Reason rules for ANC

2010-09-27 00:00

LIKE the ANC’s Polokwane conference,the party’s national general council (NGC) in Durban last week left one with a sense that something important had happened. Populism won the day at Polokwane, with President Jacob Zuma swept into leadership on a tide of popular support. The sense from the NGC in Durban was that the voice of reason prevailed. Whether this indeed is the case will be the ANC’s litmus test in the months ahead.

A lot will depend on party leader Zuma and whether he can continue to show the decisive leadership he demonstrated at the NGC. We know from his opening address that Zuma very firmly took charge, reining in the ANC Youth League and putting an end to the ongoing succession debate within the party. He struck an equally strong note in his closing remarks, warning that there will be consequences for ill-disciplined members. He went on to warn party members deployed in government saying,”We emphasise that laziness, lack of commitment and failure to deliver by those entrusted with serving our people will not be tolerated.”

Whether he will follow through is yet to be seen.

Another area where Zuma showed decisiveness was in firmly declaring that South Africa has a mixed economy — in other words, an economy not wholly pro-capitalist nor one following the leftist trajectory proposed by alliance partner Cosatu. In his opening address, Zuma said: “To deal with the inequalities, poverty and unemployment, we are building a strong mixed economy, where the state, private capital and co-operative and other forms of social ownership complement each other in an integrated way, to achieve shared economic growth.”

Returning to this point in his closing remarks, Zuma said: “Let me emphasise that there is no policy shift or change arising from this NGC with regard to our economic policy and any other policies. Therefore there should be no ambiguity or confusion on this matter.”

Even the handling of the debate over the nationalisation of mines showed a reasoned approach. This was the one area where the ANC Youth League did not want to give ground, having lost out on all other fronts. Most delegates did not even want to entertain the issue. It was clear that the ANCYL was not going to give in. A compromise was reached in an attempt not to alienate the youth league even further. A resolution was adopted that all aspects of nationalisation would be thoroughly researched in the next two years before any decision is taken at the ANC’s 2012 national conference.

One was left with the impression that reason prevailed in the detail with which various of the NGC resolutions were crafted. Not only are they practical, but they also offer a way for ordinary South Africans to keep a check on the ruling party.

Take Zuma’s famous quote after he became president of the country. He said a non-negotiable principle is that “teachers must be in school, in class, on time,teaching for at least seven hours a day.” Of course, we know that in most schools that never happened.

The resolution coming out of the NGC is that there will be a national consultative forum dedicated to clarifying the details of the non-negotiables to ensure that they are carried out. There is also going to be a discussion initiated with the alliance partners and trade unions in the education sector.

On the health front, a practical resolution was proposed to start putting the ailing public health system right. ANC heads in the provinces with ANC chairpersons of health portfolio committees will be submitting quarterly health monitoring reports to the party. According to Zuma, this will include reports on the appropriate appointment of heads of department, chief financial officers, hospital chief executives, as well as district and clinic managers with relevant competency and qualifications.They must also report on the financial expenditure patterns of provincial health departments. Zuma said this hands-on approach indicates how seriously the ANC takes the improvement of healthcare. Similarly, he added that there will be an increase in the training and employment of doctors, nurses and health technicians and the re-opening of nursing colleges.

Reason also prevailed over the controversial media appeals tribunal with a resolution that Parliament conduct a public inquiry on the matter and an investigation be conducted into an appropriate regulatory model free of political or commercial interests. The NGC also called for an investigation into how other countries deal with this matter, so as not to compromise the values enshrined in the Constitution.

The ANC NGC may have given the party direction. It has also given ordinary South Africans yardsticks by which to assess the party. No doubt all eyes will be on Zuma — will he continue to be decisive, the voice of reason and a man of action?

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