05/07/2017 05:34 BST | Updated 05/07/2017 14:30 BST

The ANC: Dazed And Confused

The party is consumed by unintelligible policy debates and indecipherable rhetoric. And it's stumped by state capture.


The African National Congress (ANC) is dazed and confused.

It is consumed by indecipherable rhetoric, talking about things like "the atheoretical conceptualisation of white monopoly capital".

It is paranoid and jittery, mistaking normal democratic contestation for tell-tale signs of "regime change agitation" motivated by the West.

And it is proposing sweeping new rules to try and limit factionalism and division by enlarging the top leadership structures and enabling the direct election of it leaders.

The party will be concluding its policy conference on Wednesday, with a closing address by President Jacob Zuma after five days of deliberations about leadership succession masquerading as policy discussions. Even though the Bell Pottinger massaged catchphrase "white monopoly capital" was rejected by nine out of 11 commissions – despite what ANN7 and its editor-in-chief, Mzwanele Manyi, might say – the malaise in which the ANC finds itself has deepened.

Battle-lines, far from being erased, have deepened and the resolve to take the spoils in December has hardened. And the party remains unwilling and unable to deal with its Achilles heel – which has become more like an Achilles leg: state capture and the Guptas.

On Tuesday night Joel Netshitenzhe, Thabo Mbeki's former policy chief in the presidency and one of the ANC's foremost thinkers, explained delegates had resolved to affirm a decision taken at Polokwane in 2007 that monopoly capital is a global phenomenon and cannot be termed "Japanese, Indian or white as it exists everywhere".

He added the relationship between the revolution and monopoly capital is not adversarial but one of "cooperation and contestation", that the ANC wants capital to invest and create jobs, but that it needs to be kept in check. Pretty much what Investec's Stephen Koseff told the party's Professional Business Forum that same morning.

"There is no reference to it being the enemy of the revolution or the ANC," Netshitenzhe said.

This question forced the commission on strategy and tactics – of which he was giving feedback – to decide whether South Africa is seeing the rise of either "neo-colonialism of a special type" or "racial capitalism of a special type". Netshitenzhe explained it was agreed neither was an accurate description of the current epoch, but that the motive forces were against the forces of change and it has exposed a "subsector" of society to the influences of radicalism on the left and right.

Over on ANN7 though Supra Mahumapelo, premier league kingpin and party boss in North West, said Netshitenzhe "mischaracterised" the "white monopoly capital" resolution and that the fight was far from over.

David Mahlobo, the minister of state security, then told a media conference the peace and security commission discussed the four stages of regime change agitation and that South Africans need to take heed of these.

"First," Mahlobo explained, "they (a subversive foreign power) establish a vehicle to enable regime change, like a non-governmental organisation. And we know them, we have seen them. Secondly, they advance an ideology, like saying there's no leadership or no vision or there's corruption. Third, they create celebrity leaders. And fourth they use government failings to advance their agenda."

He added the commission was worried about judicial overreach and even though there was much progress in transforming the judiciary over the last 23 years, it goes beyond race and numbers: "We need to look at the attitude and orientation of the judiciary."

And that from a member of the executive who has been clobbered by the courts time and again since 2009. No wonder courts' "attitude" is being scrutinised.

But the most revealing of the evening's report-backs was the acknowledgment by Netshitenzhe and Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, who is close to Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, that the ANC needs to "restore its integrity" and "firm up the moral and ethical fibre of the state".

"It is never too late to self-correct, it is never too late to warrant an effort to do so, it is never too late to make sure the ANC changes course, because it is the glue that keeps South African society together," Netshitenzhe said.

Potgieter-Gqubule: "The ANC is 105 years old. There were many times where people thought 'this is the end of the party', like in the 1930's. But the ability to self-correct is a great strength of the party. We know we must, before it's too late. But it's not too late yet."

They spoke of "firm proposals" by their commission to deal with state capture and corruption. But Mahlobo said his commission didn't discuss state capture, preferring to discuss policy "rather than events".

Never has a navel been gazed at so long and so intently as the one gazed at by the ANC. The party is enmeshed in almost nonsensical and Byzantine policy debates while the root of its problems – corruption – is allowed to grow daily offshoots.

The ANC has become unwieldy and unworkable. But nobody at Luthuli House seems to notice.

Tuesday's highlights

  1. "Monopoly capital cannot be termed 'white' ". – Netshithenzhe
  2. "The party has been in "denial" about its role where it is in opposition." – Potgieter-Gqubule.
  3. "Factionalism is endemic and it is a cancer." – Pogieter-Gqubule
  4. The national executive committee needs to be reduced in size, to between 40 and 60 members.
  5. Two deputy presidents should be considered.
  6. Two deputy secretaries-general should be considered.
  7. Constitutional amendment need to be considered to enable the direct election of ANC leaders by all members in good standing, not just branch representatives.