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Policy  |  Policy Documents

Position paper on Political Strategy & Organisational Issues

1 July 2005

1. Overview

Political strategy questions are contained in the document that set guidelines for discussing strategy and tactics. As the paper poses questions rather than offer proposal on whether to update the strategy and tactics document, it is not important at this stage to comment in detail on the issues raised. Moreover, the NGC will consider inputs from branches and on that basis map the way forward regarding the question of strategy and tactic.

Organisational issues on the other hand are contained in three documents namely strategy and tactics, unity of the movement and organisational redesign. The strategy and tactics poses a general question about the implications for the ANC arising from the n ew terrain of struggle but offers no proposals on how to address them. The unity of the movement paper traces the history of managing unity within the ANC and its alliances.

Building on the political questions posed in the S&T paper, the paper maps the challenges of maintaining unity within the ANC and with its allies (both strategic and tactical) in the current period. However, it does not set out strategies on how the moveme nt should maintain unity in the current period except to underscore the challenges of maintaining a mass based movement and problems of factionalism, careerism and discipline.

The organisational design paper (released Friday 24 June) is the one that provide some recommendations on organisational change. For this reason, it is worth some time to analyse the recommendations contained in the paper. This paper deals with two inter-r elated issues:

  1. How does the ANC as a movement assert its authority over governance?
  2. The role of ANC structures in mass mobilisation and how this link with state power?

The problem that the paper seeks to address is "the changes at the ANC head office, which resulted in the shrinking of previous capacities and their unintended relocation in government, the establishment of caucuses at various levels, and the creation of g overnance committees in all out legislatures" para 5. COSATU has consistently raised these issues and it is a welcome development that the ANC is also recognising these challenges. Later on in para 22 the paper argues that "the most critical weakness of ou r party constituent structures at all level is that they do not address the optimal mobilisation of the motive forces for change. Secondly our structures do not speak to the centres of power of our transformation. These two factors constitute the ANCís sof t-under-belly today".

To this issues should be added the question of internal democracy and mass mobilisation as this require better articulation in the current period. The paper set out many proposals regarding ANC structures. Key among them is:

  • ANC executive at all level must be structure in accordance with their responsibility to intervene and provide leadership to all centre of power, i.e. the state, civil society, the economy, the battle of ideas and the continental and global arena. As such all levels should have the following departments legislature and governance, economy, mobilisation/organising, media and communication, international affairs, political education and ideological work.
  • Organising/mobilisation should be broken down into targeted sections dealing with different sectors and segments of our motive forces.
  • New branches aimed at substantial population groups and communities which from an organisational point of view can be defined as naturally belonging together on grounds of a variety of factors including among others to common interests such as universiti es, big workplaces and interests groups such as cultural workers and issue based organisations.
  • Zones will be eradicated and will be replaced by sub regions.
  • Resources and power will be devolved to the regions.
  • Provinces must mirror restructuring at head office in terms of functions and operations.
  • Proposal for head office include better management and coordination of work that has linkages such as political education and communication. Two departments dealing with state the economy may be created.
  • ANC Parliamentary caucuses: the paper suggests two options one of establishing a fully-fledged parliamentary wing which can deal with selection of leaders in parliament and option 2 is establishing a department at head to service legislature.
  • The NEC sub-committee must develop further proposal on policy formulation
  • Establishment of a permanent Electoral Commission which will take charge of the elections process in the run-up and including at the next conference. The Commission will deal with selection of comrades to party positions while the current system of selec ting public representatives will be maintained. This includes intervention by the leadership to ensure proper representation of women and other groups consistent with national policy

2. COSATUís approach to the ANC Organisational Issues

Due to the fact that this paper has recently been released the analysis is not exhaustive nor aims to answer all the questions. The paper itself suggests that the NGC should be a launch pad for more consultations that will culminate in more detail proposal s being developed. As such, the paper itself is a framework or scaffolding upon which more proposals on organisational reform will be developed. Therefore, this position paper will pose questions for reflections by COSATU itself.

For purpose of discussion it is proposed that we distinguish COSATUís views from individual ANC activists/members views. That is, what type of ANC does COSATU seek to have a relationship with? Of course this may coincide with comradesí views of what the AN C should look like.

The ANC is now attempting to consciously manage the transition from a liberation movement to a political party. Political parties can creatively merge state power and their mass character to further pursue change even in the context where it is in power. A lternatively the political party machinery can be useful solely to garner votes. The latter is what has led to disenchantment with political parties in other countries.

In this regard, the question is how should the ANC retain is mass and multi-class character and what should be the purpose of mass mobilisation beyond elections? A related question is how should it harness its social power and state power to advance the so cial transformation? It must be borne in mind that the ANCís social power is not exclusively in its internal structures but also in its relations with the mass democratic movement.

If this social power is to be kept alive how then do we manage two contradictory tendencies? First tendency is the danger to bureaucratically manage this diverse movement by subordinating it to the government plans. The second danger is for the ANC to be d ivorced from its mass constituency because it has been collapsed into the state. A question without obvious answers is what is the purpose and programme of mass mobilisation for the ANC both in its own name as well as a party in government?

