/ 31 July 2022

ANC policy conference retains Ramaphosa reform agenda, including step aside rule

President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo by Michele Spatari/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has closed the ANC’s national policy conference with his reform agenda — including the step-aside rule for corruption charged leaders — intact, strengthening his hand going into the party’s elective conference in December.

While Ramaphosa’s critics in the party had hoped to reverse or dilute the regulation on the grounds that it was being applied unevenly – in particular the leadership of KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo –  they failed to garner the support they needed to push back against the national executive committee’s (NEC) implementation of it.

Scathing criticism of Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — chairperson of the commission that probed state capture — by the ANC in KwaZulu-Natal ahead of the conference also failed to gain traction with other provinces, with the conference endorsing the NEC decision that those implicated in the Zondo report present themselves to the party’s integrity commission as a matter of urgency.

In his closing address, Ramaphosa said the conference had affirmed the resolutions of the 54th national conference in 2017 on corruption and state capture.

“The overwhelming view of the policy conference was for the retention of the step aside regulations to enhance the integrity of the movement and its leadership,” he said.

“Conference also noted that there are strong concerns on the perceived lack of consistency in the application and implementation of this policy. Conference agreed that these must receive urgent attention so that the application of this is impartial, if fair and is consistent.”

The policy conference is a precursor for the national elective conference in December — at which Ramaphosa is expected to stand for a second term as ANC president — and the proxy battles fought over policy are an indication of how events might play out in five months’ time.

Ramaphosa said that it had confirmed the approach of the NEC on the state capture commission and that this would form the basis of a society wide effort to tackle corruption in all its forms.

The conference endorsed proposals for stabilising state owned entities, and for the state takeover of the South African Reserve Bank, subject to the ability of the government to deal with the financial implications of this.

It also endorsed an accelerated land reform programme, making use of a package of legislation to speed up the release of land.

Fears that delegates angered over the step-aside defeat might attempt to embarrass Ramaphosa never materialised, with delegates instead bursting into “Phaka Ramaphosa”, his campaign song from 2017.