‘ANC must plan for coalitions’
Ruling party mulls over proposal of readying for governance politics as opposition
The ANC must start to “strategically” plan for coalition politics in future elections as it faces the growing prospect of warming opposition benches where it will struggle to find parties to team up with. National chairperson Baleka Mbete told City Press that it was not “defeatist” to start preparing to be the opposition going forward.
“Right now the ANC is in situations where in fact had we pre-empted ahead of time and started reflecting on coalition politics, we would have been better prepared for where we are already in opposition and maybe are not doing as well as we should.
“We have got to get ourselves into that mind space of how do we deal with an environment of coalition politics because it is a reality of what happens in politics,” Mbete said.
Last year, opposition parties formed coalitions to oust the ANC from governance in the metros of Nelson Mandela, Tshwane and Johannesburg after local elections.
Meanwhile, rapporteur of the party’s organisational renewal commission, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, in a separate interview has said that part of the issue regarding organisation renewal is that the ANC has “always prepared for governance”.
Potgieter-Gqubule admitted that while the national policy conference did not resolve on the exact rules of engagement of coalition politics, there was an acknowledgement that the loss suffered in the last local government elections indicated a need for a more strategic approach to coalition politics.
Earlier in the week, ANC national executive member Nathi Mthethwa had said it would be “defeatist” to start entertaining the idea of coalitions.
“Historically, the ANC characterised itself as centreleft and you had very few parties occupying that space, you now have parties like the EFF. They agree with us on certain policies but in others they will tactically vote for the DA,” Potgieter-Gqubule said.
“So we need to consider the changing political landscape in the country. The suggestions on the format it will take are not very clear but it will probably be part of the governance and legislature committee that must look at these issues. One of the suggestions is a permanent election capacity.
“It [planning for coalitions] is one of the things the ANC will have to do, which will be difficult for the ANC because it is an incumbent and everybody wants power, it means that it engages in coalitions in a different space. That is why we need to have a much more strategic approach and that it be included as part of our discussions and structures at all levels,” said Potgieter-Gqubule.
Another contentious proposal, championed personally by President Jacob Zuma in his closing address, is the reconfiguration of the officials’ structure. The party is giving consideration to adding additional officials in the form of an additional deputy secretary-general or an additional two deputy presidents.
The president also shared the sentiment of others at the conference, who called for the scrapping of the socalled winner-takes-all approach to the elective conference which is set to take place in December. The proposal is that the candidate with the second-most number of votes in the bid to become president, automatically becomes deputy president.
The proposal has been viewed with suspicion by the Cyril Ramaphosa faction, who believe that the president is trying to save face and bring in his preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, “through the back door”, as they believe that he is now comfortably the frontrunner.
These changes would require amendments to the ANC constitution. According to Potgieter-Gqubule, the proposed changes would have to be submitted to the constitutional committee by September in order for the changes to come into effect at the national conference.
The first woman youth league secretary-general believes that allowing the “loser” of the day to automatically take on the role of deputy president would not infringe on the democratic process but would ensure unity in the organisation.
“I think the general principle is everyone agrees that we need to have a united ANC and that we can’t carry on like we have been at every conference because we lose,” she said.
“What we hope is that it is not just simply dividing the spoils. The suggestion is about the leadership that we elect as the top nine must unite the ANC. They must implement the ANC programme. We are not expecting whoever we elect there to go in representing their factions.
“You don’t want another splinter in the ANC. We want to be able to find a situation where everybody can find a home within the ANC,” Potgieter-Gqubule said, referring to the 2007 conference which saw the formation of the Congress of the People after supporters of Thabo Mbeki broke away from the ANC.
Potgieter-Gqubule said that the national conference concluded with a resolve to act on issues which were plaguing the party.
“I think one of the strengths of the ANC has always been its capacity for self-reflection and for renewal. We need to act on the issues raised by the critical mass. It is a question about the unity of the ANC, it is about corruption, it is about the social distance, it is about the integrity of the ANC and if we don’t do it now, our generation will be the generation that will have destroyed the ANC.”
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TACTICAL ANC organisational renewal commission member Febe Potgieter-Gqubule