Last weekend was a big one in the good republic.
The nation’s “brains trust”, as President Cyril Ramaphosa described the attendees at the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla, was meeting in Tshwane to deliberate on and find solutions to the big challenges facing South Africa.
They came from far and wide, determined to lead us boldly into the 2020s.
When summing up at the end of the lekgotla, Ramaphosa described the mood of the meeting, to borrow from ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe, as “robust, constructive and ... extremely productive”.
“It is clear that comrades worked hard to formulate proposals to be taken forward in the plans of government and the movement. There is a clear commitment by all parties to work hard, address the challenges collectively, and communicate our policies and programmes clearly and coherently,” he said in his televised and streamed closing remarks.
You really couldn’t argue with that sentiment. The comrades were very clear about the way forward.
The fruits of the hard work were all there in the NEC statement issued by the party’s secretary-general, Ace Magashule, on Wednesday.
For instance, after much deliberation over the two days, the brains trust “agreed on the need to prioritise economic growth as South Africa’s overall priority to accelerate job creation”, and “underscored the importance of service delivery and the capacity of the state”.
It must have taken some serious brain work to come to those revolutionary conclusions.
The hard work did not end there.
The comrades, who were gathered at Saint George Hotel in Irene outside Pretoria, came to the realisation that only suitably qualified people would be given the responsibility of being public representatives.
The party would become “more stringent in the selection processes for all public representatives, including setting qualification criteria for cadres to be put on ANC lists”.
We can only say, congratulations for eventually coming around to this view.
What’s more, there will be “consistent monitoring of performance” of public representatives deployed by the party, and they will – shock of shocks – be subjected to “remedial steps and consequence management for poor performance, ill discipline and mismanagement”.
This is big, people. So the ANC is going to put qualified people in charge of the country’s affairs and even make sure that they do their jobs. Yhoh!
In his closing remarks, Ramaphosa said the brains trust had taken “a dim view of the threatening activities of people who describe themselves as business groups that go to infrastructure projects demanding 30% stakes”.
“These groups often act illegally and threaten violence. This cannot be allowed to continue,” the president warned.
The groups are mafias that have been terrorising mostly construction projects for years, and then insisting they get a stake in what they did not work for.
They have caused the cessation of many projects around the country.
Many of them have links to people in the governing party who encourage such behaviour in the name of radical economic transformation.
So it is pleasing that the lekgotla finally decided to take a “dim view” of the criminality. Investors can sleep soundly at night now.
Then there was this one: “The lekgotla affirmed the ANC’s commitment to the One-China policy – that there is only one China in the world. The government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China.”
There were a lot of other resolutions that showed that the attendees’ brains were in overdrive.
As has been pointed out this past week, most of these resolutions were regurgitations of past resolutions that have been rehashed and repackaged over the past two decades.
They were victims of the ANC’s tried and tested practice of making pronouncements; forgetting about them until the next crisis; dusting them off and repackaging them; then forgetting them again.
What was quite astounding was that the brains trust dug up a 1992 document called Ready to Govern, which was drawn up two years before the first democratic elections.
The relevant part that the brains trust delved into said that the “balance of the evidence” would guide what the ANC would do about public ownership of enterprises.
While this makes perfect sense, must the ANC really go back to a document drafted in 1992 to make sense of a government that it has been running for almost 26 years?
Presumably guided by the Ready to Govern document, the lekgotla decided that “SAA should be retained as the national airline, which will require substantial restructuring”.
This ideological position, which is far removed from reality, will guarantee that the airline remains in ICU for some time.
A perturbing outcome of the brains trust gathering was the decision that the Cabinet would have the final word on “issues related to expropriation of land”.
This flies in the face of Ramaphosa and the ANC’s oft-repeated undertaking that the land reform programme will be orderly and within the bounds of the Constitution.
Elevating the Cabinet above the courts is a violation of that promise.
It is, in fact, a power grab.