Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ANC Elects New Leadership at National Conference in Polokwane, South Africa

ANC gets down to brass tacks

Polokwane, South Africa
19 December 2007 12:24

The African National Congress's 52nd national conference got down on Wednesday to the nitty-gritty work of the commission that discusses the party's policies in an atmosphere that one delegate described as the "cessation of hostilities" over its new president Jacob Zuma.

Spokesperson Steyn Speed said delegates would break into commissions to discuss the policy issues that will mark the way forward for the party and, ultimately the country.

Delegates from individual commissions would also take turns to vote for the additional 80 members of the party's new extended national executive committee.

Disappointingly for the media, the party decided that it would be more appropriate for Zuma to speak at the closing ceremony of the conference on Thursday and the media briefing expected for Wednesday morning was postponed.

The ANC Youth League, vocal supporters in Zuma's campaign to succeed Thabo Mbeki, were expected to celebrate Zuma's win at a party in a hangar at Polokwane's Gateway International Airport on Wednesday night.

Amid fears of what the change of presidency would do to South Africa's economy, the JSE on Wednesday seemed unperturbed with the all-share index inching up by 0,1% by mid-morning, in line with European markets.

The rand lost 1c to trade at R6,91 to the US dollar.

Newspapers described Zuma's stunning victory as a tsunami, and said the defeated party boss, President Thabo Mbeki, had been humiliated. The tabloid newspaper Sowetan carried the headline "Zunami Rules".

Action man

The Independent Democrats (ID) said on Wednesday that Zuma must be a man of action.

"We hope that the ANC will now finally focus on the important policy issues, because we as South Africans really need to deal with creating jobs, fighting poverty, improving service delivery and of course combating crime and corruption,' said ID leader Patricia De Lille.

"South Africa needs a leader who is pro-poor and stands firm when it comes to the protection of the most vulnerable in our society, women and children."

De Lille said she hoped Zuma would be an all-inclusive leader who would seek to end discrimination.

"We also hope that he will move away from policy making to policy implementation -- South Africa needs to see more action and less talk," she said.

Cleen sweep

Zuma received 2 329 votes against Mbeki's 1 505.

The Zuma camp swept the board in the voting for the other top five positions in the party's executive.

Former secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe was voted deputy president with 2 346 votes against Zuma's former wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who received 1 444 votes.

Speaker of the national assembly Baleka Mbete garnered 2 326 votes, beating Joel Netshitenzhe with 1 475.

Gwede Mantashe was elected secretary general with 2 378 votes against former chairperson and Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota's 1 432.

Thandi Modise was voted deputy secretary general with 2 304 votes against Thoko Didiza's 1 455.

Former Mpumalanga premier Mathews Phosa was voted treasurer-general with 2 328 votes against Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka's 1 374. - Sapa

A high turnover in ANC cadres

Jonathan Faull
19 December 2007 09:32

Did the ANC fatten up for the slaughter in Polokwane? An audit of membership statistics suggests the wholesale recruitment of new members to boost the girth of provincial delegations has played -- and will play -- a role in the outcomes at Limpopo.

The ANC’s audit of membership in preparation for the party’s 52nd national conference reveals a party in rude health. But if one scratches the surface of the data, the audit also suggests important questions be asked relating to the well-being of the organisation, its development and its ability to implement programmes and practices in line with the party’s vision.

This high turnover points to inconsistent programmes of action and engagement at branch level. Continuity in branch life is important and the spectre of the use of membership as voting fodder is raised by fluctuating figures.

As a consequence, branch life has atrophied at the same time as there has been a massive escalation of capacity in the state. For example, the presidency’s latest annual report reveals that the office has 377 posts for policy researchers, while Luthuli House has only one researcher.

The 2007 audit found that, at 30 June, the ANC had a total membership of 621 237 and 2 694 branches in good standing. Across four official national audit dates over the course of ten years the party has shown significant growth, raising national membership by 235 459 members, or 61% in real terms. This means that nearly one in two current members of the ANC were not counted among its number at the Mafikeng conference of 1997. It means the ANC has changed as it has grown.

Yet this 10-year continuum of growth hides significant fluctuations in membership across the audit dates. In the period 1997 to 1999, for example, all but two of the provinces audited show a loss of membership, with the Western Cape losing a full half of its members. Prior to the Stellenbosch Conference the party turned the tables, recruiting an additional 31 000.

