cohesive and united, and I think the outcomes of Nasrec reflects that," says Lamola.