The condition under which the ANC operates has vastly changed from when it was a movement seeking power to one that is now in power. Perhaps the essence of the debate is what can be retained and what may not be relevant. Having said, COSATU want an ANC wit h the following characteristics:

  • Philosophical and programmatic bias to the working class and the poor. While it will retain its multi-class character the ANC should overwhelmingly be driven by the aspirations of the working class for a better life. To that end, it must retain its capac ity to maintain multi-class solidarity as a means to marshal societyís efforts to transformation.
  • An ANC with a strong internal democracy both in formulation of policy and selecting cadres for deployment. This means that all ANC structures should have a voice in determining the policies of the movement and selection/election of cadres for positions w ithin the movement and the state. In this regard it must involve the alliance and the mass democratic movement in the formulation and monitoring of policy on number of issues.
  • ANC must have internal capacity to formulate policy for the state as well as hold the comrades in government accountable. In the last ten years, ANC tailed policy set by the state rather than the other way round partly because it collapsed its internal c apacity into the state machinery.
  • The ANC should retain its anti-colonial and anti-imperialist stance and invest resources to the mobilisation of democratic forces against the agenda of imperialism. At a local level, this also means a critical approach to capitalism especially the ideolo gy of market fundamentalism.

Though the ANC is not socialist, neither does it have an uncritical approach to capitalism hence it seeks to transform property relations developed under apartheid capitalism.

3. Proposals on new Branches

As stated above the paper proposes that new branches be established to compliment territorial/residential branches. On the face of it the proposal can ensure better reach of ANC structures to cover different layers of the South African population including at the workplace. Though the reasons advanced to justify this move are legitimate it is important that this matter be given extra thought. It is not very long that the ANC shifted to ward-based branches and part of the debate on these new braches we ought to assess the experience with ward-based branches.

There are three potential pitfalls with this proposal.

  1. First, what will be the programme of these branches in relations to sectoral organisations? For instance what should a workplace based ANC branch do that is different from what shop stewards are supposed to do?
  2. Second, by creating this community of interest branches this may undermine cross-class and solidarity and interaction which is the strengths of the current branches. One of the unintended consequence it the creation of working class and middle class branches with minimum cross class interaction except at a higher levels.
  3. Third, proliferation of branches in this form does resolve the concern of disgruntled elements using alliance structures to settles scores. In this regard there is a high danger of comrades who are not satisfied with outcomes of democratic decisions and move out of sectoral organisations into ANC branches and vice versa. This creates rather than limit instability within the movement and the alliance.

Perhaps we should propose rather professional ANC associations, which would let ANC members discuss sectoral issues, rather than giving them the political powers vested in branches. In this regard we should assess the experience with SACP industrial units, which are based in industrial areas rather than at a factory.

4. ANC Policy formulation capacity

Clearly, a major weakness in the ANC has been the lack of capacity for policy development. This contrasts with the situation before 1994. Interestingly, although the discussion document identifies this problem, it fails to propose any solutions. Debates on policy formulation in the ANC centres on the following:

  • Ensuring democratic participation of the membership and the alliance in policy formulation processes. This means establishing mechanism for consistent policy debate and input by members and alliance partners between major gatherings such as Congress and the General Council.
  • Translating ANC policy positions into government policy to avoid a disjuncture between ANC policies and what government does on a daily basis. Experience in the last ten years is mixed on this front between government policies that are consistent with AN C policies and some that are not in tune with existing policies of the movement.
  • The ANCís technical capacity for research and policy formulation has to be strengthened. The policy institute can go a long way in building the ANCís technical capacity for research and policy development. The role of allied and progress research institu tes should also be clearly define.
  • Define mechanisms for alliance input in policy formulation to ensure that the ANC as a whole defines policy for the state and take collective responsibility for governance and transformation.

5. Process for Selecting/Deploying Cadres

According to the paper the current practice of selecting and electing leaders is ďnot always informed and in line with the values and traditions of the organisationÖare contributing to the poor levels of cohesion within the ranks and factional agenda, as t he current practice does not necessarily promote the values of the ANC, such as putting the collective first and of assigning individuals responsibilities objectively in accordance with their abilities. The role financial resources play in the selection pr ocess is critical and must be expanded upon.Ē

On this basis the paper contains two set of proposals one dealing with selection/election into ANC structures and another part dealing with deployment/selection for public office. In the former case, the paper proposes the establishment of a permanent Elec toral Commission. The role of the commission is still very vague particularly how it will help eliminate factionalism, careerism and other problematic political practices. Be that as it may, it is important to emphasise the Commission should not displace t he role of branches and members in electing leaders at all levels of the organisation.

With regard to the list process the paper suggests that the current practice be retained. That is branches will continue to play a role in the submission of names for public representatives and the higher structures will intervene to correct deviation from national policy, including ensuring fairer representation of women. It is also important to reopen certain issues for debate:

  • The centralisation of power in the President to appoint mayors, premiers and cabinet members. A proper balance should be found between the Presidentís Executive powers and the role of structures of the movement. In the long run, a democratic process for selecting and appointing leaders will go a long way to defeat cronyism, politics of patronage and careerism. The current practice sits uncomfortable with internal democratic process and may unintentionally stifle debate within the movement due to reluctanc e to tamper with career prospects by being too vocal. The COSATU Congress Resolutions calls for alliance and ANC members involvement in this process.
  • The second issue requiring debate is the introduction of a constituency element in the national and provincial elections. Constituency representation will broaden the democratic space and ensure direct accountability which is currently lacking in the PR system.