‘Act ur­gently to re­verse de­cline’

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

THE FORTH­COM­ING ANC pol­icy con­fer­ence should only fo­cus on three is­sues: or­gan­i­sa­tional lead­er­ship; or­gan­i­sa­tional mod­erni­sa­tion and in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment; and state per­for­mance of the ANC govern­ment. Other is­sues submitted for dis­cus­sions at the con­fer­ence are rather non-ma­te­rial for a po­lit­i­cal party that is cur­rently cri­sis prone, in de­cline, and at the risk of los­ing the 2019 gen­eral elec­tions.

The ANC is in a pe­cu­liar po­si­tion in­ter­nally, and in terms of its stand­ing in so­ci­ety. It is in­creas­ingly van­ish­ing into a sink­hole. Thus, its strate­gic en­gage­ment gath­er­ings should be geared to pulling the or­gan­i­sa­tion out of its own de­cline. Lead­ing and man­ag­ing this pol­icy con­fer­ence in the usual man­ner would yield the usual out­comes, when in fact it re­quires a turn­around strate­gic out­come.

De­spite the ANC suf­fer­ing ma­jor set­backs, it has not demon­strated a sense of ur­gency in strat­egy and tac­tic for­mu­la­tion to pro­gres­sively re­po­si­tion it­self. The or­gan­i­sa­tional set­backs in­clude, but are not lim­ited to the fol­low­ing: los­ing three met­ros in the last lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions; its pres­i­dent hav­ing gone through seven mo­tions of no con­fi­dence in the Na­tional Assem­bly, and two mo­tions of no con­fi­dence from within the high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing body in the ANC; eco­nomic de­cline to junk sta­tus; and per­sis­tently high lev­els of un­em­ploy­ment.

In all the NEC meet­ings the ANC has held since all the above hap­pened, the out­comes have not been com­men­su­rate with an or­gan­i­sa­tion his­tor­i­cally hon­oured as a “leader of so­ci­ety”.

This pol­icy con­fer­ence is pat­terned sim­i­larly to past con­fer­ences when the ANC was sta­ble. The draft pol­icy dis­cus­sion pa­pers are rel­a­tively sim­i­lar to the cor­re­spond­ing ones in the past in terms of both ti­tle and con­cep­tual ba­sis.

There­fore, all in­di­ca­tions are that the pol­icy con­fer­ence will not yield a ground-break­ing strate­gic out­come. In essence, the chal­lenges that be­siege the ANC will con­tinue af­ter the con­fer­ence. Un­less, of course, these chal­lenges are ad­dressed at the con­fer­ence.

Here are the chal­lenges fac­ing the ANC: un­will­ing­ness to think dif­fer­ently and chart a new strate­gic path­way; a di­vi­sive fac­tional lead­er­ship; a de­clin­ing elec­toral sup­port linked to the di­vi­sive lead­er­ship, ill gov­er­nance, and the over­whelm­ing public dis­course on a cap­tured govern­ment ex­ec­u­tive; and is­sues of cor­rup­tion.

These is­sues per­cep­tu­ally and sub­stan­tively af­fect the im­age and per­for­mance of the ANC. Un­less these is­sues are ag­gres­sively and pro­gres­sively ad­dressed, the ANC will con­tinue on an ac­cel­er­ated de­cline. Main-streamed, these are is­sues of lead­er­ship, or­gan­i­sa­tional de­sign and op­er­a­tional model, in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment, and clean, ca­pa­ble govern­ment. The ANC should be pri­ori­tis­ing these is­sues.

Other is­sues are mere rou­tine com­pli­ance mat­ters.

The first as­pect of the ANC’s re­cov­ery or self-cor­rec­tion is lead­er­ship re­view and re­gen­er­a­tion. The prob­lems of the ANC are not mem­ber­ship-based, but or­ches­trated by a frag­mented and fac­tional lead­er­ship. It is a lead­er­ship short of in­di­vid­ual states­man­ship, but locked in fac­tion­al­ism.

