Cash-strapped ANC wants media to pay to cover its December elective conference
The ruling ANC alerted members of the media that they would be expected to pay to cover the conference at Nasrec, which gets under way in 37 days and where delegates will vote for new leadership. 'We don’t want you complaining about water, we want to make sure that all of your requirements are met,' said Pule Mabe.
The media will for the first time have to pay to cover the ANC’s 55th national elective conference scheduled for December 16 to 20, the ruling party announced on Wednesday.
This comes as the party battles space constraints owing to high volumes of media personnel attending its conferences, among other factors.
National spokesperson Pule Mabe told journalists at a media walkabout at the Nasrec conference venue in Johannesburg that although the party often struggled to meet its financial obligations, including paying staff salaries on time, it was not looking at making a profit through making the media pay.
“The ANC is not looking to profit from this exercise, but we want to accommodate everyone – we don’t want you complaining about water, we want to make sure that all of your requirements are met.”
While the move sets a precedent, it remains unclear whether it will be how the ANC does things at future conferences. Quizzed on this, Mabe did not rule out the possibility. “I don’t know, the treasurer-general of the ANC will decide once elected.”
The cost to cover the conference has not been announced – the party said it was developing packages which would be finalised by the end of the week.
“We will do our best to make sure that we accommodate your requirements, like we have always done in the past. If the exercise succeeds, it then allows me to create a bigger space for the media. In the last policy conference we had over 300 journalists here, so if we don’t meet each other halfway, it will be difficult.”
Mabe revealed the party had received more than 500 applications from the media to cover the conference, and this was associated with high costs.
“The idea is not to close anyone out but to make sure that it works for everyone, even the lowest denominator,” he said.
The treasurer-general’s office has been under pressure lately, since it has not been able to raise funds to pay its R17-million salary bill over the past year. Neither has the party been able to pay its portion of provident fund contributions since late 2018, Daily Maverick has reported.
The treasurer-general position is often seen as the lifeline of the party, which Mabe himself is vying for alongside former ANC Youth League president Andile Lungisa and former Ekurhuleni chairperson Mzwandile Masina.
The announcement to have the media pay to cover the conference has been met with mixed emotions from journalists, but Mabe clarified that no one would be excluded and that different media houses had different needs.
“We will come and talk to your advertising divisions and those who deal with marketing, we will visit different media houses where there are challenges, and raise them with us so we can raise them with the organisation. We are trying to say, let us meet each other halfway to make it work for yourselves and for the ANC, so that those that come from community media organisations are not excluded. We want everyone to be accommodated to cover the conference.”
‘All systems go’
Earlier, the party’s incumbent treasurer-general, Paul Mashatile, announced that it was all systems go for the conference where 6,000 people are expected to gather. Of these, 4,200 will be voting delegates.
As at midday on Wednesday, Mashatile said the party had reached the threshold for the conference as 85% of the ANC branches were confirmed to be in good standing. “The requirement of the constitution is 70%, so we have far surpassed [that]… that in itself will give you more than 3,000 branches that have gone through and we’re quite pleased.”
Preparations were already under way on Wednesday during the media site visit. Building up to the conference, Mashatile said, the programme would kick off on 15 December with a presidential gala dinner. TimesLIVE reported that those wishing to dine with President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC’s presidential gala dinner will have to fork out between R95,000 and R200,000.
Other packages, according Ticketpro’s website, cost up to R1.2m.
Election of Top Six
The first day of the conference is on 16 December and will kick off with party president Ramaphosa giving a political report, followed by adoption of credentials and the secretary-general’s report which for the first time will be delivered by Deputy President David Mabuza since Mashatile, who has been acting in that position, will have to deliver the treasurer-general’s report.
The election of the Top Six will be on the same day. “Hopefully it will happen before midnight,” said Mashatile.
The ensuing days will entail discussions of reports and commissions.
The ruling party’s conferences are often litigated by disgruntled members, and Mashatile said that while teams had strived to ensure that everything was done by the book, the party worked in anticipation that this conference too would be litigated.
Read in Daily Maverick: “Paul Mashatile accused of staging ‘coup’ in fresh court bid to interdict second leg of ANC North West Conference”
This weekend, the party’s highest decision-making body in between conferences, the National Executive Committee, will for the first time in almost two years hold its physical meeting at Nasrec. DM