ANC Vet League president Zikalala: Coalition with DA – sure. With EFF – absolutely no way.

South Africa will need all the cool heads it can access over the few months as the country moves towards the watershed 2024 National Election where its long-time rulers are likely to lose their Parliamentary majority. One-time Robben Islander and former MD of News at the national broadcaster Dr Snuki Zikalala, weighs in with a hopeful message to counter those predicting chaos. Zikalala was this week re-elected president of the ANC Veteran’s League, which he explains is the most important of the movement’s three fundamental structures. In this powerful interview, Zikalala argues that popular opinion and even pundits like RW Johnson are wrong about the far-left EFF being the ANC’s “natural partner” – explaining why, post-2024, it would be impossible for the two parties to enter into a governing coalition. On the other hand, provided pre-conditions are met, he is confident a coalition between the ANC and the Democratic Alliance, the official opposition, would work in the national interest. Controversial within some quarters, but Zikalala has never been afraid of rocking the boat. His message offers an inside track into thinking within the ANC, and is sure to be welcomed by moderates hoping for a post-2024 turnaround in the country’s flagging fortunes. – Alec Hogg

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introductions
  • 00:51 – Dr Snuki Zikalala on the importance of the Veteran’s League within the ANC structures
  • 02:56 – Dr Zikalala on how seriously the resolutions of the Vet League are taken
  • 05:04 – On why the ANC will not form coalitions with the EFF
  • 06:34 – On why the ANC is open to coalitions with the DA
  • 07:33 – On the conflicting viewpoints within the ANC membership
  • 08:59 – On the current coalitions the ANC has with the EFF
  • 10:43 – How the Veteran’s League views the internal power struggles within the ANC
  • 11:22 – How the ANC Veteran’s League see South Africa today
  • 14:06 – On the National Democratic Revolution
  • 15:32 – On the steps that need to be taken following the Zondo commission
  • 16:36 – On whether the Veteran’s League share the frustrations of the South African people, and the need to get South Africa back on track
  • 21:03 – Concludes

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Edited transcript of the interview

Alec Hogg: Dr. Snuki Zikalala, it’s been a while since our last conversation. It’s truly a pleasure to have you as president of the ANC Veterans League with us today, shedding light on the League’s perspectives on crucial matters. For those unfamiliar with the ANC’s structure, could you describe the importance of the ANC Veterans League?

Snuki Zikalala: Certainly. The Veterans League is critical. It is the most senior structure within the African National Congress. We have three leagues in total. There’s the Youth League, which held a conference about two weeks ago. The Women’s League, which also had its conference two weeks ago. And then we have the Veterans League, which had its conference a few days ago, from Friday to Sunday. Membership in the Veterans League isn’t for everyone – it’s for comrades who are at least 60 years old and have 40 years of uninterrupted service to the African National Congress. When we see that someone has met these criteria in our electronic membership system, we request a brief personal profile and details about their involvement with the ANC underground, given that the ANC was banned in 1960. We also ask for the names of at least two colleagues they worked with underground. As I was saying, this includes comrades who worked with COSATU, UDF, Mass Democratic Organisation, defence and aid campaigns. These are people who qualify having rendered 40 years of uninterrupted service to the African National Congress. We verify these claims with the named colleagues to confirm the authenticity of their service. So, that’s the caliber of individuals we have within the Veterans League.

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Alec Hogg: So, these are individuals with vast life experience and substantial tenure in the ANC. Could you elaborate on the role you play, especially since you came forward with some strong resolutions this week? How are these resolutions received?

Snuki Zikalala: Our resolutions are taken very seriously. According to our constitution, it’s stated clearly that we have the authority to intervene in matters that impact the integrity and dignity of the organisation. We have the authority to intervene in instances of unethical behaviour, corruption, malfeasance, or gender-based violence. We have the power to assert that such things cannot occur within the African National Congress. We have a considerable influence. For instance, last year, we persuaded the NEC of the ANC to ensure that six veterans, who are not NEC members, sit on the ANC’s disciplinary committee, while four are NEC members. We insist that veterans must drive discipline within the organisation. We also ensured that six members of the Veterans League are on the Disciplinary Committee on Appeals, and they are not NEC members. This committee is chaired by Comrade Johnny de Lange, an elected NEC member of the Veterans League, with four NEC members also involved. This structure prevents favouritism, as some NEC members might defend close comrades. Instead, we have independent individuals who can objectively assess allegations against any comrade.

