Baleka Mbete’s last dance: issues ANC a warning to face reality or lose votes

ANCWL national task team convenor Baleka Mbete on Friday evening delivered a frank reflection on the governing party’s electoral demise and structural decay.

Baleka Mbete’s political report kept the more than 3 000 delegates gathered at the Nasrec Expo Centre to elect the ANCWL’s national leadership glued to their chairs.

She also earned glowing praise from ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula, who in turn dedicated his message of support yesterday to Baleka Mbete.

The former speaker of parliament left no stone unturned, locating the ANCWL’s degeneracy in Polokwane in 2007, where she became the party’s national official.

Factionalism was not spared, and so were the “imperialist advances” on the African continent that she rebuked as something to be frowned upon at every turn.

Baleka Mbete has since declined further leadership roles within the ANCWL, marking her official retirement from active politics.

“The post-Polokwane intensely factional environment had a very negative effect to all structures of the movement at all levels.  She said women were also affected as they are part of the movement and all its formations throughout.

“It is a fact that when history is captured it will show how exactly and how much we reflected this contamination as women,” Baleka Mbete told the delegates.

According to Baleka Mbete, entrenched factionalism was at the core of the ANC’s weakening and losing electoral support.

She urged ANC members to confront this “demon of factionalism” head on. But warned if they continued to pretend that all is well, the decline would continue unabated.

Baleka Mbete called on the ANCWL to be at the forefront of corrective measures. “A strong ANC is needed in 2024… the need for the women’s league to be its best and its strongest cannot be over emphasised. The beginning of this is mending and retracing our steps as alliance women, not superficially, but honestly.

“The truth shall set us free as well as strengthen us fundamentally,” she said.

In Baleka Mbete’s view, women should claim their rightful place as leaders, as was the case with former women leaders such asAdelaide Tambo and Albertina Sisulu.

She dismissed the view that women can only rise to political leadership by piggybacking on male leaders. She said it was a historical myth, possibly first peddled during Adelaide and Albertina’s time. They were married to prominent ANC male leaders, Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu, respectively.

“The facts of history are that these couples met in youthful gatherings that led to the formation of the ANC Youth League, back in the 40s.

“The teenage girls had been individually conscientised and had individually drifted to the meetings where they met other like-minded youngsters.

“Ma Tambo personally narrated her story. Mam’ Albertina Sisulu, a leader of the revolution in her own right, grew to the top of the United Democratic Front.”

Baleka Mbete also admitted that the ANC must face the reality that next year’s national polls present a real chance for a coalition.

This is in contrast to what ANC officials, including party bosses Cyril Ramaphosa and Mbalula have preached, claiming the party will maintain its outright majority.

“The era of coalitions, SG [Mbalula] is upon us, whether we like it or not.”

She said the ANC must come to terms with what it requires to take its rightful place within that context. She warned that the party should not be idealistic and overstate its position but rather be realistic.

“We must embrace the principles of what is required when you have to work with people that do not come from the same background as yourself”.

 But, said Mbete, the ANC would have to work with other parties because there are people who believe in them, and you cannot wish that away.”

She said the ANC must wake up and smell the coffee, realising that its dominance since 1994 has ended. If the party must kiss frogs to govern, so be it in the interest of service delivery.

“We must stop playing games and paralysing our communities and our democracy and most times it is not necessary.”

Baleka Mbete closed off her speech by calling on African countries to confront “imperial advances with aggression”.

“There’ve been plenty of these diabolic activities, including direct and indirect stealing of our land, water, minerals, and other wealth, including oil”.

She said: “It is due – in the main – to the wealth of our continent, for which we’ve greatly suffered as Africans.”

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