Following that national conference, there was a slowing of membership growth, with 23 862 members added as the party prepared for provincial conferences in 2004/5. In preparation for the 2005 national general council (NGC), there was a marked decrease in membership as the party lost nearly 40 000 members, almost one in 10.

In the run-up to the Polokwane conference, the figures show a massive upswing in membership, suggesting mass recruitment.

The two years spanning the 2005 NGC and the Polokwane meeting has witnessed a 54,75% increase in real terms as nearly 220 000 members have been added to the 2005 membership of 401 454.

A large percentage of these new members are accounted for by phenomenal growth in the Eastern Cape, which has more than doubled its provincial membership (a real increase of 116%) since 2005.

Between 2005 and 2007 only the Western Cape, hamstrung by internal factionalism and demoralised by the loss of Cape Town in the 2006 elections, suffered a real decrease in membership, having lost 641 members or 1,7%.

It is clear that the ANC has failed to address the challenge of fluctuating membership and a high turnover of cadres. The link between active recruitment and elective conference dates suggests that, in some cases, branch formation is driven by the imperatives to extract influence and access to state structures through ANC constitutional forums.

The news that the Eastern Cape failed to register 36 000 members because certain branches logged recruits after the audit deadline highlights an intensive drive for new members directly related to the audit and the national conference.

This has been in evidence in Polokwane as we have watched the ANC change before our eyes. But the changes may be good for democracy if we consider them to be a renewal of a democratic spirit.

Contrary to the general trend towards urbanisation in South Africa, there appears to be a marked return to the countryside within the ANC.

Urbanised provinces with rapidly increasing populations such as the Western Cape (16,7% increase in population since 2001) and Gauteng (13,9%) have not performed admirably in recruiting new members, while predominantly rural constituencies have made significant progress. The rapid expansion of membership in the Free State and Northern Cape, for example, has taken place in the context of low population growth of 2,4% and 6,7% respectively.

This could be attributed to the ANC’s engagement with traditional leaders and the fact that it is easier to mobilise in rural areas.

The apparently increasing rural bias of membership patterns undermines the potential impact of Cosatu on the ANC in the medium term. Although the union has participated vociferously in lobbying for policy reform and personalities in the run-up to Polokwane, Cosatu does not have any dedicated voting representatives at the conference.

Cosatu relies on influencing the national conference indirectly through the participation of workers in ANC structures and the potential impact of union debates and policies on the mainstream of ANC thinking. Its members, the majority of whom are industrial workers, are necessarily concentrated in urban and peri-urban environments.

The national audit suggests that Zwelenzima Vavi’s call for Cosatu members to “flood the ranks” of the ANC in order to influence trajectory has failed to make a marked impact on patterns of recruitment.

The conspicuous increase in membership since the 2005 NGC confirms the contestation over the trajectory of the ANC in its second decade in power. Branch delegates constitutionally make up not less than 90% of the voting delegates for Polokwane. Those seeking power -- or influence over power -- within the ANC will rely on these delegates to mandate a new leadership collective, president and policy proposals for the medium term.

Just over 4 000 ANC members, out of a total of more than 10-million ANC-supporting voters and more than 20-million registered voters, hold some of the keys to our collective political and democratic futures. The national audit of ANC membership suggests a range of trends at the grassroots of the organisation at odds with the superficial glow of rude health.


Pan-African News Wire said...

ANCYL opposed to early Mbeki exit

Mail & Guardian Online reporter and Sapa
Polokwane, South Africa
19 December 2007 04:29

While welcoming the outcome of Tuesday night's election of Jacob Zuma as African National Congress (ANC) leader, the ANC Youth League has come out against the notion of President Thabo Mbeki stepping down as the country's president before 2009.

Only those not respecting the rules of the ANC would make such demands, the league's president, Fikile Mbalula, told a press briefing at the party's national conference in Polokwane on Wednesday. "We are not anarchists. The president must continue to play the role of leader and his experience must continue to be felt within the party."

He said the league will continue to "manage" relations between the party and the state until 2009.

Mbalula said "no major deviations" are expected from the resolutions the ANC made at its policy conference in June and those that will emerge from the Polokwane conference. This includes reflections on the "two centres of power", free education, the ANC president's term of office, gender parity and black economic empowerment.

When asked what would happen should Zuma be charged with corruption, Mbalula said that the ANC's new president is "innocent until proven guilty".