Alec Hogg: The central issue that the media has highlighted is the ANC’s resolution not to form coalitions with the EFF at local government level. Could you elaborate on the reasoning behind this and what the implications might be if enacted, given that numerous local governments currently operate under coalitions between the two parties?

Snuki Zikalala: We have a defined framework for coalitions, a document which we, as the Veterans League, influenced for adoption. We argued that coalitions should not be formed without a proper framework. This framework is founded on seven pillars. Firstly, coalitions must be based on a common minimum program, a citizen’s charter focusing on measurable service delivery and community development targets. Such a program should be public and open for community discussion. Secondly, we proposed that coalition partners should share values such as stability, accountability, ethics, good governance, constitutional respect and rule of law, social justice, equity, human dignity, and non-racialism. The third aspect is that the party with the most votes should lead the municipal coalition and executive positions should be allocated proportionately to votes obtained by coalition partners. Now, in assessing the EFF, we have found that they do not uphold good governance, ethical values, and integrity, nor do they respect the

Alec Hogg: So, they violate these principles?

Snuki Zikalala: Precisely. The EFF fails to honour these principles. However, there are other parties that do respect them. For instance, the DA upholds the rule of law and respects our constitutional democracy. Consequently, there wouldn’t be any issue if we were to form a coalition with the DA. Suppose they secured 45 percent of votes and we secured 44, and they presented a program of action aimed at community development and service delivery, such as providing electricity, maintaining roads, and managing waste. There wouldn’t be any problem in negotiating with any party committed to serving the underprivileged and upholding the rule of law.

Alec Hogg: However, many within the ANC consider the DA as The Enemy, and what you’ve just suggested might be a bitter pill to swallow.

Snuki Zikalala: We are conveying to our people that we’re not against collaboration with any party as long as it prioritises service delivery and community development. It’s all about providing services to the poor and society at large. If the proposed coalition partner respects the rule of law and our constitutional democracy, it’s worth considering. Of course, with the DA, there are certain red lines. They’ve shown resistance to transformation, and some members exhibit racial bias. However, if they propose a common program for public service delivery and we mutually agree on it, I don’t foresee our society objecting to such an agreement. Our people are the ones bearing the brunt of these issues. If the DA pledges to impart governance skills, we wouldn’t object to that. We’re open to collaboration with any party, but the EFF’s lack of respect for the rule of law and our constitutional democracy prevents us from considering a coalition with them.

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Alec Hogg: Currently, the ANC has coalitions with the EFF, and many analysts argue that they are a natural partner should the ANC not secure 50 percent after 2024.

Snuki Zikalala: I would argue against the EFF being a natural partner. We’re competing for the same votes. The EFF has been very clear about their intentions to unseat us and their disdain for our president. How can we enter a coalition with the EFF when they’ve expressed their aim to unseat our president and the African National Congress? Furthermore, where is our pride and dignity if we enter into a coalition with a party that doesn’t uphold our values? As veterans, we’re planning to meet with the top seven to discuss the issue of forming coalitions with parties that don’t respect the rule of law, economic development, and our constitution. This is about the livelihood of ordinary people and South Africans as a whole.

Alec Hogg: You’ve mentioned the top seven. There seems to be significant jostling for power, with Fikile Mbalula being outspoken about his ambition and Paul Mashatile conducting something of a media charm campaign. What’s the veterans’ take on this, considering it breaks from the ANC tradition of not publicly declaring leadership ambitions before elective conferences?

Snuki Zikalala: To my knowledge, Fikile Mbalula hasn’t openly expressed presidential ambitions. Paul, although the deputy president, is not guaranteed the presidency if a change occurs. It’s the National Executive Committee that decides who becomes president. If there is jostling for presidency, it’s not fair to automatically presume that they will lead the African National Congress.

Alec Hogg: What’s the veterans’ viewpoint on the current state of South Africa?

