The ANC’s National Policy Conference kicked off on Friday 30 June 2017 with the theme “Let us deepen unity!” This conference was being held against the backdrop of a ‘Party at War’ with itself.
Divisions in the party have been steadily growing over the past three years boosted by the Nkandla scandal, deepening corruption in government and State Owned Enterprises spurred on by the Gupta’s interference in the government and the economy.
The former Public Protector’s ‘State of Capture’ highlighting the Gupta involvement in capturing vital sections of state procurement and their influence over President Zuma even to the extent of influencing the appointment of members of the cabinet have heightened divisions in the party.
Unemployment has reached an all time record of 26.7% or 9.6million people, economic growth is now below 1% per annum and the country in a technical recession combined. All of this fuelled by the damage caused by Zuma’s ill advised removal of firstly Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015 as Finance Minister followed by Pravin Gordhan and his Deputy Mcebisi Jonas in March this year. Replacing them with Malusi Gigaba and Sfiso Buthelezi as Finance Minister and Deputy respectively has exasperated the problem.
Added to this there is a pending vote of no confidence, possibly with a secret ballot. Added to this is the release of a flood of Emails, being leaked to the media, implicating the Gupta’s, Zuma’s son Duduzane as well as cabinet ministers and senior state official containing sensitive information about corrupt transactions.
All of these distractions right on the eve of the conference.
Prior to the arrival of Zuma Party Chairperson Baleka Mbete pleaded with delegates that “We must only sing songs that unite us!” All to no avail because delegates on one side lead by KZN sang very pro Zuma songs and on the other side lead by delegates from the Eastern Cape they were calling for Zuma to stand down and rolling the hands calling for a change.
Against this background Zuma was meant to open the conference with a reconciliatory tone so as to foster unity between warring factions. Zuma started off sticking to the script before him but in no time he went off script, antagonising a section of the party, by attacking the group of party stalwarts who had demanded that a consultative conference must be held prior to the policy conference. He berated those who openly criticise the ANC and heaped praise on the branches and questioned the necessity of democratic tenets like the rule of law.
The conference venue resembled a security zone with the media being kept as far away from the delegates and discussions as possible. Carefully planned media briefings and leadership walk abouts were held so as to create an atmosphere for open and frank discussion. Yet reports of the very divergent views of the delegates on sensitive issues emerged.
• The first stumbling block came on the Friday night when the pro Zuma camp tried to block Secretary General Gwede Mantashe from presenting his diagnostic report into the state of troubles of the ANC.
A tough debate ensued, resolving “to use ANC lingo” the majority view prevailed in favour of those not supportive of Zuma. And the diagnostics report was presented.
The Daily Maverick reported that “It’s a tough diagnostic report. But it is one couched in terms that put the blame for the ANC’s troubles on others more often than not. Perceptions of the ANC as “inherently corrupt”, the “growing trust deficit between the people and the movement”, and a decline in the quality of branches and membership are firmly situated in the rhetoric of regime change.
“The offensive from external forces, with the regime change agenda at its core, is real,” says the diagnostic report, detailing a combination of “soft and hard forms of the attack with the potential to return southern Africa into its Cold War era of conflict”.
After the discussion on this topic Mantashe acknowledged the tough discussions, without giving away details. “Where I grow up, medicine is not willingly taken when you are sick,”
This was how the search for solutions and unity in the governing ANC continued for six days.
After six days of fierce debate, the factional proxy battles unfolded in closed sessions during the debates described variously as “intense”, “heated” and “vibrant”. What else could Zuma say in his closing address except “There are no losers or winners in this conference. The only winner is the ANC”. There really could not have been any other pronouncement for a gathering held under the theme “Let us deepen unity!”
But what did the conference decide?
