Nasrec Centre, Johannesburg
Opening Address by President Jacob Zuma 5th ANC National Policy Conference
30 June, 2017
Comrade Chairperson, Cde Baleka Mbete
Deputy President, Cde Cyril Ramaphosa,
National Officials of the ANC,
Members of the National Executive Committee,
Leadership of the Leagues of the ANC,
Leadership of the SACP, COSATU and SANCO,
Leadership of MKMVA
Stalwarts and Veterans of our Movement,
Leadership of all structures of the Mass Democratic Movement, Traditional, Religious and Business leaders,
Esteemed delegates from all ANC Structures, especially the branches
Comrades and friends,
Fellow South Africans,
We convey warm greetings to all of you at 5th National Policy Conference of the African National congress.
Over the next few days we shall scrutinise the health of the organisation in pursuit of organisational renewal, and also discuss our policy proposals for the country ahead of the national conference in December.
Our discussions must be informed by unity, which is the rock upon which the ANC was founded. We were taught this by the founding leaders of the movement.
In 1911 when he announced the founding conference of the ANC, Pixley ka Isaka Seme made an appeal for unity, stating that the
“The demon of racialism, the aberrations of the Xhosa-Fingo feud, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tongaas, between the Basutos and every other Native must be buried and forgotten; it has shed among us sufficient blood! We are one people.
“These divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes and of all our backwardness and ignorance to-day”.
Unity must be the thread that keeps this movement and our country together.
Comrades and compatriots,
The policy conference takes place during a difficult period economically in our country. The economy has entered into a technical recession. At the time of the Budget in February, the economy was expected to grow at a low 1.3 per cent in 2017.
Given the current difficulties, even this low grow rate may now not be achieved.
Our deliberations in this conference on the economy will need to look at what needs to be done to reignite growth over the next five years.
This conference also takes place against the background of good progress that has been made in the country in the past 23 years in consolidating democracy and also in expanding access to a better life.
We have over the past two decades developed a functional democratic State, with an executive, parliament and judiciary that continue to execute their tasks, informed by the Constitution, serving the people of our country.
The ANC affirms the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and we promote respect for our courts as final arbiters in disputes in society.
Our constitutional democracy is also characterised by freedom of the media which is enshrined in the Constitution. The ANC promotes the rights of journalists to work freely, safely and without hindrance in our country. We also promote media independence from various interests, professionalism as well as balanced and accurate reporting at all times.
The ANC government has worked consistently to expand basic services that improve the quality of life to the poor and the working class. These include improved education and health care, housing for the poor, electricity, water and infrastructure in areas that were neglected by the previous apartheid regimes.
Social security has been expanded to reach 18 million people made up of vulnerable children including orphans under the age of eighteen, senior citizens, persons living with disability and military veterans.
This has contributed immensely to the alleviation of extreme poverty.
This is in addition to other social security covers like unemployment insurance, compensation for injury or duty and road accident cover. These have also been made accessible to all our people.
The ANC has increased access to economic opportunities for black people who were excluded before through various economic programmes.
The ANC prides itself on the growth of the black middle class through its policies and programmes, including affirmative action and broad based black economic empowerment. These need to be broadened to reach even more people in the next five years.
The huge expansion of basic services has been achieved in spite of an economy that had been gutted by the Apartheid system.
Much more still needs to be done to reach more communities who are still waiting for services across the country.
Conference will thus need to reflect on the pace and quality of the implementation of ANC programmes and how this can be improved further to improve the lives of more people in our country, as we reverse the legacy of apartheid colonialism.
Comrades and compatriots,
The ANC is a national liberation movement which is now in government.
The movement has also faced several challenges over the past few years in the changing terrain of struggle, which have impacted on the character of the organisation.
There has been a development of some very negative tendencies which have caused frustration and disillusionment amongst the membership and population at large.
This policy conference is called upon to seriously look into these developments and emerge with recommendations that will help redirect the movement to its core business and its core mission and character.
In doing so we must draw on lessons from the past 100 years, with regards to how the ANC has survived to become the oldest liberation movement in the continent.
The ANC survived for a century because of amongst others the following traits;
Its deep roots and connection with the people;
Its vibrant internal democracy and collective leadership;
Its readiness and willingness of its members to make sacrifices in pursuit of the cause of the people as a whole;
Its readiness to acknowledge its weaknesses and decisively address them in order to escalate and accelerate the people’s struggle;
Its ability to adapt to changing conditions and rise to the occasion at critical moments;
Its ability to uphold and build unity a cross section of South Africans and progressive forces in the world in pursuit of the cause of humanity.
