Natasha Marrian Political editor: Business Day

The ANC is mulling over a more open and transparent process of leadership contests, admitting that the state of the party is at a new low and it is now a matter of "adapt or die".

Open contestation was often muffled ahead of an elective conference, with candidates for key posts unable to raise their hands and openly make themselves available for positions.

This was based on tradition rooted in a 2001 leadership document called Through the Eye of the Needle, which does not explicitly prohibit campaigning for oneself but says historically the practice has been viewed as "being in bad revolutionary taste".

The ANC’s stance toward the leadership race has resulted in the battle being controlled by monied power brokers and fought in dark corners. The admission also came as the ANC was facing the prospect of yet another divisive leadership battle, with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and former AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma already publicly endorsed for the post.

According to its policy document on organisational renewal to be discussed at its policy conference in June, the ANC admitted it had reached a "defining moment" since the democratic breakthrough — gleaned from among other things, its loss of three key metros in the 2016 local elections.

"The prerequisite to adaptation is an open, honest, voluntary, collective admission that the movement is on the cusp of paralysis if it fails to embark on a path of radical reorientation and modernisation," the document says. It calls for a "brutally frank process of self-introspection and self-correction".

Among its proposals to modernise are far-reaching changes to the election of leadership, including subjecting candidates to a process similar to primaries where even presidential candidates are open to scrutiny by communities and not just ANC members, to open contestation and regularising lobby and interest groups.

"The ANC election process [must] be reviewed in order to allow for open contest and transparency. Cadres who make themselves available for public office or are nominated must be prepared for their names and manifestos to be subjected to the scrutiny of ANC structures and their constituencies," the document proposes.

The status quo has become associated with political intrigue and the politics of factionalism, and what the document proposes is the antithesis
Aubrey Matshiqi
Independent political analyst

 It recommends that efforts should be made for ministers, premiers and even the president to be scrutinised by communities. It also proposes a massive skills audit of its staff and the setting up of a "revolutionary electoral committee", which will screen candidates to serve in key posts.

It identifies the main attributes required of ANC leaders, including being "informed and grounded", rooted among the people, loyal and disciplined and one who must "instil in his belief that corruption is ultimately looting, a behaviour undertaken by lumpens with a sole purpose of stealing public resources".


ANC leaders should also have the lifestyle and intellectual depth to "serve as an inspiration" to the people.

Independent political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi, however, cautioned that the proposals were not yet policy and were unlikely to become party policy. However, they were significant as it was indicative of a growing sentiment in the party which stood in opposition to the status quo.

"The status quo has become associated with political intrigue and the politics of factionalism, and what the document proposes is the antithesis," he said. It did not mean that the new proposals would resolve the party’s deep internal challenges revolving around factionalism.

 The ANC again identified how governance and state power have negatively affected the party’s core values. The document identifies 10 key dangers, which the party has not mitigated due to its "preoccupation with managing internal conflict". It is not the first time these weaknesses have been identified in ANC policy documents — they were also highlighted ahead of its Mangaung and Polokwane conferences.

These included social distance from the masses, corruption, institutionalised factionalism, ill-discipline and disunity inspired by battles for control of state resources, using state institutions to settle political scores, divisive slate electoral politics and political assassinations.

The factionalism has produced a "new type of ANC leader", who views ill-discipline, division and factionalism as normal and necessary. "Drastic measures … are necessary to root out anarchy and decay."

The ANC said it would not comment on leaked documents as they had no standing.

Spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the official documents would be released on Sunday.

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