CAPE TOWN — There’s no wriggle room when you’re on the world-renowned BBC news programme Hard Talk with Stephen Sackur grilling you on every aspect of the controversy you’re a part of. The controversy that former SA president and ANC stalwart, Kgalema Motlanthe is involved in is, like it or not, his own party. With a few uncomfortable squirms when Sackur challenged him to quit the party and of blaming institutionalisation for its non-delivery ills, Motlanthe agreed that the party is done for, that it’s served its purpose. It would lose the next election at the rate it is sliding down the corrupt, captured sewer. He believes that unless the party can disassociate itself from corruption and failure, people will vote it out. Renewal is only possible if enormously courageous party members confront the Zuptoids head-on. The only other way for the penny to drop will be for the ANC to lose at the polls. Motlanthe side-stepped a Sackur challenge to quit and join the DA as a bridge-building gesture, saying he was dead certain a new broad front will emerge. That a realignment of social forces will happen. Perhaps he missed the mass marches on Parliament in Pretoria and Cape Town, the unions barring Zuma from their functions, the reawakening of civil society. If Motlanthe wriggles, can you imagine what a Zuptoid would do? – Chris Bateman
Kgalema Motlanthe, welcome to Hard Talk.
Thank you, Stephen and thanks to the viewers.
It’s a pleasure to have you here and if I may, I’m going to start with some of your own, very well-chosen words from a year ago. Back then you said, ‘if the ANC is no longer addressing the problems of our people, well, we might as well begin writing its obituary.’ Have you written its obituary?
Not yet because the obituary is really to be written by the people themselves.
Do you think it’s inevitable?
It’s not inevitable. It depends on how the ANC positions itself and how it renews itself and how it connects to the people. And where it begins to understand that it exists for the sole purpose of addressing the concerns of the people.
Well, what the people have seen since you said that rather damning statement. What the people have seen is a raft of allegations, which I can loosely put under the umbrella of ‘accusations of State Capture’ that the key business people, and many of them are associated with one family, have peddled enormous amounts of influence at the heart of government. Now, that family, the Gupta family denies it, but nonetheless the people of SA clearly, are deeply concerned about what they are seeing and hearing.
So, what I’m saying is you said, ‘we may have to write the obituary of this organisation, my organisation then.’ Things have gotten a whole lot worse since then.
That’s true. I did say, at some point that before things can come right they’ve got to definitely get worse first.
You in the end, I suppose, personally and institutionally as a key member of the ANC, you have to decide to what extent this is a Zuma problem and to what extent this is an institutional movement problem?
It’s an institutional movement problem. Whereas, Zuma as the head of the organisation, only serves to amplify that problem but it’s a movement problem.
You did call, I think going back to Spring, you made a decision to call for Zuma to go.
Not just as party chief but as president of the country.
Yes, because my belief is that if you are in a leadership position you have the responsibility of guiding others, and whenever they get off the rails you have the ability to pull them back. That same conscience should help you as well and so, when at leadership level…
You don’t think Zuma has a conscience?
Well, to date it is failing.
It has failed.
This is important because our views and listeners around the world, some will be aware and some will not, the degree to which you represent one of those figures, who is a conscience of the ANC. Ten years you served on Robben Island. You were an activist through the liberation struggle.
You then served loyally Mandela, Mbeki, and you’ve been a former interim president of the country yourself and widely respected, I think it’s fair to say. When you stood up to read out the eulogy to one of your colleagues in the struggle, Ahmed Kathrada, and you chose to repeat his words, that it was time for Zuma to go. So many other veterans and stalwarts stood up and applauded you. Did you know, at that point that you were putting a nail in Zuma’s coffin? Did you feel you were doing that?
No because when conscience fails you, when consciences deserts you, you know moral appeals account for nought. They only serve to reinforce your inability to self-criticise.
So, he is beyond any criticism? It makes no difference to him?
It makes no difference. It’s water off of a back of a duck.
If you had had a vote in that secret parliamentary ballot, the motion of no confidence in Zuma, clearly you would have voted to get rid of him?
Well, the ANC in its messaging, (public messaging), it ought to say, ‘it expects of all its members, all the time, wherever they are, to follow your consciousness,’ because they joined the ANC because of their consciousness in the first instance. For the ANC to say, ‘it does not expect and permit its public representatives, at national level, to be guided by their consciousness.’ It was a completely wrong message.
Very interesting you put it that way. Your focus is all about conscience. Many people in the ANC, those who are loyal to Mr Zuma, they say, ‘the key pillar for understanding the ANC is the notion of it still being a revolutionary liberation movement and that as a movement, still engaged in the process of liberation it has to have complete loyalty and discipline.’ And you have betrayed that loyalty and that value of discipline.
No, discipline as distinct from disciplinary procedures means your attitude towards work, towards obligations, towards service to the people – that’s what discipline means.
That’s not what Mr Zuma says. Mr Zuma says it means, ‘confronting the enemy and always understanding who we are and who they are.’ And he says, (and I’m going to quote him directly), “Our enemies, trying to destroy the ANC and take control of the country are,” to use his phrase, “the representatives of ‘white monopoly’ capital.”
