President Cyril Ramaphosa and his backers this weekend fought off attempts to reverse the party’s decision for ANC leaders facing criminal charges to step aside — a move that would open a door for suspended secretary-general Ace Magashule to contest the top position at the December national conference.
The revolt against the step-aside rule, led by KwaZulu-Natal delegates, included efforts to convert the party’s national policy conference into a national general council — a mid-term meeting to review the party’s implementation of its resolutions.
The policy conference makes recommendations to the national conference. If those recommendations are accepted, they are adopted as party policy.
However, such attempts were shot down by party chair Gwede Mantashe at Friday’s plenary session.
Mantashe told the Sunday Times that the ANC would not reverse the rule as this would “collapse” the party to save a few individuals.
“Step aside is only dealing with people who are on the wrong side of the law. Which is a small minority — leave that it’s being made a big issue. Very few people get into that space [of having to step aside] and we cannot collapse an organisation over them.
“If there are provinces, there are regions, there are branches who think that it’s a big issue, they will bring it here. They will persuade many others. If others are not convinced, it’s not going to happen. If they convince them it goes to national conference, then it will be a resolution of the national conference and then it will be implemented.”
The national policy recommendations are expected to be made public today.
KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo delegates came to the national conference with a mandate to argue that the step-aside rule be reversed as it was being implemented selectively.
In both provinces two influential leaders — Zandile Gumede and Danny Msiza — were prohibited from standing for top positions after a national executive committee decision that those who have been asked to step aside are not eligible to stand.
But Ramaphosa’s backers closed ranks and pushed back against moves to stop his renewal projects in their tracks.
Ramaphosa delivered a strong rebuke against attempts to overturn the party’s new rules, saying there was no going back and there will be no compromise.
Mantashe expressed the same sentiments yesterday.
“Nobody can want to go back and stop renewal. [The ANC is] an old organisation. It’s got generations in it. We must renew ourselves otherwise we accelerate our demise. If we don’t wake up and smell the coffee that’s the ultimate consequence.”
‘The ANC is at its weakest,’ says Ramaphosa as policy conference gets under way
The ANC is holding its three-day policy conference. President Cyril Ramaphosa opened the conference and assessed the state of the party.
Insiders said the KZN delegation tried to push for the conference to take Ramaphosa’s national executive to task about failure to implement resolutions, and to argue for the scrapping of step aside.
KZN provincial secretary Bheki Mtolo complained that there were attempts at the conference to isolate his province at the national policy conference. Mtolo said there were more important issues the ANC could resolve than to ask leaders to step aside.
“All of us can step aside, but your life won’t change. You are sold a lie and you believe a lie … why then consume yourselves with things that do not change the lives of the people?” he asked.
Mtolo said his province was also being isolated because of it’s support for former president Jacob Zuma, saying even provinces such as Gauteng also sang about the former president.
All of us can step aside, but your life won’t change.
“It’s another systematically calculated strategy that the ANC must neglect Jacob Zuma; because some hate him they think everybody hates Jacob Zuma.
“But Jacob Zuma will never walk alone, you can take him anywhere he is loved because he is a former president of the ANC.
“It’s their fantasy that they think Jacob Zuma is only loved in KZN — here in Gauteng they were singing about Zuma. OR Tambo is a president of the ANC who departed around 1993, in the conference we were singing about OR Tambo; you want us to neglect him?”
But ANC leaders were concerned at the attitude of KZN delegates in the conference — who they say tried to bully others instead of arguing to convince them.
“If you come here with a hard line you’re likely to lose everybody else. When you come here you extend your hand and you persuade others … you convince people about your position. If you don’t do that you’re going to lose the conference.”
Mantashe’s sentiments were echoed by several of Ramaphosa’s backers yesterday.
Eastern Cape chair Oscar Mabuyane said the ANC could not afford to fail in its renewal attempts. He said it would lead to the demise of the party.
EXPLAINER: Why you should be paying attention to the ANC policy conference
The ANC will be hosting is 6th policy conference at Nasrec from 28 to 31 July. The discussions taking place at the conference have the potential to become government policy.
“That’s what is going to save the ANC in South Africa. If we don’t renew the ANC, forget about the ANC, forget about 2024 — we might as well pack our bags and go home and occupy backbenches. It’s as simple as that, this is where we are heading,” he said.
Those opposing the renewal of the party do not have its best interests, he said.
“From where we are, yes, we are also observing this adventurism. There’s a problem of kingmaker syndrome of factional issues. I don’t think ANC people must be intimidated by such. We are not here for us. We’re here for South Africa. We’re here for continent, we’re here for the world,” he said.
“So whatever the ANC does, if it allows such kind of posturing, it is actually pushing this country to the brink of catastrophe. And we’ve got to avoid that. We can’t allow that to happen.”
Acting Secretary General Paul Mashatile too has threw his weight behind the step-aside rule saying it was not problematic itself but sought to agree with those saying there may be problems with how it’s being applied.
“Step-aside itself is not a problem. It should be the way it’s implemented. It must be consistent. And where we think it takes away the rights of comrades, we must be able to look at that and strengthen those processes and also the appeal processes,” he said.
Another NEC member, and minister in the presidency, Mondli Gungubele, said the ANC would be shooting itself in the foot if it reversed its step-aside rule.
“I do not understand which self-respecting organisation will say stop measures that protect your reputation, because step aside may be the new buzz word.
“Step aside is about an organisation managing its reputation. There are crazy ideas coming from some of our comrades who say innocent until proven guilty.
Step aside is about an organisation managing its reputation. There are crazy ideas coming from some of our comrades who say innocent until proven guilty.
Eastern Cape chair Oscar Mabuyane
Lately there have been calls for Ramaphosa himself to step aside following criminal charges laid against him for allegedly concealing a robbery at his Phala Phala farm.
Mantashe said such calls were misplaced as the Phala Phala matter was still under investigation.
“The SA Reserve Bank must look if there was any contraventions of exchange controls. Why can’t we wait for that report and act? Sars must check if there was any contravention of tax laws. Why can’t we wait for that?
“The problem with the ANC is that we’re all in a hurry to put a sword in the kidneys of each other. That’s what is going to kill the ANC. We’re impatient of processes. We don’t want to listen to one another. We want an opportunity to stab one another in the kidneys. If we change that there will be better ANC.
Asked if the Reserve Bank and Sars were investigating the matter, he said: “If there is no investigation and these are allegations, then what do we do? Do you say to Cyril, go away because it was alleged that money was stolen in your farm? Therefore, disappear. Is that what we should do?”
“People must be patient and allow processes to take their course.”