Jacob Zuma's new ANC leadership has taken its most decisive move to end uncertainty about economic policy by flatly rejecting nationalisation.
In a week in which it also embraced billionaire Cyril Ramaphosa as its deputy president, the party has continued its trend to talk left but decidedly move to the right. The move has been slammed by trade union federation Cosatu, but it will be music to the ears of the local and international business community.
Zuma has encouraged trade union leaders to join the party to use their influence, but it is clear they are unlikely to change its course.
His own re-election also sent a message of continuity and stability.
The ANC resolved to take measures to deal with corruption and grow the party in a qualitative fashion by introducing strict criteria for leadership positions.
Here are some of the main resolutions:
The national conference has rejected the proposal to make nationalisation its policy and has brought the youth wage subsidy back on the agenda, a factor that is likely to further deepen tensions between the ruling party and its one alliance partner, Cosatu.
ANC policy head Enoch Godong-wana said on Thursday that, instead of nationalisation, the party had resolved to increase state ownership in strategic sectors where it deemed it appropriate “on the balance of evidence”.
He said the conference favoured the tax regime model to raise money for the fiscus from mining companies, instead of nationalisation.
Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said: “The national conference has refused to be drawn into the word ‘nationalisation’ or not. We opted to reaffirm our historic position on the economy.
“There might come a moment when a particular sector of the economy needs to be nationalised. It happened in the United States during the recession. The issue is not arising when we talk about mining, but we say the state will increase its strategic ownership in strategic sectors.
“There should not be the expectation that from here the ANC will start thinking when and who we are going to nationalise. We believe in a mixed economy. That’s the view the conference took.”
Gigaba said the ANC was deeply concerned about the level of unemployment among the youth.
“The mechanism we adopted until now has been wholly inadequate. The ANC has not ruled out a youth subsidy,” said Gigaba.
Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers, rejected the ANC’s decision to do away with nationalisation and put the youth wage subsidy on the agenda.
“The problem is not investors,” he said. “There are no investors that fear nationalisation, but there [is a] leadership that fears investors.
“We have strategic sectors such as chrome, iron, steel, platinum. We must take ownership of those sectors. We can explain to investors once we have taken those sectors. The problem of leadership that is not decisive cannot be the problem of investors.”
Integrity and the fight against graft
The ANC has resolved to establish an integrity committee within the next three months to fight corruption and uphold its integrity.
Delegates adopted the resolution during a commission on organisational renewal. The proposed committee would comprise party veterans and is expected to have powers to subpoena any member accused of misconduct to appear before it.
The ANC’s Gauteng general secretary and a member of the commission on organisation renewal, David Makhura, said the committee would assist the organisation to hold members accountable and protect the image of the party.
Makhura said the committee would ensure that the party took a proactive stance against ANC members accused of corruption. He said the ANC would follow the example of the strict stance that the central committee of China’s Communist Party has against party members engaged in corrupt activity.
“It is going to be an important organ of the organisation,” Makhuru said. “It will help us to nip corruption in the bud. The ANC wants to hold its members accountable and wants them to respect the laws of the country.”
He said the committee would also “encourage” members to step aside if they were facing serious allegations of impropriety and misconduct.
However, it is unclear how the proposed integrity committee would respond if the National Prosecuting Authority was eventually forced to reinstate fraud and corruption charges against Zuma. The Supreme Court of Appeal has ordered the NPA to provide the Democratic Alliance with the documents that former NPA head Mokotedi Mpshe used to discontinue the prosecution of Zuma.
Delegates also resolved that members had to declare their business interests to the ANC if they decided to go into business.
The proposal to reduce the size of the national executive committee from 80 to 60 was rejected by the delegates, who agreed to maintain the status quo.
Delegates further resolved that a member had to serve in party structures for at least 10 years before they could be eligible for nomination to the national executive committee.
The commission also resolved to introduce a cadre policy and a literacy campaign to build the “transformative and adaptive capacity” of the ANC in the next 10 years.
The ANC has conceded that its leadership decision that members who take the party to court automatically expel themselves would “not pass muster in any court”.
It made the concession after extensive discussions at conference commissions.
Collins Chabane, an ANC national executive committee member who also chairs the subcommittee on constitutional amendments, said party members charged under its disciplinary rules would no longer have the privilege of top leadership representing them at hearings.
ANC leaders appear to have been so irked by former treasurer general Mathews Phosa representing expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema that they put through a constitutional amendment disallowing top leaders from representing those in trouble.
An amended disciplinary proceedings clause reads: “Members of ANC executive committees to whom the disciplinary committee reports or a executive committee at a higher level cannot represent charged members”.
Added to the constitution is that ANC members representing their comrades at internal disciplinary hearings “shall not be entitled to charge any fee for such representation, or levy a disbursement for costs associated with such representation”.
ANC members will now need to be ordinary members in good standing for at least 10 years before qualifying to be elected leaders, a change from the initial five years.
This is part of the ANC’s effort to ensure the party is led by what is seen to be genuine cadres shaped by years of learning the party’s culture and values.
Chabane said the party would soon introduce leadership qualifications as part of conditions of accepting nomination for the position.
“Some years to come, you’ll have to produce a certificate to say ‘I’ve been to an ANC political school and this is a course I’ve passed’,” he said. “We must get to a level where we say if you want to be a leader in this structure, you must have passed this course.”
Legislature and governance
The ANC resolved to set up an “independent commission” to investigate the functioning of provinces and whether there was a need to reduce their number. The commission would finalise its findings and report back to the ANC’s national general council in 2015, said Nomaindia Mfeketho, chairperson of the ANC subcommittee on legislature and governance. She said that the commission’s proposals would be implemented in time for the 2019 general elections.
The conference had resolved to “review, reform and strengthen” provinces, Mfeketho said.
The ANC also resolved to urge more national government intervention in municipalities that are “unviable”. These municipalities with low revenue bases will be pulled into district municipalities and assisted from the national fiscus, whereas those with larger revenue bases “that can be taken out of district councils” would be pulled out to stand alone.
Subcommittee member Lynn Brown said that, if required, there would be more intervention by the national legislature in provinces and by the provincial legislatures in local government to address problems and fulfil the requirements of a developmental state.
The introduction of a single public service was still “a work in progress”, but the conference resolved that the president appoint a remuneration committee to investigate public sector salaries. The commission will report back in six months.
The ANC will from now on sing the country’s full national anthem, including Die Stem, in an effort to encourage nation-building. Paul Mashatile, a member of the subcommittee on social transformation and arts and culture minister, said: “The ANC needs to lead by example.”
Mashatile said that although the conference had not yet made it compulsory, the government would encourage schools to sing the anthem every day.