Importantly, the ANC has succeeded over the past decades due to its capacity to mobilise other sectors such as business, the faith-based community, non-governmental organisations, community organisations,the sports fraternity, students, traditional leaders, the international community and the intelligentsia amongst others behind the programme of transformation.
We need to restore these traits as they have made the ANC a parliament of the people.
It is not the first time that we discuss organisational renewal. We do it ahead of every national conference of our movement. However, at this conference, we must be solutions-based.
We will discuss the health of the organisation not just for the sake of it, but because our country needs a united, strong, focused and cohesive ANC. The ANC belongs to the people of South Africa, and we must fix it so that it can continue improving the lives of our people.
Ahead of the discussions, we need to remind ourselves of the objectives and mission of the movement.
The ANC is guided by the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution.
As outlined in our Strategy and Tactics document, the main content of the NDR remains the liberation of Africans in particular and Blacks in general from political and socio-economic bondage. It means uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female”.
The NDR seeks to resolve the main and interrelated contradictions of national oppression based on race, class especially the exploitation of black workers, and the triple oppression of women.
The ANC also remains committed to the objective of the NDR of uniting South Africans in building a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
The non-racial character of the movement has indeedalways been one of the defining features of the ANC.
The ANC also remains a multi-class organisation, with abias towards the working class and the poor.
The ANC also seeks to retain and strengthen its position as the strategic centre of power, the leader of the Alliance, a disciplined force of the left, a mass movement and an internationalist movement with an anti-imperialist outlook.
Importantly, our discussions should be geared towards restoring the core values and principles of our movement.
These are unity, selflessness, sacrifice, collective leadership, humility, honesty, discipline, hard work, internal debates, constructive criticism and self-criticism and mutual respect.
This is the ANC that our people know and love.
We know too, that despite the challenges it faces currently, the ANC still represents the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions of our people. Our people want the ANC to resolve its difficulties and continue with its mission of transforming South Africa and building a better life for all.
To restore and maintain its character the ANC needs to cleanse itself of the negative tendencies which have crept in over the years.
These tendencies, which have been outlined before, include patronage, corruption, social distance, factionalism, abuse of power and membership systemanomalies such as the reported manipulation of the membership data, gate keeping and bulk buying of membership.
Factionalism is a cancer that must be rooted out of the ANC.
It has caused splits from the ANC which has negatively affected us both quantitatively and qualitatively. Slate politics, another manifestation of factionalism, has cost us many good and capable comrades in whom our movement has invested significantly.
We also need to look at the issue of ill-discipline in various forms, including public utterances attacking the movement by ANC leaders and members instead of handling matters within the organization and finding constructive solutions.
Some members and leaders of the ANC have become primary conveyors of negative information about their own movement.
The challenge for the country is that this irresponsibleperpetual negative messaging by our own people has a negative impact on the economy. We need to discuss how we can balance our valued trait of self-criticism with the need to protect the ANC and provide it with the space to resolve problems in a more organized manner.
We also need to be able to differentiate between self-criticism and the furtherance of certain interests and agendas.
Our movement suffered a serious setback in the August 3, 2016 local government elections and experienced a decline of about eight percent of the national vote.
Our discussions here will reflect on these elections for lessons to be drawn and solutions to be found.
We lost control of some key metropolitan municipalities including Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.
In Ekurhuleni we managed to form a coalition to retain control of the Council.
Opposition parties formed coalitions to wrest control from our party. Part of the focus on renewal is aimed at enabling the ANC to regain that lost ground.
The good news is that this week we managed to win Mogale City back as the ANC.
Since the announcement of the election results, members and supporters of the ANC have, out of pain and genuine concern, been engaged in varying degrees in robust discussions about what has gone wrong with their beloved movement, and how we lost the metros.
The National Executive Committee meeting in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the results attributed our loss of support to perceptions in society that we are soft on corruption, we are self-serving and that the ANC is arrogant. These are based on research findings we had undertaken before the elections, which proved to be correct.
We also visit many parts of the country and people tell us what the problems are. They do complain about ANC leaders and deployees who fail to make time to talk to them and listen to their problems.
This does not apply to all deployees or government officials but one dismissive and arrogant ANC leader or official implementing ANC policies is one too many.
The NEC has also referred to social restlessness, which manifests itself through the increasing number of community protest actions and what appears to be a growing tendency for these to turn violent.
However we do not condone violent protests as people can make their voices heard in a peaceful manner, protected by the Constitution.
