Denis Worrall is Chairman and founder of Omega Investment Research, an international marketing and investment promotion business with offices in Cape Town and London, established more than twenty years ago. To see how Omega can help your business visit www.omegainvest.co.za
The ANC’s national policy discussion conference last week has been reported and commented on to death, and we don’t pretend to offer anything original. Aside from the fact that the conference has left the ANC more internally divided and disorganised than before, two front-page banner headlines in the week-end newspapers capture the outcome. The one reads: “Tide turns against Zuma.” And the other: “ANC policy indaba ends with leap to the left.”
What of course the ANC refuses to acknowledge but what everybody knows, is that behind all the rhetoric on policy is the issue which grips everybody namely, should President Jacob Zuma have the second term he so craves and, if not, who will his successor be? There was no real clarity prior to the conference on these two questions – in fact, it was unclear even who was in the race opposing Zuma. Although the ANC’s presidential candidate will be elected only in December, last week’s conference was expected to open the way to the presidency and, according to every reading, this would be Zuma.
Something of the assumptions informed people made is reflected in a response to President Zuma’s opening speech. A major newspaper group reported, following the speech, that “President Jacob Zuma has delivered what is described by analysts as a political master-stroke that is likely to guarantee his second term in office and silence his opponents. This comes just a day into the ANC’s policy conference at Midrand, where Zuma had put his future political career behind a “second transformation”.” This was under the heading “Zuma paves the way to a second term: analysts say the President hit all the right notes for a stunning turnabout.”
The next day Jacob Zuma had egg on his face, as the conference rejected first the second transition concept and subsequently rejected or amended certain policies that the President had committed himself to in his speech. As Zuma had described the second transition concept, any Government 101 student would have recognised it as Karl Marx’s two-stage revolution: first, political freedom and then socialism - not that I think Jacob would have been aware of this. But it does explain one of Motlanthe’s reasons in advance of the conference for rejecting the second transformation, namely that it had a too strong a Marxist flavour.
Whether or not President Zuma gets a second term, his performance at this conference demonstrated more clearly than anything else why he should be denied that opportunity. We know that he lacks vision. That he has poor judgement, especially in regard to people – hence his many inexplicable if not disastrous appointments. And he lacks a sense of leadership. However, his opening speech tells us that he is convictionless. His remarks about “a giant leap forward” were over the top and reckless. Calling for nationalisation and land expropriation, and suggesting restrictions on foreigners buying land in South Africa will have sent foreign investors scattering. And using the race card as far as white males and the economy are concerned – if this upset some South African white males, it would equally have upset some European white males and eastern yellow males who know just what these white males mean to the South African economy.
Zuma’s intention was clear – he wanted to regain the sort of support that he had for his election as leader at Polokwane five years ago. But in doing so he opened the door to all kinds of populists. No wonder Malema could say: “Zuma stole our ideas!” The usually articulate ANC Treasurer Mathews Phosa was left bumblingly trying to put the President’s remarks and the resolutions in a perspective half-acceptable to foreigners and to people outside the ANC.
The Sunday Times was quite right in its editorial “Failed policies by any other name smell as bad.” “In a country where public education and the health system are in serious crisis it was disappointing to see the ruling party spend most of its four-day policy conference arguing over meaningless terms that had little to do with improving service delivery. Six months into the school year, thousands of learners in public schools across Limpopo province were still without text books as the Basic Education Department struggled to meet a deadline set by the High Court. ...... Bad planning, corruption and the lack of political will – are to blame for the government’s failure to deliver text books to public schools in Limpopo. Instead of dodging the real issues by introducing new concepts at every one of its five-yearly national conferences, it’s about time the ruling party did some serious soul-searching as to why, after nearly two decades in power, it has done so little to reverse the legacy of apartheid.” Tough language. But completely deserved.
The inimitable Max du Preez recently headed a column: “The ANC has lost its intellectual and moral core.” And we would say what last week showed is it has lost the plot.
Could it have been different? Could the conference have had a different focus? The answer is “Yes” and it lies in the National Development Plan which we at Omega have promoted at conferences both here and internationally and which we have often punted in Insight. Not unsurprisingly, Mondli Makhanya in his always sensible and stimulating column spelt out this alternative. He is worth quoting at some length:
“A more productive way of spending the week would have been to cast aside most of the discussion documents and focus on the National Development Plan released by the National Planning Commission seven months ago. The commission’s work is one of the Zuma era’s most remarkable achievements and should be taken more seriously by the governing ANC. In it is a diagnosis of South Africa, a blueprint of the society we can become and realistic proposals and strategies for the next two decades.
Central to the document is the need for a “capable state” that holds the country together and drives sustainable progress.
The ANC would have benefited much better from discussing that document than engaging in what secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said was an exercise that “gives members of the ANC the opportunity to theorise the revolution”.
Save that for the university undergraduates and the party-political school attendees.
There are children in Limpopo who have gone for six months of the school year without textbooks.”