The African National Congress (ANC) will gather for its policy conference in June, where the hierarchy will debate issues such as unemployment, land reform, the Constitutional Court and HIV/AIDS.
Those policy positions will be taken to the national conference in Mangaung in December, where delegates will elect the ANC’s top leadership.
Whoever is elected ANC president at Mangaung will lead the party into the 2014 elections on a manifesto based on the policies adopted at the conference. Calls for mine nationalisation are unlikely to dominate the conference, as party disciplinary bodies expelled its main advocate, ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, from the ANC in February. On April 25 the ANC’s national disciplinary committee of appeals (NDCA) further reiterated the conviction by expelling Malema from ANC ranks and banishing him from the country’s political landscape.
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Land reform and the dropping of the current ‘willing-buyer, willing-seller’ model will be critically discussed. Many ANC activists say this scheme is not working but fear that radical redistribution could disrupt farm production, as it did in Zimbabwe. An ANC policy document released in March proposes a powerful land management commission that could subpoena people over disputed land holdings, invalidate title deeds and confiscate land obtained through “fraudulent and corrupt” means. The document also argues for making HIV/AIDS a notifiable disease: those infected would have a legal obligation to inform the authorities, which could worsen stigmatisation.
The ANC’s policy document lambasts the liberal democratic constitution, saying that it has “proven inadequate and even inappropriate for a social and economic transformation phase” of the country’s history and “may…require review”. It questions “the relationship between and powers of the different spheres of government,” which the constitution upholds. The government’s frustrations are growing after it lost several cases in the Constitutional Court. It now proposes reviewing the court’s contribution to ‘transformation’ but denies that it intends to reduce the court’s power. Critics are unconvinced and will watch this aspect of the conference very closely.
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It also criticises “the narrow mandate” of the Reserve Bank, which focuses on inflation, not employment or growth. However, this debate is not likely to make the final agenda. Conference attendees may also clash over the government’s free-market strategy that the trade unions want to change.
ANC activists point to serious problems with the local government system. Manyare calling for provinces – retained at the insistence of the old National Party – to be scrapped. But provinces have become a source of patronage for senior ANC officials and are likely to survive.
This article was first published in the 2012 April edition of The Africa Report, on sale at newsstands, via our print subscription or our digital edition.
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