Given the fac­tional char­ac­ter of the lead­er­ship, it is in­her­ently un­able to man­age in­ter­nal con­flict. Such con­flicts are a com­mon fea­ture within the party. This is all the more so in lib­eral po­lit­i­cal dis­pen­sa­tions. Be­sides the in­ter­est of the greater good, po­lit­i­cal par­ties serve as ve­hi­cles for the petty bour­geoisie to con­test po­lit­i­cal power and ac­cess eco­nomic re­sources.

This is the case within the ANC. The ANC pro­vides an in­sti­tu­tional base for the po­lit­i­cal petty bour­geoisie and their al­lies within the pri­vate sec­tor to con­test for po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship po­si­tions as a means to ac­cess wealth re­sources.

In this re­gard, the most that the ANC lead­er­ship could do is de­velop the abil­ity to pro­vide lead­er­ship, and man­age such in­ter­nal con­tes­ta­tions.

There­fore, the ANC’s main lead­ers, from the pres­i­dent to the top six, should rise to the level of diplo­macy, rather than ex­plic­itly be­ing fac­tional them­selves. The fac­tion­al­ism of the ANC’s lead­er­ship ren­ders it un­able to in­stil the es­sen­tial el­e­ments of po­lit­i­cal party sus­tain­abil­ity – in­ter­nal party co­he­sion and dis­ci­pline.

This lack of lead­er­ship and po­lit­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion man­age­ment leads to the fac­tions us­ing the state in­sti­tu­tions at their con­trol to bat­tle one an­other, rather than pri­ori­tis­ing the public good. In the process, state per­for­mance, good gov­er­nance, and the party it­self col­lapses. This leads to the ANC los­ing public trust, and thus los­ing elec­tions. In other words, the for­tunes of the ANC as the rul­ing party are in­trin­si­cally linked to the co­he­sion and dis­ci­pline of the party at the or­gan­i­sa­tional level.

This re­quires the ANC to re­model it­self, and strengthen its in­ter­nal man­age­rial ca­pac­ity. Rather than the ANC’s pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with the ex­ter­nal bal­ance of forces, it is ac­tu­ally its own in­ter­nal un­man­aged forces that lead to the de­cline of the party.

Hence, the sec­ond pre­oc­cu­pa­tion for the ANC is its own in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment. It is not so much the ANC’s in­ter­nal democ­racy pro­cesses that mat­ter, but rather how such in­ter­nal democ­racy is man­aged.

As things stand, the ANC’s in­ter­nal democ­racy, left to its own de­vices, is prov­ing to be a prob­lem to the party it­self. ANC fac­tions ma­nip­u­late the in­ter­nal demo­cratic process of the party to achieve their in­ward, nar­row goals. They partly use money to oil and hi­jack the demo­cratic process for nar­row, selfish out­comes. In essence, de­spite the pre­dic­tive na­ture of in­ter­nal demo­cratic pro­cesses, they nev­er­the­less re­quire man­age­ment.

Due to the fail­ure of the ANC’s lead­er­ship to man­age its in­ter­nal pol­i­tics, the fac­tions have now as­sumed cen­tre stage. It is for this lead­er­ship man­age­rial fail­ure that even a cru­cial suc­ces­sion process is ac­tu­ally led by the fac­tions them­selves.

Rather than the ANC lead­er­ship pre­sent­ing an or­gan­i­sa­tional con­cept and pol­icy pa­ram­e­ters within which the ANC pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates should con­test the elec­tions, the con­tes­ta­tion is led by the fac­tions, and with­out lead­er­ship guid­ance and man­age­ment.

This in­abil­ity of the ANC lead­er­ship to man­age its in­ter­nal democ­racy, and the suc­ces­sion race, will re­sult in the sus­te­nance cen­tral­ity of fac­tions af­ter the pol­icy con­fer­ence, and pos­si­bly af­ter the De­cem­ber elec­tive con­fer­ence. This could be averted if the pol­icy con­fer­ence treats the cur­rent state of the ANC as crit­i­cal, and there­fore as re­quir­ing ur­gency and change.

As Al­bert Ein­stein fa­mously noted: “We can­not solve our prob­lems with the same think­ing we used when we cre­ated them.” Hlophe is a gov­er­nance spe­cial­ist at the Unisa School of Gov­er­nance. He writes in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

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