PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma pushed his latest campaign card yesterday, urging thousands of ANC members at the party’s policy conference in Johannesburg to debate the call for a Second Transition, which he said would see South Africa take a "dramatic shift and a giant leap” to bring economic freedom to all.
Zuma told delegates at Gallagher Estate in Midrand it was time for the ANC to make the difficult decisions it had compromised on when it negotiated for freedom with the apartheid government almost two decades ago.
He said while it was correct for the ANC to compromise during those negotiations, this had effectively kept the country’s wealth in the hands of mostly white men, thus entrenching the economic divide.
The speech opened four days of discussions by the ruling party about how the country should be governed.
"The time has come for us to start asking the tough questions,” Zuma said.
"We either go straight or we turn. We have not been able to reach our goals of a non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.
"Therefore, we need a dramatic shift or a giant leap to economic transformation.”
The Second Transition document refers to the last 18 years as the first phase of democracy which focused on setting up a fully functional governance system. It proposes that the next phase should focus on economic transformation.
However, the final decisions on what to do, for example, with the country’s land and mines as well as employment equity, will only be made at the elective conference in December.
Zuma urged members to understand the urgency with which they needed to work to change the fortunes of poor South Africans.
"We can’t sit and say it’s fine and perhaps when God loves it, it will become right,” he said. "We are in government, we have to fix it.”
However, some delegates told The Herald that while they agreed the government needed to deal with its triple challenge of widespread poverty, unemployment and inequality, they believed Zuma was jumping the gun.
"How do we debate a Second Transition but have not yet properly analysed the first one?” an Eastern Cape delegate, who did not want to be named, asked.
"We need to properly review the last 18 years and have a comprehensive look at our challenges and how to overcome them. He can’t just tell us to either go straight or turn.
"We are not necessarily against it, but we are saying we must be realistic, we are in a revolution,” the delegate said.
Eastern Cape ANC spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the province welcomed Zuma’s speech.
"Its clarity and reasoning on the Second Transition and the basis thereof is understandable.”
Punting the Organisational Renewal policy document, Zuma said the party should cleanse itself of alien behaviour such as ill-discipline, corruption and patronage.
He said the ANC was ineffective in managing party and state relations – a situation which has led to a feud between mayor Zanoxolo Wayile and regional chairman Nceba Faku in Nelson Mandela Bay.
He later told reporters the ANC had been slow in tackling ill-discipline, but that time was over.
Political analyst Karima Brown said Zuma used his speech to refocus the week’s debates on policy issues rather than the looming leadership succession.
This after much speculation that the conference – which comes five months before the national elective conference – would be hijacked by succession debates rather than finding solutions to South Africa’s problems.
"He is advocating the ANC to ask itself some tough questions which are that it cannot continue in its old ways,” Brown said. "Its 18 years of rule have not efficiently dealt with poverty, unemployment and inequality. Now it is at a crossroads and has to make a radical shift and come up with solutions.
"The interesting question, though, is whether those who are driving this policy would have gauged the mood of the party to see if members are ready for this.
"I suspect the document will be tweaked and not adopted in its current form,” Brown said.
While some who oppose Zuma’s re-election might reject the document, not based on its merit but because it was tied to the president, Brown said it was important to understand that "no one can run away from the fact that the ruling party cannot go on as it is”.
Political analyst Dr Somadoda Fikeni said for a party so divided, Zuma spoke very little on unity.
"We would have thought he would have spent more time on that.
"He mentioned ill tendencies in the ANC but the challenge in the ANC has always been the will to do what it ought to.”
Fikeni said Zuma’s emphasis on the Second Transition was risky in that if the document was rejected by delegates, it would weaken his bid to rule the ANC for another five years.