South Africa

ANC Manifesto Analysis

Big push for unity to grease the electioneering wheels, but the factions simmer on

Ace Magashule, Jessie Duarte, Former ANC President Jacob Zuma, ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa and Paul Mashatile cut a celebratory cake following the delivery of the party's Election Manifesto at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday, 12 January 2019. Cosatu, expects the events to unite the movement and erase factions and divisions that have rocked the province. (Photo by Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

The governing ANC’s ‘Let’s grow South Africa together’ pitch for votes in the 2019 elections came at the end of a week that heavily proclaimed renewal and unity. But unity can be a double-edged sword: It may allow for more functional, cohesive ANC governance, but also holds the potential for damaging compromises. It’s a fine balancing act that teeters on the brink of coming unstuck at any given time.

The Moses Mabhida Stadium was packed for Saturday’s ANC “people’s plan for a better life” manifesto launch spectacle. There had been no booing of President Cyril Ramaphosa — neither at the stadium nor any of the pit stops in a more than week-long campaign trail across KwaZulu-Natal.

It was always going to be tricky in this, the largest ANC province that had, on the whole, had preferred the 2017 Nasrec national conference losing party presidential candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. But the hard, behind-the-scenes work to ensure all went off smoothly had paid off. The motto of unity emerged as sufficiently persuasive to at least temporarily set aside factional interests.

Right now, the ANC is taking its wins where it can. Its manifesto showcases the governing party as one which delivered on, for example, social grants and basic services such as water and electricity and fee-free schools, and outlines what essentially are already projects already underway and initiatives that would allow for quick, easy delivery.

As has so often happened in its history, with a firm goal in sight — “overwhelming victory” in the 2019 elections — comes the ANC’s capacity to put on a tremendous, all-out push towards achieving that goal. And so unity is set to continue as the rallying call, alongside renewal.

Whether this will last beyond election day remains to be seen. There remains a level of scepticism within the broader ANC ranks, even at this moment of unity and co-operation. An important factor will be the polling percentage, not because of the numbers — a majority is a majority, unless it is 66%, the special majority that basically allows a political party to push through its agenda as the DA can with its two-thirds majority in the City of Cape Town — but because of internal party politicking. It would be much easier for Ramaphosa to stamp his authority on the ANC with, say, 62% voting support than 51%, and to repel arguments that his re-orientation push for integrity and renewal wasn’t delivering.

In the ANC’s Byzantine manoeuvrings there are many trade-offs to make, be it in party or policy.

Ramaphosa toned down the anti-corruption language at the wreath-laying ceremony with former president Jacob Zuma at ANC founding president John Langalibalele Dube’s graveside in Indanda, eThekwini, on Tuesday, 8 January. The focus was on unity, renewal and “reporting back” on progress in a choreographed narrative invoking Nelson Mandela’s visit to Dube’s grave after casting his ballot in South Africa’s first democratic election in 1994 to report back that the country was now free.

The symbolism was heavy and perfectly timed before the ANC manifesto launch that sought to extend the unity narrative beyond the party and its faithful to the broader South African society under the manifesto call of “Let’s grow South Africa together”.

But by Saturday the anti-corruption, anti-State Capture rhetoric was ratcheted up in the ANC president’s manifesto launch address that emphasised clean, ethical governance.

We must acknowledge that State Capture and corruption have weakened several of our public institutions, undermined effective governance and contributed to the poor performance of our economy. We must also acknowledge that factionalism and patronage has diminished the ability of the ANC to lead the process of transformation and fulfil its mandate to the people,” Ramaphosa said.

One reason this rather blunt statement could happen was that, a year into Ramaphosa’s party presidency, the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) was finally singing off the same hymn sheet. Or as one insider told Daily Maverick: “We are now united on State Capture”.

Like the moves to accommodate Zuma, whose popularity even without access to state power seems to remain buoyant, there were key nods also in policy to the radical economic transformation grouping. It is closely associated with Zuma and the 2017 party presidential race of Dlamini Zuma, who lost by 179 votes to Ramaphosa, underscoring just how finely balanced factional interests are.

The curious phrasing on the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) is a case in point.

The SARB draws its guaranteed independence and mandate from Section 224 of the Constitution with a primary objective “to protect the currency in the interest of balanced and sustainable economic growth”. The ANC manifesto does not challenge or undermine this when it says the SARB monetary policy “(w)ithout sacrificing price stability… must take into account other objectives such as employment creation and economic growth”. Nor is the central bank’s independence and constitutional mandate undermined by a call for flexible monetary policy. It’s what the SARB can already do, and has done for about a decade.

