Setumo Stone | What can a weak ANC do for voters?

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President Cyril Rama­phosa on Friday at the opening of the ANC policy conference. Photo: Elizabeth Sejake
President Cyril Rama­phosa on Friday at the opening of the ANC policy conference. Photo: Elizabeth Sejake


Someone could have whispered to President Cyril Ramaphosa that a concise five-page closing address at the ANC national policy conference could probably salvage his boring and monotonous 32-page opening address, and that person deserves to be thanked for doing all of us a favour.

At least we got time to watch AT Mambas win the R120 000 first prize at the Tsalanang Games in Braamfischerville in Soweto. It is always a spectacular game of kasi football that you do not want to miss, lest you hear different versions throughout the week of how Xolani “Blackberry” Nkala was literally licking the ball into the open net while the opposition goalkeeper manically applauded instead of making a save. Strue!

Thanks to the unknown Ramaphosa advisor, we made it on time to see the kasi magic on display. There is no better way to spend a Sunday than that. I’m almost certain the over 2 000 ANC delegates attending the three-day-long policy conference also appreciated it. I met one still in full ANC regalia just after the referee blew the final whistle.

Back on Friday midday when the policy conference started, half of Nasrec’s Hall 6 was fast asleep less than 10 minutes into Ramaphosa’s opening speech. One got a sense that it was best to get used to the sombre mood because that is the fast-approaching reality for ANC conferences as the party becomes irrelevant to the voters.

READ: Ramaphosa calls for solutions, solutions, solutions at ANC policy conference

The biggest takeout from the conference is that the ANC is at its weakest point, as Ramaphosa confirmed in a tone-setting opening address. What could a weak governing party then achieve?

Should we expect a weak ANC to overhaul the country’s migration system as Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi alluded to? Or put more investment in the country’s security cluster because of terrorism threats and possible social unrest, as reported by the ANC’s peace and stability head David Mahlobo?

Said Mahlobo: 

We want to admit that any possibility of other unrest might arise because of the conditions our people find themselves in and the possibility of counter-revolutionaries to abuse and exploit the position our people find themselves in.

But the governing party is at its weakest, said Mahlobo – also the deputy minister of human settlements, water and sanitation. By the way, we have long had Boko Haram running riot inside the ANC in Limpopo, and the Talibans recently took total control of the governing party in KwaZulu-Natal.

READ: ANC: We are at our weakest

Something says your ANC members are hysterically fond of these so-called terrorist groups, doesn’t it?

Maybe, let’s be a bit more optimistic.

Human Settlements Minister Mamoloko Kubayi spoke of a lobby to declare unemployment a national crisis. She said the government would copy from the Covid-19 experience of dishing out R350 pocket money to the poor and vulnerable.

She said: 

We cannot continue like this. We’ve got to be able to respond and establish mechanisms to respond to issues of youth unemployment.

Regarding the load shedding crisis, ANC conference delegates agreed that state power utility Eskom was being sabotaged. Ramaphosa’s new energy crisis plan also received an endorsement. Former president Thabo Mbeki agreed with the plan that the solution was to lobby for the cash held in private hands to be invested into the energy sector.

READ: ANC policy conference reaffirms step-aside rule, Reserve Bank nationalisation but defers other tough discussions

In closing, Ramaphosa said:

there was a shared consensus that both the ANC and government must respond adequately, urgently and assertively to the challenges that our people confront on a daily basis.

“The challenges include unemployment, poverty, crime, gender-based violence and femicide, corruption, social cohesion, racism, the energy crisis and the rising cost of living. Delegates recognised that these many challenges will not be resolved unless we intensify the genuine renewal of the ANC and the building of a capable, ethical and developmental state.

“The renewal of the ANC, therefore, requires that we remain rooted among the people, must demonstrate a willingness to serve and make sacrifices, and must be willing to acknowledge and address our weaknesses,” he said.

READ: ANC Youth League loses several debates at policy conference, targets national conference

The conference agreed that the country needed to: “undertake extraordinary and urgent measures to accelerate inclusive growth, create employment and alleviate poverty” and also “noted with great concern the impact of the rising cost of living on South African families, and have made several recommendations specifically on rising fuel and food prices”.

“We have called on the government to act urgently to support consumers and businesses at this difficult time. But these measures will not be successful unless they are embraced by all sections of society and unless all sections of society are involved in forming and undertaking these measures. We are committed to building an inclusive and lasting social compact.”

READ: Mondli Makhanya | Move on from social compact

Ramaphosa said that the public and private sectors should play complementary roles in developing the economy.

“We have called for the state to be strengthened, for our state-owned enterprises to be stabilised, restructured and effectively capacitated to drive inclusive economic growth and social development”.

He added the conference recognised that “economic progress requires a secure supply of affordable and sustainable energy,” adding that the delegates also “endorsed the actions recently announced by the government to improve the performance of Eskom’s existing power stations and to add new generation capacity to the grid as quickly as possible”.

READ: ANC has failed to meet gender parity targets

“It has affirmed the need for a diverse mix of energy sources and a just transition to a low-carbon economy that ensures our energy security, protects jobs and livelihoods, and does not compromise our industrial development.”

He mentioned that expanded infrastructure investment should be accelerated to play a critical role in providing basic services to urban and rural communities and improving South Africa’s overall economic performance.

READ: Thuli Madonsela | Do we want a mafia state?

On the tripartite alliance side, the trade union federation Cosatu still wants a “pro-working class” ANC that does not shy away from defending workers’ rights and is committed to eliminating the legacy of apartheid and colonialism.

The SACP’s red flag carriers want socialism and land expropriation without compensation as a flagship project.

Said SACP’s Solly Mapaila: 

We can’t be dilly-dallying on the matter of this nature, on the land question, in the midst of poverty. We need, therefore, this policy conference to come out much clearer [on the question of the land].

The resident civic organisation, Sanco, long lost its voice, and it is nowhere to be found. So is the ANC Youth and Women’s league – whose token leaders still embarrassingly give interviews.

If you were wondering, AT Mamba won 4 – 1 against GStars and have become the new defending champions of the Tsalanang Games, but “Blackberry” did not score.

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