JOHANNESBURG - In terms of the decision of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC the time has now arrived for formal nominations for the position of president of the ANC and the National Office Bearers (NOB’s) and NEC members.
In a sense the September time-line for formal nominations - that the NEC had set in May - had become superfluous because campaigning for available candidates have now been going on for some time. Indeed, the past few weeks saw an intensification of open campaigning, with candidates criss-crossing the country delivering their various messages in search of support.
Clearly the political culture of the ANC with regards to how presidents of the ANC are elected is busy changing. It has been a long standing tradition in the ANC that presidential hopefuls do not campaign openly, and when asked about availability for the position to use the almost obligatory ANC language that the ANC membership in the branches must decide whether one is worthy to lead the organisation. For a while, as the December deadline of the National Elective Conference drew closer, this usual manner of doing things prevailed but then, as the NEC media statement of the 29th of May acknowledged, the ANC became caught up in the grip of “leadership election fever”. So although the open campaigning season started slowly it is now truly in full swing.
Clearly ANC political culture is changing, it is more of an evolutionary rather than radical change, but it is most definitely changing. To my mind this is not a bad thing at all because who the available candidates are, and what they stand for will be known and they can be carefully scrutinised by the general South African public and especially the members of the ANC branches who will actually elect the next ANC president in the National Elective Conference in December.
If handled with political maturity this more open contestation can enhance the informed decision making by ANC branch delegates at the National Elective Conference, and the most suited and competent candidate can be elected to implement the policy resolutions that are adopted at the conference. However, there is a very important precondition, and that is that policy issues have to be placed upfront in the engagements of the branches at the Branch General Meetings (BGM’s), and that branch delegates must be able to look beyond the media hype generated around candidates at their real abilities to implement policies.
Up to now the only candidate who is conducting a policy driven presidential election campaign is Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. She has committed herself to Radical Economic Transformation (RET), and in all her appearances she speaks out in favour of RET, committing herself to land restitution without compensation, and a fundamental change in the economic power relations with regards to the White Monopoly Capital controlled banks and financial institutions in favour of broad based black (especially African) empowerment. Her campaign slogan ‘Radical Economic Transformation – Now or Never!’ leaves no doubt about her policy positions, and that she is committed to the implementation of the Second Phase of the National Democratic Revolution.
Dr. Dlamini Zuma’s campaign is not based on hype, but on policy principles. What you see is what you get. She is clear about her policy positions and has a straightforward proposition to the ANC delegates about her commitment to bring about fundamental economic transformation and broad based black economic empowerment. None of the other candidates who have raised their hands are as policy driven as her campaign is, nor do they stick with the same discipline and commitment to such a clear campaign message.
This clarity of policy and purpose has ensured a positive campaign that does not require negative attacks on any of the other candidates, and a clear commitment to the preservation of ANC unity in the run-up to the elective conference and beyond. She finds no need to define herself vis-a-vis the incumbent president of the ANC, not does she need to negatively campaign against any of the other candidates. She is simply her own person, and defines her candidature in terms of her well defined and positively articulated policy propositions.
Two characteristics of Dr. Dlamini Zuma’s speeches are always present: 1) She spells out her commitment to Radical Economic Transformation in practical terms that her audiences can relate to; and 2) she emphasises her commitment to the organisational discipline of the ANC. In a recent speech last Thursday in Groutville (in KwaDukuza, KZN) she emphasised that she would always remain loyal to the ANC whatever the outcome of the leadership race. She said: “We will support whoever wins. Even if we are defeated, we will still be ANC members… I am saying this because I practise it, I am not theorising”.
If all the presidential candidates and their supporters can commit themselves so clearly to abide by the outcome of the elections in December, and similarly articulate what they actually stand for, rather than trying to campaign on the back of negative attacks on the current president or the competing candidates, the ANC can emerge from the National Elective Conference a stronger and more united organisation, with more policy clarity than it had known in a long time.
