The ANC must change to survive

Power: President Jacob Zuma said the youth must play a key role in the ANC’s renewal. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy

Power: President Jacob Zuma said the youth must play a key role in the ANC’s renewal. Photo: Delwyn Verasamy

ANC members attending the party’s policy conference in Soweto will on Saturday begin discussions on how to change the structure of the organisation to make it more efficient and responsive, with calls for increased capacity at the Luthuli House headquarters and expansion of the top six leadership dominating the debate.

Several ANC provinces have submitted proposals to the national conference that the office of the secretary general be expanded to include deputies. Other structures, including the ANC Military Veterans Association (MKMVA), have deputy presidents.

Chairperson of the ANC’s organisational renewal commission Fikile Mbalula told the Mail & Guardian on Friday the debate on how the ANC needs to change would be frank.

“With this debate we are trying to ensure that there are no holy cows.”

The conference concludes next Wednesday and will submit proposals to the national conference in December, where delegates will adopt new or adjusted policies.

Provincial ANC delegations to the conference, Mbalula said, have seriously questioned whether the party is currently positioned well enough t o respond to the crisis it finds itself in.

“The main focus from provinces seems to be on the structure of the ANC that needs to be changed, the top six and so on. We need to assess whether the structure i s adequate to respond t o t h e challenges.

“What is being said is that we should beef up the headquarters in terms of political capacity, and in terms of the secretary general’s office and in terms of the presidency.
In the past you’ll remember that the presidency had a political figure full time at [Luthuli House],” he added.

The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) was among the first official party structures to propose changes to the make-up of the ANC’s most senior leadership of — its national officials — often referred to as the “top six”.

The league proposed expanding the structure to include a second deputy secretary general in order to better monitor the implementation of the ANC’s resolutions.

ANCYL secretary general Njabulo Nzuza told the M&G that they would reject subsequent proposals for the structure to be further expanded to include two deputy presidents and two national chairpersons.

“We don’t believe it is necessary to increase the top six now to the top nine. We believe we must strengthen organisational capacity, and that only sits in the office of the SG [secretary general].”

Speaking to the M&G on the sidelines of the national policy conference, ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) president Bathabile Dlamini said she was opposed to expanding the top six. She suggested that such proposals may be driven by patriarchy and an attempt to prevent a female successor to the presidency.

“There is a phenomenon in all patriarchal societies where people think that women can’t provide leadership, and when they get into it [leadership positions] then [structures] need to be strengthened,” said Dlamini.

Under her leadership, the ANCWL has called for a woman candidate to succeed Zuma during the ANC elective conference in December.

The ANC’s tripartite alliance partners, union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party (SACP) will take part in the policy debates. Both ANC allies have called for Zuma to step down as head of state, claiming the litany of scandals he is implicated in makes him unfit to lead the country.

Cosatu and the SACP have called for a realignment of the alliance and questioned whether the ANC remains the right partner to lead it.

On Friday, Zuma called on delegates at the policy conference to debate how to renew the alliance, which has been under immense strain. But he also cautioned against personalising the debate.

“Our discussions about the renewal of the ANC must reflect the renewal of the alliance. The unity of the alliance must not be undermined by sectarian agendas and personal hatred,” said Zuma.

He added that the country’s youth should influence how delegates deliberate on necessary renewals.

“South Africa’s population is becoming increasingly youthful and the ANC needs to adapt and become responsive to the needs of our youth today. [The debate] must talk to their interests; access to education and jobs, the need to reduce data costs, entrepreneurship and general social issues of concern to them.”

Another debate likely to receive mixed reaction from delegates is the proposals around how to change the party’s electoral system, which has been plagued by vote buying and claims of corruption and manipulation.

The ANC in the Eastern Cape has recommended that all members of the party be allowed to elect the top leadership through general election style balloting. This, secretary Oscar Mabuyane said, would eliminate slate politics and vote buying.

Mbalula said the party would discuss a proposal on the establishment of a revolutionary electoral college.

“We’ll look at the entire electoral system of the ANC and whether or not, in order to address the challenge of factions, we shouldn’t actually have a revolutionary electoral college, wherein which names and people will be scrutinised in the enforcement of the Through the Eye of The Needle [document].

“That is key, because if leadership is discussed in the corners and the darkness, it will produce the results that many members of the ANC have not reflected on,” he added.

Nzuza said while the league was happy that their discussion on expanding the top six had taken root, they were aware that a proposal to reduce the size of the national executive committee (NEC), that has over 100 members, is not gaining traction.

“The NEC must operate with more efficiency. As a result of having a lot of people in the decision-making process it makes the structure carry some drag with it; it can’t make decisions as speedily as it’s supposed to. And right now we need an NEC that will take decisions with speed towards the implementation of congress resolutions,” said Nzuza.

Dlamini said the ANCWL would campaign for the national officials to be recognised as an official structure of the ANC, which would compel it to adhere to the party’s policy of 50-50 gender representation.

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