Johannesburg - The African National Congress 5th national policy conference gets under way in Johannesburg on Friday amidst deepening divisions and factionalism, despite efforts by party top brass to hammer home messages of unity.
The policy conference will review ANC policies, make recommendations on amendments, or come up with new policies to be adopted at the December elective conference.
As delegates gear up for the conference, they know that all is not well in the ANC. Mounting allegations of state capture, and rampant corruption and factionalism has divided the governing party, with its alliance partners having boldly requested President Jacob Zuma to step down.
The party's veterans and stalwarts have boycotted the first two days of the conference, billed as a consultative conference to discuss party internal problems. Another ANC structure, the Umkhonto We Sizwe (MK) national council went as far as boycotting the entire six-day long conference, which it labeled a ''futile exercise''.
The veterans and the MK council believe that the ANC is in a serious crisis, and that only a fully-fledged and separate consultative conference, similar to the historic Mogorogoro consultative conference held in Tanzania in 1964, would be the first step towards saving Africa's oldest liberation movement. A policy conference amidst a deepening crisis would not help the save the party, the stalwarts said.
However, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe was adamant on Thursday that the ANC would emerge united after the policy conference. No songs sowing divisions or campaign slogans for certain individuals would be allowed at the conference. ''We do not expect any disruptions, and I can assure you that there would be no disruptions... those who disrupt the ANC will be disrupted themselves.'' said Mantashe.
State capture allegations would be discussed as part of ''diagnosing'' the ANC and its problems. Other urgent discussions are the negative state of the economy, the emotional issue of land and the ongoing violence against women and children.
Mantashe added that the veterans and the MK council snubbing the conference was a missed opportunity for the two structures.
The party delegates would from Sunday discuss policies through various commissions before making recommendations.
Zuma is set to open the conference at 9am on Friday.