Well, let me tell you what the nub of that problem is that he uses himself and his name as a metonym for the ANC so, for each one of his personal indiscretions he expects the ANC to defend him. By so doing, he’s then in a position to say, ‘well done, you’ve defended the ANC very well,’ but it’s not the ANC.
So, you’re saying that is complete abuse of the movement?
He is a member of the ANC. He is the leader of the ANC. He found it already in existence with the culture, and values, and morals so, he can’t impose or substitute his own indiscretions for the ANC.
But it’s not just Mr Zuma, is it?
Former President Kgalema Motlanthe says it would be good for the governing ANC to lose the next general election in 2019
— SAfm news (@SAfmnews) September 12, 2017
I mean, the chief whip Jackson Mthembu, he’s talking about disciplining renegades. We have the Police Minister who, at one point, talked about putting a lie detector test on ANC MPs who may have voted secretly for the motion of no confidence and one of the MPs, who was honest, saying, ‘I voted with my conscience,’ Makhosi Khoza. She now faces losing one of her key roles as chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, on Public Service because the ANC leadership seems to want to punish her.
Well, if these leaders you’ve remunerated were just to pause and go through the ANC’s constitution, they will discover that the constitution stipulates that disciplinary proceedings must never be used for suppressing views. Nor for promoting intolerance and, also to settle scores.
So, we respect, Mr Motlanthe, you’re losing the argument. We look at what is happening in the ANC, day-by-day, and your view of how it should work and adhere to its own constitution bears no relation to the reality of what we see.
That’s precisely my point.
So, you need to quit.
No, my point…
But if the movement is going a direction that you regard as completely illegitimate.
My point is you can’t lead an organisation by disregarding its own constitution otherwise what’s the point of qualifying procedures and regulations.
But that’s what’s happening so, my question around and say, ‘what is the point today of the ANC?’ What is its purpose? If it has become so much as a sort of caricature of the principles and values that you believe underpinned it earlier. If it’s betraying those principles what is the point of it?
Yes, precisely that. The question is what is the point of it?
Yes, but you’re one of the senior figures in it so, you tell me?
The point is that the ANC is still a governing party in SA, and therefore very central in the policy of the country. Now, by literally walking over its own constitution it also shows how it repeatedly fails to adhere to the constitution of the land. As a governing party, it has to…
Indeed, it is, its legacy of repeated election victories is that it is the governing party, you can’t argue, it’s a monopoly holder of power in SA. But you seem to be teetering on the edge of something very important. You appear to be looking over the cliff-edge thinking, ‘is it time for me to get out of this movement that has been so perverted?’ Yet, when you get to that cliff-edge, you don’t make the rational move to get out.
No, the point is if we are to salvage the ANC that act can only happen once it has hit rock bottom.
With respect, I don’t believe you think it’s salvageable. This is what you said a couple of months ago, whether you might throw your hat in the ring to run for party leadership in December. You said, “No, I don’t think in that sense that I belong to the ANC, quite frankly. I don’t see the value of joining crooked people. I think the way to relate to crooked people is to stay away from them.” You’ve given up.
Too true. No, the point I’m making is once you have people who are incorrigible and prove to be so through action.
And then they organise themselves and they invite you and say, ‘please come and lead us.’ It’s like being invited by a gang. I say, the entire leadership is crooked with a few exceptions. There are people in that leadership who are trying to stay on the straight and narrow path and who are trying to do right but they are overwhelmed by the network of crooked people actually.
You are walking a very fine line here but I’m going to invite you to keep walking. In terms of Mrs Zuma (Dlamini-Zuma), if I can call her that, the ex-wife of the president. She, it seems, is going to be sworn in as an ANC MP, and the rumour in SA is that she’s very quickly going to be promoted to a senior position in cabinet as a preparation because Mr Zuma clearly believes she is the best candidate to become party chief. How would you respond if that happens?
Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens because she has remained on the reserved list of the ANC for Parliament. So, I suppose it’s time for her to take her place. She remained on that reserved list, even during her tour of duty as the AU Commissioned Chair.
If Dr Dlamini-Zuma were to become the next head of the ANC, would that be a good thing or not?
Well, that’s the call that needs to be made by the members of the ANC…
No, I’m asking you personally, in your position as a senior figure in the ANC, would it be a healthy thing or not?
It depends on whether she gets elected as a consequence of the free expression of the will of the members of the ANC because if she is sponsored by a network of people who disregard ANC procedures. She will be indebted to them and therefore, would be hamstrung in leadership.
In brief, the other front runner over recent weeks and months in this race, of course not all the candidates declared yet, has been Cyril Ramaphosa, vice president, a senior union figure but more importantly perhaps, one of the country’s biggest business leaders. He’s said to be worth between $400 – $500m. His interests go across industry. He’s also a renowned lover of the good life, if you can put it that way. When you talk about the crisis in the ANC, would he be a man capable of addressing that crisis?
