SA’s new direction

2012-06-30 07:57

In four gruelling days of non-stop discussions, with 3 500 delegates from all corners of the country, the ANC has come up with policies that will see the shape of South Africa changing.

The City Press politics team rounds up some of the heated topics that kept the delegates talking at the party’s policy conference in Midrand this week

Second transition
It was polished and sold as a mere sparring in semantics, but really the second transition boiled down to the battle for the soul of the ANC.

It went to the heart of the ANC alliance’s national democratic revolution is at and how we’ll get to the ideal (or national democratic) society in the end.

But the debate also exposed the divisions about whether President Jacob Zuma is doing a good job or not.

No matter how party tried to spin it, this battle spilled into the open on Thursday when a group singing in favour of Zuma and the second transition were countered by a group singing songs of change, mentioning Kgalema Motlanthe’s name.

The step-down from the term “second transition” has left Zuma on the back foot and we could see him making bold moves in government and the ANC to assert himself in the next six months.

National Youth Service
It’s not conscription like in the old days, but young people who cannot afford to study after school will be expected to join a two-year compulsory national youth service.

National executive committee member Paul Mashatile said it would not be apartheid style conscription but is aimed at bringing “cohesion, nation building and discipline”.

ANC social transformation committee chairperson Lindiwe Sisulu spearheaded this when she was still defense minister.

She got her inspiration from Tanzania, which created a defence force “based on patriotism” and “where all ethnic groups could come together and form a solid foundation for the country”.

Under the plan government departments will send young people for training and pay the defence force, and these young people will be first in line to be employed at these departments.

The plan will help young people who want to work but who didn’t have the skills, and it will keep them off the streets.

Jobseekers’ grant
With the government’s youth wage subsidy apparently dead in the water after this week’s policy deliberations, the jobseekers’ grant has emerged as the flavour of the next five years.

The difference between the two is that the jobseekers’ grant money will go to unemployed young people (between 18 and 35) to help them look for work, and it won’t be paid to companies.

The ANC has feared that companies will abuse the money while unions have feared job losses and an abuse of youngsters as cheap labour.

While the costing of this still has to be done, there is R5 billion of unused funds in the government’s kitty which was meant to pay for the youth wage subsidy.

The jobseekers’ grant was proposed by the ANC Youth League and the National Youth Development Agency and represents a victory of sorts to them.

Cultural practices
Women should not be oppressed by cultural practices, the ANC has decided.

Although polygamy has been okayed, practices such as “ukuthwala” (abducted marriages) and “ukungenwa” (inheriting a wife) will soon be outlawed.

These practices mostly affect women in conservative rural communities, but it goes against the human rights ethos of the Constitution, the ANC has said.

In some parts of the Eastern Cape, very young girls are still being abducted and forced into marriages with much older men, forcing them to cut short their education and putting their health at risk.

Ukungenwa, “inheriting” your brother’s wife after his death, also goes against women’s rights to choose.

The party also wants to do an “audit” of the country’s cultural practices to check that they are in line of the constitution.

No-one used the word prostitution at this conference, which is probably why the issue is still on the table and not in the dustbin.

The ANC Women’s League is set on decriminalizing sex work – the softer term used at conference - but the religious contingent in the party does not see why.

If prostitution gets legalized, or at least decriminalized, it would be a victory for women’s rights because it would acknowledge that women in the sex industry need the same protection that men have.

Currently men who engage with prostitutes are let off the hook.

Legislation gives police the power to arrest sex workers, but not their clients. The women languish at police station, often at the mercy of bored policemen.

Would it change the character of our society as the religious groups fear?

No, it would simply ensure that women and men are treated equally.

Land reform
It was such good news for farmers that Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson conveyed the news to AgriSA bosses herself fresh from her commission’s talks on land reform.

Farmers won’t face land grabs – at least not sanctioned by law – although government wants to see the expropriation clause in Section 25 of the Constitution used more assertively for land reform.

The ANC’s decision to keep the law as it is ended five years of uncertainty for farmers, who feared that expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema’s calls for disowned black people to take back the land, would translate into policy.

AgriSA deputy president Theo de Jager said this was a step in the right direction as agriculture has seen a massive loss in investment because of Malema’s calls.

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