/ 14 December 2012

Polokwane decisions yield a mixed bag of results

The ANC took resolutions at its Polokwane conference in 2007 to enhance both the party's and the government's service delivery.
The ANC took resolutions at its Polokwane conference in 2007 to enhance both the party's and the government's service delivery.

As it converges in Mangaung five years later, the Mail & Guardian looks at the progress that has been made in implementing them.

Resolution: Establish a political school in five years
Progress: The ANC has bought land in Vredefort in the Free State and the party's national executive committee has approved the plan for and design of the school. It will be known as the ANC Political School and Policy Institute and will be modelled on the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, the Communist Party's leadership and governance institution based in Shanghai.

It will become compulsory for the party's elected officials, from branch leaders to Cabinet ministers, to attend courses at the school. Although it has missed the five-year deadline, construction will begin as soon as the relevant government departments have concluded their assessments, because it will be part of a world heritage site.

Resolution: Reach one million members by 2012 centenary year
Progress: The ANC has exceeded its target and membership now stands at 1.2-million. The largest growth has been in KwaZulu-Natal, party president's Jacob Zuma's home province, which, with 331820 members, overtook the Eastern Cape. This augurs well for Zuma and his quest for a second term, because this 70-year-old resolution was implemented successfully under his leadership. The ANC is now the largest liberation movement-turned-political party in Africa, although some have questioned the quality of the members it has started to attract.

Resolution: Start implementing the National Health Insurance system and roll it out over 14 years
Progress: Pilot projects at 10 hospitals were started in the fifth year of the current ANC's leadership term. The financial benefits, which will make it possible for poor people to get private healthcare without paying, have not yet been realised. This is because a health insurance fund,  from which doctors can claim for their services, has not been established. Contracting private doctors and signing service agreements have been delayed as well.

Resolution: Expand no-fee schools to 60% by 2009
Progress: This has been achieved and exceeded by 8%. Almost 8.1-million pupils were being taught at 19933 no-fee schools in nine provinces by 2011. These were mostly poor schools in rural villages and townships. More than 3000 public schools in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo were classified as no-fee schools. Although these schools have increased access to basic education, there are concerns that the quality of teaching in them is not improving and, in some cases, even deteriorating.

Resolution: The state and mandated entities should exercise their legal right to expropriate property in the public interest
Progress: A month before the Mangaung conference, the Cabinet approved the establishment of the office of the valuer general, proposed in the green paper on land reform. The valuer general will assist the department of land affairs to deal with the problem of inflated prices and land reform by setting an equitable price when land comes up for sale. This is in accordance with section 25 (3) of South Africa's Constitution, which states that the amount of compensation paid and the time and manner of payment must be just and equitable, reflecting a balance between public interest and the interests of those affected.

Resolution: A ­mechanism to assess public ­performance in branches and regions annually and that of the provinces and ANC headquarters at mid-term
Progress: In July last year, the party appointed ANC stalwart Jessie Duarte to head the new monitoring and evaluation unit. The unit has visited ANC-led municipalities across South Africa to assess the implementation of party resolutions and its election manifesto.

It found that, although there was the political will to deliver services at the required pace, resources and technical capacity were lacking. But the ANC has yet to establish a mechanism through which branches and regions can hold members accountable, as envisaged in the 2007 resolution.

Among the unit's recommendations is that the treasury should simplify financial management policy, which was too sophisticated for many municipalities.

Resolution: Media transform­ation, media appeals tribunal
Progress: The media took a hammering at the Polokwane conference and was labelled anti-transformation and anti-ANC. The party proposed that Parliament should establish a media appeals tribunal with the power "to adjudicate over matters or complaints expressed by citizens against print media, in terms of decisions and rulings made by the existing self-regulatory institutions".

The tribunal was extremely controversial, particularly because it was twinned with the Protection of State Information Bill, which proposes draconian sentences for journalists and others found guilty of leaking state information. Both were seen as an attempt to muzzle the free press. Although the Bill has been pushed through, the tribunal proposal didn't get as much traction, partly owing to a loss of appetite by some leaders, such as ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe, who met re-presentatives of the South African National Editor's Forum in late 2010 and essentially gave the industry a chance to tighten up its own self-regulation mechanisms.

The press council, after a thorough self-investigation, late this year released details of changes to its regulations, which move from self-regulation to co-regulation with the public. They take effect next year and seem to have staved off the ANC's proposal.