What does the reaction of key ANC leaders to Reuel Khosa’s say to the Nation?

It would have been hard to miss the furor that erupted in the last week over the Nedbank Chairman’s recent report. For us, at The Patterns, the issue isn’t as much about whether we endorse a particular view, but rather that we feel protective of the space to debate the state of the nation. So we will not reflect on the merits of Mr. Khosa’s critiques, but rather his right as a black intellectual and head of a leading corporation to offer these opinions.

We, as South Africans have always felt proud of our Constitution, which entrenches our right to freedom of speech and debate. It’s a right that was hard fought for and should be protected. This right underpins our very democracy. The ANC is a multifaceted party. It represents a wide range of South Africans with divergent views. Intellectual debate has always been well entrenched in the culture and practices of the ANC- at times even to its peril.

We have recently seen a number of legislation being tabled that are geared towards the control of information, and it would seem, the increased securitization of the State. This is a worrying sign that appears to be leading us towards a censorship era again. We have achieved great strides as a nation, but we are still far from reaching our goals of a development state. Surely the space to reflect on these factors, critique them and seek solutions should be encouraged. Different views and even agendas, expand our view of the problem. Closed, polarised debates prevent us progressing towards resolving the deficiencies of our system, rather it pushes us into loyal positions that limit our view and bring about an environment of fear. The highly personalized manner of attack and counter attack seems hardly fitting for the level of debate. Exposing more insecurity than was probably intended by the various contributors to this discussion.

Government is not a stand-alone institution. It needs to encourage open debate among its intellectuals and do more than represent its citizens; instead it needs to actively partner with them. The ANC’s discussion documents for the National Policy Conference, published on the 10 April 2012, clearly commits to these ideas. As outlined in the introduction to the Organisational Renewal Documents;

“Accordingly, we should resist any temptation born by our ascendancy into power, to reduce the role of the masses to spectators of the governance process whose task is to wait for government to ‘deliver’. We have to replenish our movement’s capacity to connect with the people and bring them fully into the transformation process as active agents for change.

In this regard, the principal task of ANC is to mobilise all strata and classes, including the new social forces born out of our democracy, around the national
programme of transformation to build a national democratic society. To achieve this objective, the ANC must have jacked-up its capacity as a transformative movement and the strategic centre of power that is capable of giving moral, intellectual and political leadership to society in all pillars of the NDR in the current phase – mass mobilisation, state, economy, battle of ideas, civil society and international arena.”

We certainly agree with this statement. So lets not isolate the intellectuals, lets rather draw them into active debate.