Bowing to pro­ce­dure

CityPress - - Voices - Tha­bang Mak­wetla voices@city­

The ANC will this week ob­serve its con­sti­tu­tional obli­ga­tion to “con­vene a na­tional pol­icy con­fer­ence at least six months be­fore the na­tional con­fer­ence”.

Not do­ing so would very likely leave the lead­er­ship in breach of the party’s con­sti­tu­tion and con­se­quently fac­ing the reper­cus­sions thereof. The ob­vi­ous ba­sic hu­man in­stinct, un­der the cir­cum­stances, is for the lead­er­ship to “tick the boxes” and be on the right side of the rules.

The peo­ple who un­der­stood the im­por­tance of con­sti­tu­tional aware­ness in the ANC much ear­lier are ANC branch mem­bers. Even if you don’t do any­thing else to ad­vance the pop­u­lar in­ter­ests of the ANC, you are guar­an­teed all the priv­i­leges and rights of a mem­ber or a struc­ture in good stand­ing if you know the rules and you stick to them. Has our na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) de­scended to the same level of our pri­mary lead­er­ship or­gans?

But in what way is this week’s gath­er­ing be­gin­ning to con­trib­ute to­wards a suc­cess­ful Na­tional Con­fer­ence of the ANC in De­cem­ber? How are this pol­icy con­fer­ence’s rec­om­men­da­tions go­ing to help min­imise the vis­i­ble and se­ri­ous threats against the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence where they are only go­ing to be rat­i­fied?

It is ap­pro­pri­ate here to make the point that many con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions of or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­sti­tu­tions are in­formed by con­crete ex­pe­ri­ences of their his­tor­i­cal jour­neys. The in­clu­sion in our con­sti­tu­tion of a pol­icy con­fer­ence is one of those new prac­tices which were con­sid­ered nec­es­sary, in­formed by re­cent ex­pe­ri­ences, for the bet­ter man­age­ment of ANC con­fer­ences. It was in­sti­gated by the grow­ing vigour and zeal with which can­vass­ing for lead­er­ship at na­tional con­fer­ences was pur­sued, to the ne­glect of pol­icy dis­cus­sions – a phe­nom­e­non that has in­ten­si­fied. To­day even the pol­icy con­fer­ence which was de­signed to min­imise the de­trac­tion of slates pol­i­tics that oc­curs at na­tional con­fer­ences has ar­guably fallen prey to the shenani­gans of fac­tions.

Fac­tions in our po­lit­i­cal life are a man­i­fes­ta­tion of the emer­gence of di­verse in­ter­ests out­side of the com­mon pop­u­lar in­ter­ests which mem­bers share. There is ev­i­dence that spe­cial con­fer­ences such as the consultative con­fer­ences which the ANC gave con­sid­er­a­tion to over its years of strug­gle have helped re­gain the unity of pur­pose within its lead­er­ship and its rank and file. This can only be achieved through a penul­ti­mate gath­er­ing at a par­tic­u­lar mo­ment, which de­vises con­crete mea­sures to ar­rest and re­di­rect the en­er­gies of the or­gan­i­sa­tion ac­cord­ingly. The ANC con­sti­tu­tion has a pro­vi­sion for a spe­cial con­fer­ence. A suc­cess­ful spe­cial or consultative con­fer­ence con­vened to ad­dress all the cur­rent wrongs which are alien to the ANC brand may have such a pos­i­tive im­pact and en­gen­der a sin­gle-mind­ed­ness that would see the na­tional con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber take place in a rel­a­tively con­flict-free en­vi­ron­ment, al­low­ing more space and time to fo­cus on de­liv­ery poli­cies.

The Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) Na­tional Coun­cil be­lieves we need a gath­er­ing which can sound a new clar­ion call. A call which fore­grounds a fresh def­i­ni­tion of dis­ci­pline for cadres and mem­bers, and a sci­en­tific cadre pol­icy an­chored in the prin­ci­ple of so­cial sol­i­dar­ity which in­te­grates party and civic du­ties with the in­ter­ests and am­bi­tions of in­di­vid­u­als.

In this re­gard, we find the li­belous al­le­ga­tions that for­mer MK mem­bers mo­bilised un­der the um­brella of the na­tional coun­cil have de­clined to take part in the consultative con­fer­ence deeply hurt­ful and re­gret­table.

Firstly, this un­truth comes af­ter we were told in a for­mally con­sti­tuted meet­ing of the task team rep­re­sent­ing Luthuli House, the MK Na­tional Coun­cil and the 101 vet­er­ans and stal­warts that the ANC lead­er­ship has never agreed to nor will it in fu­ture agree to con­ven­ing a consultative con­fer­ence. All along we had been told that the only snag had been the dis­agree­ment on whether or not it should be linked to the pol­icy con­fer­ence. This ef­fec­tively scup­pered prepa­ra­tions for the na­tional consultative con­fer­ence. It is disin­gen­u­ous for the sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the ANC to give the im­pres­sion, par­tic­u­larly within the ANC com­mu­nity, that the MK coun­cil steer­ing com­mit­tee mem­bers child­ishly worked away from what he him­self said does not ex­ist.

Se­condly, there is an abun­dance of ev­i­dence that the ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral never sup­ported the idea of a consultative con­fer­ence be­cause he did not, in his re­port to the last NEC meet­ing, ad­vo­cate the dis­cus­sion of the mat­ter. Rel­e­vant prepara­tory is­sues would be: Who would be in­vited in ad­di­tion to the elected lead­er­ship? What would the agenda be? What for­mat was this dia­logue go­ing to as­sume? For ex­am­ple, were there dis­cus­sion pa­pers which were go­ing to be pre­pared? Or were dif­fer­ent struc­tures and stake­hold­ers go­ing to be given slots to ta­ble their in­puts? What was the an­tic­i­pated sta­tus which the res­o­lu­tions were go­ing to be ac­corded? The sec­re­tary-gen­eral never can­vassed these mat­ters within the NEC.

Thirdly, the lead­er­ship, in par­tic­u­lar the sec­re­tary-gen­eral’s of­fice, did not ex­pe­dite the prepa­ra­tions of the ANC’s pro­vin­cial struc­tures for what the sec­re­tary-gen­eral now calls “a meet­ing for a spe­cial dia­logue”. Of all nine prov­inces only the East­ern Cape con­vened a pro­vin­cial consultative con­fer­ence to can­vass views for its in­puts.

The lead­er­ship of the ANC has let it­self down. In the wake of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions last year, the NEC opined that it would not act hastily, but would lis­ten to the broad membership of the ANC first. There can be no bet­ter ex­er­cise in lis­ten­ing to the broad membership of the ANC than con­ven­ing a spe­cial con­fer­ence to con­sult them. Crit­i­cally, the pur­pose can­not be to fur­ther en­rich our un­der­stand­ing of the mal­ady af­flict­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion. We have philosophised for far too long about this syn­drome. What we need is una­nim­ity on a set of mea­sures to be im­ple­mented im­me­di­ately and the pro­to­cols which must be in place to ex­pe­dite the smooth im­ple­men­ta­tion of these mea­sures; time frames and mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion pro­ce­dures.

What­ever hap­pens this week­end, even af­ter all the time we have lost, we still be­lieve that the lead­er­ship of the ANC will come to the re­al­i­sa­tion that a spe­cial consultative con­fer­ence is not an op­tion, but a ne­ces­sity, for the suc­cess of the De­cem­ber con­fer­ence. Mak­wetla is a joint con­venor of the steer­ing

com­mit­tee of the MK Na­tional Coun­cil

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