ANC sheds light on crucial policy positions
Bongani Mthembu, Stuart Graham, and Natasha Marrian
Durban - The ANC shed more light on some crucial policy positions on Tuesday, as the party's national general council entered its second day in Durban.
Its National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme, with an initial price tag of R128bn, would be introduced from 2012, ANC news briefings around the closed session revealed.
Party heavyweights also spoke about the hot topics of nationalisation and a proposed media tribunal.
ANC’s health sub-committee chair Zweli Mkhize said NHI would be phased in over 14 years.
"(It would be) rolled out for a start in 2012 in the seriously under-served areas where people have difficulty accessing health care."
The programme was expected to cost R128bn in its first year, increasing to R376bn by 2025. It was aimed at providing affordable universal health coverage to South Africa.
Medical aid vs NHI
"Membership to the NHI would be compulsory for the whole population but the public can choose whether to continue with voluntary medical scheme cover," Mkhize said, reading from proposals that will be discussed at the NGC.
The proposal suggests that the NHI be funded from various sources including a surcharge on taxable income, payroll taxes for employees and employers, and an increase in value added tax which is earmarked for the NHI.
"The main source of revenue for the NHI fund will be allocations from general taxation," Mkhize said.
All of this will be combined in the NHI fund from which all services covered by the NHI system will be funded.
Olive Shisana, chair of the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, said private hospitals could choose to remain private.
Delegates broke into closed commissions on Tuesday, the second day of the week-long conference. Media were barred from attending, and completely locked out of the International Convention Centre.
ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said the commissions had to be closed because delegates had to be comfortable to express themselves freely.
He sought to clarify the party’s position on nationalisation of the mines during a media briefing earlier in the day, saying the debate around the contentious issue had to be broadened.
The ANC Youth League has been punting nationalisation of the mines for months with the aim of it being ANC policy. Mantashe said the "significance" of the league’s introduction of the debate was that it allowed the party to begin to talk about the state playing a keener role in the economy.
He said the banking sector had to be looked at.
Asked about the hotly debated media appeals tribunal, to be discussed by delegates at the NGC, Mantashe said a "spin-off" of discussions was the appearance of more apologies in the papers.
"Since the debate started we are seeing more apologies in the newspapers," he said.
"The problem is people don't check their facts and they write."
He believed an appeals panel independent of the press ombudsman was needed so that injured parties had somewhere else to go.
"There must be a way that you can appeal a ruling by the ombudsman," he said.
In his report to the NGC presented in a closed session on Monday, Mantashe said the leaking of ANC leadership discussions and decisions to the media must be dealt with "decisively".
'We want those tenders'
Mantashe also agreed with alliance partners Cosatu and the SACP on concern over using ANC positions to accumulate wealth.
"On the leadership as a stepping stone to wealth, it is not just a concern for the alliance partners, it’s a concern for the ANC itself.
"Using elected positions in the ANC as a stepping stone to power and a stepping stone to accumulation is an alien tendency in the ANC.
"That’s why we call it a tendency because it is not the culture of the ANC. Therefore if you are in the ANC, you must earn your day's living."
In the spirit of earning a living, vendors outside the ANC NGC venue hoped to score lucrative tenders as they sold party paraphernalia outside the council venue.
They wanted to print T-shirts and provide bags for ANC conferences.
"This is currently being done by big businesses. We also want to be given those tenders," said Phumzile Mthalane from Johannesburg, one of the hawkers outside the venue selling ANC-branded paraphernalia such as T-shirts, keychains, caps, books about ANC leaders, shoes and DVDs.
With the party having numerous conferences and rallies every year, vendors from all over South Africa had decided to form a consortium.
Most of the sellers said they were members of the ANC-aligned business group, the Progressive Business Forum, formed in 2006. The proposed consortium would have its own clothes factory.