Sunday, December 23, 2007

Letter From Outgoing ANC President; Declaration of the 52nd National Conference

Letter From the Outgoing President

From Limpopo to 2012!

This is the last Vol 7 edition of ANC TODAY and the last one for the year 2007. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to thank all our readers for the time they have spent every week to access and read this journal. At the same time, I wish our readers at home and abroad a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and a successful 2008.

Undoubtedly, the most important event in the political calendar of the ANC to close the year of the 95th anniversary of the ANC, which our National Executive Committee (NEC) had designated as "The Year to Intensify the Struggle against Poverty as we Advance in Unity towards 2012 – Phambili!", was our 52nd National Conference held at the University of Limpopo on 16-20 December.

The Conference concluded successfully, having adopted important policy decisions on a wide variety of matters and elected a new National Executive Committee. These decisions and leadership will guide the activities of our movement over the next five years, until the end of our Centenary Year, December 2012,

Issues of concern

Perhaps for the first time in our history, the NEC was elected on the basis of two competing lists, encompassing both the Officials and the Ordinary Members of the NEC. This suggested that these opposing lists were a manifestation of the existence of two opposed and contending tendencies in our movement.

And, indeed, especially on the first day of the Conference, December 16, various disturbing activities by the delegates during the open Plenary Session strongly suggested that the Conference was divided into two opposing factions.

Because of this, as the Conference proceeded, we received many messages from our people expressing grave concern. These had watched in dismay as some among the participants behaved in a manner that was completely alien to the traditions, the value system and the accustomed dignity of the ANC.

In his Closing Speech at the Conference, our new President, Comrade Jacob Zuma, addressed this matter of concern to our people. He said: "The occurrences of the first day of conference were indicative of internal problems that need to be sorted out without delay. The leadership must not fail to address problems within the organization.

A lesson we have learnt from this conference, is that if the leadership fails to resolve issues, or to grasp the feelings of membership on issues that concern the movement and instead appears to perpetuate the problems, the membership takes over and assert its authority in ways that we may not be comfortable with. However we must endeavour to always relate to each other in a comradely manner, regardless of how strongly we feel about issues."

Immediately preceding these comments, referring to the "internal problems" he mentioned, Comrade Zuma said: "In the political and organizational reports, Cde Mbeki, former President of the ANC and Cde Kgalema Motlanthe, former Secretary General, referred to the many unresolved issues that still plague the organization."

Policy stability

However, despite these "internal problems", Comrade President Zuma said: "We have taken various resolutions at this conference, which will guide us on our way forward. ANC policies, including economic policies that have been adopted at this conference do not indicate a fundamental shift from the policies that the ANC has adopted since it has come into power. Let me reiterate that decisions with regards to policies in the ANC are taken by conference and not by an individual."

This served to underline the point, correctly, that there are no policy differences or serious contention about our way forward within the ANC, which could give birth to two opposing factions that would inevitably engage in a deadly contest, as was suggested by the unacceptable behaviour as we started our Conference, and the reality of two opposing election lists.

Comrade Zuma’s comments also served to make the correct point that the 52nd National Conference had confirmed the correctness of the basic strategic thrust of the process of reconstruction and development that has guided our actions as a ruling party during the 13 years since the first democratic elections of 1994.

Struggle for unity

Further to emphasise the point that indeed the ANC was not made up of enemy factions, Comrade Zuma said: "With that process (of electing the NEC) having been finalized, we need to remember that this was not an ANC Conference of victors and losers.

"As the newly elected NEC we will endeavour to work with all the comrades who did not make it to this NEC to ensure that the unity of the ANC is strengthened. We are all ANC members who just happened to prefer a different set of leadership collectives as it is our democratic right. It is our collective task to repair whatever damage or harm may have been caused as we were building up towards the conference.

"Let me emphasise that the leadership collective will serve the entire membership of the ANC, regardless of whether a person voted for Thabo Mbeki or Jacob Zuma or any other member or leader. We cannot have a Zuma camp or a Mbeki camp. There is only one ANC. None among us is above the organization or bigger than the ANC."

Earlier he had said that despite the fact that members had contested various ANC leadership positions, "contending positions does not make us enemies."

As we prepared for the 52nd National Conference, many in the media and our society as a whole inquired about what it was that led to various members of our movement to behave and speak in a manner that firmly indicated that we were in fact a house divided! At all times, as confirmed by the Conference, and correctly reported by our new President, we insisted that there were no differences within the ANC about our policies, strategies and way forward.

It may therefore very well be that the matter at issue was and is what Comrade Zuma referred to as "internal problems that need to be sorted out without delay". To indicate what these might be, specifically he drew attention to comments made in the Political and Organisational Reports.

Fortunately, Comrade Zuma made the undertaking that the new NEC would act without delay to address these "internal problems". In this regard he said: "Going forward, we commit ourselves as the incoming NEC collective that we will never allow any problem to go unresolved. Every problem or issue must be discussed thoroughly and be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned."

