Open letter to Gwede Mantashe: Time to stop being ANC’s Mr Nice Guy

JOHANNESBURG — Sparks reportedly flew at this week’s ANC policy conference where delegates thrashed out a number of issues. However, little time was seemingly spent on talking about the country’s economic woes and its notorious number one family, the Guptas. Rather, a lot of energy was spent on determining whether or not the party should employ the phrase ‘white monopoly capital’ or just ‘monopoly capital’. There were also murmurs that the ANC wants to nationalise SARB. In a situation like this, it’s clear that the centre of the ANC is not holding. But what are the likes of Gwede Mantashe, the secretary general of the party, doing to fix these problems? Apart from presenting a report on the ANC’s woes, Errol Hortwitz in this letter says that Uncle Gwede should be doing more… – Gareth van Zyl 

ANC Policy Conference 2017: Tinkering with the party’s engine while the country’s wheels are coming off. More of Zapiro’s magic available at

By Errol Horwitz*

Dear Gwede:

I have been meaning to write to you for sometime. I regret the delay due to never-ending revelations from leaked Gupta emails that have “captured” me, akin to compulsively watching a decades old rotten TV soap opera.  

I presume you would like to put the Gupta genie back in the bottle to repress the damaging information that has become common knowledge. Being an old hand in the political arena you must know that the ubiquity and pervasive nature of the leaks make it impossible to do so. So, isn’t it time to engage in serious soul-searching and damage control?

African National Congress Secretary General Gwede Mantashe. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Before I comment on your diagnostic report delivered at the ANC policy conference, I need you to know that I empathise with your efforts to restore some level of integrity, good governance, transparency and credibility to the ANC.  

I, and many others, paid a price for our support for a better South Africa for all during the period the ANC was banned. Ask me now if I would again put myself in harms way in support of the present day ANC? The answer is a resounding NO.  

There is very little left of a once principled movement that is now wallowing in a cesspool of corruption, plunder and patronage. But old loyalties die hard, and for that reason, I ask you, as one of the few remaining influential ANC band of brothers, to face up to the ANC’s current state, by not taking it by its horns, but by its tail. This will allow you to take it down a regenerative path, by initially ridding the party of a phalanx of party miscreants, reprobates and fraudsters. The list is long, but the end result will at least leave you with a few good men and women to rebuild the party in all respects.  

You have, in the past, demonstrated some effort to engage in “teachable moments” with your comrades. Until now your efforts have not resonated. If it is any consolation consider, paraphrasing Ronald Reagan, what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run through the ANC policy conference, or for matter, Luthuli House. Moses did not make it to the promised land, but his unsurpassed morality and faith bear the stamp of immortality. Obviously you are not a Moses, but you can certainly emulate him. As it is, according to the Good Book, you share some of his characteristics – a wise countenance, and if I may be so bold, a speech impediment.

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Moses carried a big stick, and in no uncertain manner got his point across. So do you, but with ambivalence, bordering on not wishing to offend your comrades. As I said, emulate Moses but carry a big stick as well. Your time is now –  no more being Mr. Nice Guy. Don’t get me wrong you can still speak softly, but do it with a big stick.  Until you do, your comrades will not listen, especially those bent on looting state resources to unlawfully enrich themselves, family and friends. You know who they are, their benefactors, all synergistically interacting to transforming the country into a mafia state, and ultimately its collapse.  

So, having hopefully gained your attention it is now time to show real signs of your mettle. Your diagnostic report to the policy conference was a promising start. You raised concerns that the rest of the leadership refuse to address. However, your diagnostic report was couched in nuanced and vague references to critical issues facing the ANC. For example, state capture, and the ANC’s capitulation of its decision-making to the Guptas; and, the extent of Zuma’s unholy relationship with the Guptas. What you did openly advocate was for the party to take “serious action or being seen to do so” against corruption. If this means a prioritised policy for vigorous arrests, prosecutions and convictions, a step in the right direction. Will this be implemented? Unlikely as the streets will be littered with too many ANC rolling heads.  

Read also: Open letter to the ‘super-suit without substance’, Minister Malusi Gigaba

Although you nuanced your report, it will nevertheless generate a troublesome reaction from the Zuma faction, inasmuch as it will be regarded as a personal attack on their benefactor. Perish the thought, as they have no understanding that your report diagnostically concluded the ANC is on political life support, with the Grim Reaper lurking in the background.  

Gwede, you are the last man standing to transform the ANC into a party that honours the values embedded in our constitutional democracy. Speak out openly and frankly, and use your big stick when needed. You will lose so-called friends in doing so, but it is a small price to pay for the greater good of the country, and of course your legacy.  

  • Errol Horwitz was a political activist in the 60’s, and returned to South Africa a few years ago, after residing abroad for more than three decades.
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