Mbalula: Slates defined Mangaung
Sabelo Ndlangisa interviewed Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula who was left out of the ANC’s National Executive Committee at Mangaung.
Q: Did it come as a surprise that you were not elected to the NEC after your unsuccessful bid for the position of deputy secretary-general?
A: No, I fully understood that by agreeing to stand for an officials post, it could result in the worst scenario including not being elected into the National Executive Committee, because in recent times the leadership election in the ANC has been characterised by the unfortunate phenomenon of slates, which was the defining feature of this conference.
Q: To what would you attribute the fact that branches left you out of the NEC?
A: I believe it is the influence of the slate, it seems delegates came to conference with instructions not to deviate but to vote according to a specific slate. But at the end democracy took its course, and for me I would go back to my province and branch to work there. I am not going to marginalise myself from the movement and in any case there is life after Mangaung.
Q: What’s your take on the current NEC (its mix and representativity across generations)?
A: The National Executive Committee reflects the desires of the members of the ANC. I believe they have made that decision consciously with the utmost confidence that it would serve the organisation and society diligently.
Q: There has been speculation that a cabinet reshuffle after the state of the nation address might result in people such as yourself being axed from government. What is your take on this?
A: I serve in Cabinet by the invitation of the president, and if President Zuma feels that I no longer have a role to play, I will accept any decision taken in this regard, whether it’s redeployment or total exclusion from the executive.
I want to believe that the reshuffle would not be done or influenced by the mere fact that some of us contested for officials positions in the organisation but by the quest to perform much better, because that would be contrary to the teachings that we received and the articulation of the ANC constitution that every member has the right to contest for any position with no hindrance.
That is the flourishing democracy of the ANC as we know it then and today.
Q: Do you think you have a future in the current administration?
A: It is not about my future in this administration, this is an ANC government and if the ANC regards my contribution in government as paramount and continues with my deployment, I will serve and if otherwise I would also abide by any decision.
Q: What are your plans for your political career, should you leave the government?
A: Firstly, I joined the ANC not to be in government but to make a contribution in the struggle to liberate our people. I did not consider this to be career but a calling or service in the interest of the people. I would continue to serve the people through the structures of the ANC at different levels deemed important.
Q: While the new leadership has called for unity, there is talk of impending purges in some provinces of those who lost in Mangaung. If this happens, what would you say the dangers are?
A: I do not believe that the leadership of the ANC as elected would have the plan to purge anyone. To engage in such acts would further divide the organisation and entrench the permanency of factions.
Members would begin to know that if you hold a different view and do not succeed in elections, you would be purged. That would build in the culture of fighting for survival and members would no longer accept the outcome of the democratic election process.
Q: Do you even anticipate something like that to happen?
A: I believe the leadership would not have a plan to do that, the leadership of the ANC has a responsibility to lead all members both those who elected them and those who had a different preference.
The ANC has major issues to attend to other than focusing on trivial matters of a leadership contest.
This 100 years conference had a profound responsibility to define the path that the ANC would traverse, as the conference theme proclaimed, “Unity in Action Towards the Socio-Economic Freedom”.
This asserts the vision of this hundreds years and the membership of the ANC must work for unity of the organisation and society to realise this vision.