In fact, the view of the ANC is that damage to state property in particular, must be categorised as a serious offence punishable by a long-term sentence. However, we should take these protests seriously as part of the diagnosis of what has gone wrong. Why do people now communicate with us through protests?
This conference must diagnose the real problems that led to the decline in electoral support, and propose effective remedial action.
We must not be emotional in our discussions about what caused our electoral loss. We must be open minded and use the facts before us combined with our revolutionary theory as the framework for analysis and interpretation.
Importantly, we must also be prepared to discuss the South African political economy as the overall context under which our electoral support has declined.
In addition to the weak capacity of the state and internal organisational problems, the unfavourable global economic environment has put a strain on our own economic development and potential for job creation which causes frustration.
As stated by Amilcar Cabral once, people want a better life.
He said; “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward and to guarantee the future of their children.”
We must unite around promoting integrity and curbing possible abuse of power and corruption among ANC members.
In this regard, it is critical for us to discuss the impact on the organization, of the ANC being in government and our cadres having access to state power and resources.
The access to state power and resources has led to perceptions and allegations that the ANC is a corrupt organization, given allegations of wrongdoing in certain cases with regards to state tenders.
The failure to respond adequately and timeously to allegations and the length of time that it takes for investigations to be concluded, cause immense damage to the image of government and the ANC.
There is also talk in the country currently about the capture of the state or government in the main, by business interests.
We support the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry to look into the matter.
At a political level, this debate requires a thoroughgoing analysis of the South African political economy so that we can understand what is meant by the State Capture. We need to know which business interests have sought to influence the ANC and its government over the years, with what impact, and what must be done to end the said capture.
Such discussion is important because the ANC as the leader of society must be at the forefront of fighting corruption both in the public and private sector.
We have introduced important pieces of legislation and have created very powerful institutions specifically to deal with corruption.
At the last Conference in Mangaung in 2012 we established the Integrity Committee as an internal mechanism. This Policy Conference will have occasion to review the efficacy of this measure based on the experience of the past five years or so.
We also need to assess if our problems lie with the manner in which ANC leadership is selected.
The most significant contribution that the ANC has given to our country over many years is tried and tested leaders who inspire confidence and trust among the masses of our people.
The ANC produced Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Helen Joseph, Yusuf Dadoo, Lillian Ngoyi and many others.
The leadership election processes must be democratic and free from manipulation and external influences. In this way we can protect the movement from abuse. We must therefore ensure that leaders are selected in line with the requirements outlined in our blueprint, Through the Eye of the Needle.
Political education also remains paramount for both new and existing members.
Without schooling members in the traditions of the ANC, we cannot criticize them when they make mistakes.
This is all important as we head towards our elective conference in December.
The renewal of the organization also relates to the functioning of our Leagues and other structures, and also strengthening the Tripartite Alliance.
The Alliance was formed out of struggle and out of a shared vision as articulated in the Freedom Charter. It is based on the understanding that each Alliance component enjoys political independence from the others.
Our discussions about the renewal of the ANC must reflect on the relationship with the Alliance partners and how this can be strengthened so that it continues its role of advancing the goals of the NDR.
The unity of the Alliance is sacrosanct and must be protected at all times. It must not be undermined by sectarian agendas and personal hatred.
Comrades and compatriots,
Organizational renewal discussions must also include the role of women in the ANC and society, and what else the ANC must do to advance the vision of a non-sexist society and gender equality. A lot of progress has already been made in advancing the status of women, and the ANC Women’s League has played a key role in this regard. We need to reflect on what else needs to be done to promote gender equality.
There is clearly a need for a strong Veterans League and uMkhonto Wesizwe Military Veterans Association, in order to provide a platform for more veterans and stalwarts to participate in the work and life of the organisation.
The South African population is becoming increasingly youthful.
These young people have very little to no real experience of the brutality of apartheid. The ANC needs to adapt and become responsive to the needs of our youth today. It must talk to their interests, from access to education, jobs, the need to reduce data costs, entrepreneurship to general social issues of concern to them.
One of the key issues affecting our youth is funding for higher education and jobs.
The Freedom Charter emphasises that: “Education shall be free, compulsory, universal and equal for all children; Higher education and technical training shall be opened to all by means of state allowances and scholarships awarded on the basis of merit.”
The Constitution takes forward this promise, declaring that: “Everyone has the right (a) to a basic education, including adult basic education; and (b) to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.”
In 2007, the ANC Policy conference resolved that “free higher education for the poor up to undergraduate level” must be progressively implemented and this was reiterated at the Mangaung policy conference.
