Last Friday, the ANC unveiled its discussion documents ahead of its national general council (NGC) meeting. The party’s deputy secretary general, Jessie Duarte, then sent a letter to national, provincial and branch leaders with a link to the documents and a Google doc on which they could make their inputs.
The documents paint a picture of an organisation in crisis, to the point of saying: “Some form of organisational state of emergency” needs to be imposed on the ANC and that “We cannot start the process of renewal under conditions of anarchy.”
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Talking to wider issues, the documents say that “there is no culture of meritocracy and consequence management” in government and “there is no evidence that the public service is providing value for money”.
The council is a halfway review of the party’s progress on all the issues it promised to address at its 2017 conference at which Cyril Ramaphosa won partial control of the party. The meeting is seen as a chance for the factions opposing his leadership to all but end it.
The assessment contained in the documents is, in parts, brutally honest about the party’s failings, particularly its loss of moral leadership and its slide into corruption, cronyism and ethical decay.
The release comes at a time when the party’s national executive committee (NEC) is battling to implement its “stand-aside” decision — instructing corruption accused members to step aside from their party and state jobs — with regards to several top leaders.
The decision, taken in June, affirmed the resolutions taken at the party’s 54th national conference at Nasrec in December 2017, which are aimed at cleansing the party of corrupt elements.
Party branches are expected to come up with their recommendations based on their discussion of the documents, with a view, in part, to taking the hard decisions necessary to renew the party and rid its ranks of corruption.
Backtracking on the clean-up
However, on Monday the party’s national leadership, on a visit to the party’s troubled North West structures, backed down on its drive to clean up its ranks ahead of the 2021 local government poll.
Led by Ramaphosa, the ANC leadership team announced it was setting aside the decision to recall the leadership troikas of five municipalities that had been told to stand down because of the collapse of the councils they lead.
The leaders of the Ruth Mompati district municipality and four local councils had been recalled as part of the clean-up by the provincial interim committee (PIC) put in place to run the ANC in the province until its January conferences.
The mayors, chief whips and speakers, all of whom are backers of the ousted premier and chairperson Supra Mahumapelo, refused to leave the office and were backed by the branches from the three ANC regions that had earlier been dissolved by the PIC.
The about-turn didn’t end there.
In Mpumalanga, the party announced this week that it would reinstate the provincial executive committee (PEC) member and MEC who had been suspended from office after being arrested on rape charges. The man, who is out on bail of R20 000,, had this week asked the Nelspruit magistrate’s court to relax his bail conditions to allow him to start doing party work again.
The ANC in the province said it wanted him to resume his duties until the NEC decided on how to proceed in implementing the stand-aside rule.
Nationally, the NEC has yet to discuss how to deal with the arrest of its secretary general, Ace Magashule, on corruption charges over the R250-million Free State asbestos audit. Magashule has made clear his refusal to stand aside from his post over the charges, which he claims are politically motivated, and which have sparked a fierce fightback by his supporters in the province and beyond.
It is this fightback that appears to have forced the backdown over North West, and the admission by the party’s national chairperson, Gwede Mantashe, that the legal opinion sought by the party indicates that the stand-aside decision may not be implementable.
Cost of concessions
The ANC’s need to renew itself features strongly in its NGC discussion documents, which branches are expected to start discussing from this week. They paint a bleak picture of an organisation unable to run South Africa effectively and still trying to find others to blame for this situation.
In its assessment of the state of the party, the ANC laments the fact that “deviant conduct” was becoming deeply entrenched in its structures.
“Arrogance, factionalism and corruption have been identified by large sections of society, including ANC supporters, as dominant tendencies within the movement. Gate-keeping, money politics and fraud characterise most ANC electoral processes,” the party observed. “Underhand practices increasingly define interactions between various spheres of government and the private sector, and private interests seek to capture and control not only state organs, but also the ANC itself.”
The documents say “money politics” had already put the ANC in a precarious position, in which it risked being auctioned at all levels, and in which corruption had become the essential modus operandi of the party’s transactional politics.
The EFF’s ‘lumpen tendencies’
Turning to the electoral challenges and the rise of the Economic Freedom Fighters, the party says the red berets seek to exploit impatience and poor strategic acumen, especially among sections of the youth, to “position itself as the genuine revolutionaries of our age”.
“Yet, its most senior leaders are implicated in monumental acts of corruption, and they evince the crudest manifestations of the lumpen tendencies. With minimal possibilities for it to lay its hands on the levers of power, the EFF is likely to become more desperate and more disruptive,” the documents say.
“Lumpen” is a Marxist term used to criticise anyone in the working class that isn’t actively involved in some sort of revolution. The document is flush with the kind of language that would have been picked up when ANC members were in exile in the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The discussion documents identify boredom among the youth as a significant challenge facing society.
“The schooling system must teach young people the skills to change boredom during their leisure time to something more interesting. This may mean ensuring the ability to read as early as possible — a skill South African pupils acquire much later than much of the peaceful world,” the documents say.
“There may be a need to introduce an aggressive and systematic curriculum of cultural and recreational activities — the learning of music, theatre and sport. This will allow the youth to have more skills at their disposal for use during their leisure time and for creative upliftment.”
Turning to the economic slowdown that has gripped South Africa, the ANC attributes this to several factors, ranging from the electricity supply becoming less reliable and more expensive since 2008, to the effects of state capture and worsening corruption in state-owned entities.
It also blames the collapse in the economy, in part, to the climate crisis, saying this has started to affect both agriculture and tourism, resulting in more frequent and intense droughts and flooding.
But it then admits that South Africa’s national climate plan “is simply insufficient to address the crisis that is upon us”. This is mainly down to Eskom’s coal power plants and this “must” to change in favour of wind and solar energy, the documents say.
That climate plan is one that the ANC, through its control of the government, created.
Straight from the ANC’s mouth
- Young people want their issues to be directly and specifically addressed. It is not sufficient for the ANC and the government to say it will create jobs. The governing party needs to say: “We will be able to secure ‘x’ amount of jobs by doing the following things. We plan to do more next year by tackling that sector, that sector, et cetera.”
- Election campaigns start 18 months before election day and peak three months before election day. This has led to the country, and political parties, being in a state of semi-permanent elections mode, with the attendant costs, financial, governance, and service provision. This has led to the proposal that consideration be given to holding national, provincial and local elections at the same time.
- Persistence of racial inequalities: Today, after 26 years of democratic rule, a two-tiered population has emerged in terms of income growth, level of poverty and education qualifications, with Indians tracking whites in an upward trend, while coloureds track black Africans in downward trends. In addition to having worse employment outcomes, black Africans earn the lowest wages when employed. The mean real income of whites is more than three times as high as among black Africans.
- The resolution notes the declining electoral fortunes of the ANC as a serious concern, and we need to build permanent and professional elections capacity, building the ANC cloud to track campaign and organisational work.
- The resolution mandated the NEC to engage with the Veterans League with regards to its role, and to investigate the possibilities of a Council of Elders.
- On the overall issue of the image of the ANC regarding corruption, there are worrying signs this is not improving, especially with regards to public expenditure.
- In the implementation of the new digital membership system, initiate a campaign to get every ANC member to reapply for membership (over, say, two years).
- Conduct lifestyle audits and “integrity checks” starting with national and provincial leaders, then regional and branch leaders. — Compiled by Athandiwe Saba