The ANC’s recent national policy conference left more threads dangling in the air than it tied up. That much was clear from the Report of the 5th National Policy Conference released last week, with a foreword by party Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe. Urging ANC branches to go back and discuss the policies again and to come up with a “higher standard” of contributions in December, Mantashe wished them “good luck”. It’s clear that it’s not quite yet clear who is winning the ANC’s leadership race. By CARIEN DU PLESSIS.
Releasing a report after a policy conference that still contains some multiple choice discussions to be thrashed out at the national conference in December is, at best, an indicator of an indecisive organisation.
At worst, it’s a sign of an organisation split in two.
The general idea for the ANC of holding a policy conference six months before its elective conference in December, was to set aside time to focus on discussing policy positions ready for adoption at the elective conference.
Last month, however, it was clear that the party had a hard time agreeing on many things, and deferring the actual decisions to the December conference will have the effect of the winning faction also calling the policy shots.
In the foreword, which is also not usual for a post-policy conference document, Secretary General Gwede Mantashe urges: “We must all sober up; it is not a beauty contest.”
He writes: “The intensity of debates reflected the transitional nature of the gathering, with delegates preparing policies for the next collective leadership, but faltered into shaping them in the image of the current one.”
There is also some insight into the proxy battles that went on in those commissions, where supporters of President Jacob Zuma and his preferred successor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, urged for the recognition of “white monopoly capital” as a problem, while the opposing camp of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, said it wasn’t all that simple.
“We all engaged in shoot-outs locked in our positions, not ready to persuade and be persuaded. Is it ideological or positional to fight over the definition of the enemy of the revolution, whether it is monopoly capital or white monopoly capital?” Mantashe writes.
He said the ideological position wasn’t properly considered, but comrades were made to choose between two terms so that one camp would win the debate.
“We are hoping that the branches will be engaged openly and candidly and be part of finding solutions,” he urged, adding that the discussions should be anchored in building unity.
At the time, there were reports from within the conference of delegates in favour of “white monopoly capital”, having been well caucused before commissions, speaking off prepared notes. Some delegates claim these were in the minority, but they were the loudest and the best prepared.
Anyway, a compromise position was adopted around this term, but looking at the “Organisational Renewal” chapter in the latest document, there were more issues that the party couldn’t agree on.
The most significant suggestions for strengthening the party are as follows:
Election of ANC leaders
This is currently distorted through “factional practices like slates, vote-buying, patronage, intimidation, and exclusion”, which often exclude the best leaders. The current electoral college system is too easily manipulated through branch, regional and provincial secretaries, who determine membership and who gets to attend the elective conferences (just ask Zuma’s guys).
- An electoral commission (EC), elected by the national executive committee (NEC), and made up of members with no leadership interests, should “set the rules, and procedures of elections, deal with disputes, screen candidates, order lifestyle audits if needed, and oversee the management of the nomination and election process.”
- Slate nomination will be made “impossible” by limiting the number of leaders a branch could nominate, and each position would be voted for and announced in turn, before voting for the next one. This would, for example, allow a losing presidential candidate to stand as deputy president.
- There are also three options for the system of elections, which include, staying with the current electoral college system (branch delegates vote on behalf of members), a direct vote for each ANC member in good standing, or using branch nominations as the basis for drawing up a list of top officials and NEC members, allowing conference only limited powers to change these.
- Leaders shouldn’t be involved in the elections process.
- There should be a restriction on the percentage of ANC leaders who can be in government.
- Young people should have a 40% quota in all leadership positions, the ANC Youth League proposed.
What the NEC and NWC should look like
- After expanding the NEC from 60 members to 80 in 2007, the party now wants to make it smaller again, although the exact number isn’t clear. Suggestions in the report are that it should be 40, 50 or 60, 80 (sic).
- Despite the party a decade ago saying there shouldn’t be two centres of power, i.e. ANC leaders should also be government leaders, the suggestion now is that only 65% of NEC members should go to government. This is perhaps to prevent the current situation where loyalty to a president is “bought” through cabinet positions, although the ANC might say it’s to allow these members to do more ANC-focused work.
- The top six should become the top 11 and the national working committee (NWC) should fall away, with the five additional members coming from the directly-elected chairpersons of the subcommittees on political education, communications, organising, elections and policy. Two options are given for the structure of officials, the first with three deputy secretary-generals (campaigns, membership, cadre development and discipline inspection, and the battle of ideas divided between them), two deputy presidents, one full-time in Luthuli House; and the second having two deputy secretary-generals, one for governance and one for organisation.
- At least half of the national working committee (NWC) should not be in Cabinet, but doing party work, with the five full-time positions from the subcommittees (mentioned in the previous point) working full-time in the NWC.
There are also a number of suggestions about how the veterans should work (a Council of Elders advising the ANC); how the membership system should change (automated with an accessible membership database in the cloud, and avoiding the “buying” of members); having clear programmes of action and “cadre development” programmes in branches; campaigning for elections more effectively (in the report it is noted – and admitted – that there is “a tendency to insult voters by ‘gifts’ of food parcels and blankets before elections as a substitute for effective service delivery”); and a party “Policy Institute” be set up to help with political education and policy development and implementation.
Other suggestions include fighting corruption in the party and strengthening its integrity, with an admission that “current leadership structures seem helpless to arrest these practices, either because they lack the means or the will, or are themselves held hostage by them”. DM
Photo: ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe is seen in conversation with President Jacob Zuma at the final session of the ANC’s 5th National Policy Conference which was held at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg, July 2018. Photo: IHSAAN HAFFEJEE