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Pretoria - The battle for leadership positions at the ANC’s national conference at Mangaung in December is distracting ANC members from focusing on the policies that will ultimately determine the direction of the country post-Mangaung.
This was the observation of Unisa Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, who was delivering the Tshwane University of Technology/Pretoria News Intellectual Lecture at TUT on Thursday night.
Maluleke said the entire nation should be watching with keen interest what happens at Mangaung on policy debates, including land reform, social and economic transformation and education.
There was not much difference that could be offered by whoever was elected president of the country as there was hardly any difference in policy direction under the leadership of former president Thabo Mbeki and the current ANC leadership, he said.
“Policy refinement and policy resolutions are really what the conference ought to be about. For as long as the ANC is the ruling party, ANC national conferences are the parliament before parliament.
“Perhaps if the country did not have the problems we have in virtually all of these areas to be addressed in policy discussion documents, and the ANC was not the ruling party, we could afford to ignore these discussions,” he said.
The closest the country had come to a sharp debate around vision had been around the notion of a second transition, he said.
But Maluleke could not resist weighing in on the leadership issue, proclaiming that it was possible, but very unlikely, for Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to emerge victorious from Mangaung.
Despite Motlanthe’s reluctance to publicly declare whether he will contest President Jacob Zuma for the ANC presidency, he had given all the signs that he was ready to take him on, he said.
“This was clear when he disagreed with Zuma on the second transition. We also know about his voice of dissent regarding the manner in which youth league leaders, [Floyd] Shivambu, [Sindiso] Magaqa and [Julius] Malema, were sanctioned by the ANC.
“Why would he let us know these things if he was not standing for election. More recently, he has said in an interview with the Financial Times that the country was in crisis and Mangaung represented a tipping point, a sentiment which earned him a public rebuke by Zuma,” Maluleke said.
Maluleke said the manner in which Motlanthe had handled the leadership contest was likely to grow his stature within the organisation whether he won or not in Mangaung as he had done so as a disciplined cadre of the ANC.
“His refusal to declare his candidacy outside of the party rules and processes is proving to be more of a tactical manoeuvre than a sign of indecision.
“Like a good football striker, which he is renowned to have been, Motlanthe is refusing to be caught offside,” said Maluleke.
Zuma had the strength of incumbency, his famous charm, and the potential strength of numbers, with the swelling ANC membership numbers in Kwazulu-Natal likely to prove decisive at the conference, he said.
However, Maluleke suggested that Zuma may win in Mangaung but still lose in terms of his ability to manage the challenges of party and state over the next five years.
Though the controversy around renovations to Zuma’s private home in Nkandla was unlikely to deter his supporters from voting him back in, it had done a lot of damage to his integrity, Maluleke said. “The questions being raised around Nkandla, though unpro- ven, are nevertheless damaging to the president’s person and to the country’s image.
“This is not the kind of attention the president wants at this time, Mangaung or no Mangaung. It is eroding his integrity badly. It is not the kind of exposure the country needs, nor was the intercepted inspection by a DA delegation led by Helen Zille the best way to deal with the allegations.”