South Africa

Mangaung, Day 4: Dramatic evacuation order shakes-off conference fatigue

By Ranjeni Munusamy 19 December 2012

Delegates at the ANC's 53rd national conference have been told to evacuate the main conference tent and go to places of safety after the ANC was warned by climatologists that a huge storm is heading for the city of Bloemfontein. Security officials are worried about the safety of the 4500 delegates plus guests under the big marquee and have been advised to go to the places they are staying until the storm passes. It is not yet known when the conference will resume. By RANJENI MUNUSAMY/NewsFire.

NewsFire has learnt that the storm warning came from the disaster management unit of emergency services on Wednesday morning, and the ANC disregarded the warning until disaster management came back to say the storm would hit hard on Wednesday afternoon after 4pm. NEC voting has also been suspended, and people have been advised not to drive and to remain under solid structures.

Prior to the dramatic storm warning, fatigue was setting in among delegates as the serious business of the party’s 53rd national conference in Mangaung gets underway. On the fourth day of the five-day conference in the sweltering Free State capital, delegates spent hours standing in long queues to vote for the 80-member national executive committee (NEC).

As compared to the ANC policy conference in June, interest in policy discussions have waned, particularly now that the major battle for the party leadership is over.

President Jacob Zuma’s camp made it a clean sweep at the elections of the top six officials, and are expected to do the same in the NEC elections. A list of Zuma loyalists nominated for the NEC has been circulated in the camp so that they vote in a bloc and ensure that the committee will be dominated by the president’s supporters.

The conference goes back into plenary later on Wednesday afternoon to report back on commissions. While there were fierce debates on strategy and tactics, organisational renewal and the issue of nationalisation at the June policy conference, fatigue levels were peaking due to the suffocating heat and late night discussions this week. The Mangaung conference looks set to rubber-stamp the resolutions adopted at the policy conference, including on the issue of more state intervention in mining through strategic nationalisation.

The amended recommendation adopted at the policy conference read: “Transformative state intervention in the economy must take many forms, including nationalisation of strategic sectors such as mines, banks and monopoly industries.”

On the forms of state intervention needed, the commission report was amended to read: “State ownership, including more strategic use of existing state-owned companies, as well as strategic nationalisation, based on the need to industrialise, raise state revenue and defend political and economic sovereignty, where deemed appropriate on the balance of evidence.” 

Wholesale nationalisation was however rejected. Strategic nationalisation of mines will be considered on a case-by-case basis rather than through a blanket formula or set percentage.

Meanwhile supporters of expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema are hoping to propose a review of his expulsion during the plenary, despite the hostile atmosphere against Zuma’s detractors. Gwede Mantashe said this proposal will not succeed as the Julius Malema issue is not on the conference program, and Malema’s letter requesting that it be looked at arrived too late for inclusion.

Prior to the storm warning and evacuation order, the conference was expected to go long into the night on Thursday as commissions report back. It’s unclear what impact the storm will have on the schedule of the conference, which is already running late. DM

Photo: Approaching storm clouds in Bloemfontein. (Greg Nicolson/NewsFire)


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