The envisaged thorough NEC discussions will undoubtedly help to resolve the "internal problems" to which Comrade Zuma referred, especially since the National Conference did not have time to discuss these, including those specifically mentioned in the Political and Organisational Reports.

In his Closing Speech, again correctly, our President went out of his way to assure everybody at home and abroad that there was no need to be worried about the outcomes of our 52nd National Conference. Concretely, he said:

"There is likely to be anxiety regarding the existence of two Presidents, one of state and the other of the party. There is no reason for uncertainty or fear in any quarter. Cde Mbeki and I, both as members of the ANC first and foremost, will develop smooth working relations between government and the ruling party, assisted by the leadership collective."

A complex transformation process

Our democracy is only thirteen-and-a-half years old. Because of the kind of society we inherited, the intricate history that defined that society, counter-posed with the tasks that the National Democratic Revolution had to set itself, it was inevitable that in the aftermath of the democratic victory, we would have to embark on an extremely challenging process to transform literally every aspect of our national reality. We must therefore expect that every new day may present us with new realities and new knowledge of everything around us.

I have no hesitation in saying that ours has been and is one of the most complex processes of social transformation experienced by the whole of humanity throughout the decades since the end of the Second World War.

Among other things, this means that we, who are blessed with the opportunity to lead this process of fundamental change, will necessarily make mistakes as we march forward, constantly discover new realities that will oblige us to change our interventions, and create new realities that give birth to new challenges.

Thus the uninterrupted process of fundamental change we are seeking to describe cannot but assume the nature of, at least, an unstable equilibrium. The changes we must effect necessarily mean that continuously the reality we seek to change changes, making it necessary that we too change the ways in which we act as agents of change. And indeed the question may very well arise as to whether today’s agent of change will remain an agent of change tomorrow!

Put differently, what I am discussing is a process driven by inherent contradictions. Let me use the ANC itself to illustrate the difficult phenomenon to which we have to respond.

Objectively, the democratic victory of 1994 meant that we had entered a new phase of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) that would be more complex than the preceding first phase, when we engaged in a difficult and protracted struggle to defeat the colonial and apartheid regime and system.

High calibre political cadres

Logically, this meant and means that the current and second phase of the NDR demands that our movement, the principal agent of change in our country, should be composed of cadres of the highest political calibre, capable of leading the complex and multi-faceted process of change that is inherent to the fundamental social transformation that must characterise the current phase of the NDR.

However, the second phase of the NDR meant and means that membership of the ANC does not carry the cost of banning, banishment, imprisonment, torture, exile and death that confronted our movement during the first phase of the NDR.

Instead, membership of the ANC holds out the promise of significant personal material benefit. This is because membership of our movement signifies the possibility of access to state power and the abuse of this access to accumulate personal wealth by corrupt means and through theft and embezzlement at the expense of the people.

Because it was the best expression of the hopes of the masses of our people for freedom, during the first phase of the NDR our movement attracted into its ranks thousands of genuine patriots who were ready and willing even to sacrifice their lives to secure the liberation of our people. The cost that attached to membership of our movement served as a filter that protected the ANC from large-scale invasion by opportunists and careerists.

To the contrary, and precisely at the historical moment when the ANC needs cadres of the highest political and moral calibre, and because of the benefits that can accrue from membership of our movement as well as the elimination of the threat of repression, we have attracted into our ranks the opportunists and careerists who would never have had the courage and devotion to principle that were required of our cadres during the first phase of the NDR.

The first phase of the NDR required our cadres to make enormous sacrifices, including losing their lives. However, it attracted patriots who were ready to make these sacrifices. The second phase of the NDR opens the way for our members to reap immense personal benefits.

Thus, though requiring cadres of the highest calibre, it attracts into its ranks people who are contemptuous of all notions of patriotism and serving the people, who are driven by a value system characterised by the pursuit of personal wealth at all costs.

Undoubtedly, some of the "internal problems" that created the apparent divisions and conflicts before and during the 52nd National Conference originated from this contradiction. Fundamentally to solve them will require that the ANC strengthens itself enormously as an agent of fundamental social transformation capable of carrying out the tasks of the second phase of the NDR.

The thorough discussion within our movement, to confront our "internal problems", to which Comrade Zuma committed all of us, will constitute a critically important step towards the realisation of this goal.

Forward to 2012

In my Political Report to the 52nd National Conference, I said: "Again, the 52nd National Conference will have to ask itself a very direct question and answer this question honestly and frankly – does the ANC have the will and capacity to lead our country and people over the next five years in a manner that will enable the nation to celebrate our Centenary in 2012 together, paying heartfelt tribute to our movement:

for what it has and would have done to sacrifice everything for our liberation; and,
using that freedom to lead the national offensive to accelerate the advance towards the creation of a South Africa that truly belongs to all who live in it!"

As we expected, the Conference answered this question in the affirmative. The task ahead of us as a movement will be to act together in unity, respecting all the outcomes of the 52nd National Conference. This will ensure that we use the few years leading to the celebration of the Centenary of the ANC in 2012 truly to accelerate the advance towards the achievement of the goal of a better life for all our people.

