Sunday Politics: Smallanyana skeletons paralysing ANC

Johannesburg – ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini made a startling revelation that many leaders in the governing party have “smallanyana skeletons” in their closets.

In an interview with the SABC in 2016, the then social development minister warned party members against airing their dirty linen in public. “All of us in the NEC [national executive committee of the ANC] have our smallanyana skeletons and we don’t want to take out our skeletons because all hell will break loose,” said Batha, as she is affectionately known in ANC circles, speaking on the sidelines of the Commission on the Status of Women at the UN in New York.

The smallanyana skeletons came to mind as one reflected on the outcomes of the last scheduled meeting of the ANC’s top brass, the NEC.


The party took an interesting decision to release the political overview delivered by ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa at the opening of the meeting, a departure from the normal tradition of delivering it behind closed doors.

Ramaphosa used his opening address to come down hard on his colleagues.

He said it was an indictment that there were five legal opinions on the party’s resolution, that those facing allegations of corruption should step aside.

He said the challenge that the party was facing was not only the implementation of its conference resolutions and NEC decisions, but also “revolutionary discipline and consciousness”.

The president sounded in charge and set the tone for the meeting in which it was expected that the party’s secretary-general Ace Magashule – who is facing charges of corruption, fraud, and money-laundering – would step aside.

However, the president and his supporters faced stiff resistance in the meeting, leading to a sanitised closing address that deferred the resolution – that members facing allegations of corruption must step aside – back to officials to give clear guidelines on the matter.

If memory serves me well, the August NEC meeting had decided that officials must compile a list of those accused of corruption and serious crimes with recommendations for action.

The lack of decisive action against ANC leaders facing serious allegations of wrongdoing shows an organisation paralysed to act against rogue leaders.

What’s causing the paralysis? Perhaps Batha’s words provide the answer: “All of us in the NEC have our smallanyana skeletons and we don’t want to take out our skeletons because all will break loose.”

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