Read between lines at ANC conference
The succession race will pivot around whose ideas come up trumps this week
The battle of ideas between KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng at the ANC’s national policy conference will be a proxy battle for the party’s December elective conference and will set its tone.
Most provinces have not publicly pronounced on their choice of leadership candidates. But the language and policy proposals they present at the conference will indicate their alignment in the race to elect President Jacob Zuma’s successor.
As the party begins its policy conference on Friday, those whose ideas prevail at the end of the six-day gathering are likely to emerge as the dominant grouping in the lead-up to the December elective conference.
Last weekend, both KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng held their provincial general councils. Although the two provinces agreed on a number of issues, including the need to take action against state capture and the quest for party unity, they disagreed on the core issue of economic transformation.
KwaZulu-Natal, the province with the largest ANC membership base, uses radical rhetoric, highlighting the threat of “white monopoly capital” and calling for expropriation without compensation — views that align with the campaign of presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
From a policy perspective, KwaZulu-Natal is supported by Free State and North West, which are part of the Zuma-aligned “premier league” faction.
The third member of this grouping, Mpumalanga, has been careful about taking a position. It is seen as a kingmaker province, and Mpumalanga party chairperson David Mabuza appears on both Dlamini-Zuma’s and deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s preliminary slates.
Gauteng, on the other hand, is less significant in terms of its ANC membership size. But, as the country’s economic hub, its view also carries weight. In its policies it appears to have aligned itself with Ramaphosa by taking a more measured approach to economic transformation, land redistribution and “white monopoly capital”.
Gauteng’s cause is seen to have the backing of the ANC in the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape, whose members share similar policy ideas.
Like Mpumalanga, Limpopo has yet to pin its colours to the mast, caught between provincial chairperson Stanley Mathabatha’s allegiance to Ramaphosa and secretary Knocks Seabi’s alignment to Dlamini-Zuma.
One of KwaZulu-Natal’s more radical proposals is its call for land to be expropriated without compensation. Its definition of “radical economic transformation” emphasises the need for economic ownership patterns “in favour of the blacks in general and Africans in particular”. The province wants the ANC to move decisively to implement policy positions that will “wrestle the economy out of the hands of the few white males”.
KwaZulu-Natal’s expropriation stance has the policy buy-in of Free State and North West. The latter has called for the Constitution to be amended through a referendum. These two provinces have also supported the idea of “white monopoly capital” as a threat — a view that has been expressed by Dlamini-Zuma in numerous public appearances.
The ANC in Gauteng has rejected the call for the uncompensated expropriation of land and has raised concern about racial undertones that have emerged in policy discussions. At the province’s policy conference, delegates unanimously rejected the inclusion of “white monopoly capital” in the ANC’s lexicon.
“The conference has made it clear that there is nothing called ‘white monopoly capital’ in our vocabulary,” said Gauteng provincial chairperson Paul Mashatile. “The use of some of these concepts and terminology smacks of populism that creates confusion within our ranks.”
This view is not only shared by Ramaphosa but also by the Northern Cape and Western Cape, which adopted a similar stance at their respective conferences. The provinces agree that monopoly capital, regardless of race, is a threat. The Northern Cape also rejected the use of “new terms” to deflect from wrongdoing.
The tongue-lashing and scathing criticism between the two factions has already begun and is expected to intensify as they go head to head in their quest for dominance at the national policy conference.
KwaZulu-Natal ANC chairperson Sihle Zikalala has already called for those who resist “radical economic transformation” to be “uprooted from the movement”.
“It is these comrades who today have sponsored bravery to tell us that there is no white monopoly capital and that the agenda for radical economic transformation is a reckless agenda that will upset the private capital,” he said during his address at the KwaZulu-Natal conference.
Although nominations have not formally opened in the party’s leadership race, discussions on whether there is a “tradition” of succession in the party are also likely to see both sides flex their muscles. Zikalala and Mashatile believe such a tradition does exist, but are at odds about exactly what the tradition is.
Recently, Mashatile reportedly told party delegates at the West Rand regional policy conference that, although there was no set policy on succession, a culture had been created over the decades for the ANC deputy to succeed the president.
“OR Tambo was the deputy president to Chief Luthuli. I know that there is no policy, but we can say that it is history that OR Tambo was a deputy president to Chief Luthuli,” Mashatile said, giving other examples.
This view is supported by the Northern Cape, which has publicly endorsed Ramaphosa to succeed Zuma, citing a tradition it believed had been created in the party.
Zikalala, on the other hand, believes the party’s only succession tradition is one predicated on selecting the best candidate, who is not necessarily the deputy president.
“The assertion that a deputy is an inherent successor to the incumbent is devoid of scientific analysis of the tasks of the current phase of NDR [national democratic revolution] and suitability of leadership quality and character to lead the movement in that phase of the struggle,” he said.
His view is shared by the Free State ANC, whose chairperson, Ace Magashule, told provincial council delegates that there had never been a guaranteed presidential spot for the party’s deputy president.
Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal do agree on the need to investigate state capture, with the ANC in both provinces welcoming the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry.
But, with KwaZulu-Natal calling for the investigation to look into all arms of the state, the scope and function of this inquiry may be another source of tension.
Some Eastern Cape leaders are likely to raise their criticism of Zuma’s dealings with the Guptas and the family’s apparent co-opting of ministers, in the light of the ongoing emails saga.
The Eastern Cape, the ANC’s second-largest province by membership, has criticised Zuma in recent months and is seen as difficult ground for the Dlamini-Zuma faction. Last week, Zuma cancelled his planned address to the province’s policy conference. National executive committee member Fikile Xasa ended up addressing the gathering and threw jibes at ANC leaders linked to the Guptas.
“Those among us within the ANC who are allowing the Guptas to infiltrate us must be isolated. We must isolate the Guptas and their friends and we will not be silenced by anyone,” Xasa said.
“There is nothing called white monopoly capital in our vocabulary. This terminology smacks of populism”