Former ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe tells a story about one Chinese philosopher, who was asked how the 100-year-old Chinese revolution had fared. It is said that the philosopher responded: "It's too early to tell.
This question arises in the context of the progress we have made as the ANC in Gauteng in advancing the national democratic revolution. That is to say, have we made qualitative progress in our quest to change the lives of the people for the better.
The sense one is getting is that it is hard to tell.
It is hard because there was a time when the organisation enjoyed levels of certainty both in terms of actions in its structures and their ability to direct the work of the government.
A cursory look at recent developments and how we have handled some of the "scandalous" questions of the day, one is tempted to say that we have just been regressing. The tragedy of the regression could have been arrested in 2009. When a moment presented itself to us to firmly strengthen ourselves and move swiftly with the development trajectory that was beginning to take us beyond the horizon, we chose to go back another decade.
A fumbling leadership
The leadership was fumbling, understandably, because some were more worried about themselves than the direction we were taking. Granted, not everything may have worked then. But in our unregulated appetite to undo what was considered the legacy of the internal enemy, we began to dismantle things that were working.
The inability to think clearly saw us dismantle institutions such as the Shared Service Centre and Impophoma, among others. Surely there may have been subjective and objective reasons for these actions. But from the manner it was done, one can tell, the decision was motivated by nothing other than some fertile imagination that there was underhandedness in how these institutions were run. This was sad, especially because such thoughts were harboured by people in charge.
Something ominous has happened since then.
We have done strange things, especially with respect to governance.
Of course, all of the malaise in governance finds its genesis from the dysfunction of Sisulu House.
In 1997, at its 50th national conference, the ANC took a decision that in order to keep a well-oiled organisational machinery, some officials would have to be full time functionaries at HQ, provincial offices and the regions.
We also said that there must be some full-time organising capacity to ensure that the ANC activists across the country were engaged at all times; that they were able to attend to the day-to-day needs of the people we serve.
The extent of the failure of Sisulu House is a matter that conference will have to firmly wrestle with. But a look at from a distance tells you that all is not well there.
Turning to governance, one cannot help but realise that there seems to be an unhealthy distance between cadres in state corridors and those who are often absent from Sisulu House. Thus, those who are in government have tended to be a law unto themselves.
As the old adage goes, a fish rots from the head down. We must start to grapple with the serious question of accountability.
The first thing we must do in this instance is to point to the obvious.
With respect to Life Esidimeni one remains unconvinced that Comrade Qedani Mahlangu is solely responsible. It cannot be that the executive council under the stewardship of comrade David Makhura claims ignorance about what has happened in relation to the Esidimeni tragedy.
I remember when Comrade Makhura reprimanded the former secretary-general of Cosas, Mpho Sesedinyane, when he claimed ignorance about the unfortunate looting during one of the Cosas marches in the Joburg CBD.
He said to him: "Comrade Mpho, if we cannot trust you on small issues, how are we going to trust on big issues?" Comrade Mpho was refuting claims that the march was illegal.
The point here is that the executive council holds its meetings on a regular basis. These meetings are about assessing progress in implementing the programme of government and dealing with strategic policy issues. It, therefore, cannot be that they were not aware of the happenings at the Department of Health.
Enter the infamous personal protective equipment (PPE) scandal.
It is tragic that a diligent cadre like Bandile Masuku had to take the fall for this. Given that the matter is currently before the courts, we will give that process a chance. But we must underscore the point that yet again, a talented young man fell on someone else's sword.
These observations are made for us to ask: Is it not the time for us to institute some radical changes at the apex of the executive council of the provincial government?
Surely, Comrade Makhura cannot find it right that he is presiding over a system that obliterates his comrade under very dubious circumstances. It cannot be correct that he is always the last man standing. Yes, comrades must be held to account.
But accountability cannot be selective.
Comrade Makhura must begin to assess his own backyard. A backyard with integrity that is brought to question, must of necessity look at itself and see if the problems bedevilling the system do not emanate from there.