POLITICS

ANC Moots Radical Overhaul As Fears Of Fracture Loom

Gwede Mantashe has sent a discussion document of 21 pages to party structures. The ANC seems worried about its future.

13/09/2017 05:59 SAST | Updated 13/09/2017 06:17 SAST
Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
ANC supporters during the municipal election campaign in 2016. The party fears that internal divisions might "fracture" the party and disputes around internal elections could cause more breakaways.

The ANC could launch into a radical overhaul of some of its critical structures after its December elective conference if a number of proposed constitutional amendments sent to branches for discussion are accepted.

In a 21-page discussion document, the party frankly admits that it could fracture because of pervading internal mistrust and that it could have lost the trust and confidence of South Africans in general.

Although the amendments indicate the need for dramatic interventions from the very top of the organisation to the bottom, it neglects to tackle issues around corruption, state capture and rent-seeking and instead seeks to create new bureaucratic levers to ensure command and control.

Some of the proposed amendments:

  • The enlargement of the so-called top six officials to a top 14, which includes an extra deputy president, two extra deputy secretaries-general and five permanent chairpersons of subcommittees of the National Executive Committee (NEC).
  • The scrapping of the national working committee with the top 14 taking over the day-to-day functioning of the party as a secretariat or working committee.
  • The reduction of the NEC from 80 elected members to 60.
  • The constitutional entrenchment of the integrity commission.
  • The appointment of an electoral commission to manage succession politics as well as the establishment of a national dispute resolution committee and an appeals body.

According to the document, the ANC needs to understand how it must achieve its stated objectives amid the challenges posed by "other political actors and the negatively wired media". It also warns that the party should place a premium on the values and character of aspirant leaders in a highly contested political environment.

The party frankly admits that it could fracture because of pervading internal mistrust and that it could have lost the trust and confidence of South Africans in general.

"Competition for power also carries the corollary that election outcomes are not readily accepted on the ground that results were manipulated. This creates an environment of mistrust and could fracture the organisation," the document reads.

Ferial Haffajee

The party is also deeply concerned about gerrymandering at local and provincial level, saying that disputed election outcomes often end up in court because delegates are denied access to elective conferences, flawed auditing processes and bias. "If left unattended, these disputes not only spill over into the courts, but also create the perception of a fragmented organisation and could lead to breakaways," the party says.

Strong emphasis is placed on the role and function of branches as well as the powers of provincial executive committees to resolve disputes by disbanding or suspending branches.

These disputes... also create the perception of a fragmented organisation and could lead to breakaways.

The document refers to branches as "the crucible of democracy" and argues that branches have become disconnected from the people. According to the proposed amendments, branches will in future have to get involved in social issues on grassroots level and engage with ward councillors. This will be monitored by regional and provincial structures to ensure compliance. Provincial executive committees could also receive expansive powers to disband regional and branch structures reporting to it.

Gwede Mantashe, the party's secretary-general, says in a covering letter the document is in its ninth iteration and that all comments and responses to the amendments need to reach his office by 15 November.