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The road to the 54th ANC Elective Conference – our hope to unite and rebuild the ANC and South Africa

Dr Zweli Mkhize is the Minister of Health, South Africa.

Beyond procedure and process, come the elective conference in December, the main component in our success will be unity.

Those in leadership positions should unite and guide the movement to be at the head of the process of change. They should lead the movement in its mission to organise and inspire the masses to be their own liberators. They should lead the task of governance with diligence. And, together, they should reflect continuity of a revolutionary tradition and renewal which sustains the movement in the long term.Through the Eye of the Needle, 2001

The ANC elective conference is looming and is arguably the most significant gathering of party delegates in the past decade. The 54th ANC elective conference is set down for the 16th to the 20th December and the wheels have been set in motion to ensure that everything goes according to plan. Undoubtedly the election will be viewed by many South Africans as a decisive moment for the ANC and the country. The conference will see the emergence of policy directives that will provide an insight into how the ANC intends to govern the country in the future.

While much of the hype surrounding the conference will be based on who will be elected as the new ANC president, this should not detract us from the main focus which should be building a united ANC and country, dealing with the economic crisis, corruption, allegations of State Capture, State-owned Enterprises, poverty, the unemployment and reshaping the political and socio-economic landscape of our country.

The ANC must emerge united and stronger after the elective conference as any divergence from this would be unprecedented and the first of its kind in the history of the ANC.

In an effort to ensure that this is achieved, the new nomination process as set out in a 40-page document titled Nomination Process” was adopted by the NEC in September. According to this process document, it is the ANC branches that will be the ultimate decision-makers as to who the next president of the ANC will be.

This process has allowed the lowest rung in the ladder, the branches, to assume power in electing a suitable leader, unlike in the past, and this has been dubbed by many as a grass roots approach. The process document indicates that 90% of the 5,300 voting delegates will be from the branches with the remaining 10% coming from the National and Provincial Executive Committees and the leagues.

According to the numbers of delegates from the various provinces Mpumalanga has (736 delegates) and only KwaZulu-Natal has more (870). The Eastern Cape and Limpopo come in at three and four (648 and 643 respectively). North West and Gauteng are in the middle group (538 and 508), with the Free State (409), Northern Cape (197) and Western Cape (182) at the lower end.

The nomination process document, coupled with the 2001 “Through the Eye of the Needle” policy document, which focuses on strategy and leadership qualities, provide enviable guidelines to delegates on how they are expected to vote at the conference, in particular making reference to delegates having the responsibility to choose the best among them to lead the ANC and of course the nation.

Provincial General Councils (PGCs) will undertake the consolidation of the provincial nominations. Delegates must be reminded that the nomination process document highlights that delegates are not bound by their province or league’s preferred nominations. They may vote on the branch mandate or provincial nomination or in favour of any other nomination that occurs at the conference.

This allows delegates to vote with their conscience rather than along factional lines. Branches must therefore nominate and elect candidates on merit.

The nomination forms from the branches are sealed in envelopes and are only opened thereafter at a sitting of the Provincial General Council while the party’s Electoral Commission is present. A copy is kept with the branch and photos are then taken by the branch secretary and sent to the electoral commission by phone, fax or email.

Additional nominations can be made at the conference only if the nomination is supported by 25% of the delegates present.

In order for a candidate vying for a position in the Top Six to achieve a successful election at the branches the candidate must obtain above 50% of the votes cast. The nomination must be motivated and a debate must have ensued.

In the event that there is a single nominee, delegates vote with a show of hands. However, should there be two or more nominees, the vote is subject to a secret ballot. This is a deviation from previous voting which was done by a show of hands only. Due to the susceptibility of delegates being open to victimisation this practice has ceased.

The results of such a vote are counted in front of all delegates and the announcement of the nominee is made immediately. Branches can nominate six individuals for specific positions in the top six, or they could nominate one candidate for the presidency and then five or more for the other posts in the top six. A candidate will make the short list for election only if they reach a sub-minimum of 15% of nominations of all branches. If you fall short of the 15%, the only other opportunity is at the conference, where you must show that at least 25% of the attendees support your nomination.

First past the post’

This is the present rule which indicates that for every position there is only one voting session, and whoever gets the most votes is elected. This means a candidate for president does not need to have 50% plus one of the votes, but could, for example, be elected with a mere 34% of the votes, where the other two candidates get 33% each.

Recently the integrity of the elective processes has been brought into question.

We must never allow the ANC electoral process to be distorted by money, patronage, factionalism, vote-rigging, violence and killings. The democratic legitimacy of our organisation must always be maintained and must be evident through our practices.

We must desist from the norm in the run-up to the elective conference which includes ploys of character assassinations and mud-slinging as that divides the movement.

The calls for unity have echoed from most post-political podiums by many political leaders but until we genuinely conceive and embrace this concept it becomes nothing more than public rhetoric. We all know that the sources of our challenges are disunity and we all know how important unity is to maintain the democratic structures of our organisation. We then have to ask ourselves as leaders why unity becomes so elusive.

Beyond procedure and process, come the elective conference in December, the main component in our success will be unity. We must be unified and through this unification share the same sentiment that the prerequisites for the election of the future leader of our movement are honesty, political maturity, political consciousness and clarity, genuine comradeship and the real commitment to the political course for which the ANC was created by our founding fathers all those years ago in 1912.

This will require an accurate assessment from policy documents such as “Through the Eye of the Needle” which prove vital as we seek to elect a new leader. Through the Eye of the Needle should be the compass for the election of a new leader. The interests of the organisation are of paramount importance. This election is not merely about the acquisition of a post in the Top Six of the organisation but it is the ability to ensure that the democratic mechanisms of our country are never compromised and the interests of all South Africans are best served.

In order for the ANC to remain politically relevant in the future it is imperative that an effective leader is elected to the helm of the ANC at the December elective conference. An effective leader always seeks a beneficial impact on others. This type of leader is committed to the development of those they lead.

The new leader of the ANC therefore must be an excellent example; he/she should act as a role model to ANC members and non-members alike. Leading a life that reflects commitment to the strategic goals of the national democratic revolution includes not only being free of corrupt practices; it also means actively fighting against corruption. We should not be excited by leaders simply because they are loud or articulate well.

As we prepare for the conference we need to understand our greater responsibility to be a servant of the people and the commitment of the ANC since its inception to do just that. The elective conference in December is not just an election to choose a new leader of the ANC but more than that it is an election that will determine the fate of our great party and nation. DM

Dr Zweli Mkhize is the Treasurer-General of the ANC and writes in his personal capacity.


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