President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC January 8 statement celebrations. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH
President Cyril Ramaphosa at the ANC January 8 statement celebrations. Picture: DAILY DISPATCH

The ANC can no longer count on South Africans to vote for the party simply because it led the country to liberation, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

Delivering the opening address at the ANC’s election manifesto workshop in Irene, Ramaphosa said the ANC would canvass for votes based on what the party had achieved and on what it planned to do in the future.

The party is set to face a steep electoral battle in the 2019 national election, rendered more arduous by debilitating factional fights and power battles playing out in its own structures less than a year before the key election.

The ANC’s election manifesto would be informed by the lived experiences of all South Africans and was set to include input from experts and academics from within and outside party structures, he said.

Ramaphosa likened the process to the drafting of the Freedom Charter, which was officially adopted on June 26 1955.

"Like the Freedom Charter … the manifesto must be a revolutionary document," he said.

Ramaphosa said the workshop was aimed at kicking off the process of drafting the manifesto but the party wanted to hear as "many views as possible" before finalising it.

This includes input from academics and experts, many of whom were present at the workshop on Monday. He added that it should be based on "research, data and academic inquiry".

He urged participants to "challenge conventional thinking" and also to interrogate existing programmes in coming up with a manifesto that would speak to the broadest range of South Africans, with a specific focus on the youth.

Ramaphosa told the ANC — whose structures across many provinces are gripped by factional battles being fought in the courts — that the manifesto should be "one message told with many voices".

"The centre must hold at all material costs as we propagate this message," he said. Former President Jacob Zuma, whose backers are at the centre of the political strife in many provinces, arrived at the workshop during Ramaphosa’s opening address.

Ramaphosa urged experts, civil society and academics present at the workshop not to hold back in ensuring that the manifesto was the best possible vision to take the country forward.

"Don’t hold back … be as direct as possible. Call a spade a spade," he said.

A draft document is set to emerge from Monday’s workshop, which will then be sent to ANC structures to be further fleshed out. Community meetings would be held by structures to further refine the document.