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FEATHERS are expected to fly at the ANC’s policy conference in Midrand next week when discussion turns to the party’s “second transition” document, which calls for socio-economic transformation to follow the “first transition” of the political change of the first 18 years of democracy.
In the run-up to the gathering, as most ANC provinces forward their policy declarations to Luthuli House, there is an emerging broad sweep of policy convergence – largely against nationalisation, uniformly in favour of scrapping the willing seller, willing buyer principle in land reform, and a smattering of province-specific proposals such as Gauteng’s suggested alternative funding for e-tolls, the Northern Cape’s demand that returning party defectors serve five years as ordinary members before being eligible for party posts, and Mpumalanga’s wish to see the sod turned for its planned university before December.
The second transition policy paper is the only one, aside from the organisational renewal document, which speaks directly about the future political mindset and direction of the ANC, which, it says, is led by the working class – defined as workers, the unemployed and the rural poor.
But the ANC in Gauteng, Limpopo and the Eastern and Western Cape, labour federation Cosatu and deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe have all expressed concerns about the second transition document’s shortcomings.
Motlanthe recently said it contained “smatterings of Marxist jargon” and failed to define the first transition, and its tasks.
The Gauteng ANC called it “an expression of impatience” without the necessary analysis and instead called for a full and comprehensive review of the ANC’s performance since its 2007 Polokwane conference.
Although Limpopo did not mention the second transition per se, but talked of strategy and tactics, it criticised the “poor and under-theorisation on why the ANC-led movement has not fully utilised its political power”.
The Eastern Cape general council agreed the paper was “misleading”, with one member who attended adding there was consensus that it was incorrect to talk of a second transition without outlining the political context of the first – for example, reconciliation – and lessons learnt.
Western Cape ANC secretary Songezo Mjongile said there could not be a second transition because it was all a seamless process since 1994: “We’ve not made progress. You can’t say, when you’ve not made progress, you’re starting a new phase.”
Cosatu cautioned this week that the devil would be in the detail. Acknowledging the labour federation’s long-standing call for fundamental economic and social transformation, Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven criticised attempts to link the second transition discussion document to one or another faction in the underground succession battle gripping the ruling party.
However, the factional dynamics are transparent: Motlanthe has long been portrayed as a potential candidate for party presidency, Gauteng is not known to be enthusiastic about President Jacob Zuma, Limpopo has been outspoken about leadership change and the second-largest ANC province, the Eastern Cape, is torn between the two camps.
While Cosatu strongly denies its ranks are split between those for and against Zuma, it is a vocal critic of the government’s track-record, corruption and tenderpreneurs.
In contrast, KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC’s largest region and Zuma’s home turf, supports the second transition as the next phase which “should be characterised by a decisive and radical focus on socio-economic transformation”.
And the incumbent president recently started using public platforms to tout the second transition as the blueprint for SA to deal with poverty, unemployment and inequality amid global financial instability.
Zuma finds, unexpectedly, an ally in the ANC Youth League. Its policy boss Abner Mosase said “they (the ANC) are trying to articulate economic freedom in our lifetime” – a youth league battle cry – and while the language of the document was “reformist”, it was supported.
However, the youth league wanted a change in the way the ANC defined itself, from a “disciplined” to a “radical” force of the left, to avoid the confusion of discipline with punishment – in reference to the expulsion of youth league leader Julius Malema.
At the heart of the second transition document is how the ANC sees itself, the state and society. While the state’s poor capacity is deplored, there’s little in the way of solutions to deal with the highly politicised civil service to ensure a focus on delivery.
However, in what must be music to Cosatu’s ears, the working class are deemed the leaders in society. But the analysis of the middle strata, or middle class, is somewhat vague: while acknowledging it has the skills and ideas to shape the country, the discussion document merely states the ANC should focus particularly on students, young professionals, entrepreneurs and cultural activists.
Also shaky is the assessment of the “patriotic bourgeoisie”, or black capitalists who have emerged since 1994. Outlining a clear role for them in job creation, industrialisation, skills development and the like, the document doesn’t really tackle reasons this is not happening.
“The dependence of this stratum on white and multinational capital and the state, makes some susceptible to pursue narrow interests, which may not always be in the interest of economic transformation,” it says.
Regarding the “white community”, the second transition document says the ANC must engage it further as electoral patterns show a lack of support, even though the transition to democracy was in the long-term interests of whites.
Equally brief is the input on private, predominantly white capital – described as a relationship of “unity and struggle of opposites – of co-operation and contestation – in the quest to transform the structure of, and grow, the economy”. But white capital was a “critical” part of a socio-economic transition and, despite its own agenda, the ANC “will have to engage and struggle to ensure that our vision forms the basis of national consensus”, the document says.
It is this approach that Limpopo takes issue with, saying white monopoly capital has been the “obstacle” to SA’s economic transformation since it transferred domestically generated profits out of the country.
Disagreeing with the “mechanical separation” of political and economic transition, Limpopo says it is nevertheless time to tackle growing inequalities by uprooting unequal access to economic production. Hence, the call for the nationalisation of mines.
“We have great platinum and coal deposits and yet we are one of the poorest provinces… If we come back from policy conference (with agreement on nationalisation) we have won,” said provincial party spokesman Makonde Mathivha.
On nationalisation, Limpopo seems to be joined by the Eastern Cape and, tangentially, the Western Cape, which calls on the state to “take ownership in strategic areas” in line with the Freedom Charter. Other provinces endorse a greater role for the state through taxes, royalties and beneficiation.
However, all ANC provinces are calling for the scrapping of the willing seller, willing buyer principle to speed up land reform. “The willing seller, willing buyer (principle) has derailed us, but we are not calling for what the ANC Youth League advocates, grabbing of land without compensation,” said Mpumalanga ANC secretary Lucky Ndinisa, adding an amicable solution involving everyone, from farmers to labourers and tenants, must be found.
But Limpopo also stands out as the only province to declare on leadership – highlighting “continuity and change” in the national ANC leadership after a similar push in Gauteng went nowhere.
There would be a call for changes, while others would stay, on the basis of who could deliver and who had implemented the resolutions of the 2007 Polokwane ANC conference.
The North West has not submitted its policy declaration because its general council was dominated by the removal of chairman Supra Mahumapelo and others – a move now subject to an intervention by national ANC officials who meet again tomorrow (Monday).
And the Free State will submit its declaration after this weekend’s provincial conference.
As a committee chaired by ANC policy head, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe, is compiling provincial inputs for presentation to the various policy conference commissions, the ANC is confident all logistics are in place.
Said ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu: “We are preparing for a second transition. The heated debates (will be on) what are those things that we need to do differently to ensure economic empowerment of our people, to ensure social upliftment.”
Critics say several ANC policy proposals contradict one another. Many proposals echo existing government policy or revisit previous ANC national conference resolutions – all without outlining steps to turn policies into delivery and, ultimately, transformation.
For example, the proposals to establish a land valuer-general and a land management agency are included already in the government’s green paper on land reform, and the National Health Insurance is already being implemented in several pilot schemes. The single police service is again on the agenda, as it was at the 2007 Polokwane conference.
Transformation of the judiciary appears to be a standing item, as it has been among policy resolutions of national conferences since the 1997 Mafikeng meeting.
The contest over the second transition takes place in the shadow of the unofficial, yet raging, succession debate. But without agreement on this political framework, the ANC, and government, may well find itself being a rudderless ship – regardless of who clinches the top job at the Mangaung national conference.
n See Page 14, 16 and 17