Pivotal issues on the ANC agenda

The youth-wage subsidy, land reform, the youth league’s autonomy and nationalisation will come under the spotlight. The Mail & Guardian examines these issues

Wage subsidy
Trade federation Cosatu will push hard to convince delegates at next week’s policy conference to reject the implementation of the proposed youth wage subsidy by President Jacob Zuma’s government. Alliance leaders have been at loggerheads over the implementation of the R5-billion subsidy, which is aimed at creating jobs for thousands of unemployed youths in the country. The ANC first rejected the idea of the subsidy in 2005, arguing that it would create a two-tier labour system.

But with the increasing levels of poverty and unemployment in South Africa, Zuma’s administration believes the policy would go a long way towards  reducing the level of unemployment. The proposed subsidy has resulted in Cosatu’s leaders accusing Zuma’s administration of undermining the Polokwane resolution to create “decent” work and of favouring ­Democratic Alliance-sponsored policies.

Patrick Phelane, Cosatu’s labour market policy co-ordinator, said the umbrella union would not support any programme that aimed to stem the dwindling profitability levels of ailing enterprises under the cloak of saving jobs or avoiding retrenchments.

“Wage subsidies have been implemented in the developing world with varying degrees of succes and failure depending on purpose, aim, implementing agents and the size of the subsidy,” he said.

“In a number of cases, wage subsidies have provided temporary relief for unemployment, which is not what we seek for the wretched millions of underemployed and unemployed in this country. It would be worthwhile for politicians to spare the nation the rhetorical gospel of a wage subsidy and explore feasible avenues of creating employment through the opportunities offered by green technology and green industries.”

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe believes the wage subsidy will address the critical issue of skills development in the country.

“We are not just looking at the wage subsidy, we are looking at using the money to help young people acquire better skills and enter the labour market,” said Mantashe.
The ANC’s powerful KwaZulu-Natal structure has already voiced support for the youth wage subsidy.

Land reform
Another fierce debate at the policy conference will be whether or not to amend the property clause in the Constitution, as supported by the ANC Youth League and branches in Limpopo, North West and the Eastern Cape. KwaZulu-Natal has taken a more measured stance, saying the ANC should stick to focusing on expediting land restitution within the current constitutional framework and consider reviewing the Constitution only once all avenues have been exploited.

Mpumalanga has resolved that ­section 25 of the Constitution, coupled with the current land reform policies and programmes, is adequate for the state to speed up access to land by the previously disadvantaged. The Northern Cape ANC provincial executive meeting on Thursday was expected to support the proposal to review the property clause.

Most ANC provinces, except the Free State, which will debate its policy positions this weekend, are in agreement that the willing-seller, willing-buyer approach has been unsuccessful and should be scrapped.

The view among the provinces is that a more aggressive approach must be adopted. Although North West and Limpopo have thrown their weight behind the youth league’s proposal to expropriate land without compensation, they will face stiff opposition from those provinces that are vehemently against land grabs. The Western Cape will lobby for a proposal to have the 1913 cut-off date for land claims extended to the years prior to that date. This will ensure that the Khoisan, who had their land stolen before 1913, would be able to submit claims.

Youth league’s autonomy
Supporters of ANC Youth League president Julius Malema are planning to raise the issue of the league’s autonomy, which could result in a discussion of the decision to expel Malema from both the ANC and its youth wing.

Some youth league leaders have accused the ANC under Zuma of interfering with its independence after the party expelled Malema and suspended other senior youth league officials for allegedly bringing the ANC into disrepute.

The youth league has repeatedly argued that its autonomy is not “a by-the-way issue, but a revolutionary organisational practice” that, if ignored, could undermine the energy young people could bring to political, economic and social change. On the other hand, the ANC has argued that the youth league’s autonomy does not mean it is independent of the ANC.

Zuma has previously said that all organisations that are part of the ANC must understand that they are not autonomous. He pointed out that “even Umkhonto weSizwe knew its place as being subordinate to the politics of the ANC”.

Both the ANC’s national disciplinary committee and the national disciplinary committee of appeals have dismissed the league’s argument that it is autonomous.
“If the youth league seeks to operate outside of the ANC constitution and policy, it will, in the national disciplinary commitee’s view, be acting outside the constitutional doctrine of the legality of the ANC constitution and existing ANC policy. In other words, the ANC Youth League will be operating unlawfully,” the organisation has ruled.

It is crunch time for the ANC Youth League, which will have to fight tooth and nail to defend its position that South Africa’s mines and other strategic sectors of the economy should be nationalised. Although the majority of ANC provinces support the league’s call for some form of redistributive mechanism, many are not in favour of a crude form of nationalisation.

Like the youth league, some ANC leaders in the Eastern Cape, North West and Limpopo have made it clear that they would support leaders who would lobby for radical ­policy change at the Mangaung conference. The Western Cape, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga are in support of the state taking complete ownership of strategic mineral subsectors such as coal, platinum, copper and chrome.

KwaZulu-Natal is the only province to reject nationalisation completely, saying it would be too costly. However, it has stated that more state intervention, such as taxation, the extraction of royalties and the ownership of strategic assets, solely or in partnership with the private sector, must be incorporated.
The ANC’s research team into state intervention in the minerals sector has proposed a 50% supertax on all profits from mining companies and a reduction of royalties from 4% to 1%.

This approach is likely to be hotly debated at the policy conference. Some delegates are expected to reject the proposal, arguing that the research team ignored the terms of reference, which clearly stated that it had to investigate different models of nationalisation rather than find reasons for not implementing the policy. – Reporting by Matuma Letsoalo, Aneesa Fazel & Michelle Pietersen

The mavericks in the mix
Some of the more outlandish policy proposals to be tabled at the conference include the Mpumalanga ANC’s suggestion that the drinking age should be increased to 21 and pregnant teenagers should not be allowed to go to school.

The province also wants Luthuli House to be staffed by seven full-time officials, who would be selected through the national executive committee’s deployment process and not by the party’s national conference.

The comrades in KwaZulu-Natal have been accused by the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union of acting like the “mouthpiece of the DA” for adopting Democratic Alliance-type policy proposals, such as classifying education an essential service. This would mean that teachers would not be able to embark on strike action. The province also backs the youth wage subsidy.

In the Eastern Cape, the cost to taxpayers of supporting President Jacob Zuma’s wives came under the spotlight. During the provincial general conference at the weekend, the economic transformation commission suggested that the state should support only his first wife. But Eastern Cape ANC provincial chair Phumulo Masualle, a Zuma ally, said it was a “personal attack against Zuma” and not a policy proposal of the province.

Zuma’s detractors in the province will likely lobby for the matter to be debated during the policy conference, if only to try to embarrass Zuma. – Michelle Pietersen


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