ANC ponders policy, leadership

By Tichaona Zindoga

JOHANNESBURG – The ruling African National Congress, facing a myriad challenges from socio-economic pressures to questions about leadership, is due to hold its policy conference in June.

The 2017 National Policy Conference is to be held from June 30 to July 5.

A fortnight ago, the party released a number of documents set to inform discussions on the party’s wellbeing and policy.

The policy will be adopted at the 54th National Conference, to be held in December.

Analysts, though, indicate that there will be bigger fish to fry in December as this year’s edition is an elective conference, raising stakes significantly.

The policy documents are classified in different thematic areas including: Economic Transformation; Social Transformation; Communications and the Battle of Ideas; International Relations, Peace and Stability; Organisational Renewal and Strategy and Tactics.

Two key themes are likely to elicit massive response, though, and these are “Organisational Renewal” and “Economic Transformation”.

This comes at a time when the race is on to succeed President Jacob Zuma while increasing calls have been made for radical transformation anchored on wealth redistribution, which President Zuma himself has lately been vocal about.

The ANC notes that the conditions under which the party is operating “have changed” and that the party is assailed by a number of problems.

“The ANC faces declining fortunes. Internal squabbles, money politics, corruption and poor performance in government all conspire to undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of the broader public. Some progressive formations and individuals who historically have been part of the broad front of forces for change are challenging the movement on important current issues, particularly corruption,” says the paper.

The declining fortunes of the ruling party are having an impact on the State, according to the discussion paper.

The call for Organisational Renewal is taking place in the aftermath of the local government elections in which the ANC lost its ruling party status in three major metropolitan provinces and obtained just 54.5 percent of the total national electoral votes.

“What do the numbers illustrated above signify? Are these indicators of an organisation that is losing the pulse of its organisational-base or is this a temporary setback?” poses the discussion paper.

“The erosion of the character and capacity of the movement and the hollowing out of the capacity of the democratic state must be reversed urgently and vigorously if we are to rapidly improve the pace and depth of transformation,” says the paper.

“A weak ANC and a weak state are twin dangers that must be confronted if South Africa is to realise its full potential and know that the immediate objective of our opponents is to weaken both the ANC and the national democratic state in order to stop or slow down transformation. On our part, our immediate task is to strengthen the capacity of both the ANC-led democratic movement and the democratic state in order to deepen transformation and improve the quality of life of the masses of our people.”

But the party believes it still has what it takes.

“The ANC remains a dominant political force in the development and the political landscape of our country. Consistently, more than 60 percent of South Africans have continued to vote for the ANC in national, provincial and local elections over the past 22 years,” says the paper.

“We dismiss the narrative, by our opponents and sections of the commentators that our support is misplaced loyalty and ignorance based on nothing else but race. Evidence from independent surveys and our direct interaction with communities explain the reasons why the overwhelming majority of South Africans continue to vote for the ANC in national, provincial and local elections.”

The paper recommends that “the ANC must respond to intuitively and understand to remain true to its ability and character of adapting to new conditions and continue to be a leader of society”.

“In the aftermaths of the local government elections, having lost 3 major metros and obtaining 54.4% the total national electoral tally is a challenge that must force us to think politically and historically to appreciate the dynamics and the shifts in the political landscape,” says the paper.

Economic transformation

On the other key discussion point he party is seized with changing the “racialised and unequal structure” of the South African economy and the discussion paper on economic transformation “acknowledges that South Africa has not made enough progress in reducing unemployment and unemployment and that we need to increase wages and broad-based ownership and control of the economy”.

The ANC is looking towards radical transformation, which President Zuma emphasised on during his state of the nation address earlier in March.

“Primarily, radical economic transformation is about fundamentally changing the structure of South Africa’s economy from an exploitative exporter of raw materials, to one which is based on beneficiation and manufacturing, in which our people’s full potential can be realised. In addition to ensuring increased economic participation by black people in the commanding heights of the economy, radical economic transformation must have a mass character,” says the paper.

“A clear objective of radical economic transformation must be to reduce racial, gender and class inequalities in South Africa through ensuring more equity with regards to incomes, ownership of assets and access to economic opportunities. An effective democratic developmental state and efficiently run public services and public companies are necessary instruments for widening the reach of radical economic transformation enabling the process to touch the lives of ordinary people.

“Overall, the ANC’s programme to transform South Africa’s society and economy must be judged on the extent to which it radically and systematically improves the lives and opportunities of those who are marginalised and excluded,” says the paper.

The paper proposes a series of measures to ensure radical economic transformation with such measures as reducing unemployment and specifically youth unemployment, return the land to our people, increase black ownership and control in the economy, activate small businesses and co-operatives, raise the level of investment, strengthen social justice and conditions for the poor and working class, improve the employment impact of infrastructure projects, reduce inequality and poverty, dismantle monopoly practices and structures, assert South Africa’s interests in the global economy, improve integration into the African economy and stimulate inclusive growth.

The release of policy documents heralds the start of an intense programme of discussions amongst ANC structures at all levels. According to the party, branches will call meetings and discuss their positions on the proposals. The provinces will consolidate these branch proposals at Provincial General Councils.

These consolidated proposals will be sent to ANC Headquarters by mid-June 2017.

The documents have received mixed reactions.

“The ANC does a superb job of navel gazing and self-criticism…The nine discussion documents released on Sunday in preparation for the ANC’s fifth policy conference in June are largely a rehash of previous policy proposals,” writes political analyst Ranjeni Munusamy for the Daily Maverick publication.

“But all these, plus some new remedies such as a review of its electoral processes, can only be implemented if adopted at the party’s December national conference.

This does not help this year’s messy election campaign that is likely to produce leaders and outcomes the ANC is warning itself against.”

March 2017
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