Op­por­tu­nity lost for the greater good

Or­gan­i­sa­tional turn­around and ANC’s flawed lead­er­ship not dealt with, writes

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

THE 5th ANC pol­icy con­fer­ence has been an op­por­tu­nity lost. For a rul­ing party fraught with in­ter­nal dis­cord; in­creas­ing poor record of state gover­nance; de­clin­ing elec­toral sup­port, and in­tegrity chal­lenges – the pol­icy con­fer­ence did not meet these chal­lenges. Rather than set­ting in mo­tion means to turn a new cor­ner, the con­fer­ence de­gen­er­ated into the usual busi­ness as usual.

In ret­ro­spect, it was a mis­take to fac­tor in the con­sul­ta­tive el­e­ment into the pol­icy con­fer­ence. It now does ap­pear that per­haps the move­ment’s vet­er­ans and stal­warts were cor­rect to ar­gue that a con­sul­ta­tive sum­mit should have been set apart from the pol­icy con­fer­ence.

Al­lo­cat­ing the first two days as a con­sul­ta­tive sum­mit, wa­tered down the vi­tal­ity of a con­sul­ta­tive sum­mit as the ba­sis for the move­ment’s trans­for­ma­tion and re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion. Rather than be­ing seen as an im­por­tant sub­stan­tive step to­wards re­build­ing the ANC, the first two days just ap­peared as an act to ac­com­mo­date the vet­er­ans.

It did not help that most of the vet­er­ans boy­cotted these two days. Thus, mak­ing the first two days more of mus­cle flex­ing than a re­flec­tion of the grow­ing weak­nesses of the or­gan­i­sa­tion. More­over, party pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s un­scripted on­slaught on the vet­er­ans only served to sharpen the in­ter­nal bat­tle lines.

Rather than unit­ing a frag­ment­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion by reach­ing out to the stal­warts, the pres­i­dent’s take on the vet­er­ans was more di­vi­sive.

The most valu­able op­por­tu­nity was missed in the man­ner that var­i­ous fac­tions re­acted to the di­ag­nos­tic re­port pre­sented by sec­re­tary- gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe.

The re­port pre­sented the chal­lenges fac­ing the ANC. Among other is­sues, the re­port ar­tic­u­lated it­self on the fol­low­ing ANC chal­lenges: grow­ing mis­trust against the ANC by the people; in­ter­nal de­cline in val­ues and ethics; the grow­ing per­cep­tion of a cor­rupt ANC; fac­tional di­vi­sions; de­cline of in­ter­nal dis­ci­pline; and the in­abil­ity of the ANC to fo­cus on or­gan­i­sa­tional so­lu­tions. The one ma­jor chal­lenge of the di­ag­nos­tic re­port is fail­ure to make di­rect ref­er­ence to the ANC’s flawed lead­er­ship. As is the case with some of the other pol­icy con­fer­ence dis­cus­sion doc­u­ments, ref­er­ence to lead­er­ship is merely im­plied.

Thus, while the di­ag­nos­tic re­port refers to or­gan­i­sa­tional ills of fac­tion­al­ism; cor­rup­tion, state cap­ture and the Gup­tari­sa­tion of the ex­ec­u­tive, pub­lic sec­tor se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion, and state-owned en­ter­prises, it­shies away from di­rectly deal­ing with the role of lead­er­ship.

While the di­ag­nos­tic re­port seeks to deal with the “health of the or­gan­i­sa­tion”, it makes no sub­stan­tive re­flec­tion that its own pres­i­dent has faced eight mo­tions of no con­fi­dence in Par­lia­ment.

It makes no ref­er­ence to its pres­i­dent go­ing through two mo­tions of no con­fi­dence within the high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing struc­ture – the NEC.

It makes no ref­er­ence to its pres­i­dent be­ing barred from speak­ing at cer­tain gath­er­ings of the ANC’s strate­gic part­ners – the SACP and Cosatu. The ANC has lost the sta­tus of be­ing broadly the “leader of so­ci­ety” and of be­ing the “leader of the al­liance”.