The funds allocated to the National Students Financial Aid Scheme for loans and bursaries to students at public universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges have increased substantially from more than two billion rand in 2009 to more than twelve billion rand in 2017.
This policy conference will provide for robust discussion of the possibilities for providing quality affordable higher education to as many South Africans as possible and free education for the poor.
This policy conference comes at an opportune time as we eagerly await the report of the Presidential Commission into the feasibility of fee-free higher education and training.
The deadline for the Commission to complete its work is today, 30 June 2017 and we await the report.
Comrades and friends
I would now like to reflect briefly on some of the policy imperatives before conference this week.
We recall the instructive words of our President OR Tambo whose centenary we will be celebrating in October this year.
“Comrades, you might think it is very difficult to wage a liberation struggle. Wait until you are in power. I might be dead by then.
At that stage you will realize that it is actually more difficult to keep the power than to wage a liberation war.
People will be expecting a lot of services from you. You will have to satisfy the various demands of the masses of our people’’.
Indeed OR was so right! We have a duty to sharpen our policies and ensure their effective implementation in order to meet the needs of our people and push back poverty, inequality and unemployment.
While all our programmes are important, the economy remains our apex priority.
Over the last seven years the ANC placed the creation of decent jobs through inclusive growth as a key strategic outcome. We adopted the National Development Plan as a broad framework to achieve this and other strategic outcomes.
The National Development Plan (NDP) and the Nine Point Plan to reignite growth remain relevant towards achieving radical economic transformation.
However, some extra-ordinary measures are necessary to move the NDP forward faster.
At the last national conference in Mangaung, we resolved to embark on the Second More Radical Phase of Transition to a National Democratic Society.
We said that this phase would be characterised by more radical policies and decisive action in order to achievesocio-economic and continued democratic transformation.
Radical socio-economic transformation, as defined by the ANC NEC in January this year, refers to a fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.
Its components include the creation of jobs, accelerating shared and inclusive growth, transforming the structure of production and ownership of the means of production and enabling the talents and productive potential of our people to flourish.
The instruments that government must use to advance radical socio-economic transformation have also been identified.
These are the Constitution, legislation and regulations, licensing, Broad based black economic empowermentand transformation charters, the national budget and procurement, State Owned Companies and Development Finance Institutions, as well as government programmes.
Conference will discuss a number of interventions needed to advance radical socio-economic transformation.
Some of the measures must include accelerated land redistribution, land reform and huge support for agriculture and agro-processing on a large scale. Landin particular remains one of the most contentious and emotive issues in our society.
The pace of land restoration and redistribution remains a sore point for millions of our people who were shunted to a small portion often of the lowest quality of land and even denied the right to purchase land in areas that were reserved for a minority of citizens.
We believe it is possible to find radical solutions to land hunger, working within the ambit of the law and the Constitution.
We also need to discuss ways of sustaining commercial agriculture and to increase agricultural contribution to the Gross Domestic Product.
We need to pursue industrialization strategies, instead of depending on export of natural resources or raw materials, with declining commodity prices.
We must increase investment into infrastructure projects, prioritise townships and rural areas and provide generous subsidies to black industrialists and entrepreneurs to build new factories and businesses.
We also need to consider the transformation and de-racialisation of the highly concentrated financial sector in the interest of vast majority of the country.
The licensing of Post Bank is also important, and to give it capacity so that it can distribute social grants.
Government must drive local procurement and supplier development and ensure that black owned companies benefit from government procurement.
The mining licence regime and charter must be utilised to facilitate BBEEE, local procurement, the development of black industrialists and SMMEs.
These are all programmes that we must use to drive economic transformation.
The State-Owned Enterprises are a strategic instrument for the developmental state.
But as experience indicates we have to get them to the right level of performance and governance for them to achieve their mission.
The improvement of governance at these SOEs is of utmost importance. Challenges in SOEs such as the SABC, SAA and Eskom have been a subject of public debates and finding solutions is critical for the ANC.
Building partnerships with business is also important for the country to achieve much needed growth. Government will need to proactively engage all sectors of business to encourage their participation in industrial expansion, economic growth and job creation.
Other key programmes forming part of the radical socio-economic transformation programme include National Health Insurance and the Comprehensive Social Security.
The transformation programme also talks to the eradication of social ills including violence against women and children.
The ANC government has made the killings of women a priority crime and the police have been directed to treat such cases with seriousness and urgency.
Also key is the need to eradicate the abuse of drugs and substance abuse which are tearing communities apart, from the Cape Flats to Umlazi, Soshanguve or Eldorado Park.