But the linking of the SARB mandate and flexible monetary policy to “the objectives of the second phase of transition” is a potentially dangerous nod to factional radical economic transformation politicking — and also to ANC alliance partners, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and trade union federation Cosatu, which have both been critical of inflation targeting.

The “second phase of the transition” rhetoric emerged in the mid-2012 ANC policy conference amid heated discussions behind closed doors on what was meant to have been Zuma’s legacy, the second transition. That was rejected and instead massaged into the second phase of the transition. That language largely disappeared from public discourse until it changed into the radical economic transformation language driven by Zuma-aligned groupings.

This “second phase of the transition” rhetoric, now publicly and officially linked to the SARB, may open the door to future changes — this is the policy uncertainty rating agencies and investors are concerned about — although any change is unlikely under the present administration. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, a former SARB governor, indicated in an early Sunday morning tweet that there was nothing new:

The South African Reserve Bank, to the best of my knowledge, has always pursued a monetary policy in a flexible manner and has always taken the optimal health of our economy into consideration. Nothing new about that.”

Right from the start when the ANC July 2017 policy conference raised nationalising the Reserve Bank, a resolution officially adopted at the party’s December 2017 national conference, the SARB matter was steeped in ANC factional politicking. And it played itself out outside the ANC.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was sharply criticised by the courts for her “biased” conduct, taking one side of the public debate, in the Bankorp/Absa apartheid bailout investigation and report. The SARB and banks have successfully challenged the public protector report; Mkhwebane remains embroiled in legal battles to overturn the personal cost order against her, one of the ways judges can show censure.

And that’s just the point about this unity push: Compromises to accommodate all may lead to impairment in unexpected, and perhaps unintended, places.

Away from the policy arena, that’s also the case for the ANC as it is publicly seeking to “self-correct”, as the party lingo goes, to lead South Africa over the threshold into that “new era of hope and renewal” its manifesto talks of.

Nowhere is the potential to impair the ANC’s self-proclaimed return to integrity greater than its lists of public representatives to Parliament and the nine provincial legislatures. The draft list discussed before the ANC 107 birthday celebrations and manifesto launch was not finalised as the ANC NEC kicked for touch.

High on the draft list to Parliament are some prickly rankings such as the publicly unpopular Bathabile Dlamini under whose watch the social grants payment debacle unfolded, Nomvula Mokonyane who left water and sanitation more than R6-billion in the red and Malusi Gigaba, the former home affairs, finance and public enterprises minister who the parliamentary State Capture inquiry said was “grossly negligent” and should testify before the Zondo commission of inquiry into State Capture. There are others.

On a strict application of ANC criteria, including that the nominee must “enhance the integrity of the ANC” and must haveno history of ill-discipline or corruption”, it looks good. But then there’s politics and, what Daily Maverick was reliably told by two ANC NEC insiders was the importance of Ramaphosa avoiding to be seen purging those close to his predecessor, particularly just ahead of an election.

Bluntly put: Dlamini is president of the ANC Women’s League, a key constituency and more so in an election year. Gigaba’s history as two-term ANC Youth League president continues to stand him in good stead in the governing party where he remains on the NEC after having resigned as a minister and MP in the wake of a solo sex clip leak. Mokonyane is a known Zuma loyalist, who made her Gauteng premier, bucking ANC policy that party provincial chairpersons should be premiers.

There are different views in the ANC NEC about retaining such public representative candidates. One insider said it had been “a lost battle” to try get these three, and others, off the list of public representatives to Parliament. Another preferred to describe this as part of a broader long-term strategy, and part of a to-do list.

There is a widespread expectation that the review and organisational restructuring of government Ramaphosa announced in his 2018 State of the Nation Address would come into effect after the 2019 elections, giving the president the opportunity to drop individuals within what is expected to be a leaner Cabinet.

From within the ANC alliance partners, there seems to be a view the ANC had agreed, through its vetting process, to remove compromised candidates. And Daily Maverick was told, there had been a pledge to the alliance partners that Zuma, currently 74th on the list, would no longer feature on the final ANC list to Parliament.

That vetting and finalisation process is underway and may well be linked to the ANC lekgotla, a regular gathering ahead of February’s State of the Nation Address. The governing party goes into this meeting from Tuesday, 15 January buoyed by its 107th birthday bash and election manifesto launch that was pulled off in a polished performance.

With renewal and unity greasing the wheels, the ANC repeatedly pledged it would visit every city, town, village, township and suburb on its electioneering campaign trail. If the wheels come off again, it will not be on the 2019 election campaign trail. DM


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