The 54th conference of the ANC is now history; it concluded in two primary areas, namely its new leadership and the trusted policy resolutions of the organisation. Congratulations to the elected leadership, with Cyril Ramaphosa becoming the 14th ANC president.
Not taking anything away from the elected leadership, it is roundly accepted that the closely contested election for president could have gone either way.
Therefore gloating in personal election victories, as a sign of power to execute an individual slate agenda, is simply deceiving when the interests of the organisation in unity, leadership and the focus on policy direction dictate otherwise.
The conference in this sense delivered an ANC victory when delegates discarded factional interests and slates of winners-take-all, for it delivered a mixed slate in its top six leadership. Ramaphosa won the presidential contest, while Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma won the policy battle.
Beyond the euphoria of preferred candidates and the outcome of the elections lies the expected battle to make the party’s adopted policy resolutions count.
The ANC owes South Africa’s poor the unapologetic implementation of its policies. It’s not the first time that the organisation has adopted key policies; it also stands accused of previously adopting policies that were never implemented.
This accepted reality holds an inherent threat of derailing the realisation of the policy outcomes of the conference. The question therefore is: How seriously will the ANC’s elected leadership take its unequivocal mandate to implement its adopted resolutions?
The test of leadership inculcates the critical aspect of accountability for that which was exacted.
The conference pronounced on its leadership and that leadership dare not be divided in narrow self-interest of agendas that seek to redirect the unambiguous call for an actualised unity as we see in the aftermath of the conference.
We are witnessing efforts to obliterate the intentions of the ANC to unite and deliver economic freedom. These efforts are geared at derailing conference resolutions, for while primarily aimed at dividing leadership they are ultimately aimed at preventing policy implementation.
If the ANC leadership takes its conference outcomes in elections and policy direction seriously it will know it received a mandate to work for unity and has a responsibility to work not in frivolous slates of self-interest but as one elected team, one ANC.
It will know that upon their collective shoulders rests the undeniable task to give meaningful effect to the policy resolutions adopted.
It will jealously guard against other interests in both public and private spaces watching against those from within and without that seek to divert it by attempting to redirect it from its articulated mandate to matters that work against its mandate.
The ANC must therefore consciously discard and disassociate itself of a top six that is divided in claims of old slates. It must equally desist efforts to have its national executive committee divided in cheap choices of its current president against a sitting SA president.
It was therefore expected that some would seek to redirect the ANC to abandon its clarion conference choices in attempts to revert to the toxic trenches of factionalism.
The campaigns with many faces include former DA leader Tony Leon and opposition leader Mmusi Maimane. We have read of numerous others who already feel betrayed by the elected ANC president as they fear the resolutions of the ANC are not in sync with their specific agenda.
On the other hand, NEC member Derek Hanekom and some of the clergy with their reckless statements are leading their own self-serving divisive campaigns, exerting undue pressure on the new leadership to act in a specific way as it relates to the sitting SA president.
The ANC must be vigilant in protecting its unity aims and leadership from these blackmail attempts, ultimately aimed at stifling the implementation of adopted ANC policy direction.
The ANC simply does not have the luxury of time or space to attempt postponing the demands of this hour. Those demands are captured in its policies of radical economic transformation and land redress, among others.
Its leadership dares not pretend ambivalence as to the delivery of these. Its leadership, regardless to how discomforting these policy directives may leave them at a personal level, warrants following through, for the masses cannot wait any more.
The call to transform this economy cannot evidence a piecemeal attempt of smokescreen public relations exercises. It cannot be sophisticated couched words that sound good on the ear and palatable for all.
Its leadership must realign their individual minds regardless of role and investment in this economy to the common goal that places the people first, instead of the elites.
While the ANC in its origin was the product of the elites, the poor sustains it in democracy and SA leadership governance. The ANC leadership must recognise and take seriously those that make up its primary constituency; in the case of the ANC, that constituency comprises the poor and marginalised. While the vocal middle class remains the signpost of ANC success in governance, it is the poor who remain shackled by the triplets of unemployment, inequality and poverty that keep the party in power.
Choosing its constituency cannot be a difficult choice if it seeks to remain true and honest to its conference resolutions.
It may not want to be a rural party as its previous secretary-general stated, yet it cannot deny that its mandate to lead South Africa is derived from those who are the poor, and the poor across the length and breadth of South Africa define the ANC.
Making a choice for its constituency therefore can never be a choice against the good of South Africa.
Making a choice for its adopted policies is making a choice for its constituency and the betterment of South Africa.
It thus cannot be blackmailed and duped into a narrative of its policies as the antithesis of good and, by extension, serving the interests of looting and corruption personified in a convenience of names.
It is in this context that the summation of President Jacob Zuma remains instructive: “To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the roots of racial supremacy and exploitation, and does not represent even the shadow of liberation.”
We are not oblivious to the concerted attempt at obfuscating the definition of radical socio-economic transformation (RET) when we know that radical socio-economic transformation is articulated as fundamental change in the structure, system, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy, in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.
I prefer thinking of RET as defined in this sense as connoting a conscious disruption in the existing economic reality and paradigm.
What the ANC hitherto failed to do, constrained by a 1994 consensus, is an unequivocal choice for a conscious disruption with the economic interests of the masses of South Africa instead of a few as epicentre.
A defence and protection of this economy in its status quo negates the objectives of the liberation for which the ANC proudly claims itself a custodian. When the ANC in 2012 gathered for its 53rd conference it realised the reality of an entrenched economic status quo. Sadly, it failed to give meaningful effect to its policy intent.
We can only surmise the quest for economic emancipation was sacrificed at the altar of the ever-pervasive interest of maintaining the status quo.
There are those who seek to defend this racially anchored disparity of economic ownership status quo as constitutionally permissible. Ultimately they defend it as functional in sophistication, therefore acceptable.
The ANC’s 54th conference was categorical since it adopted my advanced disruption notion, which militates against the upkeep of the status quo.
The ANC simply cannot continue playing with masses. Its leadership must stop the doublespeak as it seeks to appease narrow interests. It must be unapologetic and clear that RET will not come cheaply, its time this message is prognosticated.
In the days and months ahead, we have the collective responsibility to keep the ANC and its leadership to the exacted mandate of realising RET. We share the obligation of reminding the ANC that its primary constituency is not Sandton, or the elites, despite its leadership making up part of those who are benefactors in this unequal economy.
It is our duty to remind the ANC that its primary constituency and those who keep the ANC in power hails from the ever-suffering poor in the townships, informal settlements, peri-urban and the rural hinterlands that define a South Africa in racial economic disparity.
We must prove vigilant in reminding the ANC that its allegiance cannot be to a cohort of threatening morally compromised rating agencies, international institutions and a decidedly untransformed corporate South Africa that can manipulate the SA currency at the collective expense of the poor.
Neither can its leadership engage in fancy footwork of political gerrymandering to backbench the policies of its last conference. We expect nothing less from ANC president Ramaphosa than to lead the RET charge at all times.
* Ramalaine is a political commentator
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
The Sunday Independent