Welcoming the outcome of Tuesday's election, Mbalula called for unity in the ANC and said the interests of the movement must be placed before those of individuals. "We must defeat personal cult, vindictiveness, falsehood and slander among and about each other," he said.

He provoked laughter from journalists when he said: "Mbeki was made by the youth league and was removed by the youth league. That is how strong the youth league is."

He responded to fears of Zuma's election causing market jitters by saying that "nobody has died in South Africa", adding: "Nothing has changed [on the JSE]. South Africa is still a beautiful country."

On the future of the tripartite alliance and conflicting statements that have emerged from its members, Mbalula said the three partners agree on the need for unity.

In his organisational report presented earlier at the conference, ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe had referred to the alliance between the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the ANC as a "house divided".

Said Mbalula: "There's a general agreement within all structures that we unite the alliance." He called for "open engagement" between the three.

He added: "We expect our leadership to rise above petty tendencies and address the question of the rift [within the ANC, between Zuma and Mbeki camps]."

ANC Youth League spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said: "We've got to harness our differences so that [we] advance our overall goal of uniting the alliance."

Kodwa also responded to speculation that Zuma's election to the ANC's top post could see Mbalula promoted to a juicy government post. If this did happen, he said, it could not be considered a reward for Mbalula's support for Zuma. "So, tomorrow, if there's any deployment of Mbalula, [it can] not be interpreted as payback."

No revenge

Zuma's victory should not be a signal for revenge or retribution, the party's alliance partners said on Wednesday in a separate press briefing at the national conference.

"This is not a moment for triumphalism or factional revenge," SACP secretary general Blade Nzimande said in Polokwane. "These inclinations will simply plunge us into another cycle of inward-focused manoeuvring. Let us devote our energies to uniting around the tasks of transformation."

His words were echoed by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who said Cosatu appeals to all members of the ANC and its alliance partners to accept the outcome of the democratic process. The alliance leadership cannot afford retribution or vengeance.

"This is a historic moment in our movement and our country," he said. "We look forward to working closely together to take forward the national democratic revolution and transform the lives of all South Africans."

Vavi said the leadership's priority has to be to make South Africa's second 10 years of democracy a decade for the workers and the poor.

Both the SACP and Cosatu backed Zuma in the contest for the ANC presidency.

Nzimande said the SACP believes the electoral renewal of the ANC leadership provides a platform on which to rebuild the tripartite alliance, which has come under increasing pressure in recent years. "For too long intra-alliance relationships have been marked by recriminations and stand-offs."

He said the SACP pledges to be a loyal and reliable ally. It is critical to reaffirm the ANC's "leading role" in developing broad strategic policy perspectives "without, of course, seeking to micro-manage government".

The conference has provided a platform for a significant renewal and advance of "our progressive movement".

Silent Zuma

Meanwhile, Zuma treated the media to no more than an enigmatic smile as he was mobbed when he left the presidential suite at the party's conference in Polokwane on Wednesday.

He maintained a steadfast silence as he emerged after lunch, after meeting and greeting his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe; national chairperson Baleka Mbete; and secretary general Thoko Didiza.

Photographers running after him cringed with embarrassment when they realised they were following him to the toilet. When he returned, he was begged repeatedly for comment, but he kept up the silence he has maintained since he was elected on Tuesday night.

"Mr Zuma, Mr Zuma, please ... how do you feel, tell us anything, just one comment," called a reporter.

Zuma, flanked by his bodyguards who at time had to push people away, started laughing, but still would not say anything. He took off his hat as he got into his chauffeur-driven, official black BMW with his treasurer general, Mathews Phosa, and they sped away.

Zuma is expected to address the closing session of the conference on Thursday. A planned media briefing for Wednesday was cancelled on the grounds that Zuma should address the party's members first.

Pan-African News Wire said...

Victor, vanquished meet

Thabo Mbeki and the new president of the African National Congress, Jacob Zuma, met to discuss the future of the party late on Tuesday night, ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said.

He was speaking on Wednesday minutes after Mbeki finished casting his votes for the party's new national executive.

Mbeki himself, who appeared relaxed and waved genially to watching delegates, declined to be drawn on the result of the bruising leadership contest.

Asked by a journalist how he was doing, he replied cheerfully: "All right, thanks... fine thanks."

