Unity important, but so is constructive criticism: Cyril Ramaphosa

23 November 2020 - 21:53
By andisiwe makinana AND Andisiwe Makinana
President Cyril Ramaphosa says the ANC is like a cat: 'If you throw it from many storeys up, it will always land on its feet.'
Image: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS President Cyril Ramaphosa says the ANC is like a cat: 'If you throw it from many storeys up, it will always land on its feet.'

While calling for unity of the ANC, President Cyril Ramaphosa said it was also important  to provide constructive criticism when party members erred.

Ramaphosa was addressing ANC structures in Rustenburg as part of the party's national working committee visit to the North West on Monday.

The ANC is in disarray in the North West, and its structures are run by interim task teams. The ANC-led provincial government has been under the administration of the national government since May 2018 and several of its municipalities are under the administration of the provincial government.

In a 40-minute speech focusing on the unity and renewal of the ANC, Ramaphosa said the party's unity would ensure improved implementation of its plans, including the recently announced reconstruction and recovery plan.

“We should be focusing more on what unites. And as we focus on what unites us, yes when mistakes are made, we must not just sit back and say 'well ke comrade wa rona' (it's our comrade) we are not going to say anything'.

“There must be constructive criticism. We must be able to put our comrades around the table and say 'here and here you are making mistakes',” he said.

ANC members are divided over the party's handling of those who are accused of corruption, and of enabling state capture. One faction believes its members are being targeted for political reasons and that state resources are being used by the ruling faction to fight party political differences.

Ramaphosa, who was addressing a regional meeting in Bojanala, repeatedly invoked the late statesman and former ANC president Nelson Mandela as he emphasised the importance of upholding the ANC's integrity and defending its unity.

“He did know at the time that the integrity of an organisation like the ANC is absolutely important. Even during this time, we do need to defend the integrity of our movement and deal with all the tendencies that we identified at our 54th conference and in earlier conferences where we spoke about ridding our organisation of corruption, where we talked about being a much more ethically driven organisation,” said Ramaphosa.

He said at government level, the party wants to ensure that the state becomes a capable, ethical and developmental government that puts the people's needs before the leaders' own personal and parochial interests.

Through renewal, Ramaphosa said, members would be able to strengthen the party.

“When Mandela was saying we are handing over the reigns of this organisation to the next generation, they envisaged that we would be the generation that will defend the unity of the ANC, that would renew the ANC and that also would defend its integrity because of its popular standing and objectives among our people,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the ANC could use these topics as a springboard to address the country's challenges.

“It is this that the ANC must focus its attention on, rather than continuing the squabbles among us.

“The squabbles, the fighting for positions, the fighting for material benefits, financial benefits must end comrades ... we  must become a united ANC prepared and willing to serve the people of our country,” he said.

Ramaphosa boasted about the party's performance in recent by-elections, saying it was a demonstration that the organisation remained popular and was still loved by the people.

Earlier this month, the ANC retained 64 municipal wards across the country, winning six new ones and only losing two in the first by-elections held since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Ramaphosa sounded confident that the party had the ability to self-correct, comparing it to a cat that always landed on its feet.

“The ANC is like a cat, if you throw it from many storeys up, it will always land on its feet. We are like that. We've got many lives. We don't only have nine lives, we have got many lives and we will always land on our feet because we are the ANC,” he said.

Ramaphosa acknowledged the provincial ANC's problems, saying the organisation was facing “enormous challenges” in the North West and that it has to be stabilised, starting at branch level.

He said the province will hold a provincial conference to ensure there is stability, but added that only 14% of its branches are in good standing.

The requirement is for at least 70% of the branches to be in good standing before the province holds a conference to elect new leadership.