ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa (left) with President Jacob Zuma during the party’s 106-year anniversary. Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
The January 8 statement delivered by ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa represented the fine and deliberate balancing act that is required to unite the party and regain the trust and confidence of the country at large through organisational renewal.

Winning the hearts and minds of the party faithful and the country at large has to be the burning strategic priority for Ramaphosa and the ANC or indeed any political formation serious about capturing state power through a democratic process in the 2019 general elections.

The ANC needs to grapple with the harsh reality facing South Africa as an emerging market facing the triple evils of poverty, unemployment and inequality as well as environmental sustainability.

This requires the right combination of policies and practical interventions that are targeted at taking the economy and country to greater heights.

The ANC and South Africa can and must be reinvented and repositioned to win the hearts and minds of all key local and global stakeholders, who must be enjoined to make South Africa a world-class nation within a generation.

Ramaphosa’s declaration that South Africa is open for business needs to be backed by investor confidence-building measures such as policy certainty and predictability as well as structural reforms to enhance the country’s global competitiveness.

The ANC needs to position itself as a trusted and capable party of government. If it doesn’t, the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will.

The ANC needs to recover ground lost at the last local government elections which saw the major metros of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay falling into the hands of a coalition of opposition parties.

Nasrec delivered a compromise outcome that will test Ramaphosa’s highly acclaimed negotiation capabilities as it hasn’t been since the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) talks.

The Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma camp did not emerge empty-handed from Nasrec. It emerged with some political spoils to take home and leverage for the next five years which Ramaphosa and his allies have to contend with.

Nasrec produced an unprecedented outcome in ANC slate and factional politics which, interestingly, augurs well for unity of the movement going forward.

The outcome was a unified leadership collective from the two main factions which forces all the factions to be humble and respect each other.

Seeing Ramaphosa and Dlamini Zuma dancing together at the East London celebrations was as symbolic as it was a powerful projection of the unity theme to the party faithful and the country at large.

The huge effort to prevent the electoral conference from collapsing is commendable and, hopefully, demonstrates the requisite political maturity to take the ANC and South Africa forward and upwards.

The local government election defeat in August 2016 spelt the worse political humiliation of the ANC in post-apartheid South Africa.

Why did it happen? This was largely because disillusioned members of the ANC either stayed at home or voted for an opposition party to punish the ANC for getting out of touch and being too consumed with internal faction fights and jostling for position.

Members of the DA and EFF went in their numbers to vote.

The ANC can and must avoid taking the electorate for granted. Trust is earned, it’s not ordained.

It’s earned through constant and ongoing engagement with the populace.

The ANC runs a real risk of losing the trust and confidence of the working and middle classes if it fails to reinvent and reposition itself as a credible and trusted political force.

The working class has largely taken flight to the EFF while sections of the black middle class have found a comfortable political home in the DA.

The ANC can and must reverse this as it must also craft effective strategies and implement programmes to gain and maintain the trust and confidence of the white, coloureds and Indian communities which it has largely surrendered to the DA.

This is a very serious indictment of the ANC as a non-racial and non-sexist party of liberation.

* Dlamini is a member of the National Council of the SA Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent