Is the ANC losing ‘clever blacks’?
A leading academic, Barney Pityana, tells President Jacob Zuma: resign.
An essayist and thinker, Njabulo Ndebele, writes three excoriating essays about the descent into lying and theft by the administration.
And a famed female doctor and philosopher Mamphela Ramphele goes it on her own – starting a platform with a clear mission to attract the black intelligentsia.
Is the ANC losing its stronghold as the home of black intellectuals, or “clever blacks” – as the president put it recently.
The ANC says the notion that it lacks intellectualism and treats criticism from academics and public intellectuals with hostility is unfair and exaggerated.
The party insists the role of intellectuals and academics has grown within the ANC and government.
It also says complex policy decisions are informed by engagements with intellectuals from all walks of life.
But Professor Shadrack Gutto, director of African Renaissance Studies at Unisa, says the ANC often “confuses” critical thought for an “oppositional” stance against the party.
“Such projection (by the ANC of intellectuals) leads to anti-intellectualism. Some politicians, who are drunk with power, think they are omniscient.”
Pityana wrote in the Sunday Independent last week that since President Jacob Zuma’s administration took over the balance within the party had shifted.
“The ANC has become less and less tolerant of divergent views and opinions. My sense is that though ‘thinking ANC members’ may well remain members of the organisation, there is a lot of disillusionment with the leadership.
“I know of some intellectuals who remain committed to the ANC and what it stands for today. There are many others, perhaps the majority, who are indifferent and maintain a neutral stance, and do not wish to get involved,” said Pityana this week.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said many intellectuals, when analysing the ANC and government, were subjective in their commentary.
“When you talk of an alienation of intellectuals by the ANC, what do you mean? Are you talking about commentators or critics who have never been part of the ANC or worked with it? Those are not intelligentsia. Those are commentators expressing their opinions,” Mantashe said.
Mantashe said an audit of the educational qualifications of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) or Cabinet would show a high level of education.
“Because you see an ANC president with no formal education, you say there are no intellectuals in the ANC.”
The party, said Mantashe, developed complex policy because of resolutions that came from discussions within its structures.
“In 2007, we resolved to establish a National Planning Commission. We have done so. It was first a resolution at an ANC conference. When we come to decisions with far-reaching implications, that is intellectual enough for me.”
He said the ANC engaged with public intellectuals and accepted these people’s right to differ from party views.
ANC NEC member and Minister of Home Affairs Naledi Pandor echoed Mantashe’s sentiments.
She said it was “dishonest” to characterise the ANC as somehow separated from an intellectual core.
“The notion of a divide and a lack of contact between the ANC and intellectuals is an exaggerated one,” said Pandor.
“I do think there are areas of difference of opinion, but that is part of academic life about discourse, debate and different ideas. But the ANC should not be seen as separate from or not engaged with the intellectual core in our country.”
The ANC’s intellectual core had grown, Pandor insisted.
“If you trawled through all the committees engaged by ministers in government, you will find a rich intellectual presence in the structures we create.”
- Xolani Mbanjwa and Paddy Harper