For Mboweni's growth plan to succeed the ANC has to give up certain dogmatic positions that were formulated when 7% growth was the status quo, writes Adriaan Basson.
Sprinkles early. Morning clouds. Mild.
Some of the
ANC’s discussion documents prepared for the party’s policy conference give the
impression that the party with two decades in power lacks governing experience.
historians, who understand what the ANC has stood for over the years, would
feel sad about the goings-on in OR Tambo’s party. The latter would be very sad about the decimation
of its intellectual depth.
party has to recover its high ground, the starting point would be to rescue it
intellectually. Tragically, there is no discernible plan to recalibrate the
ANC’s intellectual capacity.
over declining electoral power is reduced to the need to do some undefined
“soul-searching”, regaining the trust of voters and implementing campaigns to
ensure discouraged voters go to the polls on election day. In tackling the
symptoms, the ANC ducks the real issue: depleted thinking capacity.
The party comes across as a party that is scared of losing power, which is not unusual
for any governing party. What makes things worse in this case is that it is
unsure how to prevent the slide. It is also uncertain how it wants to govern. It’s
almost as if the party has run out of ideas.
But it is
the document on governance that sends the chill in the spine, depicting a
centenary-old organisation as proudly amateurish. The document recommends to
the forthcoming policy conference a “macro configuration” of governance. If the
conference concurs, this will be government policy.
recommendations are, to say the least, embarrassing, particularly those that
refer to the role of the Presidency. First, the document says, the Presidency
is the “strategic centre” of governance. This strategic “centre” must be the “central”
driver (note the emphasis by repetition) of the capacity of the state; taking care of resource
planning, prioritisation, allocation as per the “strategic” (emphasis again)
objectives of the National Development Plan; aligning public service
administration to deliver the core priorities of the state; it must be the “centre”
(another emphasis) of coordination of other spheres of government and
state-owned entities. In short, the Presidency must drive budgeting, among
the document says the following core functions must form part of the “strategic
centre” located within the Presidency: “state policy and planning; resource
allocation and prioritisation, cooperative governance, public administration
and performance assessment”. Note the repetition which one assumes, with
generous interpretation though, is a deliberate attempt by the authors to
emphasise the centrality of the Presidency in running the whole of government.
“strategic centre” of government in the Presidency must ensure that strong
capacity is deployed in all branches of the state to ensure that the National
Democratic Revolution is advanced. The merit principle must apply, it says. The
“centre” of government must establish a “central” organising machinery for
optimal deployment of talent across the spheres of government [and] become a
“clearing house” for all senior appointment, succession planning and career
of the document or this section, as well as the National Executive Committee
members who gave it a thumbs-up have embarrassed themselves because they failed
to read the Constitution of the Republic.
done so, they would have known that the centrality of the Presidency in the
government of the whole country doesn’t require a party conference resolution.
recommendations also say a lot about President Jacob Zuma’s lack of
understanding of South Africa’s governance system that is enshrined in the Constitution.
Had he cared to study the system, he would have known the extent of his powers
as the president and his office.
the ANC document is recommending that the party pass a resolution to order
fish to swim in water, aircraft to always fly in the air and the cat to catch
the mouse. To bring it closer to matters of state, it’s like suggesting to
reconfigure Parliament to legislate and the courts to pass judgements on societal
disputes that come before them.
of the Constitution of the Republic spells out in detail the duties and
obligations of the president. The president holds the executive authority of
the country. He and the cabinet he appoints, which serves at his pleasure, are responsible for developing and implementing national policy, coordinating the functions
of state departments and administration, preparing and initiating legislation
and performing other functions in terms of the constitution and other laws.
It is in
the context of performing these constitutional duties that the president’s
office or The Presidency is inherently the centre of executive power in the
country. The president or his office does not need a resolution of an ANC
conference to give him “strategic” powers that put him at the “centre” of his
own administration. If he doesn’t know that he is at the centre of his own
administration he is not fit for the office.
that the president does not have sufficient authority over the national budget
is a myth. The president’s lack of intellectual and moral capacity to oversee
the functioning of complicated institutions like the national treasury – which
one suspects could be the real challenge – must not be linked to lack of
If the ANC
wants to give the president more authority than he already has on the national budget
in his capacity as the executive head of government, it must ask Parliament to do
the impossible: amend the Constitution and delete the section on treasury as a separate
and semi-independent department.
But the brazen
attempt by foreigners to capture the treasury during the catastrophic events of
9/12 has proven the writers of the Constitution right. The current ANC leaders
would do well to study the minutes and notes of its Constitution negotiators
during Codesa and the Constitutional Assembly.
- Mpumelelo Mkhabela is a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria.Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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