VUSI MAVIMBELA whispers into the ear of Ramaphosa and Mbeki: ‘Save the ANC and the Country’

Dear Cyril Ramaphosa and Thabo Mbeki, 

I had a once-in-a-lifetime dream yesternight. As a Marxist social scientist, I do not believe that dreams are divine revelations on the road to a Damascene emancipation. I think most of one’s dreams are latent thoughts buried under one’s subconscious mind. They often come out handy when one has to be reminded that one is choking because one is not sleeping properly, or when one who is fast asleep needs to be alerted that they need to empty their urinary tract. Anyway, I am not writing to you because I want to delve into the murky world of Ivan Pavlov, Sigmund Freud or Abraham Maslow. I am telling you the dream I had in a simple form and in simple terms. So, for the time being, take out of your mind what Le Duan might have said about the care of the movement, or Gramsci might have theorized about the importance of the organic intellectual, or Lenin might have written about the immediate tasks of the Soviet government. Just accept what I am about to tell you as a real ordinary dream that occurred to an ANC member.


I dreamt I was sitting between the two of you in some important conference whose character I could not properly visualise. It might be that I was so overwhelmed by the exalted opportunity to find myself sandwiched between your two shoulders in a conference. I do remember though that none of us in the conference had safety masks on, nor was social distancing regulations observed; dreams do have the tendency to ignore the reality of the moment and the times. 

Mr Mbeki, I turned and I whispered into your ear; “Chief would you by any chance consider coming back and actively getting involved in reviving the political life of the ANC?” You turned gingerly towards me and frowned, your grey eyelashes almost colliding together. I think I saw you taking a glance past me and towards Ramaphosa. You turned and looked straight ahead without saying a word. I proceeded; “Chief, I mean let us look ahead. The first prize would be getting you elected as the Chairperson of the ANC in the next conference. Comrade Mantashe is politically mature enough to give space and vie for another position in the leadership. The groundwork could be laid firmly in the coming policy conference if you agree to take this political cudgel now. We really need to strengthen the top leadership of the movement. There is a need to inject political integrity and political maturity into our leadership”. You continued to look ahead without uttering a word.

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President Ramaphosa, I turned around and whispered into your ear; “Mr President, would you consider drawing Mr Mbeki actively into your political platform and agenda?” You turned and looked at me with a bewildered face and a hesitant smile. I proceeded; “Mr President, I know you are astute enough to understand that Mbeki would not want to be seen gravitating towards the political centre stage of the movement without you pulling him towards it. Mr President, your political leadership is exposed to vicious winds both within and without the ANC. You need, not only committed ANC leaders to support your platform and agenda, you also need ANC leaders with political and moral integrity and maturity to buttress your political mast. Sadly Mr President, ANC leaders with political and moral integrity are now is short supply”. You bent over backwards and stole a glance at Mbeki.   

Disappointingly Gentlemen, neither of you answered my questions in this dream. I surprised myself for the guts to ask those questions. What I remember well is that when I realised I was sitting between the two of you, I soon recalled what political capital the two of you brought into the ANC and the country. 

I remembered that it was only under you, Mr Mbeki, that the ANC registered a two third majority in our parliament. I remembered that it was only under your stewardship that the economy of our country clocked a 5% growth rate. I acknowledge that your economic policies were market friendly and were seen as neo-liberal to the chagrin of your Leftist allies. The reality however is that there was nothing fundamentally fatal about your economic policies. What was absent was a rigorous programme, driven by your government, to transform the apartheid racial and class structure and patterns of the economy. We needed a more robust intervention in order to restructure patterns of the apartheid economy. The BEE option we adopted did not significantly address apartheid racial and class patterns. We tinkered around them, creating a handful of wealthy African individuals and corporates. The economic means of production overwhelmingly remained in white hands. The market-friendly policies we adopted, left on their own, actually accentuated both the macro and micro apartheid economic racial patterns even as the economic cake was growing. White capital became super wealthy and the majority of the African poor became poorer. I am sure Chief, you remember your haunting rendition on ‘the two economies’, one black and the other white. We needed to be bolder if we wanted to challenge the patterns that Madiba inherited. The starting point was the dire need to transform the education system. The big majority of African people were uneducated and those that were ‘educated’ had the inappropriate skills to help transform racial economic patterns. Bantu Education persisted after 1994 and yet we thought African children could acquire better education. The very African educators we relied upon were Bantu Education graduates. The consequence is that 26 years after political liberation the majority of Africans are still uneducated and ill-educated for the immediate task of the democratic government. So how do we racially transform the economy, how do African people take over the commanding heights of the economy if they are uneducated and ill-educated? Even grand scale agriculture needs mathematics, chemistry, agronomy, etc. When Deng Xiaoping realised that the Chinese education system and its industry had lagged behind those of developed countries, he sent thousands and thousands of Chinese students to Japan, France, USA, Singapore and other countries. He knew that the Chinese education system was flawed and the majority of the population uneducated and he could not transform the economy with an uneducated and ill-educated population. One of the things that should have been done by the ANC was to wrestle education structures out of the clutches of Cosatu and Sadtu. One of the biggest culprits in the failure to transform our education system is the trade unions. We understand and accept their right to promote the interests of their members. However they defended and protected degeneracy and apartheid inertia in the name of protecting their members. They resisted the re-education and performance management of their members. They did it at the expense of the African child, the transformation of the economy and the country. It is a great disservice.  

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President Ramaphosa, there will always be a debate as to what would have happened to the ANC and the subsequent national elections if you had not won in Nasrec. I don’t want to enter that debate, but I am one of those delegates who cast my vote in your favour. I think your success gave the ANC a breather, an important opportunity to review itself. I know you have tried against all the odds and machinations within and without the ANC to live by your manifesto. Regrettably, the transformation of the ANC has not happened because it is being stalled by elements that benefit from the status quo. Others would say it was to be expected given the narrow margin of your victory at Nasrec. You have tried to transform state structures in order to help clean the state of endemic corruption. Again, regrettably the wheels of justice are turning rather slowly for those who genuinely supported your election agenda. The epidemic of Covid 19 has not made the task of transforming some of the institutions easy. Whilst I understand your political and organisational constraints, Mr President, what you cannot run away from is that there is an urgent need to transform the racial structure of the economy. The future survival and wellbeing of the country, or indeed the legacy of the ANC, depend on visible progress on that front. You need to bite the bullet and responsibly forge ahead with the task of transformation; the majority both in the ANC and the country will support you. But again, Mr President, you need an educated population to fully transform the country. It is also sad to say that you do not have a good number of ANC leaders around you that still have the political and moral integrity that can sustain the hope of the people. It is for that reason I mastered the guts to whisper in Mbeki’s ear, Mr President. You might not have seen me doing that, but I did. I did that because there is dearth of integrity and political morality both in our parliament and the political leadership of the country as a whole. You need to broaden the alliance of those who have the sympathy for your broad agenda. I hazard the guess that Mbeki is one of those.

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Gentlemen, then I woke up. I was sad to realise that it was only a dream that was reminding me that my kettle was full and it needed to be emptied.

I wish both of you well!

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