The media weren’t allowed to see ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe deliver his key organisational report to members on Monday, but between a media conference on Tuesday and the document itself, we’ve got some idea about how it would have been received. In short: not well at all by Julius Malema and his Youth League, but with a smile wide as a mile on the face of Jacob Zuma. Less happy will be Reserve Bank shareholders and some farmers, though miners too will be pleased. A somewhat longer-than-usual analysis by STEPHEN GROOTES and PHILLIP DE WET.
The mid-term organisational review Mantashe is responsible for is a long, dense, and often boring document, aimed at examining broad party issues rather than the ANC debates of national importance. But look deep enough and it hardly lacks for juicy detail, at least in the interpretation. Things we learnt, for example, include that Mantashe and Zuma see eye-to-eye on some very important issues, like mine nationalisation.
The review is a curious mixture of wrenching honesty and illogical defence of party shortcomings, though not necessarily on the issues you’d expect.
On crime, for instance, Mantashe is merciless. “The transformation of the criminal justice system must be taken beyond the conceptual statements to concrete steps… No amount of talking about crime and corruption will result in its reduction.”
On education and health, on the other hand, he goes vague, and on the very touchy subject of deployments, a hot issue at the NGC, he turns downright nonsensical. “Our deployment policy is under attack from our detractors for the wrong reasons,” he writes. “Mistakes committed by our structures in deploying cadres who do not even meet the basic requirements for the post they are deployed in have opened the movement to unfair criticism.”
But perhaps the most revealing part of the report deals with issues that are now of largely historic interest. Remember those smiling pictures of (then president) Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, and the denials that their working relationship was strained? In telling the tale of how the ANC moved from the Polokwane conference, where Mbeki and his gang were kicked off the national executive committee while retaining their government positions, the report paints an altogether different picture. Mantashe tells of an organisation almost entirely paralysed as every decision of the NEC was resisted, “because every move was perceived as intended to make the life of those in government difficult”. On the other side of that coin, he says the NEC had to work hard to counter the “myth that those who supported the third term [for Mbeki] were being purged”.
Like Zuma before him, Mantashe uses these admissions as a platform on which to build the story of how the Zuma administration stepped in to save the day. Be that as it may, we finally have an official admission of the paranoia and infighting that was, at the time, regularly described as media fiction.
No nationalised mines, but socialist banks are a go
Mantashe’s report is the only public indication so far on the tone of discussion around mine nationalisation here, and it is good news for the miners: the Youth League is clearly out on a limb there. Mantashe wants “concrete proposals” and points out, again, that the mineral wealth is already owned by government, and the mining royalties revert to the state. This is all true. It’s also a slight put-down for the League after it took the trouble to draw up its own discussion document. To put it bluntly, the League’s document was not thought through, and didn’t really add much to the discussion. Mantashe is now saying this in public.
He’s also pointing out that the League will have to do a lot more work on this issue. That’s going to be difficult because they haven’t come up with anything worthwhile so far, so good luck to them. But he’s gone further, strongly criticising the League for being “intolerant” of other ideas and proposals. Come to think of it, “intolerant” pretty much sums up the League’s approach to life. This is a public smack-down for the League.
Mantashe is a little more interesting on the banking sector. He wants a real debate on the role of the state here. He’s also curious about why the ANC seems reluctant to have a real discussion on nationalising the Reserve Bank. This is complicated in that it is an odd structure to begin with, and if we had the chance to start it all over again, well, it should perhaps be a wholly government-owned institution. But we can’t, and to buy out the shareholders will cost a fortune. Add to that a group of what can only be termed “difficult” shareholders who seem to be stoking up this argument so that they can be bought out and you have a situation where it’s very easy to lose a lot of money without really adding to the sum of human happiness. But he’s probably right to bring up the argument.
As you probably know by now we are a capitalist website. But forgive us for sounding a little socialist for a moment. Mantashe clearly wants a greater role for the state in the banking sector. Setting up a state bank is probably not a bad idea, so long as it doesn’t try to take over the whole banking sector, or stop commercial banks from doing their thing. We also think that in a country like South Africa, there should be a place for the poor to stash their cash, without making bankers richer than they already are. The four big banks could do with a little more oversight. We like tough regulation, we think four big banks are not enough, and we will watch this argument with interest.
Okay, we’ll put our red socks away now.
Leadership and deployment
Mantashe is dead right on one major thing. He talks about the “myths” that have arisen around ANC leadership issues. He wants a more open discussion about what makes a good leader; he wants debates in public about how leaders should be selected. It’s been a strange process this. For ages there’s been talk of “ANC traditions” and that having leadership campaigns in the open is “not how the movement does things”. We saw Tokyo Sexwale come a real cropper in this when he publicly threw his hat into the ring pre-Polokwane. This had a really negative impact on the party (the tradition that is, not Sexwale losing – Ed). It means that people have been campaigning under the radar, there’s been what the ANC coyly calls “the mis-use of resources”, that is, people have been paying other people to vote in certain ways. Mantashe wants to change this.
There are two competing issues on the NGC table around deployments. What has come to be known as Jacob Zuma’s cadre Bill, which seeks to prevent political office bearers from managing municipalities, is up for discussion – and likely rejection by provincial delegates. Mantashe, in his report, calls for a reaffirmation of the ANC’s intention to impose such limits, though without personally aligning himself with the idea.
Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, on the other hand, want to see an even more radical change in cadre deployment: a veto on at least certain important posts. Mantashe does not see that happening. Such calls, he says, are “either a reflection of the extent of frustration stemming from exclusion of Alliance partners from the work of deployment committees or outright mischief. Instead of trying to use all the tricks that can cause more confusion the Alliance must deal with the real problems.”
There are few important new issues raised in the report; that is not its function. One item does jump out, though. In reviewing government progress to date, Mantashe warns that delivery of both housing and water are approaching crisis, and posits a suggestion that will worry some farmers. “In the case of water the questions of water rights, wherein communities in close proximity to reliable water streams having no access to water, need to be corrected urgently.” DM
Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter
Photos: The Daily Maverick
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