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Clamour for greater democratisation

ANC conference is a harbinger of new reforms, writes Arun Srivastava

Clamour for greater democratisation
African National Congress's five-day national conference, currently underway, will end on December 20 with the nomination of the next head of ANC replacing Zuma. The conference attains much importance for the simple reason that whoever gets elected will be the nominee in the 2019 Presidential elections, the most important general elections in post-apartheid South Africa.
The National Conference will discuss ways of strengthening the capacity and capability of the state as an important factor towards good delivery of services. It will also focus on strengthening the ability of the ANC to plan, implement, enforce, monitor, and achieve the desired objectives in the service of all South Africans.
The South African state and its institutions over the past five years under review have been confronted with numerous challenges and competing interests. Of major significance have been persistent high unemployment, rising poverty, widening income inequalities, and unresolved land redistribution. These challenges have applied pressure on state institutions and called for a review of the manner in which the state is governed.
The ANC goes to conference having reviewed its policies and to determine a new path that will ensure that the leadership lives up to the hopes and aspirations of South African people. The 5th National Policy Conference of the ANC was held from the 30 June to 5 July 2017, at which detailed policy proposals relating to legislatures, governance and the macro-configuration of the state were discussed.
Like any other developing country, the various problems have badly divided the leadership and accusations are also being made that a section of the leadership is in hand in glove with the capitalist forces. The accusing fingers are primarily raised towards businessmen who, by origin, are not Africans. They migrated and settled there. Their approach has been self-centered and insidious to the economic condition of the country.
The mandate and scope of the Legislature & Governance Sub-committee is transformation of the State and the overall governance arrangements. The L&G Sub-committee is crucially concerned with the implementation of ANC policy and decisions and notes that whilst many past conferences have adopted extremely progressive policies, some of these have not been fully implemented. The 54th National Conference will examine the effectiveness of governance and accountability mechanisms, including the role of Parliament in providing oversight.
Of late it is being noticed that a section of the leadership and cadres have not been willing to practice the political line of accountability, which is why the conference will exercise thrust on the policy to emphasise accountability, effectiveness, support, and development
The ANC conference will have to work out a comprehensive plan for urbanisation and spatial planning. Numerous studies estimate that nearly 80 per cent of the total population will be living in urban areas by 2050. One of the biggest challenges of urbanisation is the 'urbanisation of poverty', which is increasing, especially in townships. A major portion of the population lives in dispersed and impoverished rural settlements, many in the former apartheid homelands. In these areas poverty and unemployment are high and millions of people effectively rely on the state to meet their basic needs.
The main challenges of poverty, inequality and land dispossession persist. The capacity and capability of the state is the most critical factor to the solution of this challenge. The core issues are governance, configuration of the state, the public service, efficiency and effectiveness of the administration, the framework for state-owned entities and the cadre development policy, supported by a clear accountability framework.
With Jacob Zuma, who was re-elected to a second term in 2014, is ineligible to stand for re-election as President it is expected that the election for the office would be between Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa is caught deep in controversy and is accused of corruption for promoting capitalist forces. There are pervasive complaints in South Africa that it is the small ANC elite which selects the next president of the country. This, it is said by many, is undemocratic.
Two reasons are cited for it. First, ANC electoral procedures are deeply corrupted by money changing hands, personal ambition and factionalism. Second, it should be the people, not the party, which should be entrusted with electing the country's leader. Interestingly this proposal has been made by the ANC's Gauteng provincial conference that voting rights should be given to the ordinary voters directly to elect presidents, premiers, and mayors. This is of particular interest given that Gauteng is one of the ANC's most powerful provinces, and at the same time, one which is often at odds with the party's current leadership.
The debate about electoral reform in post-1994 South Africa has largely focused on the system used to elect MPs and their counterparts in the country's nine provinces. In 2002 the Van Zyl Slabbert Commission had recommended for electoral reform. But there has been relatively little debate about whether the president and premiers should be directly elected. The survey conducted on behalf of Commission indicated that 63 per cent of respondents would have liked to vote for the president directly.
The virtue of the direct election of key political leaders is said to be that it renders them directly accountable to voters rather than to their political parties. On the face of it, it is an attractive argument, and it is one which could usefully introduce more diversity into the South African political system.
Meanwhile, senior ANC member Nathi Mthethwa said the colour of monopoly capital doesn't matter and that if monopolies were black-owned, they would still be against what the ANC stands for. The South African Communist Party first referred to white monopoly capital a decade ago. Transforming the economy tops the ANC's agenda, but, for a party ostensibly committed to uniting South Africans across the fault lines of race, class, and gender, the term white monopoly capital is problematic. Mthethwa says the ANC decided at its last national conference in Mangaung, five years ago, that it should focus on radical social and economic transformation emphasising that the idea is party policy and not a notion cooked up by a few individuals.
One thing is absolutely clear that this year's conference will prove to be decisive for the existence of the ANC. The election of the new President would provide an indication which path the ANC intends to follow; join hands with the western capitalist forces or define its own distinct ideological and political line. IPA
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)
Arun Srivastava

Arun Srivastava

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