The ANC conference: a platform for a fresh start

POLOKWANE, South Africa — The South African Communist Party congratulates the newly elected national officials of the African National Congress, led by President Jacob Zuma.

We also wish to congratulate our national chairperson, comrade Gwede Mantashe, for his election to the important position of secretary-general of the ANC. In this he follows in the footsteps of other outstanding Communist stalwarts of the past, like comrades Moses Kotane, J.B. Marks and Dan Tloome, who have served concurrently as officials of both the Party and ANC.

ANC delegates to this historic 52nd National Conference have voted in large numbers for change and renewal within the leading formation of our tripartite alliance [of the ANC, the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions]. Delegates have affirmed their conviction that the ANC belongs to its membership. We congratulate these thousands of delegates for refusing to be swayed by all manner of blandishments foreign to the culture of our movement.

The SACP believes that the electoral renewal of ANC leadership provides a platform on which to rebuild our alliance around a shared program of action. For too long, intra-alliance relationships have been marked by recriminations and standoffs. We warmly welcome the ANC Conference commitment to holding an Alliance Summit within three months.

ANC delegates have sent a clear message, but the electoral outcome of this conference does not mean that the underlying challenges of our society have gone away — poverty, unemployment, deepening inequality. As an alliance leadership, we will be failing the hopes and aspirations of the thousands of ANC branch delegates if we do not use the new reality as a platform to address with an even greater sense of urgency and determination these realities that impact upon millions of South Africans.

The resolutions that the ANC is taking at this conference, following on the June National Policy Conference, are, therefore, as important as the leadership elections. In particular, the SACP warmly welcomes emerging policy perspectives on industrial policy, a strong developmental state, an accelerated land and agrarian reform program, and measures to address unemployment. What is needed now is much greater determination to drive forward these transformational, progressive policy perspectives, using the state and popular organization, participation and mobilization.

This is not a moment for triumphalism or factional revenge. Those inclinations will simply plunge us into another cycle of inward-focused maneuvering. Let us devote our energies to uniting around the tasks of transformation. However, unity can only be built if we are collectively prepared to reflect critically and self-critically on why a particular section of leadership, with all of the advantages of incumbency, has found itself voted out by thousands of ANC branches. What lessons must we all draw from this? How do we ensure that we do not repeat the same errors? How do we build a stronger and more united ANC and alliance?

The SACP pledges to be a loyal and reliable ally in this necessary process of reflection. In particular, we believe that we all need to understand leadership is something that has to be earned daily on the ground and among millions of ordinary South Africans — whether we are speaking of leadership of our respective formations, or the leadership role of the ANC in our tripartite alliance.

This ANC Conference has recommitted the ANC to being both a party of governance and a national liberation movement. This Conference has said that the key pillar of ANC activity is the pillar of mass organization and mobilization. These are proud ANC traditions that have tended to be marginalized in the recent period.

The SACP believes that it is critical that we reaffirm the leading role of the ANC in developing broad strategic policy perspectives without, of course, seeking to micro-manage government. We certainly need a skilled and professional cadre in government, but we must avoid the dangers of a technocratic (not to mention corporate) capture and aloofness.

The 52nd ANC National Conference has provided a platform for a significant renewal and advance of our progressive movement. The SACP pledges to work as a force for unity and dynamism in the context of these new possibilities.

Dec. 19, 2007