Snuki Zikalala: Could you be more specific, Alec?

Alec Hogg: According to the SA Reserve Bank, we’re likely to have 0.6% economic growth this year and 1% next year. Given our population growth is at 1.5%, we’re facing increasing poverty. Businesses are trying to step in where possible. Where do the veterans think things went wrong, and what are their suggestions?

Snuki Zikalala: As veterans, we are advocating for a social compact that we believe should have been signed at Nedlac, involving business, labor, and government. Business has shown willingness to participate and has proposed over two trillion rand for this compact, aiming to create jobs and revitalise the economy post-COVID. However, labor is still hesitating. We, as veterans, are committed to engaging with labor and ensuring they join in because the high unemployment rate is causing rising food costs, crime, and violence. We believe it’s essential to bring together business, labour, government, and community organisations to sign the social compact at Nedlac. Just last week, businesses agreed to support government-led economic growth, which is a positive development. The challenge now is to get labor on board, and we will ensure that happens. Economic recovery is crucial, given the high unemployment, increasing inflation, and skyrocketing food prices. As the African National Congress, we firmly believe in signing the social compact.

Alec Hogg: What about the National Democratic Revolution? In her recent book, Dr. Anthea Jeffrey claims it was conceived in the Soviet Union in the 1950s and is no longer suitable. However, it seems to remain a key part of the ANC’s economic blueprint.

Snuki Zikalala: The National Democratic Revolution, in essence, signifies providing quality services to our people. We need to address low education, stimulate economic growth, establish public healthcare in the country, and ensure economic stability. We need more black economic empowerment companies, not just those listed on the stock exchange, and we need to boost investment in our economy. The current state of our economy is stagnating. The National Democratic Revolution maintains that we must bring stability to our community and society, grow the economy, enforce the rule of law, and offer quality services to our people in all sectors. That’s the true meaning of the National Democratic Revolution.

Alec Hogg: And the Zondo Commission? As the Veterans League, you’ve previously emphasised your focus on integrity. The Zondo Commission extensively addressed corruption within the state and state capture. What’s your stance on the conclusions that Judge Zondo provided?

Snuki Zikalala: We have a plan of action to implement the Zondo Commission’s recommendations. Our declaration clearly states that the ANC must address the unimplemented recommendations of the Zondo Commission. We believe these recommendations need to be implemented. Law enforcement agencies should take action against those implicated by the Zondo Commission, irrespective of who they are. We stand by this principle. Shamila Batohi needs to step up and act. It doesn’t matter who it is. If someone has been implicated and charges can be laid against them, it should be done. We, as veterans, believe in the rule of law in this country.

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Alec Hogg: As veterans, do you share the same frustrations that many South Africans have regarding the country’s current state of affairs?

Snuki Zikalala: Could you be more specific, Alec?

Alec Hogg: I’m referring to the challenges in getting our country back on track, stimulating economic growth, reducing unemployment, stabilising the Rand, and ensuring consistent electricity supply. Frustration levels are extremely high. If we reflect back on Thabo Mbeki’s presidency, where government debt was reducing and the economy was growing rapidly, the current state of affairs seems like a different era. How do we get back onto that track?

Snuki Zikalala: People should remember that the revelations from the Zondo Commission indicate that there has been a counterrevolution in this country since Thabo Mbeki’s removal. All structures of the organisation were decimated. There was widespread looting, particularly in the economic sector. That’s why we insist that those implicated by the Zondo Commission should face the law. People should not forget that many senior figures within the NPA, the Reserve Bank, and the police left their positions because they were against the prevailing corruption. Even the media was compromised. The decade that followed Mbeki’s removal is rightfully called the lost decade. Now, to recover from this, it will take years to train new, skilled, and incorruptible prosecutors. The National Democratic Revolution was compromised, but we’re not giving up. If we were, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We will continue to work to defend our democracy, instil ethical values, and focus on the development of our organisation’s members. We need leaders who understand the origins and principles of the African National Congress and the South African constitution. We believe the ANC has been hijacked by unscrupulous elements. Those who have been named in the Zondo Commission must face the full might of the law.

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