The first four days of the ANC policy conference has shown tell-tale signs of a party that is trying to save itself, but doesn't seem to know exactly how.
It has been a period of self-reflection for the party, as members scramble to fix its image on the back of declining public support. At the same time, there have been wild contradictions, making it difficult to anticipate exactly what may come from this meeting.
This is what we have seen so far:
Honesty without transparency:
- The ANC has been self-critical over the past four days, trying to analyse what it is that costed them support in last year's local government elections. In a diagnostic organisational report, the ANC cited issues of a growing trust deficit between the people and the party, a lack of upholding ethics, divisions and factions and corruption as some of the root causes of its problems.
- The ANC for the first time was open about scandals surrounding the Guptas but although they were pressed for answers on the actions they would take, party officials beat around the bush. It is clear there is no real plan.
- The ANC is desperately paranoid. Media are being isolated completely from the conference and are being fed watered-down statements in briefings while the action takes place behind closed doors. Members are off limits because perhaps leaders feel information may be leaked in conversation.
- The ANC has admitted divisions and factions are a reality in its organisation -- something that became even more clearer when its deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma began their presidential campaigns. But leaders are contradicting themselves. During his walkabout on Sunday, Ramaphosa said there aren't divisions and Zuma echoed the same sentiment on Monday.
Promise of pipe dream policy -
- Radical socio-economic transformation is clearly the party's go-to phrase for everything the ANC hopes to accomplish in the next couple of years. The party has formulated dozens of measures, saying we "need to" do this and that. These have been communicated by various ministers and is one of the outlining premises of the party's strategy and tactics. However, there is no clear and concise framework on how this will be achieved, or how it will be achieved "radically".
- Another phrase used daily at the conference is white monopoly capital. Again, the ANC has repeatedly said there was a need to diversify ownership in various sectors, but they are yet to give a plan on how to achieve this.
- Including radical economic transformation and dealing with white monopoly capital require a solid economic atmosphere, and with South Africa suffering a technical recession with two downgrades to junk status, achieving these goals will be significantly more difficult. But talks of bolstering the economy is one of the priorities, and various ministers at the Progressive Business Forum's breakfasts have highlighted ways and means to turn the economy around. One of these measures include fixing the state-owned enterprises -- but how they would do this has not been discussed. This also came on the shoulders of yet another South African Airways bailout of R2,3 billion on Monday.
They've got 99 problems but Zuma isn't one:
- What has become clear through the media briefings is that Zuma still enjoys overwhelming support from the ANC. In a briefing by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Sunday, he threatened those who would opt to vote against Zuma in a vote of no confidence against him. Mbalula said the party would "deal" with members who do so.
The conference continues on Tuesday with a presentation by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe at a business breakfast. Afterwards, commissions will sit to discuss sectoral issues ahead of an expected media briefing by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.