Dr. Dlamini Zuma had been at the receiving end of sexist and patriarchal negative campaigning with the intention to simply write her off as the “ex-wife” of President Zuma. This despite her unsurpassed record as a liberation fighter in the ANC, her outstanding academic qualifications and achievements as Cabinet Minister in three different departments, and Chairperson of the AU. Although she vigorously resisted such sexism, she never retaliated with any negative campaigning against any of her opponents.
The allegations that the Sunday Independent published concerning affairs that Deputy President Ramaphosa had with several young women are of concern because, if not handled carefully, it can cause serious volatility. Based on what the Sunday Independent alleges it seems that the Deputy President displayed behaviour akin to being an older sexual predator on vulnerable young women, and having played the role of sugar daddy to several of these women.
We should be concerned, because behaviour of this kind is unbecoming for someone entrusted with the duties of the Deputy President, which include being the Chairperson of the National Aids Council. It was in this capacity that Mr. Ramaphosa recently claimed the moral high ground by promoting the use of condoms, as well as denouncing sugar daddies and men having multiple partners. It now seems that he was not walking the talk, and that there is a huge credibility gap between his words and actions. Clearly, even if only some of these allegations prove to be true (and the Sunday Independent is adamant that they have the proof) the Deputy President cannot be considered competent to continue with his duties regarding the National Aids Council. As one tweet that went viral stated: “How can Cyril address issues on HIV/AIDS? WHO WILL LISTEN?”
In his desperation to keep his Presidential hopes alive Ramaphosa now seems to be lashing out at everyone in sight, making unsubstantiated claims of dirty stratkom tactics, with some of his supporters (i.e. the SACP) even claiming that the African National Congress Women's League (ANCWL) was somehow involved in letting the information in Ramaphosa’s secret e-mail accounts become public. They do so without a single shred of evidence to support their outrageous claims. The very real danger now exists that Ramaphosa and his supporters will in their desperation drag the election campaign into the gutter.
This should not be allowed to happen. For the sake of our country and the future unity of the ANC the situation will have to be dealt with speedily and decisively.
With regards to the National Aids Council it is only reasonable for the Deputy President to apologise for his actions, and to resign from a position that he is clearly no longer able to fulfil. If Ramaphosa is not prepared to do the honourable thing the President should relieve him of these duties. They are far too important and critical for the well-being of our nation to be compromised in this manner.
Concerning the unsubstantiated allegations that were made against the ANCWL, Ramaphosa should in the interests of conducting a clean campaign immediately repudiate the SACP.
The time has arrived for all the ANC presidential candidates to place the ANC first rather than their own personal ambitions. Ideally Ramaphosa should come clean about the conduct that the e-mails, that the Sunday Independent says that they have in their possession, indicate. If these e-mails are proved to be true (and it seems very likely that they are) Ramophosa should apologise for the embarrassment that he has caused the ANC and the country. However, just as important would be a commitment from him and his supporters that they would refrain from negative sexist and patriarchal campaigning, and will refrain from making wild and unsubstantiated allegations.
Comrade Cyril Ramaphosa will find in the campaign of comrade Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma a willing and proven partner to conduct the upcoming contestation for the ANC presidency in such a manner that the discussion about what policy resolutions will serve our people best will be prioritised. The ANC, rather than any individual should be placed first.
The unity of the ANC is critical for our future ability to have the strength to implement the Second Phase of our National Democratic Revolution.
As with all the other candidates that are availing themselves it is comrade Ramaphosa’s democratic right to stand for the ANC Presidency. Similarly it is up to the members of the ANC branches to determine at the National Elective Conference who of the current crop of presidential hopefuls are the best suited to secure unity and effective policy execution for the ANC.
Carl Niehaus is a former member of the NEC of the ANC and an NEC member of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA)
All Carl’s articles can also be found on his blog, Carl’s Corner: www.carlniehaus.co.za
- BUSINESS REPORT