President Jacob Zuma says he is happy with the quality of discussion taking place at the ANC policy conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Soweto and was confident that the party will emerge even more united after the six-day indaba.
Policy discussions reportedly took an ugly turn on Tuesday, with insults being hurled at former finance minister Pravin Gordhan and former tourism minister Derek Hanekom who argued against the use of the term “white monopoly capital” and expropriation of land without compensation.
“We are very happy indeed. I think the quality of the debates was very high, higher than other times. I’m also happy because we met for a week. This is what we needed so that we can deal with the issues and I think we had time. We were not rushing and people were able to discuss every issue that was on the table,” said Zuma.
The first two days of the conference focused mostly on the state of the party and the decline in electoral support – partly blamed at Zuma’s scandals.
The ANC president said the level of the debates showed the party has been in government for 23 years.
“And what is also impressing is that I have seen veterans standing up and making very serious contributions and young people. In actual fact when I listened to the debates I felt that even if one goes on pension today this ANC will remain in good hands,” he said.
Zuma’s supporters, including the ANC youth and women’s leagues, pushed hard for the conference to adopt the use of white monopoly capital, but this was rejected by the majority of delegates. National executive committee member Joel Netshitenzhe told journalists on Tuesday night that nine out of 11 commissions believed the term was not in line with the ANC’s policy perspectives.
The conference proposed that the term not be used in its vocabulary, saying although monopoly capital is a problem it is incorrect to characterise it as white. This is a move which has been interpreted as a defeat for Zuma and his backers.
Zuma said raising the issue proved that the youth league was alive by making contributions in critical matters of the country.
“The economy of the country, if the ANC does not talk about it, including the monopoly capital who else [will?]. I think the debate the youth is putting across is that South Africa has different kinds of features to ordinary or global kind monopoly, here you have the white minority dominating the economy and that is a debate, it is a debate which is alive and makes the country to look at itself,” he said.
He told journalists that the ANC has always been united and that the media did not understand the contradictions in the party.
“[They are] healthy and constructive contradictions, that’s what is in the ANC not dangerous ones,” Zuma said.
The report back on economic transformation, including land issue, transformation in the mining industry and education, was expected on Wednesday afternoon before Zuma’s closing address.