Mbombela, Mpumalanga - The ANC will embark on a big public spending spree to quell the fires of discontent in the townships, promising to create 6 million jobs, build a million houses, give away some land and punish the corrupt.
The ruling party displayed a massive show of support, filling Mbombela Stadium in Mpumalanga on Saturday against the backdrop of an Ipsos poll suggesting that its voter support base would shrink dramatically.
According to the survey, the ANC appears to have lost as much as 19 percent of its overall support since 2008, the last time such a study was done.
This, according to Ipsos, might see the party amassing only 53 percent of the national vote in the elections this year, with new and smaller parties also making inroads.
The loss is attributed to leadership conflagrations in the party, the Marikana massacre, scandals linked to President Jacob Zuma’s security upgrades in Nkandla, corruption, poor services and the entrance of new parties.
However, at the launch of its manifesto and its annual policy articulation rally yesterday, the ruling party showed its intention to face the fifth democratic elections with a cleaner image and zero tolerance of corruption.
The party’s manifesto says it will “require any ANC member or ANC public representative found guilty by a court of law to step down from any leadership position in the ANC, government and society”.
“Where this has not happened, the ANC will take firm action in line with the provisions of the ANC constitution,” the manifesto states.
ACTION AGAINST CORRUPTION
This comes amid the party’s national executive committee this week calling for strong action against civil servants and others found to have been involved in corruption related to the Nkandla upgrades.
The party said “those who believe that they are scapegoats because they will want to say they acted on the directives of certain political principals have a responsibility to disclose who those political principals are”.
This could be interpreted as a pre-emptive strike to quell the opposition’s campaign narrative and public anger over Nkandla and the expected release of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report this month on the contentious and most expensive presidential upgrades in history.
Worried that the scourge of tender corruption among its ranks may cost it support and credibility, the ANC has – again – targeted and vowed to fix the porous procurement system.
The ruling party reiterated its plans to introduce a centralised tender system to close the tap on members abusing their political power to cash in on state contracts.
“A central tender board, with representation by stakeholders, will be established to adjudicate tenders in all spheres of government.
“This body will work with the chief procurement officer whose main function will be to check on pricing and adherence to procedures as well as fairness,” Zuma said to rapturous applause.
He said this was a demonstration that the ANC remained “very clear that corruption must be fought wherever it occurs and in all its manifestations”.
“We shall continue to work with all sectors of society and all our anti-corruption agencies to address this scourge.”
According to former auditor-general Terence Nombembe, irregular and wasteful expenditure by national and provincial departments cost taxpayers R28.4 billion in the past financial year.
Zuma said public servants and politicians would be barred from doing business with the state, and that further measures would be developed to “identify and prosecute corrupt actions by corrupt public servants and others”.
Zuma was also tough on organisational discipline, saying party members who flouted rules and regulations would be dealt with.
He warned that failure to enforce discipline would erode the party’s ability to deal with errant members.
“The ANC is very clear that actions that bring our organisation into disrepute will not be tolerated and every ANC member should conduct himself or herself in a manner that is consistent with the core values and traditions of our movement,” he said.
However, the manifesto’s thrust was to address the waning patience in the ruling party’s constituencies – the townships – some of which have been exploding with angry protesters demanding improved services.
SIX MILLION JOBS BY 2019?
In its manifesto, the ruling party played the political Father Christmas promising loads of gifts.
It says it will use its old vehicle – the extended public works programme – to create 6 million jobs by 2019, “many of which will be long duration”.
With a disproportionately higher number of unemployed youth, the ruling party wants the young people to be the main beneficiaries of the jobs and opportunities to be created.
According to StatsSA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, released in May last year, about 3.5 million of the 10.4 million youth aged between 15 and 24 years were unemployed and outside of education of training opportunities – a situation that has been described as a ticking time bomb.
The promises come in the wake of the party’s decision to sign into law the Employment Tax Incentive Act, paving the way for the so-called youth wage subsidy, which will give incentives to companies that hire young people.
The ANC has committed itself to ensure that the introduction of the youth employment incentive would not displace unsubsidised old workers.
The party has committed to investigate “the modality for introducing a national minimum wage”, in what is seen as a victory for Cosatu, which was at ease with the policy.
Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini told The Sunday Independent that the ANC manifesto was solid, but not radical on the economy.
“It is our view as Cosatu that the manifesto ought to be in line with the outcomes of the policy conference and the Mangaung (ANC conference) resolution of radical economic second phase.”
S’dumo Dlamini said: “Given the issues that found space in it we have a solid manifesto of the ANC.
“But is it tilting the economic balance of forces? We don’t think we are there yet. We must all work very hard’”
His comments came after it emerged that the ANC would stick to its decision to not ban labour brokers, but “enforce measures to eliminate abusive work practices in a typical work and labour broking”.
MORE HOUSES PROMISED
Housing, another emotive issue in the informal settlements which at times contribute to xenophobic conflict, is highlighted in the manifesto, with 1 million housing opportunities promised.
Titled “Together we move South Africa forward”, the 52-page manifesto is anchored on the five priority areas the ANC focused on in the 2009 elections – jobs, education, health, land and the fight against corruption and crime.
With Nelson Mandela no more, the ANC dedicated “this manifesto to Tata Madiba”.
The back of the cover page is emblazoned with Mandela’s smiling face in what could be interpreted as the party’s attempt to capitalise on the former president’s legacy and brand.
In 2009 – when the ruling party was under pressure from its splinter party Cope – it brought the ailing Mandela to an Eastern Cape stadium to pledge his support for the party.
As Malema’s EFF plans to launch a manifesto centred on land redistribution and nationalisation of mines, the ANC has committed to re-opening the period for people to lodge claims for restitution.
It will also “accelerate” the settlement of the remaining land claims submitted before the cut-off date of 1998.
The decision seems to be calculated to take the steam out of the EFF campaign – based on the expropriation of land without compensation – and reduce an appetite for a Zimbabwean-style land reform programme.
In his message in the manifesto, Zuma said the country could not rest until the economy was “in the hands of people who were historically excluded from participation”.
Earlier, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and Cosatu’s Dlamini called on workers to defend the ANC unity.
In a veiled attack at metal workers union Numsa’s resolution not to support the ANC’s election campaign, and its call for Zuma to step down, Nzimande said it would be a fatal mistake if workers were to try and isolate the ruling party (see story on Page 2).
“To workers, especially in Cosatu, we say there are attempts today to try and drive a wedge between Cosatu and the ANC. We say the only people who will gain from a weakened Cosatu that is separated from the ANC is not the workers but the bosses.”
Dlamini added: “The Unity of Cosatu is not for sale. That unity, we shall defend even with the last drop of our blood. Even if some of the leaders are going astray, workers are (still) able to call them to order. We will discipline them.”