Johannesburg – Last week’s ANC policy conference saw President Jacob Zuma taking a series of knocks that have left serious doubts about how much support he still has in the party he leads.
Zuma was defeated on almost all the policies he championed, signalling that the ANC was divided in its support for him.
Policies linked to him include:
» The proposed “second transition” document, which delegates decided should instead be called “the second phase of the first transition”;
» The youth wage subsidy, which Zuma mooted for the first time in his 2010 State of the Nation Address, but which was rejected by delegates; and
» The controversial traditional courts bill, which was dusted off by Zuma and which was seen as an attempt to win the support of traditional leaders in rural provinces.
In a further dent to his ambitions, the policies which Zuma opposed were pushed through during the Midrand conference.
For example, the party agreed to “strategic nationalisation”, which meant the state could take over assets it felt were necessary to its development, such as Telkom.
Zuma was at pains to explain during the conference that the second transition was not his idea, but delegates saw it differently.
A member of Zuma’s executive said it was clear in commissions that speaking in favour of the second transition meant you were supporting Zuma.
The source said: “It was so bad. It was clear that if you get up to talk, you are going one way or the other way. Even if you supported some parts of the [second transition] document, you couldn’t say it, because then you’d be lumped with the other side.”
The source also said that ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe and Zuma took part in the debates, but were divided about what the second transition meant.
“They went from commission to commission. [Motlanthe] was asking questions about the second transition and number one [Zuma] was just there to reinforce his stance that the second transition was a good thing.”
Another delegate said the issue was “over-personalised” by delegates from provinces like KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Free State as being about Zuma. This had affected the depth of the theoretical debate, according to the delegate.
A Gauteng anti-Zuma delegate said the word from the president’s camp was that there was “a high level of panic” among his supporters and that Zuma was “uncomfortable” as a leader after last week.
Sources said the agreement in conference was that the second transition would be merely “appreciated”.
The party’s policy head Jeff Radebe told journalists on Thursday that all commissions accepted the content and thrust of the strategy and tactics document, of which the second transition formed part.
A pro-Zuma national executive committee member said it would be unfair to describe the dropping of the term “second transition” as a setback for Zuma: “[ANC secretary general Gwede] Mantashe himself said you can call this a dog, or a white cat. The name changed, but nothing else in the document changed.”
Instead of Zuma’s youth wage subsidy the party pushed the job seekers’ grant which, rather than pay companies to employ young people, would pay a grant to young job seekers.
The ANC’s ally Cosatu resisted the youth wage subsidy from the start, but the idea initially seemed to enjoy support within the party.
Last week it was rejected outright.
Zuma could now be forced to reroute the already approved budget of R5bn allocated to the youth wage subsidy.
Traditional courts bill
The controversial traditional courts bill, which originated during Thabo Mbeki’s presidency but which was pushed by Zuma in recent months, came under fire in the commissions.
Despite Zuma’s warnings to conference about discipline, delegates failed to abide by the rules that forbade divisive behaviour.
They openly sang songs supporting Motlanthe, while others sang that Zuma would win a second term in Mangaung.
In plenary sessions, delegates argued to the point of throwing water bottles at each other and on Friday night a discussion about nationalisation turned ugly as delegates started pushing and shoving each other.
Zuma hurriedly left the meeting hall to go to his holding room – according to some to go and regroup. Others said he was just going to the toilet.
A national executive committee member told City Press these incidents could warrant disciplinary action against the delegates involved.