President Jacob Zuma addresses party delegates during the African National Congress policy conference in Johannesburg. Picture: Themba Hadebe/AP

Johannesburg – President Jacob Zuma on Friday said the 5th national policy conference of the African National Congress (ANC) must consider the matter of various forms of ill-discipline, particularly certain “ANC leaders” who make negative public utterances against the governing party, and factionalism.

“Factionalism is a cancer that must be rooted out of the ANC. It has caused splits from the ANC which has negatively affected us both quantitatively and qualitatively. Slate politics, another manifestation of factionalism, has cost us many good and capable comrades in whom our movement has invested significantly,” said Zuma. 

“We also need to look at the issue of ill-discipline in various forms, including public utterances attacking the movement by ANC leaders and members instead of handling matters within the organization and finding constructive solutions. Some members and leaders of the ANC have become primary conveyors of negative information about their own movement. 

Zuma said “this irresponsible perpetual negative messaging by our own people” has a negative impact on the South African economy.  

“We need to discuss how we can balance our valued trait of self-criticism with the need to protect the ANC and provide it with the space to resolve problems in a more organized manner,” he said. 

“We also need to be able to differentiate between self-criticism and the furtherance of certain interests and agendas.” 

Zuma also charged delegates at the policy conference to assist the governing party to renew itself by finding ways to cleanse itself from negative elements which have crept in. 

“To restore and maintain its character, the African National Congress needs to cleanse itself of the negative tendencies which have crept in over the years. These tendencies, which have been outlined before, include patronage, corruption, social distance, factionalism, abuse of power and membership system anomalies such as the reported manipulation of the membership data, gate keeping and bulk buying of membership,” said Zuma. 

Regarding the dwindling support base of the governing party, Zuma said the ongoing conference must earnestly diagnose the ANC and do honest self-introspection. 

“Our movement suffered a serious setback in the August 3, 2016 local government elections and experienced a decline of about eight percent of the national vote.

Our discussions here will reflect on these elections for lessons to be drawn and solutions to be found. We lost control of some key metropolitan municipalities including Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay,” said Zuma. 

“In Ekurhuleni we managed to form a coalition to retain control of the council.

Opposition parties formed coalitions to wrest control from our party. Part of the focus on renewal is aimed at enabling the ANC to regain that lost ground. The good news is that this week we managed to win Mogale City back as the ANC.” 

Zuma said since August 2016, members and supporters of the ANC have - out of pain and genuine concern - been engaged in varying degrees of robust discussions about what has gone wrong with “their beloved movement”, and how the party was outwitted in the metros. 

“The National Executive Committee meeting in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the results attributed our loss of support to perceptions in society that we are soft on corruption, we are self-serving and that the ANC is arrogant. These are based on research findings we had undertaken before the elections, which proved to be correct,” said Zuma. 

“We also visit many parts of the country and people tell us what the problems are. They do complain about ANC leaders and deployees who fail to make time to talk to them and listen to their problems. This does not apply to all deployees or government officials, but one dismissive and arrogant ANC leader or official implementing ANC policies is one too many.”