The government expects to come under pressure at the ruling party’s conference in Mangaung to take tougher stances on Israel and Swaziland, and to accelerate the resolution of the chronic crisis in Zimbabwe.
Lindiwe Zulu, President Jacob Zuma’s foreign policy adviser, said the main foreign policy issues to be discussed at Mangaung would be those already agreed at its national policy conference earlier this year.
The Mangaung conference’s formal task would be to adopt these policy positions.
However, certain policies and issues were likely to receive more emphasis than others, and these could include the Israel-Palestine issue, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, where the ANC rank and file could put pressure on the government for tougher or faster action.
At its policy conference, the ANC called “on all South Africans to support the programmes and campaigns of the Palestinian civil society, which seek to put pressure on Israel to engage with the Palestinian people to reach a just solution”.
This stance has been seen by some observers as an implicit endorsement of the calls by pro-Palestine groups for a boycott of Israeli goods and disinvestment from Israel.
This has been resisted by the government, which favours keeping channels of communication open with Israel, but some analysts believe the pressure will rise at Mangaung for it to isolate Israel.
Similarly, the policy conference took a strong stance in support of the campaigns by Swazi democrats for the absolute monarchy to unban political parties, release political priso-ners and move more towards democracy.
But this stance has not been taken up strongly by the government, and Zulu said the government might feel greater pressure to do so at Mangaung.
On Zimbabwe, she said, she expected that rank-and-file members might express frustration with the slow pace of reform and demand more action from Zuma, who is facilitating the negotiations among the three parties in the unity government for a new constitution and a roadmap towards democratic elections next year.
Zulu said there were no real issues in the ANC about Zimbabwe, but the Mangaung conference might reveal some impatience about how long it was taking to resolve the instability in our neighbour.
Among rank-and-file members there was a sense that as long as Zimbabwe remained unstable, Zimbabweans would continue to flow into South Africa, taking jobs and services from South Africans.
Ordinary ANC members were experiencing the impact of the Zimbabwe instability first-hand and xenophobia was a danger at that level, she said.
She noted that Zuma had also faced tough questions from his peers about his Zimbabwe facilitation at last Saturday’s summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Dar es Salaam.
“They wanted to know if there are going to be elections next year, where are the institutions which will run them and will the elections be conducted under the old constitution or a new one?” she said.
Zulu said most of the SADC leaders believed that it would be good if the elections were held under a new constitution, which the three parties in the unity government have been battling to agree on for more than three years.
The leaders told Zuma that the elections were due next year, leaving very little time left to resolve the outstanding issues over the draft constitution, if it was to be the basis for the new elections.
Zuma had admitted there were challenges, including that the Movement for Democratic Change faction of Welshman Ncube had refused to participate in a new committee that was being established to reopen negotiations on the constitution.
Zulu disagreed with the general impression that Zanu-PF had reneged on the reforms agreed to by its negotiators.