What is the ANC Renewal about?

Remarks by ANC Veterans’ League NEC Member Cde Mac Maharaj at the Eastern Cape ANC VL Induction and Strategic Planning Workshop.

  1. The mobilisation of the masses has been at the heart of the ANC’s strategy to overthrow apartheid.  It remained as the core of the ANC strategy even when it turned to armed struggle.  And it was also a critical element when, through the negotiations process, we managed to establish our constitutional democracy.
  1. The achievement of our constitutional democracy has re-defined the conditions under which we have to address the challenges that face our country.  We accept the challenge of periodic and regular elections that constitute an essential element of our democracy.  We regard these regular and periodic elections as providing us with the opportunity to continue with the mobilisation of the people, which constitutes a renewal of our mandate to address the development of our country.  Our democracy provides us with a mechanism to keep the mobilisation of the people at the core of our strategy to bring change. 
  1. What then is nature of the challenges we face in current day South Africa and who should we define as the enemy? We need to do this in a way that broadens and deepens our reach in the society we strive to change.
  1. The ANC has defined this task as the achievement of the transformation embodied in the National Democratic Revolution.  We need to unpack this concept so that the people understand and support the nature of the changes we envisage. 
    1. 4.1.Colonialism and apartheid determined that our society should be based on inequality and discrimination based on racial categorisation and patriarchy.  Removing the basis of this inequality and creating a society based on equality is a fundamental aspect of the NDR.
    1. 4.2.Unemployment was structurally embedded in the economy that we inherited.  And the record of 30 years into our democracy shows that we have not managed to overcome this structural aspect. Furthermore, unemployment has increased especially in the second half of our 30 years of democracy. 
    1. Accordingly, the struggle to eradicate poverty becomes the enemy we are facing.
    1. Our strategy to build a developmental state is critical for overcoming these obstacles to the creation of a society based on equality.  The creation of a growing economy with the goal of creating a full employment economy remains crucial to the concept of the NDR.


