08/03/2017 19:03 SAST | Updated 09/03/2017 11:58 SAST

The ANC Wants To Go Back To A Leaner National Leadership Body, And Fewer Of Them In Cabinet

ANC admits that bigger isn't necessarily better.

Gallo Images / The Times / Alon Skuy
Introspection: ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe addresses the media after the party's National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting discussing a motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma on November 29, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Mantashe announced that the NEC did not support the call for President Zuma to resign. The party faces more introspection at its policy conference in June.

The ANC proposes reducing the number of leaders on its 86-strong national executive committee (NEC) to make the organisation function more smoothly, but it doesn't specify how big it should be.

It also wants to limit the amount of NEC members in Cabinet to 65 percent to leave more senior members free to serve in business, civil society and internationally.

The reduction of the NEC is a reversal of a push by supporters of President Jacob Zuma in 2007 for the NEC to be significantly enlarged from 66 members to 86 (both of these figures include the top six officials), which coincided with a resolution that half of the NEC must be women. The top six was, however, exempt from this quota.

A party discussion document entitled "Organisational Renewal and Organisational Design", meant for its national policy conference in June, says the NEC "remains an important structure that oversees the organisational work and political programme work" of the ANC between conferences, and it provides overall political and strategic direction to implement conference resolutions.

"The current number of NEC members does not augur well with a necessity to have well-oiled organisational machinery capable of providing the required strategic political direction," the document says.

"The extent to which the NEC is able to discharge its responsibilities depends less on the large quantity of warm bodies serving, but on the quality of discussions and the resolutions at its seating. For a better focused NEC, it is proposed that the number of leaders constituting it be reduced significantly and that those leaders be more visible in provinces, regions and branches. This will ensure that quality cadres are spread evenly in all levels/spheres of the organisation."

The party could also consider reducing the size of its provincial executive committees.

The ANC would also prefer that its most capable cadres work for the party rather than be deployed to government, it says.

To "allow the NEC to be a balanced mix of cadres in government and those engaged in civil society and business", it proposes that only 65 percent of the NEC be Cabinet members. Currently most of the ministers as well as the party's senior government deployees are also members of the NEC, in line with the party's previous wish to create one centre of power.

Such an arrangement will "allow the organisation to have an objective view and influence on developments in government, civil society, the economy and international arena", the document says. "The organisation can intervene strategically (in) any challenges."

The party is also questioning its requirements for branch sizes, saying it often loses "segments of our society like the progressive intelligensia" with its requirement for branches to have at least 100 members before being declared a branch. "Their location is as such that it becomes practically impossible for them to have a branch as has been traditionally defined, and thus driving them away from the constitutional structures of the movement," it says.

"The national policy conference must express itself to the poignant question of what is magical about the 100 members' quorum in all circumstances."

The party will also be discussing how it could go about serving "ordinary supporters who may not be card-carrying members of the organisation".

Other proposals in the document include that the party should establish NGOs in, for instance, the education sector, that are aligned to its principles, in order to counter "largely white and privileged NGOs that are well-funded and have been strategically established to dismantle the ANC".

The party also wants to find new ways to communicate with its members — the young, the academically minded as well as the uneducated.

To prevent the "rigging" of internal elections, the party wants a "Revolutionary Electoral Commission" to manage these, with the powers of screening candidates and making recommendations about deployments.