Policy second to who’s to be president

2012-06-25 00:00

THE consensus in newspaper reports and among analysts across the length and breadth of South Africa is that the four-day ANC policy conference this week will be less about policy and more about the leadership battle within the ruling party.

As all eyes focus on Gallagher Estate where close to 4 000 ANC delegates will be seemingly applying their minds on the future direction of the party, there will be a lot to look out for. There may well be levels of speculation and readings into situation that may irritate the ruling party, but it only has itself to blame for keeping a lid on the succession debate.

Although the ANC wants its members to concentrate on deciding on the future policy direction of the party, before engaging on who should be its next president, the cracks within the party are beginning to show.

One of the aspects that analysts and lobby groups such as business, prospective investors and even the international community will be looking out for will be how the provinces align themselves on the leadership issue.

So far indications are that the provinces aligned around President Jacob Zuma are KZN (which will be sending 509 delegates to the conference), Mpumalanga (211 delegates), Free state (147) and North West Province (117).

Provinces that are pro-change but who have not come out openly in support of any particular candidate are the Eastern Cape (439), Limpopo (223), Gauteng (256); Northern Cape (92) and Western Cape (106).

The ANC Youth League, Women’s League and Veterans league will have 35 delegates each per province.

So far the stances taken on policies by the different provinces have been used as an indication of whether they are pro or anti-Zuma. However, the waters have become muddied. Take the policy on the nationalisation of mines. Pro Zuma provinces have rejected blanket nationalisation, as did provinces like Gauteng and the Northern Cape, which also want a change in leadership.

Similarly on the debate around the second transition discussion document, which calls for economic liberation, deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, has criticised the document for its Marxist jargon. Motlanthe is also punted as Zuma’s adversary. The Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng and Limpopo are reportedly not happy with the document, which has the support of KZN and Mpumalanga. However by this weekend there were indications that provinces and the alliance partners were open to more discussion on the second transition.

So much for the serious business of policy. Watchers of the conference will also be looking out for who is seen with whom at the different watering holes around Johannesburg.

Many will be waiting for some surprise move like somebody speaking up for ousted Youth League leader Julius Malema or fired Police Commissioner Bheki Cele.

In this regard a word that has cropped up often enough in reports on the conference is déjà vu. Commentators have recalled a sense of having lived through all of this before, in the build up to the ANC’s 2007 elective conference in Polokwane. Many recalled that Zuma received a boost in his fight for the leadership when current Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa stood up at the Tshwane Policy conference and moved that President Thabo Mbeki had the right to sack Zuma from government, but not from the position as deputy president of the party. This prompted massive support from the floor and Zuma was duly re-instated to his position.

Some have argued that this gave Zuma the advantage of being able to canvass freely.

Others will just watch the political elite display top of the range cars and the latest fashions at a progressive business forum banquet, where seats cost R2 500 at a table with an MEC and R500 000 to dine at Zuma’s table, according to the Sunday Independent. Not forgetting the VIP lounge, which has become a feature of ANC conferences.

Buried in the mix will be a discussion on the re-vamping or modernising the party — organisational renewal. There is also the ANC’s sop to the poor and the unemployed. Let’s hope that sense prevails and these two important items come in for some solid debate.

• nalini@witness.co.za

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