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When an exit from the ANC is the only choice

This is not a hoax: Full transcript of Mavuso Msimang’s resignation letter, dated 6 December 2023:

“Dear Secretary General

Letter of resignation

It is with profound sadness that I inform you of my decision to terminate my membership of the African National Congress (ANC). I have served the organisation loyally and diligently for over six decades.

For several years now, the ANC has been wracked by endemic corruption, with devastating consequences on the governance of the country and the lives of poor people, of whom there continue to be so many.

Of course, the ANC did not invent corruption. We inherited a state that was morally bankrupt and that was built on the most profound forms of corruption. When we took over government in 1994, we had the moral high ground, and the conviction that we would be able to root out the old-boy networks that had benefited from, and strangled, the apartheid economy.

Yet, three decades later, the ANC’s own track record of corruption is a cause of great shame. The corruption we once decried is now part of our movement’s DNA. This has had dire consequences for the most vulnerable members of our society.

Pic: Don Bayley

Over four million people live in shacks that are euphemistically referred to as ‘informal settlements’. And in every town, there are people whom we call beggars, who collect at traffic lights and in town squares. They are not beggars of course, for that is not their identity. They are human beings who have been forced to sacrifice their dignity in part because of my party’s successive failures. We are an organisation that purports to create a better life for all.

A new black middle class has grown and developed, which is commendable. However, this middle class is leaving behind people who die before ambulances can reach them, or perish in the hallways of overflowing, under-resourced public hospitals.

As ANC leaders publicly proclaim ownership of obscenely wealthy homesteads and other possessions and send their children to the best schools in the land, there are still many South Africans whose children continue to be exposed to the risk of dropping into pit latrines in poorly equipped public schools and dying horrendous and humiliating deaths. There are children in rural areas who miss classes when streams and rivers are in flood because there are no bridges.

How does it come about that raw sewage flows into the uMngeni River and into the sea, polluting eThekwini beaches that have been a traditional holiday destination for black people from inland provinces, some of whom used to travel from as far north as Limpopo, Northwest, Mpumalanga, etc? For what earthly reason did the Gauteng Department of Health think that frail, elderly, and very vulnerable people should be sent into ill-equipped, ill-prepared and ill-funded houses under the guise of unqualified NGOs resulting in the death of some 160 people as happened in the Esidimeni Life scandal?

Businesses are failing, downsizing or simply deciding not to invest anymore in our country where the environment has become entirely disabling for them. As a result, thousands of jobs are being lost at a time when the unemployment rate rages north of 32 percent and 60 percent for persons aged between 15 and 24 years. Inexplicably, you have ministers who attack the very private sector the President is inviting to be an essential “part of a social compact in a programme to rebuild our economy and enable higher growth”.

You do not need to dig too deeply to discover that most of the country’s failures are linked to corruption somewhere in the system: a tender that should never have been awarded, a job that should have gone to a better qualified, more deserving and less factionally aligned person. This is happening on the watch of the ANC government.

An Eskom brought to its knees by high-level corruption and sabotage has literally rendered the nation powerless and all too often left it in the dark. Transnet’s mismanagement has derailed its freight haulage system. In consequence, road transporters who have stepped into the breach sometimes have to wait in 40km-long queues, while belching noxious gases into the atmosphere, because ports are congested. The resulting demurrage charges are inevitably, ultimately borne by the consumer. And the worst may yet happen: ships simply avoiding our ports and discharging their cargo in better-run ports elsewhere.

The litany of economic and social woes – crime, unemployment, destitution – associated with my beloved African National Congress is not only embarrassing, but also defies enumeration.

It is a matter of public record that for over a decade I have added my voice to many others that have consistently decried and disapproved of corruption and its harmful by-products of nepotism and incompetence. The response of the leadership to this constructive censure has, at best, been a shoulder shrug and a promise to do something about it; at worst those who seek change by raising voices endure slurs, or are met with downright hostility.

Despite the failures of the ANC and the manifold malfeasances referred-to above, I am heartened that the South African spirit is alive and well. It is evident in the entrepreneurs found in every township and community who manage to survive despite the barriers. You see it when you look at organisations like Gift of the Givers, which has become a global force for good. It is demonstrated in the creative talent of a new generation that is earning accolades on stages in every genre from opera to photography and comedy. And who cannot notice the wonder of Amapiano, whose pioneers are generating joy and resources with their uniquely South African outlook?

Alas, despite these and other glimmering flashes of positivity, the ANC is on the verge of losing power. This is not because Ezulweni Investments, a small company from Newcastle, got a writ of attachment against the ANC for R150 million, and the high court sheriff has been to Luthuli House to attach immovable property. It is because, as its own pollsters have warned, the ANC is currently falling significantly short of securing outright victory during next year’s elections. This dramatic decline in the organisation’s popularity is attributable to widely held perceptions that its members and ‘deployees’ are corrupt, that the organisation has a high tolerance threshold for venality, and that the deployment of unsuitable people accounts for the government’s deplorable levels of service to the public.

To address these societal perceptions, the ANC Veterans’ League, in a resolution passed at its conference and in decisions subsequently taken at the league’s successive National Executive Committee meetings, urged the leadership of the organisation to ensure that members who have been accused of criminality or recommended for referral to criminal justice institutions by commissions set up to investigate corruption, should not be allowed to continue in office. The Veterans’ League specifically recommended that such individuals be considered ineligible for nomination to represent the ANC in the 2024 national and provincial elections. Unfortunately, the ANC NEC has shown no urgency to deal with this matter.

Consequently, I have come to the realisation that my time and energies would be better spent elsewhere. Even as I painfully sever ties with my once glorious organisation, I shall continue to keep a vigil over any and all matters pertaining to governance in the country.

It is not easy to leave an organisation that continues to be home to some of the most dedicated individuals I have had the good fortune, honour and privilege to call comrades. But it is time to go.

Sincere regards,
Mavuso Msimang, Citizen of South Africa

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