Assertive Zuma Rules Out Policy Switches

by Sep 21, 2010All Articles

By Sam Mkokeli and Sibongakonke Shoba

21 September 2010

Mantashe decries poor discipline, organisational chaos in party

President Jacob Zuma closed the door on new economic policy discussions when he delivered his political report yesterday, instructing delegates to the African National Congress’s (ANC’s) review gathering to confine discussion to the examination of the party’s performance and not the introduction of new policies.

This was a bold step to clear the confusion that occurred in the build up to the national general council, which Mr Zuma firmly described as a meeting to review policies adopted in 2007.

This severely limits the discussion on new policy proposals, including state intervention on the economy and the calls for the nationalisation of mines.

Mr Zuma’s statement that this was not a policy conference was interpreted by many as a rejection of the ANC Youth League’s attempt to put the nationalisation of mines on the agenda.

He also criticised the league for “indiscipline”.

Last night ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe tabled a report that described a party in disarray and in which he took the league to task, in what was seen as a clear rebuke of the league’s president, Julius Malema.

His report was tabled during a closed session, but was released in full to the media last night.

Mr Mantashe decried a lack of discipline, and organisational chaos. He said the ANC was “dead on the ground”, with party branches becoming active only during conferences.

The ANC is regarded as an “employment agency”, and people joined it to amass wealth.

Leaders were feared instead of respected and political engagement had become personal, he said. The party’s national executive committee, the crucial decision making body, was “timid” in dealing with disciplinary issues.

Public rows had dented the image of the ANC, and created an impression of “an incoherent leadership voice”.

He said the party’s youth league was intolerant of different views and antagonised and alienated those who contributed to public debate.

In the North West province, factionalism is almost “formalised”, Mr Mantashe said.

Mr Zuma also moved to suspend the discussion about the ANC’s leadership, saying it was too early. His five-year term will expire in 2012.

“Mobilising and lobbying for succession so early also gives the wrong impression that the ANC comprises of groups of people who are preoccupied with fighting for influential positions to advance personal interests, instead of advancing the programme of the organisation,” he said.

“We must take a decision that those who engage in such activities are in fact undermining the organisation and its work, and at worst are undermining the unity of the organisation. Action must be taken against them.”

His comments on the economy were welcomed by business leaders, who said they allayed fears and uncertainty on economic policies. The government’s economic policy document — which is aimed at charting a labour- absorbing growth path for SA — will be discussed at this five-day meeting before being finalised, Mr Zuma said.

He said delegates should “assist us to finalise a growth path that involves major changes in the way we work”.

“The anticipated measures include appropriate fiscal and monetary policy measures that are actively directed to promoting larger number of jobs.

“These should be linked with measures to control inflation and improve efficiency across the economy, including through a more competitive and stable exchange rate.”

The comment on the exchange rate was an apparent rebuff to the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), which has called for a reversal of the steps taken to relaxing exchange controls.

While insisting that the tripartite alliance was intact, Mr  Zuma warned that the ANC was the leader and that the allies did not “dictate” policy direction.

Mr Zuma’s address drew a favourable response from many in the ANC and from business leaders. The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry was relieved that the issue of nationalisation was clarified.

CEO Neren Rau said the chamber was also happy with the rejection of calls for currency market intervention as “the level of the rand should be determined by market forces”.

Razia Khan, head of Africa research at Standard Chartered, said: “There has been a lot of speculation ahead of the council about how beholden Mr Zuma might be to the different alliance partners given the recent rifts with Cosatu and his desire to seek a second term as ANC president.

“These comments appear to indicate that perhaps some of those concerns were overdone. He is still striking a very balanced line with little evidence that he is being pulled in one direction or the other.”

Mr Zuma warned the youth league to respect senior leaders. Delegates will no doubt bear his rebuke of the league in mind as they break up into commissions from today, to discuss issues.

The league’s leaders came under criticism for indiscipline. Mr Zuma said there were party members who publicly attacked others despite the national executive committee’s decision to ban public rows and a debate on the leadership succession.

The youth league has indicated that it was searching for a candidate for the party’s presidency to support at the electoral conference in 2012.

It has said it would support leaders who would back its call for the nationalisation of mines.

Mr Malema brushed off the rebuke. “It is the responsibility of a parent to chastise a child,” he said after Mr Zuma’s address.

The league has been making insinuations that were seen as attacks on Mr Zuma and his leadership. Mr Malema has repeatedly said the league would not support leaders who are “politically accounting in London”, a comment perceived as a warning to Mr Zuma to support the league’s call for nationalisation or lose its backing. Mr Zuma has assured investors that nationalisation was not ANC policy.

Mr Malema angered many in the ANC when he said leaders should lead by example, saying: “You must have one wife or one husband”. This was thought to be an attack on Mr Zuma, who has three wives and a fiancée.

These are some of the comments that brought Mr Zuma to end his silence on the league’s attacks on him and other party leaders. “We have no choice but to re-introduce revolutionary discipline in the ANC,” he said.

Other alliance partners welcomed Mr Zuma’s bold speech, saying it was long overdue. “We are very impressed. We are happy. The tone was something we have been asking for a long time,” said Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. “We are happy that leadership is finding its voice to deal with ill-discipline and the corruption of internal processes.”

South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande said they were happy Mr Zuma “reminded us that the council was not for 2012 campaigning”. Planning Minister Trevor Manuel said Mr Zuma had laid the foundation for constructive engagement during the gathering. With Mariam Isa, Reuters, Sapa


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