How­ever, be­sides this sub­stan­tive omis­sion in the di­ag­nos­tic re­port, an hon­est en­gage­ment with the re­port could have still yielded a sub­stan­tive out­come. In­stead, dif­fer­ent group­ings re­acted to the re­port as per their fac­tional align­ment. Those in the lead­ing fac­tion, saw the re­port as an at­tack on the lead­er­ship regime.

There­fore, they re­sisted the tabling of the re­port, de­spite the fact that the NEC sanc­tioned it. This fac­tional align­ment pri­ori­ti­sa­tion over sub­stan­tive ideas marked how many other dis­cus­sions and de­bates un­folded. In the main, this may not be a prob­lem if the lead­er­ship it­self is above these fac­tions. Then, it is too en­trenched within the fac­tions to pro­vide guid­ance.

The ANC’s missed op­por­tu­nity is an or­gan­i­sa­tional one rather than a pol­icy one. The ANC missed an op­por­tu­nity to map out its own lead­er­ship and man­age­rial trans­for­ma­tion.

The cur­rent fail­ures of the ANC and loss of in­tegrity and pop­u­lar­ity with many of its fol­low­ers, are not a re­sult of pol­icy de­fi­ciency. The fail­ures and chal­lenges of the ANC are or­gan­i­sa­tional.

Even at the or­gan­i­sa­tional level, the chal­lenges are not the branches, in­ter­nal sys­tems, and pro­cesses per se. But lead­er­ship guid­ance, and the man­age­ment of group and in­di­vid­ual con­tes­ta­tions.

What has been chris­tened in the ANC as “fac­tions” are merely a re­sult of fail­ure of in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment. In­ter­nal group con­tes­ta­tions, can, through pru­dent lead­er­ship, be geared to­wards the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s greater good.

When the lead­er­ship fails in this re­gard, these con­tests as­sume a life of their own. In the main, they be­come in­ward look­ing, in the process, they be­come de­struc­tive to both the or­gan­i­sa­tion and the ANC as the ma­jor­ity party.

Pol­icy de­bates or dis­cus­sions on rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion, or the much de­bated mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, are im­ma­te­rial in the con­text of an or­gan­i­sa­tion­ally weak ANC. In­ter­est­ingly, it was sug­gested at the con­fer­ence that ANC poli­cies are good, but im­ple­men­ta­tion is poor.

If in­deed this is true, the ANC then needs to fo­cus on its or­gan­i­sa­tional ca­pac­ity as the ma­jor­ity party to per­form. But then, for the ANC to per­form well as the party of the ma­jor­ity, it must first strengthen it­self well or­gan­i­sa­tion­ally.

The much pro­nounced fac­tion­al­ism in the or­gan­i­sa­tion, is an in­di­ca­tion of an or­gan­i­sa­tion in dis­ar­ray. The poor per­for­mance of some state-owned en­ter­prises, and the econ­omy, is a re­flec­tion of poor per­for­mance by the ma­jor­ity party.

In essence, the ANC’s prob­lems are or­gan­i­sa­tional in­tegrity, and party per­for­mance re­lated. At the heart of this, is the chal­lenge of lead­er­ship.

This pol­icy con­fer­ence, has failed to po­si­tion an ANC move­ment that could be on a trans­for­ma­tion path to de­liver a bet­ter qual­ity of life for the down­trod­den masses. This fail­ure, is pri­mar­ily based on a fac­tional-based ap­proach to de­lib­er­a­tions, rather than or­gan­i­sa­tional util­ity.

The con­fer­ence was struc­tured on the same ba­sis as al­ways, when in re­al­ity, the ANC re­quires an or­gan­i­sa­tional turn­around strat­egy. It was bound to pro­duce the usual out­comes. This con­fer­ence there­fore, has not pro­duced ground­break­ing de­ci­sions, and hence, mov­ing for­ward, the ANC is on busi­ness as usual. It is in­deed, an op­por­tu­nity lost.

Has not pro­duced ground­break­ing de­ci­sions

Hlophe is a gover­nance spe­cial­ist at the Unisa School of Gover­nance. He writes in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

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