Ignore talk shop at your own peril

2012-06-30 08:30

It is easy to dismiss the ANC policy conference as yet another talk shop.

After all, the party has earned the dubious honour of being big on chatter, but very short on action.

But it would be an error to ignore the many resolutions the party took at its policy indaba in Midrand this week, even though they remain mere proposals until they are ratified at its national elective conference in Mangaung in December.

Experience shows that the national conference rarely, if ever, throws out mooted policies.

But there is another reason why citizens ignore the ANC policy debates at their own peril.

The ANC met at a time when it is clearly undergoing some soul-searching about the efficacy of the social and economic policies it has adopted since it took over political power in 1994.

There is clearly a strong view that some of its policies on the economic front have short changed its core constituency, and that the party needs a change of tack if it is to remain relevant for much longer.

While there is no denying that many citizens remain at the margins of society despite an economy that has been growing over the past couple of years, there’s a danger that the contending ANC factions might eventually destroy the foundation the country has built in their jostle for power.

We already see an increasingly radical rhetoric emanating out of the party on issues such as mine nationalisation and land reform, which is a signpost pointing to the country’s future if we continue on the current trajectory.

So there are no reasons why South Africans should not seize every opportunity to contribute to the ongoing debates.

While much of the analysis has focused on the rejection of the idea of a “second transition”, and its symbolic importance to champion President Jacob Zuma, there are signs that the rejection of the idea is an indication that party membership is getting restive about the gradual pace of change.

If the ANC gets its policies wrong – as it has done with education, for example, in the past – everyone suffers.

The positives from this conference are that it has given some finality to a five-year-long clamour for radical land reform methods like expropriation without compensation and mine nationalisation, which has sent investors fleeing.

The party has emerged with a somewhat moderated stance, which will provide some certainty for the next five years at least.

It has also emerged with a fresh sense of purpose, but it needs to remain united in purpose for long enough to implement its policies.

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