06/07/2017 06:29 SAST | Updated 06/07/2017 08:49 SAST

Presidential Wranglings A Stalemate

Neither Cyril Ramaphosa nor Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma made headway at the ANC policy conference with regards to their presidential ambitions.

It's a stalemate.

In the murky world of African National Congress (ANC) internal politics, neither candidate contesting the race for the leadership contest in December swept the boards at the party's policy conference, which concluded at Nasrec in the south of Johannesburg on Wednesday.

After six days of deliberations, contestations and shouting matches, the different factions left the sprawling showgrounds shortly after 4 p.m. claiming the ideological high ground, but also conceding that victory is not certain.

This probably means the support of party deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dalmini-Zuma, the former chairperson of the African Union Commission, is held at roughly equal halves of the ANC's voting delegates.

The mining charter

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane ended the conference on a buoyant note. Party delegates had received his mining charter, which significantly boosts black miners' legislated ownership, very enthusiastically, he said.

In fact, he told HuffPost SA, he had been instructed to increase black prescribed ownership of mines to 50 percent plus one percent in five years' time.

The Chamber of Mines is attempting to interdict the implementation of the charter, but that had not limited the mood for more aggressive black empowerment. The mood of delegates canvassed as the conference drew to an end was buoyant as the party had avoided the bun-fight on land reform and on economic direction by setting up a stalemate.

Two deputy presidents

President Jacob Zuma is strongly lobbying for a no-lose race by pushing hard for the ANC to amend its constitution to allow for two deputy presidents. This could mean one of two things: the first is that the president's favoured candidate, Dlamini-Zuma, is on the back foot.

The second is that he is considering his legacy and does not want to leave a shattered ANC when he steps down in December.

"Polokwane [the ANC's damaging national conference where President Thabo Mbeki lost to Zuma] saw a good crop of leaders moving out to form an opposition."

Delegates canvassed by HuffPost SA did not like the idea as it imposed a deputy on a future president and it could entrench rather than dismantle factionalism. They said the jury is out on whether the resolution will survive the party's decision-making conference in December.

White monopoly capital or monopoly capital?

Jessie Duarte, the party's deputy secretary general, said earlier reports that the idea of "white monopoly capital" as driving South Africa's economic ills had been rejected was wrong.

Instead, delegates had agreed that monopoly capital, which refers to tight and limited ownership of key sectors of the economy, was a historical enemy of the ANC. But the party had agreed dominant white ownership was a real feature of the economy, said Duarte.

Delegates said this aspect of the conference's debates was fought long and hard. The Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, youth and Women's League delegations stormed discussions to push a hard line.

Land expropriation without compensation

The ANC tackled the low level of land transfer and return by agreeing to expropriation without compensation, but only after following a lengthy constitutional amendment procedure. This is likely to take years to effect as the party's head of economic transformation, Enoch Godongwana, said the proposal would first be put out for study and research.

Nationalisation of the Reserve Bank

The party's resolution to nationalise the South African Reserve Bank is a red herring, say observers. Private shareholders are a minority who at most make a total of R200,000 in dividends in a good year. They have absolutely no sway over monetary policy as Zuma appoints eight of the bank's 15 directors.

The ANC has resolved that the bank should be returned to public ownership.

Radical economic transformation... or radical socioeconomic transformation

The rhetoric of radical economic transformation has been toned down to radical socioeconomic transformation. The former favours black business lobbyists while the latter has a range of pro-poor measures included in its ambit.