ANC policy discussion document – deal with corruption or die as a party

It can be a bit confusing reading the ANC’s pre-mid-year policy conference discussion document. On one hand, it wants stronger powers for the Presidency and on the other it says the party will die if it doesn’t get a handle on widespread corruption and organisational abuse. You can’t craft policy and a Constitution based on a single leader (as was perhaps the case regarding Nelson Mandela). We’ve seen what happened with the power Zuma already has (in addition to his cloak and dagger political skills). Now the authors want to render us all vulnerable to an even more powerful president? Yet it is consistent with the ANC’s (like its predecessor, the NP’s) predilection for centralising power. The most positive part is the realistic confrontation with the cesspit of corruption that Zuma’s rule has led to, perhaps indicating an authorship victory for the Freedom Charterists. Which is a preview of the fireworks we can expect as the ANC collective finally focuses on policy which their cabinet has blithely ignored because of all the veld fires it starts daily and then tries to put out. As the report below points out, the discussion document is very unlikely to be adopted in its entirety – but it’s certainly shows that the wider church is not singing off the same hymn sheet as the Zama-Zama Zuptoids. For that, at least, we can be grateful. – Chris Bateman

By Sam Mkokeli and Mike Cohen

(Bloomberg) – South Africa’s ruling party said the nation’s presidency should have stronger powers to drive government policy and allocate budget resources.

“The presidency must be strengthened as the strategic center of power in the state,” the African National Congress said in a discussion document released Sunday before a June 30-July 5 policy conference in Johannesburg. It must drive the “planning and policy, resource allocation and enforcement,” the party said.

File Photo: A supporter listens as Jacob Zuma, ANC president, addresses them at an election rally at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photographer: Nadine Hutton/Bloomberg News

The release of the document comes in the wake of a feud between President Jacob Zuma and his Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for control of the nation’s finances. While Zuma has spearheaded a drive for “radical economic transformation” to give the country’s black majority a bigger stake in the economy, Gordhan has called for more inclusive growth and spending curbs in a bid to protect the nation’s investment-grade credit rating and attract more foreign investment.

Zuma, who’s due to step down as party leader in December and as South Africa’s president in 2019, has been embroiled in a series of scandals, including a Constitutional Court finding that he broke his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer money spent on his private home.

Zuma’s Power

“The ANC’s proposal is counterintuitive to the current legal narrative that says Zuma has too much power,” said Theo Venter, a political analyst at North West University’s business school in Potchefstroom, west of Johannesburg. “The party appears intent on breaking the autonomy of the National Treasury.”

President Jacob Zuma

Zuma and Gordhan have scrapped over the management of state companies and the national tax agency as well as a decision by the country’s biggest banks to close accounts of companies controlled by members of the Gupta family, who’re in business with the president’s son. Zuma also rebuffed Gordhan’s request to fire Revenue Service Commissioner Tom Moyane for insubordination.

The ANC dominates South African politics, having won more than 60 percent of the vote in every national election since it took power in 1994. It suffered its worst electoral performance yet in a municipal vote in August, amid mounting discontent over high levels of poverty, unemployment and corruption.

While the ANC echoed Zuma’s call for greater focus on “radical economic and social transformation of our country” to ensure its wealth is more evenly distributed, it also said the party must act urgently to restore its moral character to win back public trust.

‘Widespread Corruption’

“The ANC’s own internal challenges, such as social distance between leaders and members, widespread corruption, poor performance in government and abuse of organizational processes for personal gain, will contribute to the ANC’s demise if left unattended,” the party said.

The ANC document also suggested the state should pay fair compensation for land it acquires for distribution to the poor, contradicting Zuma’s suggestion that the constitution should be changed to allow for free expropriation.

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The government’s land-redistribution policy needs to be more clearly articulated and it should spell out what constitutes just and equitable compensation for real estate, the party said.

The ANC’s other proposals include:

  • Establishing a party electoral commission to prevent the manipulation of internal voting processes.
  • Automating party recruitment and management.
  • Increasing vocational training and apprenticeship programs for young people.
  • Boosting support for more labour-intensive infrastructure programs.
  • Greater help for black entrepreneurs to start small businesses.
  • Enhanced regulation of private businesses to prevent price fixing, unfair competition and unfair labour practices.
  • Improving the quality of health, education and public transportation.
  • Establishing an integrity and ethics management office for the government and state companies.
The ANC NEC Lager. Cartoon published courtesy of @PaulieCartoons

Lengthy Process

The proposals still need to be adopted by the ANC and probably won’t be implemented during Zuma’s tenure as head of the party, said Abdul Waheed Patel, managing director of Cape Town-based Ethicore Political Consulting.

“Changing how the government is run is quite a lengthy and arduous process,” he said by phone. “The ANC’s proposals are unlikely to affect the short to medium term, but may create uncertainty in the current period. There is a move towards a more centralised approach. It’s very early to tell how this is going to work out.”

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