PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma’s grip on the ANC took a major knock yesterday after he failed to convince the Eastern Cape – the second-biggest ANC province – to buy into his latest brainchild, the "second transition”.
The policy proposal, which Zuma believes should define the next era of democracy in South Africa, was rejected by several Eastern Cape delegates who called for it to be tweaked.
The province is also pushing for a review of, and ultimately a change in, the constitution which would give the government the power to expropriate land without compensation.
More than 3000 ANC members discussed the Strategy and Tactics (second transition) proposal in different groups at Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg.
It is understood that delegates from the Eastern Cape said they could not accept the document in its original form as it failed to properly assess the progress made in the last 18 years and created the perception the party was starting something new.
The document says the first era of democracy was to set up a functioning state while the next two decades should be focused on economic transformation for all South Africans.
Meanwhile, in an interview on the sidelines of the conference yesterday, provincial ANC spokesman Mlibo Qoboshiyane said the Eastern Cape was proposing the constitution be reviewed and "chiselled” to give government more power to take decisions on issues like expropriating land, without jeopardising stability in the country.
"We need to look at how we [should] review property rights for the good of broader citizens,” he said. "For example, in Port Elizabeth we have people who live in low-lying areas and they need land.
"Across the road from them, you have land which is owned by someone who lives in Pretoria, for example.
"We are arguing that we would be able to negotiate with the owner and, if negotiations failed, then we should be able to act in the interest of the majority,” Qoboshiyane said.
"We cannot continue to pretend that things are normal.
"We are asking the question: is this conference able to respond to the needs of a democratic state? We want the constitution to be chiselled to remove the things that are not working.”
Qoboshiyane, the Local Government MEC, said delegates from the Eastern Cape were also "highly proposing a skills revolution”.
"We are asking: do we have the luxury of sitting back and letting the youth choose what kind of training they want?
"Is there not a way to guide the youth to respond to the country’s skills needs?
"For example, we need doctors, we need artisans.
"Why can’t the national fiscus re-channel funds [for skills development] towards what we need?”
Meanwhile, national head of policy Jeff Radebe said at a media briefing yesterday that "at the moment” the ANC had no intention of changing the constitution. "But we will know tomorrow what the branches are saying.”
The Eastern Cape brought the second-highest number of ANC delegates to the conference, after KwaZulu-Natal.
It is an influential province in the party and key to Zuma’s election bid in Mangaung in December.
An ANC member from Nelson Mandela Bay said the rejection of the "second transition” did not mean Zuma had fallen out of favour with the province.
"If he had implemented it without it being discussed with us, then we would have nailed him. But at least he still brought it here to be discussed,” the member said.
The conference continues today and members are expected to receive a report on what commissions decided regarding the "second transition” proposal. A final decision on policy changes will be made at Mangaung.