The ANC says that the nationalisation of the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb) should be prioritised, but only at a reasonable pace, ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa reported, as he closed the party’s national policy conference today.
It was a win some, lose some conference for Ramaphosa, who started the meeting on the backfoot, but ended on his toes. The so-called “Taliban” faction, which won against his allies at the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) conference a week ago, failed to go viral at this weekend’s policy conference.
KZN’s new leadership, part of the radical economic transformation (RET) faction, arrived at the policy conference keen to overturn the step-aside rule. It says that cadres facing criminal charges must step aside from their roles. But they failed. This group brought the highest number of provincial delegates to the meeting.
If the step-aside rule change had succeeded, it would have allowed RET leaders such as suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule, KZN strongwoman Zandile Gumede and Limpopo former treasurer Danny Msiza to return to their jobs. It would also have allowed former Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to throw his hat in the ring. Mkhize has been implicated, but not charged, with the loss of more than R150–million in the Digital Vibes scandal. Instead, the ANC said it is concerned about the “lack of fairness” in implementing the step-aside rule.
Slow Sarb nationalisation
But policy conference delegates did decide that the party’s 2017 resolution to nationalise Sarb was moving too slowly. It was decided that the private ownership of Sarb had to end, said Ramaphosa, as he closed the conference. But he added the rider that it would only proceed in a “manner and pace that takes account of the cost to the fiscus”. Private shareholders own a minority (an estimated 10%) position of the central bank’s shares and have no voting rights on policy decisions, but the party has long railed against this.
It is believed that certain private shareholders have sponsored this lobby to score big payouts if the resolution is successful. In addition, the party decided that the mandate of Sarb should change to expand beyond inflation control and to include economic indicators such as employment. This resolution is likely to spook the private sector, but it’s been on the agenda for so many years that it should not; it is a flex by the faction that ended the conference on the back foot.
“The renewal of the ANC is unstoppable,” said Ramaphosa in an unusually strident tone as he closed the policy meeting. “Renewal” is the term used to push a pro-reform and anti-corruption agenda. He also said the party had decided that the recommendations of the State Capture Commission should become society’s blueprint to fight corruption. But at the weekend, the party’s chairperson Gwede Mantashe also said the party disagreed with the commission’s finding that cadre deployment was unlawful and unconstitutional. He told the Mail & Guardian that those who wanted to end cadre deployment were against black excellence.
Mantashe has emerged as a kingmaker for Ramaphosa’s second-term race. He successfully stopped the KZN group’s efforts to start a song, Wenzeni uZuma (What has Zuma done?) that signals support for former president Jacob Zuma.
The conference resolutions now start a long winding road as the party’s December conference must first approve them. Ramaphosa retains a slight lead in the leadership race, ahead of the December conference. The RET faction does not have a candidate who can run, now that the lobby to scrap the step-aside rule failed.
Former Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe attended the policy conference and played leading roles as elder statesmen.
Their actions highlighted the absence of former president Zuma, who could not participate as it would violate his parole conditions. Zuma is still medically paroled after being released early, after a contempt of court conviction for not appearing before the State Capture Commission. DM