• On the issue of the white monopoly capital narrative as pushed by the pro Zuma faction rather than the Ramaphosa line of being opposed to all forms of monopoly capital. Nine commissions agreed there was no such thing as white monopoly capitalism as it was a global phenomenon, although white domination of the economy could not be denied, while two commissions held firm on white monopoly capitalism.
The decision: both proposals would go to branches for further discussions once the conference report is printed and distributed. More discussions, more behind-the-scenes political manoeuvring. Still no resolution.
• The two divergent positions on land expropriation without compensation associated with Zuma vs the Ramaphosa position on retaining the status quo. The agreement is that restitution must be accelerated within the ambits of the law.
• In order to reduce factionalism and internal party election slates it was recommended that a second deputy president and deputy secretary general for organisational building and new electoral procedures to be initiated. The recommendation is to reduce the size of the NEC to a “smaller and workable” group of between 40 and 60 members.
The reason being that the losing presidential candidate automatically becomes the deputy president and that rather than voting for all the candidates simultaneously each position be voted for individually.
• After losing Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay metros to DA-led coalitions last year there were calls for commission of inquiry to investigate the role of provinces and whether the number of provinces or their boundaries should change. Calls have been made to reduce the number of provinces from nine to six; the benefit to the ANC would be to eliminate the DA controlled Western Cape and to prevent the DA from taking control of Gauteng.
No sooner had Zuma closed the conference by boldly declaring that “There are no losers or winners in this conference. The only winner is the ANC”– the back got under way.
The delegates had hardly filed out of the hall and it was clear the battle lines were drawn.
Both the youth and women’s league issued statements:
• The ANC Women’s League proclaiming “… in the South African contest there is white monopoly capital being the primary enemy of national democratic revolution and all monopolies perpetuating economic inequalities”.
• While the Youth League proclaimed “We will continue to canvass the view that the national conference must officially adopt the proposition that white monopoly capital must be characterised as the strategic enemy of the revolution.”
• The ANC Women’s League called for the consideration of amending the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation.
• The ANC in Mpumalanga made it clear that they want Premier DD Mabusa to be the next vice president and do not agree with the automatic elevation of the losing presidential candidate into the position.
All these unresolved policy discussions now continue, referred back to the branches and regions for further discussion before the December elective conference for finalisation. In the meantime the membership and credentials of all branches are audited, and verified. Membership numbers are used as the basis for allocating delegates, which means votes at the congress, the more votes a branch; region or province, has the greater their influence in the fight for the heart and soul of the ANC.
If as they say a week is a long time in politics imagine the next five months as we head to the ANC’s elective conference:
• President Zuma will continue to frustrate efforts to appoint a commission of enquiry into State Capture and continue with his narrative of white monopoly capital;
• Cyril Ramaphosa will speak out about state capture and corruption more than he has done for the past four years;
• Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma will continue hitting out at white monopoly capital and the expropriation of land;
• Current National ANC Chairperson and Speaker of the National Assembly will continue to protect President Zuma and his cronies from those potentially damaging questions while relying on her seniority as a woman to be elected as president of the ANC;
• Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu having accepted nomination to run for president of the African National Congress will stress her commitment in the fight against corruption. She will no doubt rely on the history of the Sizulu dynasty;
• Former Mpumalanga Premier Mathews Phosa will no doubt continue campaigning against corruption and promoting his agenda of nation building;
• Zweli Mkhize will continue sitting on the sidelines waiting to be drawn in as the compromise candidate to prevent a bloodbath on the congress floor.
While all this happens the Gupta’s will continue to loot South Africa, Jacob Zuma will become more paranoid about the west wanting to oust him to capture the ANC, unemployment will rise, another sovereign credit down grade may occur and the citizens of South Africa will suffer.
Alas! If only somebody would take charge and set the country back on course!
Until next time…
This newsletter is published by Clive Hatch former Leader of the Opposition in the Mpumalanga Provincial Legislature and former Mpumalanga DA Provincial Leader. These views are my personal views and do not represent those of any other person or organisation.