/ 27 June 2007

ANC debates two centres of power

The debate surrounding two centres of power at the African National Congress (ANC) policy conference is set to overshadow other issues being debated by members concentrating on organisational reviews. Meanwhile, the South African Communist Party's Blade Nzimande has reacted to President Thabo Mbeki's opening address.

The debate surrounding two centres of power at the African National Congress (ANC) policy conference is set to overshadow other issues being debated by members concentrating on organisational reviews.

Presenting a discussion of the organisational review document, ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe said three suggestions emerged from provincial discussions.

The first suggestion, which elicited applause from the delegates, was for the elected president of the ANC to stand as the party’s representative for the presidency of the country.

The second suggestion was to place the decision on who should be the party’s candidate in the hands of the national executive committee (NEC), and that the decision would be based on a list process. The conference did not seem as pleased with this suggestion and groaned at its announcement.

The third suggestion was to elect a candidate to represent the party in general elections at the same time as the election of the leadership of the ANC. This suggestion included allowing the ANC national conference in December to decide whether the two offices should be linked.

Women and youth

The ANC Women’s League largely endorsed the discussion document on the league, but proposed that the ANC and the Women’s League needed to do more to end patriarchal and gender discrimination. The women’s league added that the party must continue to provide it with resources.

Branches suggested a move to implement a 50/50 gender distribution within the NEC. Suggestions were also made to expand the ”generational mix” in the NEC.

Another suggestion was to beef up the ANC’s headquarters by allowing the secretary general to take on more responsibility while retaining the presidency as a driver of policy — in line with the ANC constitution.

The ANC Youth League proposed the promotion of skills development among youth as a pre-priority.

Strategy and tactics

Delegates were to debate issues relating to the important draft strategy and tactic document for more than four hours. Issues on the agenda included globalisation, the approach to monopoly capital, the white community and the tripartite alliance.

These were raised as areas in need of further discussion by delegates, including provinces and other branches of the organisation.

Joel Netshitenzhe, head of the policy unit in the presidency, said the contents of the debates would be captured for an integrated report later in the conference.

The strategy and tactics report is the ANC’s assessment of the environment in which its members live and the immediate and long-term tasks that they face. ”It is our collective view of the theory of the South African revolution,” read the draft.

On globalisation, Netshitenzhe pointed out that today’s environment is more conducive to allowing the party to carry out its programme of change than that of 13 years ago. This is despite ”globalisation and imperialism”. He said: ”Positive elements are the emergence of China, economically and otherwise, as a world player, as well as development in Latin America, Russia, India and Brazil. And advances in Africa.”

Netshitenzhe said a submission from KwaZulu-Natal argued that monopoly capital should be regarded as ”an enemy of the national democratic revolution”. This posture needs to be discussed, he said. ”How can we sustain such a posture while saying, ‘You are the enemy of the national democratic revolution, but invest’?”.

He added that the ANC Women’s League had brought up the issue of poor whites, especially poor white women, being mobilised to be partners of change. Netshitenzhe said it would need to be debated whether the time was right to do such a thing.

He added that most provinces had requested to debate the character of the tripartite alliance and the need to assert the leadership role of the ANC in the alliance. ”We must debate whether to go into detail or treat the issue of the alliance in broad terms,” he said.

The debates will be closed to the public.

‘Sharpening the debate’

Meanwhile, South African Communist Party (SACP) president Blade Nzimande said President Thabo Mbeki was ”sharpening the debate” in the comments he made on the socialist revolution at the opening of the policy conference on Wednesday.

The president, speaking as ANC leader, said a socialist victory cannot be achieved in South Africa without victory in the national democratic revolution.

”The ANC has never sought to prescribe to the SACP the policies it should adopt, the programmes of action it should implement, and the leaders it should elect,” Mbeki said to cheers from delegates.

Nzimande rejected a suggestion that Mbeki was issuing a warning to the left wing in the tripartite alliance. ”No, he can’t do that. In any case, we have come for a debate here,” he said. ”It can’t be a decree, so that’s why we do not take it as a decree. But he was sharpening the debate around the matter, which we welcome.”

He said Mbeki had been correctly stating the historical relationship of the SACP and the ANC, which the SACP has always accepted. ”He’s reaffirming the alliance, and … that the ANC won’t stand in the way of the SACP’s pursuance of the struggle for socialism. We think that is very important.”

The fact that Mbeki paid so much attention to it in his speech showed that he knew it was a complex debate. The ANC itself has socialists and communists within its ranks.

”The critical issue arising out of this … is that it’s not enough to just reaffirm that historical nature; you also have to look at the challenges facing the alliance post-1994, which is something that is being raised in the organisational review.”

The review, which deals with the structure of the ANC, is one of a number of discussion documents that will be debated in closed sessions in the four-day conference.

Nzimande said the relationship between socialism and the national democratic revolution is a complicated one. The SACP would like to see the national democratic revolution proceed to socialism, and to that end would like to influence as wide a range of people as possible, both inside and outside the ANC. ”But that’s a task that must be led by the SACP, not by the ANC,” he said. — Sapa