My ANC Branch deserves an accolade, really!

I belong to the Champion Branch of the African National Congress in Vhembe Region, Limpopo Province. It was named in honour of James ‘Champion’ Rikhotso, who was born in the village of Mphakati in the community of Xigalo in the magisterial district of Malamulele.

I do not really know why he was named Champion, but champion the cause of the oppressed and the poor he did! He skipped the country at an early age to join Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). I knew him personally in 1992 when he returned from exile after the unbanning of political organisations in South Africa.

On his arrival, he hit the ground running, bringing on his expertise to help us at the point we were in mobilising for the ANC and setting up structures for Peoples‘ Power. It was also at that time that voter awareness for the 1994 first national democratic election began to take root. Cde Champion came across as a selfless cadre who displayed a remarkable amount of energy and a keenness to attain freedom. He was, unfortunately, at the same time a sufferer of some visible psychological problem. I say unfortunate because that problem led to the end of his days at the time when we were looking up at him for more leadership and guidance. I later understood that the mental problem that took his life might either have been resultant from infetious insects such as tsetse-fly during his time as a freedom fighter, or that it was a cumulative effect related to post-trauma stress syndrome.

Comrade Champion was a jolly, honest and dedicated member of the movement. This is, in my view, the manner in which cadres left to lead this branch since then should conduct themselves.

It is my observation that Champion branch has been deprived of one accolade, if not many, for the way political business is conducted. Just very few examples will do!

One – early this year our ward councilor, who is also deputy chaiperson of the branch, introduced a sub-contractor to electrify a section in my village, and confirmed the authenticity of the sub-contractor in front of the residents. Some months later, when the same sub-contractor had conned the villagers and vanished with the partnership money that was due to the municipality, the councilor denied knowledge of the sub-contractor and accused the villagers of not having been prudent in handling funds. The hearing around this matter is still on at Malamulele Regional court. Remember, the councilor we are talking about is the same councilor who  promised to obtain a tombstone to the bereaved family of a young boy who was burnt to death in a hut in his home when all houses were torched at night. At the time, when it became apparent to the family that the promise was not being fullfiled, the councilor was even interviewed at the MLFM current affairs show, Tiko-a-xi-etleli, where the councilor publicly replied that the matter was between the local Thulamela municipality and Maeteko Funeral Undertakers.

Just a month back, another councilor at the municipality, who is also head of our branch, confronted residents of a section of the village who were digging trenches for a water pipeline. In fact, the councilor in question was worried that the villagers had bypassed him and made their own efforts to get in contact with the municipality after they couldn’t get assistance through the ward council for some time. After the councilor confronted the residents, the water works that had gained momentum grounded to a halt, leaving the frustrated residents dissatisfied and unhappy with what they perceive deliberate interference by the councilor.

Two – residents of this ward have always been unhappy about the distribution of opportunities by the councilors. Two issues that stand out are the hiring of residents in the Malaria Prevention Programme and in the Municipality Cleaning Programme where the majority of residents – including ANC members – suspect that a few who are favoured by the councilors were hired surreptitiously.

 Another major tension is between two sides of the same branch leadership, which seems to be tracable back to the redemarcation process in 2005. Prior to 2005 members of the current Branch Executive belonged to two different branches, namely; Xikundu and Champion. When their branches merged, there was no visible political structure to lead the process, resulting in the two sides running parallel programmes for the branch formation.

The subsequent AGMs in 2006 and 2008 were marked with sharp contests that recurred from the branch’s immediate past. The apparent remote interference by leaders of Vhembe Region and Limpopo Province who had their own interests in the branch – which was one of the largest in the Region – did not help bring stability and unity in the branch. Let me not dwell much in this aspect because it was not, and still is not, unique to this branch only. Divisions of this nature are rife every where, the peakful highlights being the stabbing of a senior ANC member in the Western Cape, the fistful confernce in Capricorn, and many other similar instances.

