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Party needs to craft policies that make sense to all

President Cyril Ramaphosa chats with Minister of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) Naledi Pandor. The recent court challenge by AfriForum against Dirco donating money to Cuba shows that the ANC faces challenges in implementing its progressive internationalism, peace and stability policies. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

President Cyril Ramaphosa chats with Minister of the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) Naledi Pandor. The recent court challenge by AfriForum against Dirco donating money to Cuba shows that the ANC faces challenges in implementing its progressive internationalism, peace and stability policies. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published May 29, 2022

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By Bheki Mngomezulu

As the ANC prepares for its policy conference in July, all eyes are on how it will project and reposition itself. Therefore, it will be necessary for the delegates to put their differences aside and work as a collective to propose practical solutions to the party and the country’s woes.

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While the ANC will be doing self-introspection and mapping a way forward, it will also have to listen to the many voices that are coming from all directions.

Eventually, the ANC will have to craft policies that make sense to it as the organisation and to the people of South Africa beyond party politics, not policies that are meant to appease those who fail to see the bigger picture.

In this regard, the ANC’s Chapter 5 on “progressive internationalism” will need leadership dexterity. This is important because recently AfriForum took the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco) to court when it announced that it was planning to donate R50 million to Cuba – with some claiming that the figure was actually R350m.

While it is true that South Africa’s economy is currently in bad shape, tfrom an international relations perspective, it is still justifiable for the country to show such gestures in order to boost its international image. In its policy discussion documents, the ANC states that it “holds firm in its progressive internationalism, an approach to global relations anchored in the pursuit of global solidarity, social justice, common development and human security”.

This policy position gives context to why Dirco saw it necessary to support Cuba financially even when South Africa faced many challenges. In its international outlook, the ANC envisages the world that is inter alia just, equitable and non-racial.

If these goals are to be achieved through gestures such as one mentioned above, the ANC will continue with such practices even if it faces criticism from organisations such as AfriForum. What is of great concern, however, is that some judges lack the ANC’s vision of seeing the bigger picture.

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For instance, when AfriForum objected to Dirco donating money to Cuba, a court of law agreed with this organisation and ruled that such a donation should be put on ice.

This raises the question as to how the ANC will succeed in implementing its “progressive internationalism” agenda within this context?. Of paramount importance is Africa’s fate if the ANC cannot implement its “progressive internationalism” programme.

The ANC’s policy discussion documents state that Africa will be at the centre of the party’s international relations. Implicit in this statement is the view that the ANC is prepared to move along with the entire African continent through different ventures.

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Indeed, in the past, South Africa under the ANC-led government has provided different kinds of support to countries such as Burundi, eSwatini, DRC, Lesotho, Sudan, Mozambique and many others.

If AfriForum and the courts second-guess ANC policies, how will the prioritisation of Africa come to fruition? This takes me to Chapter 7 of the ANC’s policy discussion documents which focus on peace and stability.

It is a well-known fact that South Africa has been involved in both AU and EU peacekeeping missions in Africa and abroad. Surely, not everyone approves this involvement. In its policy documents, the ANC is averse to the “us and them” analogy.

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The inherent meaning of this statement is that the ANC is determined to continue working as part of the collective and to lend a helping hand where necessary. This is despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which the ANC correctly concedes has further polarised the world.

In discussing peace and security, the ANC’s document transcends geographical boundaries and refers to “global security”. In this regard, it refers to the Russia/Ukraine crisis and its contribution to the geopolitical tensions.

Other security issues addressed in the ANC documents include cyber-security and migration. These developments threaten global security in many ways. Of critical importance is the ANC’s focus on continental (African) and regional security.

Here, the ANC laments the infiltration of the AU by non-African states. While this is a valid concern, it has the potential to pit the ANC against other African countries. This was laid bare when some West African members of the Pan African Parliament proposed that its headquarters should be moved from Johannesburg and go to France. What a shame!

The resurgence of unconstitutional changes of governments in some African countries worries the ANC. Sadly, political sovereignty of those countries – coupled with disapproval of South Africa’s involvement in those situations from within the country could be impediments to the ANC’s implementation of its policies.

So, the ANC’s policy positions on progressive internationalism and peace and stability are likely to face endogenous and exogenous resentment.

* Mngomezulu is a Professor of Political Science and Deputy Dean of Research at the University of the Western Cape

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