We reiterate the call for the ANC branches to establish street committees to support the police in dealing with this problem.
The ANC government has also begun to take a visible and aggressive stance against crime generally in our communities and to ensure that criminal gangs are put behind bars where they belong. Our communities should not be made to co-exist with criminals.
All these programmes and others require the existence of a capable state. The public service must be professionalised and Government will need to teach public servants the philosophy and ethics of the development state and also of caring for citizens and being responsive to their needs.
Government must also develop capacity to communicate better with citizens.
The capacity to monitor and evaluate government programmes and planning ahead is also critical.
The delegates here come from the branches of the ANC. You know best the conditions in which the people live. You know better than anyone else if the most pressing need is for a clinic or a school.
That is why branches determine the policy of the ANC.Amandla asemasebeni.
What we are here for is ultimately to find a common understanding on how best to address those needs in the shortest and most satisfactory manner.
Comrades and friends,
Conference will also need to look at the balance of forces and the resistance to socio-economic transformation that will continue to hinder the implementation of our policies and programmes.
Such resistance comes in different forms. The ANC will continue to experience resistance to its progressive policies relating to employment equity, broad-based black economic empowerment, labour market regulation and land reform.
The use of the courts to oppose our policies and programmes will also continue and is something we need to reflect on at this conference.
At the same time, it should concern us that the ANC-led Government should have to be directed by the court to implement its own policies better.
We should improve our capacity to implement our programmes without the courts having to direct us to do so.
In parliament we have politics of spectacle and grandstanding, drama and manipulation.
We have to ask ourselves whether we have honed the skills to manage this and the growing attempts to draw a wedge between the executive and the parliamentary caucus of the governing party.
Another form of resistance takes the form of traditional lobbying where vested economic interests seek to derail transformational policies through different forms of persuasion.
We should also be alive to the dynamics globally and the changing balance of forces.
All our positions in the global village must first and foremost serve the national interest.
By definition the national democratic revolution is an internationalist project.
Our revolution is an integral part of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movement for a new world order.
Africa is part of us as we are part of Africa first and foremost. Our struggle is inextricably linked with the struggle against neo-colonialism and imperialism on our continent.
Our pan-African and internationalist position informs our support for the struggles of the people of Western Sahara and Palestine for self-determination.
It informs our solidarity with the people of Cuba and against the economic embargo on this revolutionary nation by the US, and our demands for institutional reform of the United Nations.
We remain steadfast in our demand for the representation of Africa among the permanent members of the UN Security Council.
Comrades will recall the ANC decision for the country to withdraw from the International Criminal Court and subsequent government action to effect this decision.
The government has begun to rectify the procedural challenges that have arisen.
We have also taken note of the latest reluctance of other member states to withdraw en bloc.
The current Government position is that the decision to withdraw was a principle matter and the principle still stands.
As already indicated the ANC is part of the global anti-imperialist movement.
We are historically connected with the countries of the South and therefore South-South cooperation such as BRICS is primary for our movement.
At the same time we are historically connected with the countries of the north with whom we have strong economic ties.
Comrades we also need to reflect on other developments in the global environment such as the resurgence of neo-conservatism.
This manifests itself in the victory of centre-right parties in elections in some of the advanced societies.
Other manifestations include the unilateralism on trade and diplomatic issues, and a retreat to protectionist trade policies.
We must reflect on all these positions in the next few days as we discuss our international relations policy.
As we begin this very important dialogue on organizational renewal, let us be reminded of the words of Isithwalandwe Walter Sisulu who said:
”It is a law of life that problems arise when conditions are there for their solution.”
The ANC is one hundred and five years old because it has always been able to rise to the occasion to deal decisively with problems that threatened its very existence.
When we say the ANC can self-correct we mean that when the challenges are daunting, its cadres are able to go back to what brought them together in the first place.
Let us find what brought us together, and find solutions to the challenges facing the movement and our country.
Let us not be defeatist in our discussions. Solutions can be found, and must be found to the challenges facing our movement.
The ANC must and will emerge from this policy conference stronger.
Concluding his political report to the 1991 National Conference, President Oliver Tambo made the following remarks:
”We did not tear ourselves apart because of lack of progress at times. We were always ready to accept our mistakes and to correct them. Above all we succeeded to foster and defend the unity of the ANC and the unity of our people in general.
“Even in bleak moments, we were never in doubt regarding the winning of freedom. We have never been in doubt that the people`s cause shall triumph.”
We honour our forebears and our martyrs today and in their memory, let us make this 5th National Policy Conference a success.
I thank you.