The day of reckoning for the ANC

2017-12-17 06:00
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa share a light moment as the first plenary session of the ANC’s 54th elective conference gets under way at Nasrec in Johannesburg. The two are leading the race to be the party’s next president. PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa share a light moment as the first plenary session of the ANC’s 54th elective conference gets under way at Nasrec in Johannesburg. The two are leading the race to be the party’s next president. PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

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WATCH LIVE: Zuma opens 54th ANC national conference

2017-12-16 15:34

The first day of the conference is also the most important day. The plenary session is customarily opened with interfaith prayers and the singing of the national anthem. Watch.WATCH

As a last-minute attempt to avert a bruising contest for the presidency of the ANC failed, President Jacob Zuma made a thinly-disguised endorsement without naming names.

In his last speech as president of the ANC after 10 years at the helm, Zuma warned that the choice of who leads the party must not be dictated by external players like business interests. He also told the 5 000 delegates that they should dismiss the notion that the country and the ANC would implode if they opted for “certain outcomes or elected certain candidates if these are not favoured by business”.

This was a clear rebuke of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who has been accused by Zuma supporters of being aligned to big business.

It was stern defence of former African Union Commission boss Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, whose election is seen as a swing towards a brand of populism that analysts have warned would harm the faltering economy.

The result of the election of the new ANC leader, who will be the party’s candidate for president of South Africa in 2019, will probably be known later today.

Zuma opened the conference after hours of delays, caused by registration snags and an emergency national executive committee (NEC) meeting to discuss yesterday’s trio of court judgments that barred some delegations from voting at the conference.

Slamming members who took the party to court – a move that cost Dlamini-Zuma about 100 delegates – Zuma said that “judges should not be asked to dictate ANC organisational processes and the direction of the movement”.

In a populist speech that was hard on the private sector, Zuma accused business of being as guilty of “theft and corruption” as government.

He slammed high levels of concentration in the economy, “corporate corruption and cartels” and “the bitter legacy of economic collusion, which is equivalent to a form of corruption from the days of apartheid, when companies meet secretly and decide on prices or divide markets among themselves”.

The ANC needed to be saved from falling into their hands, Zuma said. “We must find a way of protecting the ANC from corporate greed and make sure that decisions taken are not dictated to by business interests.”

Dismissing concerns about an economic collapse if the results went a certain way, he told delegates that “all of you know what is the right thing to do”.

The Friday trio of court rulings – which nullified structures from three provinces and blocked voting delegates from up to 52 branches from participating in the conference – guaranteed a nail-biting start to the conference as there were fears it would have to be halted.

The affected 142 delegates represented KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and North West, which are three main ANC provinces that formed the backbone of the campaign for Dlamini-Zuma.

Ramaphosa would be emboldened by the developments ahead of the leadership election late yesterday and the announcement of the results expected later today.

KwaZulu-Natal lost 27 votes from its allocated 870 – the biggest contingent of delegates at the conference.

Free State lost 46 votes, including 27 from the provincial executive and 19 from the 14 disqualified branches, while Bojanala had the nomination of 69 delegates from 38 branches declared unlawful.

Proposal

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe told a media briefing after yesterday’s special NEC meeting that the disqualified delegates would participate in the conference as “non-voting” delegates.

Mantashe said the ANC could not risk allowing these delegates to vote as they could, in the eyes of the courts, place the legitimacy of the conference at risk.

Those attending the special NEC meeting yesterday morning said there was an option of postponing the conference to June next year and converting this week’s sitting into a consultative conference. The proposal failed to gain traction.

On Thursday, a final attempt to avoid contestation was squashed, with the ANC NEC throwing out the proposal to change the voting process in order to accommodate candidates who lose elections in lower positions. This would have seen a candidate who lost out in the race for a position then contest lower positions.

This option was favoured by Dlamini-Zuma’s backers, who wanted her to have an opportunity to contest the deputy presidency if she lost to Ramaphosa.

Those in the CR17 camp also rejected suggestions that Ramaphosa “compromise” and make way for Dlamini-Zuma. They argued that he had previously done the same in 1994 to accommodate former president Thabo Mbeki.

The deputy president post is likely to be a three-horse race between Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza and outgoing treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize.

City Press heard that Mkhize, who had been linked with Dlamini-Zuma, was unlikely to accept any offer unless it was that of deputy president.

"I bear no grudge"

Despite the fact that no province had nominated Mkhize for the post, apart from a number of branches in KwaZulu-Natal, it was expected that he would receive support from 25% of the conference delegates during nominations.

Zuma told delegates he holds no grudges against those in the ANC who called for him to resign as party president, because he did his best in his two terms.

“I am sure there have been times where we could not agree. There could be times that I said things that you did not like, and there could be times that comrades said things to me and perhaps must be feeling I am keeping my anger,” Zuma said yesterday, in his last address as ANC president.

“Not long ago, comrades felt I should be talked to, to step down. I want to say to you all here, comrades, that I bear no grudge. You are my comrades, you were expressing your views. And you must know that many of you will be my leaders. Many of you will be in the same place. Know that I will work with you as I did before. I will have no ill feelings because this is politics, it is also the views you have. You have a right to have your views, I prefer those who express their views than those who don’t.”

Zuma said he never expected to have been given the chance to lead the ANC, but was humbled by the opportunity granted to him in 2007.

He said the tripartite alliance should work on the issues that had divided it.

“The tensions that have built up over the years, at times, as a result of dissatisfaction with the policy instruments adopted by the ANC and its government, have now come to a head. In an unprecedented move, we saw in the past few months, marching side by side with right wing forces who are historically opponents of our democratic revolution, equally calling on the president of the ANC to step down.”

The country’s police and law enforcement agencies have prepared for the worst as the conference got underway.

State Security Agency (SSA) spies have spent the past two weeks sweeping the conference venue, and spent the past few months gathering intelligence. City Press was told that their focus has been to ensure that no acts of terrorism are carried out against the high-profile delegates in attendance.

The SSA was concerned, City Press learnt, with the increasing hostility against the ANC and government officials, and determined to avoid a repeat of what happened during the Mangaung elective conference in 2012.

Days before that gathering, SSA agents foiled a plan by suspected right wing extremists to detonate bombs at the event.

The police’s National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure and the Gauteng Provincial Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure has deployed officers and intelligence operatives to keep an eye on security.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo said the security plan was designed to focus on crowd management and on security at the venue, in the air and at hotels.

Naidoo said the metro police in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni will patrol routes.

The SA National Defence Force will provide logistical support, air support and rapid response.

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Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  anc votes  |  politics  |  anc leadership race

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