We, genuine patriots and members of the ANC, have the unique responsibility and duty to ensure that the ANC is the kind of revolutionary movement that has the capacity to lead the sustained offensive for the realisation of this goal.

We congratulate our President, Comrade Jacob Zuma, and the rest of our leadership elected by our 52nd National Conference, which will lead our movement and country as we advance to the celebration of the historic Centenary Anniversary of the people’s movement, the ANC.

Thabo Mbeki

Declaration of the 52nd National Conference

Our work is far from complete

We the delegates to this the 52nd National Conference of the African National Congress, assembled here at the University of Limpopo, in the great north of our country, for four days of vibrant and democratic debate about the future of our movement and the nation it leads.

We were four thousand strong, representing more than 600,000 members of the African National Congress from thousands of branches across the length and breadth of our beautiful nation. We were joined by members of our Women’s and Youth Leagues and strengthened by the participation of ANC veterans, our allies and the activists of the all formations of the South African democratic movement and guests from progressive parties of all the continents of the world

This University - formerly known as the University of the North, Turfloop - has been amongst the well recognised political centres from where was waged some of the most serious political campaigns and struggles during the harsh days of apartheid. Many comrades in the ranks of the ANC and the broad democratic movement sharpened their political consciousness and activism from here and other tertiary institutions. It is therefore most fitting that the 52nd National Conference of the ANC took place here in recognition of the struggles that have brought us the democratic order we now enjoy.

The ANC wishes once more to express its profound gratitude to the Council, the Vice Chancellor and the Staff of the University of Limpopo and the people of Polokwane for their hospitality, which created an atmosphere in which we could carry out the business of conference without let or hindrance.

All South Africans, and many others throughout Africa and the world, were keenly interested both in the quality of our deliberations and in the decisions we have taken. This interest is a welcome indicator of the high esteem in which South Africans and our millions of friends across the globe hold the African National Congress. We wish to confirm, as we rise from National Conference, that the ANC will continue acting in a manner that earns it the respect and trust of our people.

One of the abiding strengths of the ANC has always been to be truthful to the people and never to hide our shortcomings or the extent of the challenges we face, the better to find ways of improving our work and our standing as the leader of the National Democratic Revolution. Our 52nd National Conference has been yet another confirmation of this proud tradition.

Flowing from five days of constructive and at times intense engagement, the integrity of the ANC and its democratic processes have emerged victorious. Eschewing dangers of division and discord that threatened to distract us from our historic mission, we emerged in unity to recommit ourselves to the tasks of reconstruction and development, nation building and reconciliation.

We do acknowledge that there were moments when some of us seemed to veer away from the dignified conduct that has always been the hallmark of the ANC. However, as we conclude the business of conference we are inspired that we have emerged with welcome consensus on our strategic outlook and the detailed policies that will guide our movement for the next five years and beyond.

The ANC has emerged the winner, as a disciplined force of the left committed to constructing a better life for all. We have also emerged with a leadership collective to which we all pay allegiance, and which we are confident will lead us in unity towards our centenary in 2012.

We are also united around a common strategic objective, the creation of a national democratic society, and have agreed on the tactical stances that will advance us towards this goal. Our strategic vision and the policy resolutions that flow from it are the outcomes of a sustained process of consultation in which our members, our Alliance partners and thousands of other South Africans engaged in vigorous debate.

The strategic vision and the resolutions of National Conference constitute a mandate that will guide the actions of all cadres of the ANC, wherever they may be deployed, and which will form the centre piece of our policy agenda over the next five years.

Conference celebrated the many achievements we have made in the years since 1994. The democratic freedoms that we won became the cornerstone upon which we are advancing towards a better life for all. The faster pace of job creation, the unbroken period of economic growth, the extension of social security and the delivery of basic services are improving the conditions of life for millions.

Our work is far from complete. We are only at the beginning of a long journey to a truly united, democratic and prosperous society, based on the principles contained in the Freedom Charter. Yet we are confident that the strategy and policies we have adopted will take us further towards the goal of a better life for all.

Conference acknowledged that organisational building and renewal require consistent attention and reflection. We still believe that the abiding strength of the ANC is its culture of robust debate, which brings more wisdom to all those who participate in them. Instead of causing divisions, debating matters helps us listen to and learn from one another. Collectively, we are all wiser than when we assembled in Polokwane five days ago.

We, the delegates, are of the firm view that the energy, enthusiasm and passion that has characterised the discussions in our branches in the run-up to this Conference and robust debates among delegates are a reflection of the seriousness and high level of interest among ANC members in the political life of the movement.

As we advance in unity towards the centenary of the ANC we are confident that the dictum "ANC lives, the ANC leads" will ring even truer in the months and years to come.

** Adopted by the ANC 52nd National Conference, Polokwane, 20 December 2007

Message to our readers

This is the last edition of ANC Today for 2007. We will be resuming publication in January, when the ANC will be celebrating its 96th anniversary with a rally in Tshwane on 12 January. We wish all of our readers a peaceful festive season.

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