President Oliver Reginald Tambo was always conscious of the susceptibilities of some among the movement becoming “wedge-drivers” – the division-makers who blemish the ANC and professionally factionalise it along tribal, class, pseudo ideological and religious caucuses. Tambo often used the phrase “wedge-drivers”when addressing and mediating on ANC infighting.
At the Morogoro Conference in his closing remarks, President OR Tambo was instructive when he said: “Comrades, beware of the wedge-driver, the man who creeps from ear to ear, carrying a bag full of wedges, driving them in between you and the next man, between a group and another, a man who goes round creating splits and divisions. Beware of the wedge-driver, comrades. Watch his poisonous tongue.”
On a radio broadcast to South Africa in 1969 Tambo repeated his warning and calls for unity saying: “Our Morogoro Conference last May sought to accelerate our progress towards armed confrontation with the enemy. It examined in detail various aspects of our struggle, it carried out a thorough review of our strategy and tactics, our programme and our policies, it called for the closing of ranks, for unity and for vigilance against splitters and wedge-drivers and against conscious or unconscious enemy agents in our midst.”
Wedge-drivers find a career in the ANC. They drive the wedge either for personal political promotion and expediency or as conscious or unconscious enemy agents. All these belong in the basket of political contortionism — intagibility. We see many who nowadays use mainstream media outlets to let out their political ambitions within the movement and find fame within enemy agents hoping that our people would not decipher the political venom of their “poisonous tongues”.
This, the year of OR Tambo, demands of the movement to be vigilant and draw from its experiences to root out the split purveyors wearing greed-watermarked sainthood skin with a strong stench of hypocrisy and naked personal vendettas.
We must not be titillated by the cameras chasing for headlines from those who have made it their business to force their agenda and ideas as the only ideas there are. We must be a movement of bellicose cadres in defence of unity and constitutional principles of the ANC in its current design. For the ANC to see the second century close – we must do as Tambo did, close ranks. We must resist the temptation to appear as better from the general criticism of the movement which at times may appear genuine but in fact is coated in counter-revolutionary didactics. We must resist those intent to rule from political graveyards.
The hoi-polloi of Congress expect this National Policy Conference to assure them that the movement will unite under the banner of Radical Economic Transformation agenda to deliver what is due and payable to them.
OR Tambo said “unite and close ranks” not because of denials of the internal challenges but because of the acknowledgement of the opportunity to defibrillate and strengthen the movement.
In our vantage point are 30-million poor blacks whose majority are African. In our vantage point are 10-million poverty wage earners who are stuck in what is called “the missing middle” with little space to progress. Our vantage point shows that the ANC has added millions of black people into the upper-middle class and that these people are now failing to identify with the ANC due to our distance and mistakes in the main but also due to our inability to mobilise them to the fact that the struggle is not over and the gains must be guarded through unity.
Our vantage point displays for all to see a country being torn apart by racially monopolised ownership of the means of production while the political contortionists come to its defence.
We see and hear our people saying colonialisation and apartheid agents owe them reparations in a form of equitable ownership of land and economy through an accelerated programme in their lifetime. The ANC should thus locate itself with the hoi-polloi in full agreement with these fair and justified claims without fear or blackmail by the so-called local and international markets.
To truly honour OR Tambo the course of an accelerated land redistribution programme should be made urgent. Our people must see the ANC converging in full implementation of the newly gazetted mining charter with a clear path to do more. The private security and defence industries must be owned by South Africans to better manage risks to national security. Crime must be fought in partnership with communities to create an enabling environment for business to thrive. There must be competition within cross-media ownership.
Our people are demanding a stop to balance sheet budgeted for private sector corruption for orange boiler suits. They demand intolerance over public sector corruption and abuse of public funds. There must be zero conflict of interests within the decision-making structures of the ANC including its National Executive Committee. We must not be tolerant of monopoly capital lobbyists amongst us.
The masses demand we must be informed by our own concrete conditions and experiences, that reflect elements of the best traditions of social democracy, which include: a system which places the needs of the poor and social issues as priority. The urgency is to identify and isolate these political contortionists within and without.4
The ANC National Policy Conference should emerge with energetic but wise policy proposals and interim interventions on all these matters in unity and strength – where youth and experience meet. Only this will keep OR Tambo resting in power.