Cyril Ramaphosa’s critics question adherence to ANC policies

South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture. Michele Spatari / AFP
South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture. Michele Spatari / AFP

His naysayers have slammed him for favouring ‘neoliberal’ reform over electoral commitments

The policy posture of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s sixth administration came under fire from delegates attending the SA Communist Party’s (SACP’s) special national congress who warned that government might be “taking a shift to the right”.

The four-day congress, which took place in Kempton Park last week, ended on Thursday.

It was dominated by questions on whether government was implementing certain “neoliberal” reforms that favoured more profits for the rich at the expense of the poor, instead of adhering to the ANC’s leftist-oriented election manifesto and conference resolutions.

Ramaphosa’s critics within the ANC have used the thorny issue of the implementation of ANC resolutions to question his leadership and to prepare for a critical appraisal of his term in office at the party’s national general council (NGC), set to take place next year.

Citing as an example the recent controversial National Treasury discussion document on the country’s economic blueprint, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande urged the congress to consider the possibility that the paper signalled a shift to the right.

Blade Nzimande. Picture: Tebogo Letsie/City Press

“Our fight against networks of state capture and other forms of corruption was certainly not meant to create conditions for a rightward shift,” said Nzimande, adding that the SACP wanted the ANC to “ensure that policy direction in government is consistent with its self-characterisation as ‘a disciplined force of the left’.”

On Thursday, the congress declaration included a clause that said the ANC’s promises to the electorate in the May elections – promises which were informed by the party’s conference resolutions and endorsed by the alliance, including the SACP and labour federation Cosatu – remained sacrosanct.

Read: ‘SACP can never replace the ANC’ – Blade Nzimande

The declaration further stated that broader economic transformation must be pursued “in line with the commitment made by the alliance in the ANC May 2019 general election manifesto”.

The party’s pushback against the perceived pro-capital agenda of government under Ramaphosa echoes a similar lobby group in the ANC, where some of Ramaphosa’s allies and opponents have expressed discomfort.

Mabuza warned that a divided ANC and alliance would be unable to deliver on its electoral commitments, and the resolutions agreed upon would remain on paper and not be implemented.

Two ANC MPs told City Press that a fortnight ago, former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo had proposed that every caucus meeting in Parliament have a standing agenda item dealing with progress in implementing the ANC’s conference resolutions.

Supra Mahumapelo. Picture: Jabu Kumalo

While the ANC caucus did not fully entertain the proposal, Ramaphosa – who had unexpectedly showed up at the meeting together with Deputy President David Mabuza and a few Cabinet ministers – countered that the suggested progress reviews should go as far back as 1994, according to those who attended the end-November meeting.

Ramaphosa also proposed that the ANC station a team at Luthuli House tasked with the responsibility of taking stock of the extent to which government was following the decisions of ANC branch members.

Speaking at the SACP congress, Mabuza said: “It is very important for any serious organisation to take time out to assess the impact it is making and whether there is progress or not, so that we remain relevant to our people.”

Mabuza warned that a divided ANC and alliance would be unable to deliver on its electoral commitments, and the resolutions agreed upon would remain on paper and not be implemented.

David Mabuza

He urged the alliance to unite behind all conference resolutions, “otherwise divisions will leave the movement open to be exploited and distracted by forces of disunity and discord”.

Earlier last week, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule briefed the press about the party’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting, which took place last weekend.

He amplified the message that sticking to conference resolutions was of paramount importance.

“The NEC wants to send a very clear message that there is no one who is above the national conference or the national implementation manifesto resolutions,” he said.

“We have policy positions; what we need to be doing at all times will be guided by policy conference decisions.”

Earlier last month, a meeting was held by the ANC-led alliance political council. It included the top leaders of the SACP and Cosatu.

In a joint statement after the meeting, members of the alliance political council said that they “attached great importance to the overwhelming view emphasising the mandatory implementation of congress and conference resolutions”.

“Our common cause is to ensure that in unity and action, we realise the commitments made in the ANC May 2019 general election manifesto.

“The manifesto was developed by the ANC as the strategic leader of the alliance, in consultation with all alliance formations. It was accordingly endorsed by all and then taken to the electorate for support on the ballot. The manifesto is, therefore, a fundamental electoral mandate.”

Alliance insiders backed a decision taken at that meeting to give its economic working group the task of “finalising the unifying economic strategy that is needed”.

This, they said, was an important step in wresting control of policy back into alliance structures.

Included in the SACP’s critique of the Treasury discussion paper was the assertion that its contents were “devoid of the collective ANC-headed alliance’s macro-economic policy commitment made in the May 2019 general election manifesto that we have taken to the electorate for support on the ballot”.

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