The ANC needs to come up with a radical shift in policy to address the problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality, party president Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday.
“You cannot sit in one place and hope things sort themselves out,” he told reporters on the first day of the party’s four-day policy conference in Midrand.
Referring to a document key to the discussions, “The Second Transition: Building a national democratic society and the balance of forces in 2012”, Zuma said it was necessary to address the wrongs of South African society.
After mentioning various violent crimes, Zuma said: “There’s something wrong with our society… let us find a radical shift to deal with the challenges.”
The documents suggest the ANC must now enter a second era of democracy.
The past 18 years was the first transition during which the focus was political emancipation.
The “second transition” must focus on social and economic transformation in the next 30 to 50 years.
Zuma denied that the concept of a second transition had become synonymous with his reported re-election campaign, as it had been put forward by the ANC’s national executive committee. He was just highlighting it because it was so important.
“As president of the ANC I have sharpened the debate on it.”
After yawning at the start of the media briefing, Zuma went on with quiet authority to reassure South Africans that the plight of those without land would be addressed — without changing the Constitution.
In the lead-up to the conference, there had been calls for a change to section 25 of the Constitution, which refers to property rights and sets out conditions for the expropriation of land with compensation.
“We know … nobody is going to change the Constitution, we have a country that is running very well. Within that, how do we resolve the problems?”
Zuma said the real economy was still mainly in the hands of White males, and this needed to be addressed soon.
While he was talking to reporters for an hour-and-a-half, the over 3000 delegates were behind closed doors in a plenary session to receive input on three of the main policy documents: organisational renewal, the second transition – also known as strategy and tactics, and state intervention in mining. The national development plan and commission guidelines would also be discussed.
Earlier, Zuma received a mixed welcome when he delivered his opening address. Delegates from KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State sang: “We are going with Zuma, we are going with the president.” However, other provinces and delegates sat back.
KwaZulu-Natal is the ANC’s biggest province and Zuma’s home province, and has 462 delegates at the event.
Speaking in measured tones, Zuma touched on the main points of each of the 13 policy discussion documents to be debated.
His comment that the “willing buyer, willing seller” approach to land reform should be reviewed, as it was not working, received the loudest applause from the packed hall.
This was matched by enthusiastic applause when Zuma said the ANC had to lead the country by example.
“It is very important as part of the renewal of our organisation. We are not doing this for ourselves as ANC members. We are doing it for the country as a whole.
“That understanding must inform our behaviour, the manner in which we carry ourselves as members of the ANC in the eyes of the country.”
The rest of his speech, which lasted an hour and 13 minutes, was largely received in silence, with a smattering of applause when he mentioned that a job seekers’ grant should be considered, and that the ANC should cleanse itself of “alien tendencies”.
These included ill-discipline, patronage, careerism, corruption, abuse of power and a decline in the ideological depth of ANC members. Zuma said the party had “taken action and will continue to take action against anyone who crosses the line”.
Zuma blamed failures in the first 18 years on the fact that the ANC had to make compromises when negotiating the terms of democracy in 1994.
“For example, we had to be cautious about restructuring the economy, in order to maintain economic stability and confidence at the time.
“Thus, the economic power relations of the apartheid era have in the main remained intact.” He called for “a thriving, mixed economy, where the State, private capital, co-operatives and other forms of social ownership complement each other in an integrated way to eliminate poverty and foster shared economic growth”.
On conclusion of his speech, delegates broke into song, including Zuma’s trademark “Awulethu’ Mshini Wami” (Bring me my machine gun).
After Zuma’s speech, ANC national executive committee member Tokyo Sexwale read through the procedures and told delegates they could not sing derogatory songs.
Zuma later told the media that it was an ANC tradition to sing songs about its leaders.
“The ANC said ‘let us not discuss leadership’. It’s different from singing about leaders,” Zuma said.
“Historically the ANC has never stopped people from singing about leaders.”
The ANC will elect new leaders at its Mangaung conference in December.
The party’s top officials have warned its members not to nominate their preferred leaders before October, or discuss succession before then.
Policy decisions taken at this conference would be officially adopted at the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung in December.