ANC: a party keen on analysis, and paralysis in acting on it
Astute political analysis is not a shortcoming in the ANC or its major problem — getting the governing party to act is the issue.
"An increase in corruption, factionalism, dishonesty and other negative practices seriously threaten the goals and support of the ANC," says the report on its national policy conference last July, adding:
"That these practices contradict and damage our mission to serve the people and use the country’s resources to achieve development and transformation. That corruption robs our people of billions that could be used for their benefit.
"That the lack of integrity perceived by the public has seriously damaged the ANC image, the people’s trust in the ANC, our ability to occupy the moral high ground, and our position as leader of society.
"That current leadership structures seem helpless to arrest these practices, either because they lack the means or the will, or are themselves held hostage by them."
The ANC’s own report is refreshingly honest when examining the rot in the party.
At its national conference in December, delegates appeared engrossed by the leadership battle between the Ramaphosa and Zuma camps. The consequences of this tussle are still unravelling.
But the delegates also adopted several resolutions to lay the path for the future, many of them discussed hastily at commissions as the conference ran behind schedule.
At their Mangaung conference in 2012, they adopted several resolutions to improve the party and the country. Key among them were pledges to tackle the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. By their own standards, the ANC has failed — miserably.
The national executive committee (NEC), that was elected to implement the wishes of party members, paid scant regard to the dictates of the delegates at Mangaung.
Even if the political pass rate were only 33.3%, the leaders elected at the 2012 conference would fail. These shortcomings have not gone unnoticed by ANC members.
The leaders, ignoring conference resolutions, have unearthed structural flaws. This, they believe, is due to the large number of NEC members with government positions — the people who have to implement ANC policies are the same people who monitor the implementation. This has been the Achilles heel of the ANC.
When confronted about the lack of implementation, NEC member Nathi Mthethwa said that the ANC did not need to adopt more resolutions, it just had to find ways of implementing the old ones.
He was one of NEC members who watched and said nothing as his colleagues ran roughshod over the party’s resolutions, such as the one adopted that the government should be tasked with using the Post Office as the first port of call to issue services to citizens.
"Government should introduce policy guidelines to direct opportunities to the Post Bank as a bank of first choice of government and a primary platform for government and citizens’ transactions," reads the Mangaung resolution.
"All three spheres of government must be encouraged to use the South African Post Office. For its survival, the postal market
must continue to expand infrastructure that will be used in the distribution network.
The list of leaders ignoring the wishes of ANC members is a long one
"The connected Community Service Network must also diversify services to integrate online services. To this end the South African Post Office must be supported to accelerate evolution and migration of traditional postal services to
e-services using innovative technology platforms and electronic channels.
"The ANC must show leadership and utilise the services of the Post Bank."
It is quite clear today that Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini was in open warfare against the highest decision-making body in her political party. Her reward was to be re-elected to the NEC in December.
Resolution after resolution adopted by the ANC in 2012 was ignored by the people the party deployed to Parliament and the Cabinet. This points to a deep structural problem in the party and a crisis in leadership.
Dlamini’s ham-handed attempt to ignore the Post Office’s role in dispensing social grants and the millions of rand she spent defending herself in the courts could have been prevented if her party had held her to account.
She is not alone flouting ANC resolutions from Mangaung. The list of leaders ignoring the wishes of ANC members is a long one. A land audit was commissioned in 2007 at the Polokwane conference, it has yet to be made public. How can you redistribute land if you don’t know how much is available?
The same goes for the conference focus on the role of small enterprises as the drivers of integrated economic growth.
According to independent economic research group Trade and Industry Policy Strategies the small business sector decreased by 37,000 businesses in 2008-15.
All the indicators on the government’s "priority" programme of combating poverty, inequality and unemployment are negative since Mangaung.
According to Statistics SA, abject poverty and unemployment is on the increase. And SA remains the most unequal society in the world, according to the UN and World Bank.
If the ANC is failing to deliver on the programmes that are the most important to them, what about the other things the government is supposed to do for its citizens?
It is worse than not implementing what they were supposed to do — the party seems to have run out of ideas.
Take the slogan radical economic transformation. Question ANC members about this and a long history lesson will follow on how they handled the nature of SA’s uncompetitive economy based on racial lines at their 1969 conference in Tanzania.
Monopolies are normally dealt with in three different ways. US Republican president Theodore Roosevelt famously broke up the monopolies that dominated the US economy through antitrust legislation.
The late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela nationalised oil companies to break up monopolies. The German government introduced alternative business models and forced businesses to be more responsible to the public by passing a law that workers should sit on boards of firms.
All the ANC resolved to do was increase the capabilities of the competition authorities. This means that monopolies are allowed to continue as long as they obey the rules.
The ANC discussed several proposals to deal with its shortcomings in governance, such as electing a second deputy secretary-general to focus on the issue and limiting the number of NEC members to be deployed to the Cabinet.
The conference rejected the call for another top official and adopted the limit on leaders serving in the Cabinet, but there was no decision on how many should be deployed.
If the ANC is so disparaging of its members’ wishes and impotent at implementing its priority programmes, it is only a matter of time before voters spurn them.
Reading their ANC documents and interacting with senior members gives the impression that the governing party takes introspection very seriously. It knows its faults all too well. The challenge is acting on them.
• Claasen is the founder of media strategy company Untold Media.