03/07/2017 05:41 BST | Updated 03/07/2017 05:41 BST

5 Years After Mangaung, The ANC Still Has The Same Issues. Can They Fix Them Now?

Pesky grey hairs were there in 2012, and instead of plucking them out one by one, the party has let them grow.

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters
Delegates sing during the African National Congress 5th National Policy Conference at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Soweto, South Africa June 30, 2017.


It's been almost five years since the ANC's national conference in Mangaung and it seems the party is still battling many of the issues –- and more -- that it sought to rectify back then.

For the ANC, one of the main focusses of this year's policy conference is organisational renewal and design. The party has spent the first three days looking into the mirror, frantically combing through its hair and trying to find those grey strands.

But those pesky grey hairs were there in 2012 and instead of plucking them out one by one, the party has let them grow.

The effect of this was felt in the local government elections last year, when the ANC suffered overwhelming losses in key metros and dropped the ball in terms of its support in five provinces.

Now it's back to the drawing board ahead of 2019 when South Africa goes to the polls.

But in order to regain voter confidence, the party will have to properly, and quickly, iron out its issues – issues which have been on the table since 2012.

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, who was hearing his hat as the chairperson of the ANC NEC's subcommittee on organizational development, briefed the media on his presentation to the plenary which focused on recommendations for fixing the party's problems.

Cadres and cadre policy

After Mangaung, the ANC believed that the neglect of cadre policy was at the centre of most its weaknesses and challenges. The policy conference that year reaffirmed the perspective that the party would only succeed if it produced a contingent of cadres who are "conscious, competent, committed, disciplined and conscientious".

The party resolved to establish the "Decade of the Cadre" where a comprehensive political school system at all levels would develop the "ideological, political, academic and moral training of a critical mass of ANC members".

Five years later, Mbalula has listed as one of the party's weaknesses the danger of neglecting cadre policy -- indicating that the party may have failed to properly institute its resolutions on this issue.

He said a resolution on the establishment of the Revolutionary Electoral Commission must be invoked and implemented to ensure that the ANC structures "prepares, produces and presents to South Africa the best cadres from its ranks".

"This new cadre should be able, at all times, to understand, and interpret the changing nature of global balance of forces, social and economic trends in society and have a strategic and farsighted approach to challenges of modern day society," Mbalula said.

Factionalism, ill-discipline and lobbying.

Mbalula said a proven challenge in the ANC is the lobbying process "engineered by clandestine factionalism" which destabilizes the party. He cited ill-discipline and disunity "fueled and inspired by the battles over the control of state power and resources" as a weakness in the ANC.

"Factionalism has become an integral part of the organisational culture. Its clandestine nature makes it a parallel activity that is beyond reproach. Efforts should be made at regularizing lobby or interest groups activity within the organization," Mabalula said.

"There is a need for formalisation and transparent processes in managing lobby groups activities. Drawing from the experiences of social democratic and left leaning parties, the ANC has to develop guidelines to formalise and manage various interest groups within its ranks."

He said members use mainstream media to "let out their political ambitions within the movement" and find "fame within enemy agents hoping that our people would not decipher the political venom of their poisonous tongues".

It was a similar case in 2012.

Mangaung's resolutions on communications and the "battle of ideas" cited that the greatest source of the negative portrayal of the ANC is misconduct and public ill-discipline of members as well as the use of the media and other platforms to advance their personal and factional interests.

The party's resolutions at that time sought to defeat the "demon of factionalism" in the ranks of the ANC, the alliance and the movement.

"Conference emphatically condemned factionalism as well as the practice of slates during conferences. In addition, delegates called for the ANC to tackle the underlying roots of these problematic practices which undermine the unity and cohesion of the movement," it said.

"A clarion call was made on the organisation to collectively develop new measures to stop these negative practices and not just condemn them while practically allowing them to take root."

Mbalula also noted issues of corruption, gatekeeping and bulk buying of membership as some of the ANC's current problems -- which are problems which have plagued the party since it came into power.

For the ANC reclaim some of its lost power in 2019, it will have to do more than it did after Mangaung, and do it faster. Although the issues the party faces are not new, they certainly have intensified over the past year -- making the task much more tedious.