Talk­shop or game changer?

CityPress - - Voices -

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma was on to some­thing when he em­pha­sised that del­e­gates to the Na­tional Pol­icy Con­fer­ence must not be con­tent to diagnose and an­a­lyse prob­lems, but must fo­cus on com­ing up with so­lu­tions for the trou­bled econ­omy and all other prob­lems fac­ing the coun­try. But be­cause of how low his cred­i­bil­ity is at the mo­ment, even a state­ment like that is im­me­di­ately con­strued by his crit­ics to mean that he does not want them to de­bate is­sues around his be­ing cap­tured by the Gup­tas.

But there is truth to the fact that these pol­icy dis­cus­sions tend to me­an­der into ab­stract pos­tu­la­tion and de­bates that do not re­sult in real so­lu­tions to the cur­rent chal­lenges.

Al­ready there is a pos­si­bil­ity that the long­est pol­icy con­fer­ence ever could be bogged down by a hy­po­thet­i­cal, un­nec­es­sary dis­cus­sion about whether the ANC has al­ways iden­ti­fied white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal as an en­emy, or if the term is ac­tu­ally a re­cent in­ven­tion meant to di­vert at­ten­tion from real, per­ti­nent dis­cus­sions.

We have learnt al­ready that so pop­u­lar is the sub­ject of eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion at this con­fer­ence that the party has bro­ken up the mas­sive num­bers of peo­ple who availed them­selves to at­tend into three well-pop­u­lated com­mis­sions.

We hope it is be­cause these ANC del­e­gates want to dis­cuss strate­gies on the re­vival of the econ­omy and ar­rest the steep in­crease in un­em­ploy­ment.

Past ex­pe­ri­ence tells us that the party gets ob­sessed with slo­gans that peo­ple throw up at each pol­icy con­fer­ence. In the re­cent past, these have in­cluded con­cepts such as the se­cond phase of tran­si­tion, two cen­tres of power and, more re­cently, rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion.

If the gov­ern­ing party does not get to grips with is­sues of crime, un­em­ploy­ment, ed­u­ca­tion costs, health and land at the con­fer­ence, it risks be­ing an­other big, ex­pen­sive jam­boree that helps bick­er­ing fac­tions to spend time shadow box­ing.

The party will also do it­self a favour by as­sess­ing why it has built up im­pres­sive pol­icy over the years that never gets im­ple­mented. Be­sides long­stand­ing ide­o­log­i­cal po­si­tions, the party helped for­mu­late the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan, which out­lines its broad vi­sion but is not re­ally fol­lowed in daily gov­ern­ment ac­tion.

What the con­fer­ence achieves will ei­ther has­ten its de­cline to ir­rel­e­vance or help it re­cover lost ground.

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