“The 2017 ANC policy conference was more than aimless talk shop” Dr Piet Croukamp

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The 5th ANC policy conference ended in Johannesburg yesterday.

Justjody.co.za asked Political Analyst Dr Piet Croucamp to share his views on what transpired…

Analysis in the aftermath of the 2017 policy conference seems to assume a significant consensus that it was much ado about nothing. Commentators and opinions in the media and academia suggest that the two factions which evolved since the political demise of the former finance minister, Pravin Gordon, after being recalled from an investor roadshow some months ago, is the manifestation of compromised personalities with clearly discernible political agendas vying for the loyalty of the great unwashed.The NPC of the ANC is the stage for the theatrical display of political opportunism between Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Furthermore, no real policy could be designed at this conference as no real consensus exist amongst delegates from the remotest constituencies of the liberation movement about how the ruling party should govern its own ideological contradictions. Governing the country in a constitutional manner has become a desire or aim beyond the institutional reach of a liberation movement at war with itself. Institutional fragmentation has left the ANC of Jacob Zuma without the significant or sufficient, measurable, vital statistics to allow it to self-correct.

However, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and the former chairperson of the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the duration of the policy conference remained in their respective political trenches; allowing only for their local underlings and provincial sycophants to launch a verbal artillery of nonsensical jargon at each other.

Part of the problem with the logic or way of reasoning above, which is largely fixated on personalities, is of course that Dlamini-Zuma said very little over the five days of the conference and Ramaphosa was represented by a discourse defined by proponents opposing systemic patronage. Dlamini-Zuma’s profile at the conference was so low, one could be forgiven for thinking that Jacob Zuma is running for a third term against Cyril Ramaphosa. The real contest, therefore, was between two sets of ideas or narratives and not two individuals.

ANC members at the 2017 ANCNPC

Having said that, Cyril Ramaphosa might rightfully claim victory for the stigmatisation of the concept white monopoly capital (WMC); and perhaps even for the conceptual shift from radical economic transformation (RET) to radical socio-economic transformation. The deputy president had enablers in Joel Netsitenzhe who hit WMC over long-off for six while Lindiwe Sisulu drove RET through the covers. But, it was about the semantics of a narrative rather than the political identity of two individuals.

If you doubt the efficiency with which the two party stalwarts dislodged the two invasive semantic viruses, just revisit president Zuma’s speech at the conclusion of the five-day conference. Apart from being apologetic about his references to the party veterans at the beginning of the conference, Zuma deviated from his orthodox use of the words WMC and RET, instead seeking ways and means of reconciling the divisions caused by the terms. In the process, the ANC has moved significantly towards the narrative of good governance.

With regard to electoral outcomes, the future of the ANC is might well be about the durability of a narrative which appeals to a complex diversity of South Africans, rather than the political interests of the main contenders for office.

The 2017 policy conference was certainly more than the aimless talk shop some in the media or even analysts would like us to think. There can be no doubt that the supporters of the two main contenders for the presidency, come December 2017, have gained some understanding of the marketability of their candidates and their ideologies; or respective narratives then.

Dr Piet Croukamp is a political analyst at The North West University.