ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe’s last media briefing in that role captured his personality perfectly: lighthearted, and as immovable as ever. Mantashe’s 10 years running the party from Luthuli House have been messy and sometimes downright frustrating for him. But bidding him farewell in that post is bittersweet for many a journalist. His frank assessment of the problems in the ANC was matched in equal part by a fierce defence of the organisation, often to his own detriment. During the briefing at the ANC conference on Monday, he spoke about the natural trajectory of an organisation — how it grows, peaks, matures, stagnates and either dies or is revived. While it has been argued that the ANC has served its purpose and is currently stagnant at best, or worse, dead, Mantashe was upbeat, saying the party remained a “trailblazer and leader of society”. Both party members and citizens in general are keenly aware that while this may once have been the case, the ANC’s grip is slipping...

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