Radical change on cards

Anti-Jacob Zuma delegates at the ANC policy conference in Midrand make the sign of a shower head to express their disapproval of the party president. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Anti-Jacob Zuma delegates at the ANC policy conference in Midrand make the sign of a shower head to express their disapproval of the party president. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The ANC this week proposed far-reaching changes to current economic policies, giving the state more power to intervene in sectors of the economy. It was also proposed that the willing-buyer, willing-seller approach to land reform be scrapped.

It has also emerged from the legislation and governance commission that delegates felt the number of provinces be reduced from nine to four.

The policy conference got off to an unexpected start when the majority of delegates rejected the idea of a “second transition”, arguing it was a strange concept that had no history in the ANC’s theoretical grounding, although they agreed with the challenges it raised: unemployment, poverty and inequality.

President Jacob Zuma had championed the document ahead of the conference and the delegates’ rejection of it appeared to be a slap in the face for him.

At the time of going to press, the plenary appeared to be settling on compromise wording calling for a  “second-phase of transition”, which it agreed was a continuation of the national democratic revolution.

A continuing transition
“There was broad agreement that we are on a continuing transition from apartheid to a national democratic society,” said a source from inside the plenary.

By late on Thursday, tensions boiled over between delegates from Limpopo and Kwazulu-Natal, and Limpopo premier Cassel Mathale rushed from the stage to call delegates to order.

Underlying some of the tension at the conference was the leadership issue, with some arguing for Zuma’s second term while others felt Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe should take over. Delegates also sang songs in support of their leaders.

ANC sources who attended two economic transformation commissions agreed on some form of nationalisation of mines, but a blanket approach has been rejected.

One of the commissions proposed a 30% state ownership as an entry point to nationalisation, while another agreed on greater state intervention – with nationalisation as an option – as suggested by labour federation Cosatu’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

“We agreed that some mines are not profitable and, therefore, we will only nationalise those which are profitable,” said the source, who was not authorised to comment officially.

The general consensus appeared to be that a mixed approach to the beneficiation of the country’ mineral wealth was the best option.

The state would take greater control in that it would determine and declare certain mineral resources such as iron ore, copper and others, as strategic mineral subsectors.

First preference
Other options include that the proposed state mining company have “first preference on new minerals” and that the state have more control over how the minerals are administered through a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy.
This means the state would be able to withdraw a mining company’s licence if it failed to utilise its mining rights. There was also a proposal that all mining be carried out according to a “backward and forward line” to ensure that there are visible contributions to the communities where mining takes place.

Zuma’s home province, KwaZulu-Natal, proposed that an economic Codesa be convened by the ANC to craft a “social compact among all economic stakeholders”.

“We need a common vision on every­thing from sunset clauses to land banking, which is drafted by contributions from all stakeholders, not just the ANC. It came out quite strongly. We need concrete positions on where the country will go. The ANC must encourage the president [Zuma] to convene it,” said one source. Another ANC participant confirmed that Kwazulu-Natal had tabled the proposal and that it had received widespread support. A final decision was to be taken during the plenary session on Friday. The province also proposed that a “supertax” of 90% on all mining profits be adopted.

The willing-seller, willing-buyer approach to land restitution was rejected across the board and a heated debate ensued over whether the property clause in the Constitution should be amended. Some delegates argued that it should be amended so that the courts were not the final arbitrators in disputes.

“[We want a situation in which] when a minister makes a decision it is final. You’ve seen the legal system … the courts have too much power,” said a delegate.

“There are two fundamental things the ANC must address in this country and if it doesn’t it is a time bomb – the issue of land and mining. [The consensus was that there] needs to be a radical intervention without any contradiction. [If the] ANC does not intervene it is reducing its ability to be a movement and ruling party.”

A member of the ANC’s economic transformation subcommittee said: “The willing-seller, willing-buyer approach has been the anchor of the land distribution. The state will now have a [much] stronger role in the mining [sector]. The state mining company will play a very, very ­decisive role.”

Two fingers vs rolling hands
Supporters of President Jacob Zuma and his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, had their handbags at the ready during a first face-off at the ANC policy conference on Thursday afternoon.

It was the first instance of open electioneering in the run-up to the ruling party’s elective conference in Mangaung in December.

Matters came to a head during Motlanthe’s walk through the conference’s progressive business forum when he was met with a group of pro-Zuma ANC members.

The roughly 50-strong crowd sang: “uZuma yo sivuma isecond transition” (Zuma will take us to the second transition).

Although initially bemused by the spectacle, Motlanthe quickly moved to the restricted VIP area.

Once the group had moved to the back of the hall, Motlanthe exited and was welcomed by a small group of his own singing supporters outside the venue.

He passed them as they sang: “Siyaya noKgalema” (We are going with Kgalema).

As Motlanthe left, singing and gesturing Zuma supporters faced off with the Motlanthe faction.

Zuma supporters thrust their hands into the air with two fingers raised – signifying their call for a second term for the incumbent.

The Motlanthe group met this with arms raised and rolling their hands over each other – a sign indicating their call for a substitution in leadership.

But if the emotional and fiery electioneering that accompanied the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane ­elective conference is the benchmark, Thursday’s confrontation was more a bout of oil wrestling than any serious WWE smackdown. – Nickolaus Bauer

Many a slip ‘twixt transition and transaction
ANC get-togethers can have linguists finding succour in a warm bath armed with a sharp razor: the comrades do get mired in dense political jargon that requires a sharp knife to cut through – or to slash one’s wrists with.

Even party members have admitted as much, with critics of President Jacob Zuma’s “second transition” noting that it is swaddled in outdated “Marxist jargon”. But there are moments – usually unguarded comments or the odd Freudian slip – that perhaps reveal a deeper truth. The Mail & Guardian has learned that during one commission discussing the “second transition”, it was left to a delegate from KwaZulu-Natal to defend it from criticism.

Alas, he could not stop referring to it as the “second transaction”. Do the province’s delegates – the most vociferous supporters of Zuma’s campaign for a second term – know something that we do not? Or did he just cut to the chase?

Is the “second transition” merely an attempt by Zuma to ensure a second term and a “second transaction” from the national piggy bank? – Niren Tolsi


Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004.
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