Cape Times

Act urgently to reverse the decline

The ANC is in a downward spiral and needs a rapid turnaround strategy if it is to recover in time to win the election in 2019, writes


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. Mainstream­ed, 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. It provides an institutio­nal base for the political petty bourgeoisi­e and allies within the private sector to contest for 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 internal political management. It is not so much its 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

 ?? Picture: EPA ?? ANGRY: ANC members demonstrat­e outside its head offices in Joburg in September. They wanted President Jacob Zuma and the national executive committee to resign after the party’s poor results in the local government elections.
Picture: EPA ANGRY: ANC members demonstrat­e outside its head offices in Joburg in September. They wanted President Jacob Zuma and the national executive committee to resign after the party’s poor results in the local government elections.
 ?? Picture: MASI LOSI ?? FOCUSED: ANC NEC met at St George Hotel in Irene, Gauteng, to talk about the outcome of the 2016 municipali­ty elections.
Picture: MASI LOSI FOCUSED: ANC NEC met at St George Hotel in Irene, Gauteng, to talk about the outcome of the 2016 municipali­ty elections.

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