SUNDAY TIMES - ANC vows to scrap secrecy over race for party leader
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Sunday Times News By THABO MOKONE, 2017-03-12 12:00:00.0

ANC vows to scrap secrecy over race for party leader

Jeff Radebe, head of ANC policy development, says the party is planning a major shake-up of how it does things.
Image: MASI LOSI

The ANC is planning to ditch the secrecy around its leadership races and allow candidates to campaign openly for the top job.

Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe, who is also the ANC's head of policy development, told the Sunday Times that the party wanted to end the system where only party structures were involved in electing leaders.

Radebe said the ANC wanted the broader public to have a say, which suggests that future presidential candidates will be free to run public campaigns.

This contrasts with party spokesman Zizi Kodwa's criticism of the ANC Women's League in January after it publicly backed Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to take over from Jacob Zuma when his tenure as ANC leader ends.

Radebe said the proposed change was aimed at eliminating the factionalism and divisions that are tearing the ANC apart.

He said open contests were normal in democratic organisations.

"Where people want to stand for positions, they need to make themselves available. So one of the proposals is that we need to formalise this lobbying so that it should not be seen as alien in a democratic organisation," Radebe said.

"I think if the organisation moves in that direction issues of these informal groups, which sometimes are called factions, can be eliminated because there will be no cause for people to do things clandestinely when they know that processes of the ANC are transparent."

The change outlined by Radebe would bring the ANC in line with ruling parties in countries such as Namibia, Mozambique and Tanzania which also started out as liberation movements but expose their leadership contenders to public scrutiny.

The move would represent an acknowledgment by the ANC that it is anomalous to place responsibility for electing its leader - who has since 1994 also been head of state - in the hands of just a few thousand delegates at its national conference, albeit that the delegates are mandated by about one million branch members.

"The people who put the ANC into power are ordinary South Africans who like our policies. So from time to time we'll have these policy forums where we engage organs of civil society and so on," Radebe said.

"There's a view that we need to consider giving status to these policy forums as one of the most important organs of people's power in our institutions of democracy."

The proposal is included in the party's organisational renewal document which will be discussed at the policy conference in June. This and other proposals are scheduled to be released to the public today.

The document proposes that a "revolutionary electoral commission" be established to manage public participation in the election of the party leader. Radebe said this commission would be charged with screening candidates so that "the best cadres" from the ranks of the ANC were presented to the country.

The ANC also intends to reduce the size of its national executive committee, its highest decision-making body between conferences, to improve the quality of debate in the structure and of the resulting policies.

The organisational renewal document says that "the extent to which the NEC is able to discharge its responsibilities depends less on the large quantity of warm bodies serving, but on the quality of discussion and resolutions at its sittings".

The NEC now has 80 directly elected members plus the party's top six officials. Provincial leaders and leaders of the youth league, women's league and veterans' league serve as ex officio members.

Radebe said party leaders wanted to limit the proportion of NEC members in the cabinet to not more than 65%. If all NEC members were deployed to the national government or parliament, local government would be deprived of skilled cadres, he said.

"If you look at the City of Johannesburg, the budget that it controls is sometimes even larger than those of some of the countries in Africa. Yet when we deploy cadres, we just think about ministers, we don't think about local government, where the pulse of the nation is being felt," he said.

Radebe said there were plans to introduce centralised electronic management of ANC membership to eliminate "gatekeeping".

"There's a lot of corruption within the organisation in terms of membership where the issue of joining the ANC is just becoming a mystery now. That's why this electronic system is being proposed so that we [are] an organisation of the 21st century."

At the moment some people were excluded from branches " because they are part of this faction or the other", Radebe said.

"This system must be controlled at a central level so there is no manipulation of the process."

mokonet@sundaytimes.co.za