About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Jeremy Cronin

In July 2002, Jeremy Cronin, Deputy Secretary General of the SACP, a member of the NEC and an ANC member of parliament, in an interview with an Irish academic warned against "Zanu -fication," of the ANC, its increasing propensity to centralize power, rumblings in the grass roots and the alienation of the Left in the ANC.  None of it of much consequence.  And none of it of much notice since the interview was pegged on the academic's personal web site, not one that that the casual user in South Africa would ever know about, never mind seek out.

But the ANC decided to make an issue of it, thus giving hid remarks a notoriety and audience it hitherto lacked. Cronin was castigated by the ANC as a white middle-class self-styled revolutionary with the racist insinuation that he clung to the ANC's coattails to advance himself. He was hauled before the ANC's disciplinary committee for "bringing the ANC into disrepute," with his suggestion that the ANC might have any ZANU-PF inclinations, and roundly condemned for his ill-considered remarks. Cronin, perhaps unconsciously imitating Rubaschov, the great protagonist in Arthur Koestler's novel Darkness at Noon groveled profusely, Uriah Heep-like owning up to his mistakes, admitting to having brought the ANC into disrepute, and to undermining the revolution.1 Public humiliation was a punishment he would willingly subject himself to for failing to understand that the ANC was the instrument of an historical inevitability and was, therefore, always right.

To emphasize the point that the disciplining of Cronin was not a once off happening, but a show trial that other members of the ANC in positions of power who blathered to the media should take careful note of, Mbeki, in his capacity as President of the ANC reiterated the message, if some had not been taking careful note in a statement days after Cronin's humiliation that any member, no matter how mild his criticism of the ANC in a public forum, would be subject to disciplinary action and possible expulsion "In the exercise of the practice of honesty among us," he wrote in "ANC Today,".2

once again the NEC [at its last meeting] urged all its members to speak out openly on any issue, at meetings of the NEC. It reaffirmed that it was incorrect and unacceptable for members of the NEC not to speak honestly in the NEC, choosing, instead, to voice their views about matters they have a right and freedom to raise in the NEC, outside of this institution.

No member of the NEC is elected to oppose the movement and any of its organs.

No genuine member of the NEC can ever claim that he or she has a right to set themselves up as outside critics and opponents of the ANC and the NEC. In the event that such persons feel that they have irreconcilable differences with the organisation, they have an obligation to resign and then act as such outside critics and opponents.

On the other hand, all members of the NEC, like other members of the ANC, have an obligation to intervene within the structures of our movement to correct whatever they feel might be going wrong. In particular, they have to bear in mind what Oliver Tambo spoke about when he referred to the courage to face reality.

Reality may demonstrate that changed circumstances render our agreed positions irrelevant and wrong. The organisation may behave in a manner inconsistent with its decisions, principles and traditions. All members have a responsibility directly to address the organisation in these circumstances, to correct whatever might be going wrong.

The principle of adherence to what has been agreed upon is fundamental to the functioning and cohesion of any organisation. Disrespect for this practice by any organisation, of support for democratic majority decisions, can only mean that such an organisation has condemned itself to anarchy and collapse.

Accordingly, the NEC insisted that its own members must respect the decisions taken by the majority at our constitutional meetings. This principle is respected even in the context of governance, according to which losing contestants respect the view of the majority of the electorate with regard to the formation of governments.

Oliver Tambo also urged adherence to principle. This refers to both the political and organisational principles of our movement. Throughout our history, our movement has understood that an important part of its strength and durability derives from the adherence to principle of its members, especially its leadership.

To this day, our organisation has sought to encourage this quality among its members. It is for this reason that we have consistently been sounding the alarm about the growth of careerism and opportunism in our ranks, which is driven by an unprincipled desire for personal material gain.

In April this year, our Alliance held a summit meeting stretching over a number of days. At its conclusion, it adopted the Ekurhuleni Declaration.3 Among other things, this Declaration addressed the issue of unity within the Alliance. It said: "Unity, a sense of common purpose, the depth of understanding of our historical mission, activism, loyalty to the people -especially the poor - and commitment to international solidarity and joint action are some of the critical attributes that have placed the Alliance at the head of the forces of change in our country.

"In elaborating our detailed programmes of action and in managing tensions that may arise among us from time to time, the Alliance partners proceed from the premise that ours is a strategic political Alliance founded on a common national democratic programme. All organisations that are part of the Alliance accept the ANC as the leader of the Alliance.

"Our organisations, though profoundly inter-dependent, are separate organisational formations with their own identities, policy-making mechanisms and internal organisational arrangements. In this regard, each component respects the independence of its allies.

"Having examined the causes and the impact of recent intense public discord among some components of the Alliance, the Summit concluded that this was an unfortunate development which we should not allow to recur. We do acknowledge that it would be artificial to expect that tensions would not exist among and even within components of the Alliance. The challenge is how we manage them within our constitutional structures, and use them as a catalyst for the growth and maturity of our organisations.

"Where there are areas of difference, we are committed to resolving them through ongoing constructive debate and engagement within the context of our Alliance."

The positions adopted at the Alliance Summit are consistent with what Oliver Tambo said. They represent a tradition that has been built over many decades, which enabled our democratic movement to prosecute a successful struggle against the apartheid regime and to play a central role in the difficult struggle of building the new South Africa defined in our national constitution.

The challenge facing the Alliance as a whole is practically to implement the Ekurhuleni Declaration. This is centrally important to maintaining the capacity of the Alliance to discharge its responsibility to the masses of our people, to eradicate the legacy of colonialism and apartheid and to build a better life for our people. In this respect, disunity within the ANC and the Alliance can only serve the interests of those who do not want us to achieve these objectives.

It is in this context that we must understand many of the critical comments made about the outcome of the last meeting of our National Executive Committee. Our critics have sought to portray the objectives and principles of the ANC and the Alliance we have been explaining as contrary to democratic principles and practice.

They have therefore taken it upon themselves to determine for us how we should conduct our internal affairs. They present themselves as the supreme arbiters of democratic practice, whereas we are inherently prone to intolerance, authoritarianism and dictatorship.

The positions adopted by these critics demonstrate that they have an objective interest in disunity within the ANC and the Alliance. They make no secret of this but advocate it publicly, to the extent of the destruction of the Alliance.

In this context, they do not hesitate to communicate blatantly false information especially about the internal processes of the ANC. On no basis whatsoever, they say that open discussion within our ranks is suppressed. Without any facts to substantiate this, they allege that power has been centralised, to the detriment of democracy and honest dissent within our organisation.

They go out of their way to invent special organisational rules for our movement, which they would not advocate even for a football fan club. One of these is that all our members should be free to defy the democratic decisions of our movement. Strangely, it is argued that democracy dictates this anarchy.

Those elected to executive positions to implement agreed decisions are told to undermine these decisions, as an expression of their right to freedom of speech and action, with no respect for our internal democracy and our constitutional structures. Our opponents reward indiscipline in our ranks by heaping praises on those responsible for malpractice, as heroes and heroines.

As Oliver Tambo said, it is understandable that our opponents should try and promote antagonism among us. It makes no sense that we should want to do this for them. In this regard we will take no instructions from these opponents. All our members must take the results of the recent meeting of the NEC to heart, that it makes no sense for genuine and loyal members of our organisation to do the work of our opponents within our ranks. Our opponents will praise them, and we will ask why!

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.