Ngonyama said Tuesday's meeting took place in a holding room next to the vast marquee where the results of the battle for the leadership were announced.

"Yes, definitely, they have spoken. They spoke last night," he said.

"They sat down and they spoke about how to take forward our movement."

He said the meeting was
"reasonably long... for any two people who are talking serious business."

Quizzed on relations between the two men in the wake of the bitter election campaign, Ngonyama said they continued to relate "in the same old way".

"There can never be any animosity or acrimony between the two. They have come a long way: they... have been plus or minus 30 years together, so that's the kind of relationship, which is a long, long, relationship."

Ngonyama dismissed a suggestion that Mbeki might now call a general election ahead of the next scheduled poll in 2009, saying that as president of the country, Mbeki still held a mandate from millions of South Africans, won through the ballot in the last general election.

"That [an early poll] is completely out of the question at the present moment," he said.

He said the ANC and national presidencies were "two distinct processes", and it would be mischievous for anyone to deliberately conflate the two.

Mbeki, dressed casually, arrived at the voting station at the University of Limpopo library shortly before 5pm, and emerged 27 minutes later.

Though his arrival in his usual presidential convoy of black vehicles was low-key, a small crowd quickly assembled after hearing that he was there.

They applauded him as he emerged, and began chanting "ANC, ANC".

Mbeki waved and smiled warmly before getting back into his car and being whisked away.

As the crowd thinned after his departure one delegate asked why Mbeki was being cheered when he lost the election.

Another responded: "He has demonstrated the leadership that the ANC demands."

A Free State delegate, who voted for Zuma, said Mbeki had showed leadership in the way he associated with the newly elected top brass of the party.

"He is still showing leadership and he is still a member of the ANC," he said.

However, another delegate seemed to feel differently.

"Former president of the ANC," he remarked loudly to no-one in particular. "We want to see Jacob Zuma."

A delegate watching Mbeki come and go told Sapa he had taken over 15 minutes to fill out his own nomination form, which involved checking off 80 names on a list twice that long.

"I filled in all the names I wanted, and I still had names left," said the delegate, from Centurion in Gauteng. "So I had to go through the list again."

Mbeki himself is not on the list. As a former president of the party, he becomes an ex officio member of the executive. - Sapa

Published on the Web by IOL on 2007-12-19 18:54:23

Pan-African News Wire said...

Defeat of South Africa's Mbeki stuns his heartland

Wed 19 Dec 2007, 16:15 GMT
By Francis Mdlongwa

(Reuters) - Stunned supporters of South African President Thabo Mbeki said on Wednesday he had brought defeat on himself in the contest for leadership of the ruling ANC.

A day after Mbeki's bitter rival Jacob Zuma took over as ANC head, Mbeki's followers in the Eastern Cape, his power base and heartland of his Xhosa tribe, could hardly believe that he and all his party lieutenants had been swept from power.

"How could he allow this to happen to him? Being humiliated like this," said Phelela, an Mbeki supporter who declined to give her surname.

"We thought the president knew better than insisting on standing in these elections despite advice from colleagues not to do so," she said, her voice choking with emotion.

Mbeki went ahead with his bid for a third term as ANC leader despite strong predictions that he would be humiliated by Zuma. Now there are fears that he will be a lame duck for the remaining 18 months of his term as head of state.

Zoleka Mapasa, an office administrator in Grahamstown, blamed Mbeki's defeat on his "failure to keep in touch with the grass roots", and said even the Eastern Cape had found it necessary to desert him:

"He was out of touch with what was happening on the ground, but his opponent kept a close ear to the grass roots."

The Eastern Cape, a vast swathe of dry land flanking the Indian Ocean from Port Elizabeth in the south to Port Edward in the north, is the birthplace of Mbeki and his political mentor, Nelson Mandela, both from the ethnic Xhosa group that has long dominated the ANC.

Mbeki, head of the ANC since 1997, and his top five lieutenants all lost their places on the ANC executive in Tuesday's election.

In Grahamstown, a university town 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Port Elizabeth, many people were angry at the passing of the leadership to Zuma, a Zulu, when Mbeki has presided over nine years of unbroken economic growth.

"What can Zuma put on the table in terms of growing the economy except being a comrade?" Mapasa said.

Zuma's close ties with trade unions and the Communist Party, have sparked fears he will tilt South Africa to the left.

"I can't even imagine where we go to from here," Mapasa said.