  1. It is important to recognise and build our strategy to deliver on these goals through the mechanisms that have been provided by our constitutional democracy.  The goals of the NDR are embedded in our Constitution and it accordingly provides us with the mechanism to address these issues.  We need to embrace this opportunity because it accords fully with the concept on which the ANC strategy is founded, namely, the mobilisation of the masses.  With this difference, that it is part of the DNA of the ANC and its allies that we do not see the role of the masses in the era of democracy as a passive one.
  1. We see the role of the people as a crucial element in which our public representatives are not only held to account but are also participants in delivering the change that we envisage in the NDR. 
  1. The 54th Conference recognised that there has developed a growing loss of confidence in the ANC because of social distance, corruption, nepotism, arrogance, elitism, factionalism, manipulating organisational processes, abusing state power, putting self-interest above the people, leadership weaknesses and loss of integrity characterised  by competition to control state resources,  because of vote buying which has left us with leaders who have difficulty driving our programmes and commanding respect from society and our supporters. 
  1. The 54th Conference correctly identified these features and recognised that organisational renewal of the ANC is an absolute and urgent priority in order to overcome these negative tendencies.  Accordingly, Conference recognised that without such a renewal we would be failing to deliver on the promise that we have inserted into the Constitution of 1996.
  1. Organisational renewal therefore is a pre-condition for re-building the trust of the people in the ANC.  We cannot re-build this trust and would be unable to motivate and mobilise activists, civil society, supporters, and voters if our leaders and members lack basic leadership, organising and communication skills. 
  1. Organisational renewal therefore must address:
  1. the creation of a leadership at all levels of the ANC that is continuously engaged in mobilising our different communities, keeping them informed of the actions we are undertaking through the institutions that exist in our democracy, as well as making the people participants in the process of making change happen. In this way not only our constituency, but society as a whole, will develop a sense of ownership and confidence in making our democracy deliver;
  1. ensuring that members of the ANC are equipped with organising and communication skills. This would enable the ANC branch to engage with the communities in which the branch operates in a constructive manner with civil society and speak to the communities as whole and not just to its membership.
  1. What then is the role of our Veterans League in this enormous struggle to renew our organisation? 
    1. 11.1.The Veterans League emerged from its July 2023 Conference by re-organising itself in all provinces within a tight time frame. We held a conference where political and developmental issues dominated the agenda of conference.  Competition for positions became a side-show. 
    1. 11.2.The difficulties that our organisation faces cannot be underestimated. It is important that we share with our mother body and fellow Leagues the manner in which the VL Conference chose to elect its national executive when it realised that the customary way in which we conducted elections would not deliver a leadership that manifestly upheld geographical spread, gender equality and non-racialism.  Our constituency and the public were therefore able to recognise that the principle focus of our conferences is to change the conditions under which the people live and begin to understand that the elimination of poverty is in the interest not only of the poor and unemployed, but of society as a whole. Veterans, who are normally seen as people who are bound by existing practices and customs, showed at this conference that they can be pathfinders in being adaptable, and in adjusting to particular conditions under which they find themselves.
    1. 11.3.We exist as a Veterans League in order to support, strengthen and help our mother body the ANC to rise to the challenges we face. This means that every level of the ANC, from the national to the provincial, to the regional and the branch level, the VL needs to assist in facilitating the renewal process. 
    1. 11.4.It is important that while measures are being taken to try and improve the calibre of the leadership structures, we must not lose sight of the necessity to change the calibre of the membership at the branch level.  The ANC branches are not entrusted with tasks that compel them to interact not just within themselves as a branch but with the community in which the branch is operating.  We have to change this. The branches must become mobilisers of the people with a perspective that goes beyond organising protests.  ANC branches have to: a) become mobilisers of the community as a whole to become participants in our democracy and (b) to engage as a community with the State structures so that those State structures are assisted to deliver on the task they are entrusted with.  Our aim in this regard should be to make democracy deliver.  We want to build the people’s confidence not just in the ANC, but also in our democracy.  Building confidence in our democracy is an essential part of building confidence in the ANC.
    1. 11.5.In the period leading up to the 1994 democratic elections we recognised in our strategy and tactics that the forces at the heart of the struggle were the African people, the Indian and Coloured who, because of their colour were treated in a differential way but who were subject to the policies of divide and rule, and that within the white community there were elements who were more and more questioning the legitimacy of apartheid and needed to be drawn into the struggle.  As a result, the ANC came to be recognised as leading a broad front which embraced civil society mobilised under the banner of the UDF, the trade union movement, and the churches organised under the South African Council of Churches which was now striving to create an inter-faith movement.
    1. 11.6.We face an entirely different situation today:  We seem to have lost the urban vote; we seem to have lost the emerging middle class in the Black community, a class that is a product of the democratic change; our relationship with the established churches has fractured; and the unemployed and the youth do not see their future under governance of the ANC.  Rebuilding these relations is an enormous challenge. 
    1. 11.7.We are witnessing in the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the UDF the pride in the achievements registered by the UDF. We are also witnessing a huge body of activists of that generation who are struggling to keep faith with the ANC.  The majority of them are people who would readily become activists for change in the ANC when they see the renewal process taking root.  As the Veterans League we must ensure that our focus includes engagement with them.   
    1. 11.8.The campaign to root out corruption in the ANC and in State institutions is facing unrelenting push backs.  The Veterans League must act in ways that strengthen the ANC mechanisms which deal with misconduct and corruption in our ranks.  We must help make them effective organs because they have a critical role to play within the ANC. We must support all State structures which are dealing with corruption and the abuse of power. We have a duty to make campaign against corruption must become a national campaign.  In this regard, we must guard against veterans of the struggle becoming embroiled in any form of corruption whatsoever. 
  1. The Veterans League that emerged from the July Conference has shown that it is able to call on its experience and demonstrate an ability to adapt to changing conditions.  We do not claim sole ownership of this ability.  We are mindful that the task of transforming our country rests on the shoulders of other generations.  We are mindful that the youth who bear the brunt of the lack of opportunities for employment are becoming restless.  We recognise that it is the youth who always bring into any struggle a sense of daring and courage without which no fundamental change can take place.  It is our duty to find ways to harness the experience we bring with their courage, daring and willingness to find new paths.  We have shown at our conference that we, as veterans, can combine experience with adaptability.  We have to carry that message forward into all structures of the ANC.

The National Conference will take place under the theme: Renewal of the ANC to Advance the National Democratic Revolution.

The media briefing will take place under the following details:

Date: 27 July 2023

Time: 16h00

Venue: Birchwood Hotel and Conference Centre, Ekurhuleni.

NB: Accreditation of the media will be attended to after the media briefing and members of the media are advised to present their press card or letter of assignment for collection of accreditation tags.




Mac Maharaj

ANCVL National Spokesperson

Tel: 079 879 3203