Well, as I said, every organisation gets the leaders it deserves because the members would have elected that leader. So, we deserve president Zuma, as members of the ANC. So, Mr Ramaphosa and all the others who have raised their hands for leadership positions in the ANC, have done so in spite of a directive by the National Executives of the ANC, which is the highest decision maker instructor. They’ve issued a directive to say, ‘please let no one begin to speak about names.’
Let’s not get too procedural.
The nominations will only be opened in September.
"We have to admit our weaknesses, that's the first step. If we don't do that, we will not be able to correct ourselves." – Kgalema Motlanthe
— Roche Mamabolo (@rochemamabolo) August 12, 2017
Let me ask you just a very simple question with a simple answer required. Who do you believe, and looking at the individuals who have expressed an interest in being the next party leader. Who would be the best one in your view, your personal view, to take the ANC out of the mess it’s in?
I don’t know, quite frankly, and I’m trying to explain as to why I’m non [??? 0:16:11.7] by this because these leaders issue a directive to say, ‘no one must mention names.’ And they go out with branded regalia’s and cars.
Well, they’re campaigning, aren’t they?
And they run open campaigns like it’s never been seen before and then they go back to their meetings, of the National Executive Committee and no one ever asks as to why they believe they still enjoy credibility because it creates a credibility gap, if you say one thing…
Well, it’s a huge credibility…
Well, if you say one thing and do the other.
Yes. Give me a personal assessment. Why, after a generation, a full generation, roughly 25 years, (roughly), has the ANC failed to deliver the progress that the people of SA, the black majority of South Africans believed would come with liberation? Look at the figures on endemic poverty, joblessness, particularly amongst the young where it’s well over 50%. Inequality – 10% of the people of your country own more than 90% of the wealth. Why such a record of failure?
Well, there are some improvements that have happened, compared to the olden days of apartheid. However, this failure is really due to a number of factors. One of which is short termism in terms of how government plans. You see, it works on a basis of 5 years and, also weakening the State, the bureaucracy. Here you have what you call ‘permanent secretaries.’ In SA, we have ‘director generals,’ and there’s been a high turnover at that level, which means no institutional memory. Every time there’s a reshuffle of cabinet, the new ministers don’t even give themselves a week to go into the new department to assess strength and weaknesses. From day one they are already accompanied by when they report for duty, by 14 plus new bureaucrats. So, everyone is on a steep learning curve, a new political head, and new senior managers.
I'm not sure how I feel about Kgalema Motlanthe's BBC HardTalk interview. He came across very weak.
— Wayne Hutamo (@WHutamo) September 12, 2017
Well, that’s an interesting institutional take on what’s wrong but surely there’s something much more…?
But it destabilises the State because implementation is done by the State.
Interesting you put it that way, a sort of institutional analysis. The more crude analysis perhaps, that I would say is that, ‘one of the failings of SA is that after liberation the ANC became institutionalised.’ So, your democracy wasn’t really a democracy where there was genuine choice. It was, in a sense, a one-party monopoly democracy, which of course is a contradiction in terms. Isn’t it time for people like you with all of the influence you can wheeled to actually, throw in your lot with a different political perspective? The Democratic Alliance, for example, now led by young leaders who are no longer white, as they used to be in the past. Why don’t you send a message by actually, building bridges to them?
Well, there will be a realignment certainly, of social forces in SA, and I’m dead certain that a new, broad front will emerge.
What do you mean by that?
By that I mean that there will be, as is already happening, you have coalitions and so on. There will be a broad front of confident, capable people, who will create the environment in which the best available talent in SA can come forth.
Will the ANC split? You’re being very…
The ANC has the possibility to renew itself but that will take lots of courage and failing that it has to hit rock bottom. It has to lose elections for the penny to drop.
Would you like to see the ANC lose the next elections? Would it be good for SA if it lost the next election?
For as long as it is associated with corruption and failure people will vote it out.
Would it be good for SA if it were voted out?
It will be good for the ANC itself.
And for the people of the country.
Let me tell you why, because those elements who are in it for their leisure will quit, will desert it and only then will the possibility arise for salvaging whatever is left of it.
You seem to be telling me if there were an election in SA tomorrow, you would not vote for the ANC.
Well, I’m a member of the ANC.
That doesn’t matter, would you actually vote for them?
The vote is a secret.
I don’t think you’re making that much of a secret. I just wonder why you are not happy to say to me what is the only rational explanation for what you’ve just said, which is that it would be good for the ANC to lose an election.
If you think that then surely, the logical conclusion is you wouldn’t vote for them.
Well, I would try to get it to win but I’m dead certain that at the rate at which it is sliding to the bottom, to me, it is actually going to lose the elections, that’s for sure.
You think the next national election in SA the ANC may lose?
That’s extraordinary. We’re talking about a party, which since liberation has commanded more than 60% of the vote.
It’s not extraordinary because political parties are established for a purpose, a specific purpose. Maybe the ANC has achieved that.
And outlived it?
Kgalema Motlanthe, we have to end there but thank you so much for being on Hard Talk.
Thank you, Stephen.