by Stef Terblanche

ANC Conference

Focus shifts from Zuma to his deputy and ANC policies

Kgalema Motlanthe

With Jacob Zuma now practically assured of re-election as president of the African National Congress – and of the country – the focus shifts as to who will take up the position of deputy president as well as some important policy decisions that are to be made at the ruling party’s national conference in two weeks’ time. 

The only way Zuma’s present deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe, might still salvage something of his career is by not standing against Zuma in Mangaung.

Horse-trading around the other top five ANC leadership positions is now likely to intensify. With Zuma still at the helm, his trusted lieutenant – ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe – is likely to retain his job. However, much uncertainty still surrounds the position of deputy president

Although most ANC provincial and league nominations for that position went to business tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa as Zuma’s 'running mate', Ramaphosa has yet to indicate his availability. Similarly, Motlanthe has yet to indicate whether he will accept nomination for either the presidency or the deputy presidency.

Motlanthe appears to have admitted defeat in the presidential race by telling Business Day in an interview on Monday that he was not interested in any leadership position “by arrangement”.

He was also critical of how the ANC allies, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), recently returned their leadership teams by pre-conference arrangements and without elections. He predicted a similar situation at the upcoming ANC national conference, but said he would not be part of it.

Motlanthe can only retain the deputy president position if Ramaphosa does not accept nomination. In the Business Day interview, however, he seems to have taken himself out of the equation even for continuing as deputy president. But some, including Cosatu, want Motlanthe to continue in this role, saying his exclusion from the top six will divide the ANC.

There also may be fears that Motlanthe, who still has relatively strong backing, could lead a new breakaway party.

Although a staunch and principled party man, Motlanthe has openly criticised the ANC for not sticking to its principles and traditions, and has stressed the need for change. In addition, there has been much speculation in this regard around a mysterious new political party that was recently registered.

It is unlikely that party lobbyists and organisers would have positioned Ramaphosa so prominently had they not first tested him on his availability. Should neither Motlanthe nor Ramaphosa be available for that position, however, it could lead to a flurry of other potential candidates. At best, the situation regarding the deputy presidency remains clouded in uncertainty and fluid for the moment.

Role of slates

Meanwhile, the use of so-called 'slates' during the nomination process preceding the national conference has again been a messy and divisive affair. It continues to display the deep wounds inflicted upon the ANC by the unprecedented palace revolt by, among others, the ANC Youth League, Cosatu and SACP at the previous ANC national conference where Thabo Mbeki was replaced by Zuma.

Several provinces needed extensions of the nomination deadline and some still did not make it. In some provinces there were serious divisions, allegations of vote rigging and other irregularities. In the Free State, the process could still be affected by a court ruling and there may still be further challenges to outcomes. None of this, however, seems likely to prevent Zuma’s re-election.

Policy matters

While the leadership race dominated the national scene, crucial policy issues to be considered at Mangaung disappeared from the radar.

Policy proposals put forward by the party’s earlier national policy conference will have to be altered, ratified or rejected at Mangaung.

These include controversial proposals that were considered for inclusion in the ANC’s “Strategy and Tactics” document intended to guide its programme going forward.

A proposal promoted by Zuma and his close associates, which called for “a second transition” to so-called economic liberation, was defeated at the policy conference. It was argued that the first transition or national democratic revolution (NDR) was still in progress. At best, a new phase of the NDR focusing on economic transition could be introduced.

Ironically, Motlanthe played a significant role in defeating the proposal for the second transition. Nonetheless, whatever is adopted at Mangaung in this regard will have significant implications for the future direction of economic policy in South Africa.

Under the title of “Peace and Security”, the policy conference proposed a number of measures that could possibly lead to further encroachments on the independence of the judiciary, especially in respect of the doctrine of separation of powers.

This section also calls for a full ministry for military veterans. There is another call for a clampdown on migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, as well as for the establishment of a single police force under one national commissioner.

The role of the media will again come under scrutiny on a broad front: The policy conference called for the recommendations by the Press Freedom Commission to be included in a wide-ranging Parliamentary Inquiry on the regulatory system for print media; called for the transformation of the advertising industry to ensure its contribution to media diversity; and asked for a national cyber security policy, regulating issues related to the Internet, to be in place by 2014.

Policy proposals under the heading “Social Transformation” are to deal with an anti-poverty strategy, social cohesion, sports and recreation, a social wage, water provision, environmental protection, the green economy, human settlements and more. Another section looks at a whole range of gender issues.

Under “Legislature & Governance”, there are proposals on the future of South Africa’s nine provinces regarding their reforming, strengthening and reduction in number.

Various reforms of municipal government were proposed, with a specific focus on financial administration and corruption.

A decision to create a single public service for all three tiers of government is to be expected.

A comprehensive revision of economic strategy is recommended, among others in the areas of financial regulation and control, which includes the establishment of a state bank; “progressive and redistributive” taxation; wage and income policies; progressive competition policies; well-resourced state-led industrial and trade policies; state ownership, including more strategic use of existing state-owned companies, and “strategic nationalisation where deemed appropriate”.

A revival of the debate on nationalisation of mines and other “strategic” sectors can be expected, along with discussions on rural development and land reform.


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