Delegates at the ANC’s policy conference have rejected the concept of a “second transition”, which had been pushed by President Jacob Zuma. Zuma’s supporters and those preferring Kgalema Motlanthe to succeed him also squared off in public, blowing the lid off the leadership battle the ANC has tried so hard to contain. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY.
ANC members opposing a second term for President Jacob Zuma won a psychological victory yesterday by forcing the party to change the name of the hotly contested “Second Transition” document to “Second Phase”.
The Second Transition document dominated discussions at the four-day ANC policy conference in Midrand this week, as it essentially became a proxy debate to test the support for Zuma and his likely challenger for the ANC presidency, Kgalema Motlanthe.
While ANC officials claimed there was “total consensus” on the contents of the document, barring minor semantic amendments, and that only the name was changed, Daily Maverick sources say some provinces – Gauteng, Limpopo and sections of the Eastern Cape delegation – objected to the version of the document presented to the plenary. The sources said delegates agreed that the document should be debated further and a final version presented to the ANC national conference in Mangaung in December.
However, Zuma’s detractors are viewing the amendment to the title of the document as a major victory, and a clear indication of mounting support for efforts to remove him as president of the ANC.
Though the second transition document, which provided a backdrop for all policy discussions this week, was a national executive committee paper, it became associated with Zuma after he publicly pushed for it and effectively crossed swords with his deputy for questioning the concept.
ANC officials told a media conference yesterday afternoon that the conference plenary had decided by “total consensus by acclamation” to now refer to the document as the Second Phase. Policy head Jeff Radebe said there was “broad agreement” that there should be a “single and ongoing” transition in South Africa.
The original version of the document suggested that the ANC should view South Africa’s political transition as being complete, and that a new transition focusing on economic and social transformation should begin. This was questioned and contested by several provinces and Cosatu, and most notably by Motlanthe.
But Radebe said that the delegates agreed with the contents of the document insofar as there should be more radical policies to effect greater change to socio-economic conditions in the country.
NEC member Tony Yengeni, one of the drafters of the paper, denied that there was any “major shift” in the version of the document adopted by the plenary. He said the central theme was accelerated socio-economic transformation. The document would continue to be “refined” ahead of the ANC national conference in Mangaung, where a final decision on the document would be taken, he added.
Yengeni said it was “extremely mischievous” for people in the ANC and outside it to associate the document with a second term for Zuma.
Initially, ANC officials tried to settle the matter by proposing that the document be called “a new phase of the second transition”. However, sources say a dispute arose among Eastern Cape delegates in the plenary, as some supported the version and others did not. Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile also raised concerns in the plenary about the continued use of the “second transition” term.
The matter again arose during the plenary discussion on organisational renewal, when Gauteng provincial secretary David Makhura continually referred to a “phase” rather than a transition. Limpopo then raised the matter again, which resulted in the final decision to refer to the document as the “second phase” and defer final discussions on the content to the Mangaung conference.
Earlier in the day, Zuma’s supporters caused a stir outside the main conference hall by singing songs in praise of him, raising two fingers in the air to signal the backing for a second term for the president.
For the first time, the extent of Motlanthe’s support became evident when delegates from North West, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape sang songs saying he would be their next president and that Zuma was “on his way”.
Radebe played down the incident, claiming that the delegates were singing songs in praise of the ANC, not individual leaders. In a funny twist, Motlanthe supporters rolled their hands as they sang, as soccer fans do when they demand a substitution; Zuma's supporters used the same gesture to show that Mbeki's time was over in Polokwane. How times change. DM
Photo: Tony Yengeni, Jeff Radebe and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule. Yengeni and Potgieter-Gqubule were authors of the controversial strategy and tactics "second transition" document. (Greg Nicolson/iMaverick)