As I write this article, I am fifteen minutes from discussion with an ordinary (non-member of ANC) citizen whose sister was secretly approached by a member of the BEC and promised a placement in the new fire-extinguisher centre provided she votes for his side in the upcoming annual general meeting (AGM). He is one among many who volunteered the information to me. This recruitment strategy of promising and offering members of the ANC some opportunities is key in maintaining the current leadership’s support base. Just a week ago they hired about 15 members secretly, thereby violationg a community protocol whereby all villagers are called to a meeting and people get hired in a process agreed upon by everyone. This approach leaves a lot of people disgruntled, and it does not do the ANC any good.

I am a member of this BEC who does not prescribe to these divisive and unfair practises. The last time other members and I raised our concerns at BEC and BGM meetings on these and other tendencies that we deem unconstitutional and un-ANC, we were reported to the Region with charges of discrediting the councilors and the ANC leadership, and were warned not to question the councilors’ (unfair) practises or disagree with them in public. 

  While we keep quiet, the image of our glorious movement, the ANC, continues to get ugly burn-marks. The Region seems tounge-tied in dealing with this branch leadership. I don’t know if the Province is aware…  Yes, I don’t know if the Provincial Office of the ANC is aware that out of 1 300 members of my branch, there are about 900 members who are being blocked from being legitimate members of the ANC. The simple reason being that the top leadership in the branch are not too sure if this majority will vote them back to office or will not redeploy them. This 900 membership in my understanding are the people that the ANC wouldn’t really want to lose to other parties as a result of some petty and unrevolutionary calculation. This is too important a number to discard as we near the 2011 election, and as we knock at the door of the 2012 centenerary, where we are targetting nothing less than a million members. This, mark you, is the kind of a margin that has meant a resounding loss at Musina 2010 elections and many other elections. Technically, i stand accused of sharing this anguish outside the formal channels of the Organisation; yes – I’m guilty as charged. But practically, there seems to be nothing tangible coming out of the formal engagements between the branch and the region around many issues of the branch.

The latest effort to emerge was our subregional leadership attending a secret meeting with half of the BEC, which meeting resulted in even more backward decisions that do not take the case of this branch any step forward. Surely, a decision to reverse the membership of 900 people who have already been recorded in the branch file is backward! Whatever the reason! I do not want to say there is bias in the process; judge for yourself. 

But while we remain wondering what’s next, I must indicate that the daily happenings and mishappenings in my branch, Champion branch, deserve an accolade of some sorts… An accolade I may not, in my life time, be able to link with the deeds of comrade Champion, in whose name this branch is known.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Takalani Wavhambedzi
    Dec 15, 2010 @ 18:55:05

    Dear Saldb,

    Naturally I am an ardent supporter of the ANC and everything good that this organisation represents. After reading your article a sense of ignorance ran through my veins. I began some serious soul-searching as to why I hardly knew about comrade Champion Rikhotso and his valuable contribution? What has happened to our fallen heroes in the Limpopo region? Why do people in our province have to explain themselves each time? Does anybody care about Limpopo’s contribution to the people’s struggle anyway?

    May I remind that I still have not recovered from the trauma of the mysterious deaths of young lions such as the late Tshifhiwa Muofhe, and Tshifhiwa Mulaudzi to name but a few. Both of these comrades were active members in my Thohoyandou Luthern Church. At 14 I remember vividly how they met their untimely deaths under the then ruthless Venda government. Members of our congregation were barred from talking about their deaths. Let alone funeral arrangements. Family members were divided. Freedom of speech became a distant dream. Our own blood brothers turned into banana republic state puppets.

    I recollect memories of comrades and events long past to remind us of our brutal history. Unfortunately as South Africans and Africans to this day we have not been able been able to exorcise our ugly past. At best we have become our best own enemies. Thus, reiterating the West misconception that Africans can never help themselves.

    Cast your mind back to the events in South Africa’s recent past. We were united against apartheid. Every black and white knew the objectives of our our bloody struggles. How soon we forget?

    Maybe as ANC members we need to emulate examples of the great South African national leaders such as Oliver Tambo, Rolihlahla Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Steve Biko, Albert Luthuli and many others.


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