Durban - The ANC’s January 8 statement at the weekend delivered nothing new and was merely a regurgitation of speeches from the run-up to and following the party’s Mangaung conference last month, analysts say.
This was to be expected as the statement had come less than a month after the conference, which ended on December 21.
The DA, meanwhile, called on President Jacob Zuma to take the lead in the fight against corruption, saying his first step should be to instruct his lawyers to hand over the so-called spy tapes used to justify the dropping of corruption charges against him.
One analyst felt that the highlight of the January 8 celebrations was not the statement itself, which traditionally sets out the party’s programme for the year, but the introduction and parading of the ANC’s new deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who went on a whirlwind tour of KwaZulu-Natal, meeting and greeting people in the streets.
Political analyst Steven Friedman said the party hadn’t really said anything new in years. “And they’ve just had a conference and we know what the conference decided. This is a repeat of what was said at the conference.”
In his speech in Durban on Saturday, President Jacob Zuma highlighted several priorities for the year ahead.
Socio-economic transformation would be intensified and the government would hasten the implementation of infrastructure projects.
Other priorities included tackling land reform, labour unrest and education and health.
Zuma said there would be special programmes to remember the injustices perpetrated under the 1913 Natives Land Act, 100 years after the law was passed.
“We call on all South Africans to commemorate this landmark, with a view to correcting the wrongs of the past and to cement reconciliation. We appeal for co-operation between those needing land and those who need to release land, both assisted by government, so we can meet targets we have set for redistribution and restitution,” he said.
But Friedman said Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti had already elaborated on the issue for some time since the government released the Green Paper on Land Reform.
Nkwinti said last month that proposals contained in the green paper would be implemented early this year.
Zuma also said an exception to the 1913 cut-off date for land claims would be provided for “to accommodate historical landmarks, heritage sites and descendants of the Khoi and San who lost their land long before 1913”.
Legislation to this effect would be enacted within the year.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga agreed that nothing new had come out of the January 8 statement, saying it was a “ritualistic” exercise.
“But what I think was slightly different was the tone. The NEC (national executive committee) is on the defensive and are explaining themselves on how relevant they are.
“Coming out of Mangaung, the speech was the first important issue in the new calendar year. They’re also saying we have moved on from Mangaung.”
There had been a lot of talk about “Zuma talking tough”, he said.
“But there’s really no substance. It might just end up being a question of talk.”
He said the key feature had not been the statement itself, but the introduction of Ramaphosa, who hasn’t held an official position in the party for about 15 years. “The highlight was the introduction of the super-technocrat Ramaphosa. He is someone who is politically weak and has got no constituency and that’s why the party is trying to parade him,” said Mathekga.
He said the party’s priority should be going back to the drawing board and looking at capacity within the government, across all departments.
“Forget about big talk. Is the bureaucracy capable of delivering?” said Mathekga.
The DA said Zuma would have to take the lead if his call for institutions to keep up the fight against corruption was to be taken seriously.
“First, he must instruct his attorneys to make available the ‘spy tapes’ and other relevant information that the DA has been fighting to obtain since the 783 charges against him were withdrawn by the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority),” said Debbie Schafer, the party’s spokeswoman on justice.
“If the president has nothing to hide, then there is no reason to continue obstructing our access to them.”
The NPA said last year that it could not hand over the tapes, in spite of a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling that it produce material used in its decision to drop the charges, because Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley had claimed they were part of the confidential submissions to the NPA made on his client’s behalf. These submissions were exempted in the SCA ruling.
The DA has lodged an application in the Pretoria High Court for an order compelling Hulley to hand over the tapes.
Schafer said on Sunday that Zuma must also appoint permanent heads of the Special Investigating Unit and the NPA, which are both being run by acting heads, and the appointees should be people of integrity and independence.
“If the president is serious about the fight against corruption, then he will take these steps as a matter of urgency.
“This will be his first test after his re-election as president of the ANC, and will set the tone for the remainder of his presidency,” she said.