ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver his first January 8 statement on Saturday, a speech that will underscore his and his party's vision in the run-up to the 2019 national elections.
The significance of Ramaphosa's statement is twofold: it provides a platform for the ANC's top brass and its newly elected national executive committee to take stock and reflect on a politically turbulent 2017 and, at the same time, announces its goals for the year ahead.
But for Ramaphosa, the stage –– overlooking tens of thousands of ANC members at the Buffalo City Stadium in East London –– offers an opportunity to clearly express to his party and South African citizens what kind of president he will be.
Ramaphosa kept to a continuous rhetoric throughout his presidential campaign. In the run-up to the ANC's national policy conference in December, strategic pillars appeared in Ramaphosa's speeches, with recurring concepts constantly coming to the fore.
They were: returning the ANC to its core values, the importance of a strong tripartite alliance, radical socioeconomic transformation and economic development, and state capture and corruption.
These, along with unity in the party, also formed the focal point of his maiden address as ANC president at the close of its conference.
Taking this into account, these are our predictions for what will be in the new ANC president's statement on the party's birthday:
1. Unity in the ANC and organisational renewal
Characteristically –– judging by his past speeches at various events last year in which he started by praising his audience –– Ramaphosa may begin by highlighting the ANC's long history as a liberation movement and its track record of achievements so far.
With tensions between factions in the ANC coming to the fore, more so ahead of its national conference last year, Ramaphosa will likely emphasise the need for unity in the party ahead of 2019 and praise its branches for voting candidates from both his and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma's slates into the top six.
A year after the ANC's Mangaung conference in 2012 also marked the start of "a decade of the cadre" –– a bid to revitalise professionalism and renew the political education of ANC deployees. Ramaphosa may focus on cadre development and reinstalling core values in the party when he speaks about organisational renewal.
2. Economic transformation, development and job creation
Ramaphosa's campaign for the ANC presidency focused mainly on economic development and job creation. It came at a time when the country's economy faced multiple downgrades and took a battering in foreign markets.
The ANC's answer to this, and to alleviating the economic injustices of apartheid, is radical socioconomic transformation.
Ramaphosa will surely bring this concept to the forefront of his speech –– while outlining the party's policies for dealing with monopolies in various sectors, re-energising small to medium-sized enterprises, and restoring investor confidence.
We have got to advance the interests of out people through developing our economy. This is what President Dube would have wanted - for us to pursue a programme of radical social transformation in the interests of all of our people, and not just a select few.— Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 8, 2018
#Ramaphosa: Our January 8 Statement will also be a launching pad for the 2019 General Elections. We will be giving a clear warning to all other Mickey Mouse parties that the ANC is here. We want a decisive victory.— African National Congress (@MYANC) January 8, 2018
3. Land redistribution and free higher education
On the eve of the ANC's national conference, state president Jacob Zuma announced that government would subsidise free higher education for the poor –– despite the Heher Commission finding that the state has no capacity for it.
Then before the close of the conference, the party resolved to move to change the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.
Ramaphosa will have to elaborate how the party intends to see both these decisions through to fruition.
We are here to report that at #ANC54 we have adopted new policies that will work to fulfill the promises you made - the promise of justice, the promise of returning the land to out people. We have committed to transform the economy of our country.— Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 8, 2018
4. State capture and corruption
A central part of Ramaphosa's campaign was a strong anti-corruption stance. At his maiden speech as ANC president in December, he said the party must act fearlessly against corruption and abuse of office within its ranks.
He will most likely welcome Zuma's appointment of a judge to head a commission of inquiry into state capture, while highlighting the need to root out corruption and economic crimes in both the private and public sectors.
We are going to root out corruption within our ranks as it undermines the interests of our people. Through getting rid of corruptions, we will also be strengthening the ANC.— Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) January 8, 2018
5. The tripartite alliance
The alliance was brought to the brink of annihilation last year, when relationships soured between Zuma and the ANC's partners, Cosatu and the South African Communist Party (SACP).
Zuma axed SACP boss Blade Nzimande from his position as minister of higher education, a decision the communists said was a "declaration of war". At its 14th congress, the SACP decided to contest future elections independently of the ANC.
Cosatu, appearing to grow frustrated with the numerous allegations of state capture and Zuma's alleged role, threw their weight behind Ramaphosa as their preferred presidential candidate. The federation held marches calling for Zuma to step down.
Ramaphosa, a favourite among the unions, will surely emphasise the need to maintain strong partnerships among the alliance members.