Conference ends as it began — with delay and controversy

2007-12-22 00:00

The ANC’s 52nd national conference on Thursday night ended as dramatically as it had started. Exhausted delegates, many of whom were all partied out after celebrating Jacob Zuma’s election victory, had a suspenseful wait to find out who had been selected for the national executive committee (NEC).

At first, delegates were told the results of the NEC election would be available at 9 am, then at 11 am. The electoral commission eventually entered the main marquee at 12.10 am to announce the names of the 80 senior ANC members who had been selected to lead the party. Those who stayed to hear the results, mainly Zuma supporters, still had sufficient reserves of energy to cheer before rushing off to board buses and travel through the night to their homes.

According to insiders, the delay in announcing the results was caused by the controversy over electronic counting, only this time the complainants were the Eastern Cape, whose candidate President Thabo Mbeki had lost the leadership race.

The conference started off with a clearly divided party and initially it was KZN that insisted on manually counting, but after their candidate won, they relented and were happy to have the NEC poll counted electronically.

However, the unhappy Eastern Cape delegates dug in their heels and insisted on a manual count.

As predicted by pundits, the main order of the five-yearly ANC national conference — to decide on the future policy of the party — was largely ignored as delegates were preoccupied with the leadership election.

After Tuesday’s announcement of the election results, the victory celebrations began. Some delegates who had their own transport only stayed long enough for the NEC elections, and then left. There were also indications that the party seniors struggled to get delegates to the different commissions discussing policy.

However, many delegates who were attending an ANC conference for the first time said they enjoyed the experience of being able to contribute to discussions within the commissions.

By Thursday afternoon a number of crucial policy decisions had been finalised. These included:

• The scrapping of floor-crossing — the motivation here is that floor-crossers came into the party without being familiar with the culture and policies of the ANC and that the practice encourages opportunism.

• The Scorpions to be incorporated within the SAPS.

• An assertion of the values of the party, which included a call on members to show restraint and not flaunt their wealth.

Explaining this in a press briefing, party senior member Noel Nietshitenzhe said the ANC wants to discourage greed and conspicuous consumption but to encourage individual initiative, drive and entrepreneurship.

The strategy and tactics policy document also reasserted the ANC’s core value of developing a caring society.

On the poor, the way forward is not to create dependency on social grants, but to link these to skills development training.

A key policy issue — that the president of the ANC should be the president of the country — did not change.

A delegate said this was not pushed because with Zuma’s looming corruption trial, the policy will allow deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to step in. The wording says “preferably” the president of the ruling ANC should be the president of the country.

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