ANC woos white Afrikaans speakers

2012-05-05 17:58

The ANC has summoned a group of opinion formers to brainstorm ways to woo white Afrikaans speakers.

A team of high-ranking leaders from the party is scheduled to meet the group of about 70 white and coloured Afrikaans speaking academics, church leaders and representatives from cultural organisations in a closed meeting on Tuesday,
May 8.

The meeting will be the start of a process to find out why white Afrikaans speakers feel alienated from government processes and the ruling party.

Although the ANC isn’t selling its Afrikaans Dialogue Summit as a vote-buying exercise, there has been concern about the party bleeding support in minority areas.

Some party bosses have blamed this on former ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s rhetoric, which was sometimes viewed as bordering on racial discrimination.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, spokesperson Jackson Mthembu, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson are among the leaders expected to meet

the group. Plans for the summit were mooted after the ANC’s special projects coordinators in Mantashe’s office, Daryl Swanepoel and Renier Schoeman, met with three academics in Luthuli House in January as part of the party’s outreach initiative.

The academics were University of Johannesburg politics lecturers Piet Croucamp and Albert Venter, and University of Stellenbosch politics lecturer Willie Breytenbach.

Chris Landsberg, also from the University of Johannesburg, was invited but couldn’t make it.

The ANC presented the details of this meeting at its national executive committee (NEC) meeting in March and submitted a report in which the academics said there was a willingness among Afrikaans speakers to cooperate with the ruling party.

But they also had harsh criticism, saying:

» There’s a perception that the ANC is “directionless in leadership and a party of contending factions”;

» The party is no longer “the well-disciplined party of the struggle” and many of its public representatives prioritised their careers and business interests ahead of the people;

» Pronouncements by “youthful hotheads” in the ANC could reflect sentiments that may become policy if another faction took control of the party;

» Careless and populist rhetoric by senior ANC or government leaders against the courts, the Public Protector and the Constitution are evidence that the ANC is “fickle regarding these institutions”;

» The ANC makes good policies but is unable to implement them because of disagreements within the alliance; and

» There is “a general alienation in the white Afrikaans community” from the ANC.

They suggested the ANC convince the state to expand “its welfare network as well as affirmative action on a class basis (rather than race)” to help lure “lower-middle class white Afrikaans South Africans” towards the ANC.

They added that the “ideological distance” between white Afrikaans speakers and the ANC “is not as wide as some would like to believe”.

Mthembu confirmed that the party had been in talks with white Afrikaans speakers who raised “many issues”, but he said it was too early to give details.

“We’ll only be able to make people feel that they belong if we listen to them,” he said.

Croucamp said the research – planned for the next four months – would be about getting the ANC and minority groups talking so they could participate in early policy discussions, which might help lessen feelings of alienation.

“We must be careful not to think that it is Julius Malema alone causing this (the alienation).”

It is understood that the ANC wants to use some of the input from this outreach meeting at next month’s policy conference.

Landsberg said his participation in this initiative would not be to represent a minority group, but rather to give his views.

He said it was not only whites and coloureds who feel alienation. “Many black communities also feel alienated from the ANC,” he said.

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