Johannesburg - The ANC’s four-day “festival of ideas” came at a cost – the price tag was a cool R40 million. That’s according to ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa, who told The Sunday Independent the sum covered the cost of hiring the Gallagher Convention Centre, all accommodation, meals for the more than 3 500 delegates and also their transport from the different regions.
He said the ANC had paid all its bills “in cash”, adding that while delegates paid a token contribution for being there, donors – who were unnamed – had been “generous”.
Ironically, one of the issues up for discussion at the policy conference was party political funding.
SA is one of the few countries on the continent that gives political parties public funds, for which they have to account in detail, according to the Electoral Institute of SA.
But the private funding of political parties is not regulated – and largely hidden from view, as there are no rules that compel any party to reveal the name of a donor or the amount of money involved.
Within the ANC there has been concern that public funding of political parties is insufficient, while the lack of rules governing private funding has allowed the flames of many a factional battle to be fuelled in secret.
Delegates last week agreed private party political funding should be regulated, something the Institute of Democracy in SA has long been urging. The recommendation must first be endorsed at the ANC’s national elective conference in Mangaung later this year.
Phosa said last week’s event was, from the point of view of logistics, a dry-run for Mangaung.
Senior staffers from Free State University were invited to Midrand to observe proceedings and “get a feel for things” in preparation for hosting the ANC in December.
“It’s like a military machine,” Phosa said, after one of the 7.30am daily meetings of the steering committee with ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
“We have learned from our mistakes in the past and started preparing for this conference very early.”
This meant some of the pitfalls that marred the ANC’s centenary celebration at Mangaung in January, where there were problems with accreditation, food and accommodation, were avoided.
Phosa said planning for Mangaung, where “close to” 5 000 delegates were expected, was already well under way.
The ANC was considering whether it needed to erect a massive marquee as was done at its 2007 Polokwane conference, and whether or not to leave it up as a legacy for the university.