Moment of truth
The moment of truth has arrived for the ANC as more than 3500 party delegates convene in Midrand today to deliberate on policy proposals that will have a direct impact on how South Africa is governed.
Though the ANC said robust debate on policy issues will take centre stage, delegates said the leadership battle and factional positions that have emerged ahead of the conference are likely to dominate this week's proceedings.
Speaking to the media yesterday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said "robust debate" will take centre stage.
He said there was excitement among delegates as they meet to influence policy direction.
"The fact that people have expressed different views is indication that there will be robust debate."
Though Mantashe was upbeat about today's proceedings, ANC members are concerned about the "factional lines" revealed when the party in the provinces debated policy proposals.
"Though policy debate remains the target, we cannot look away and hope that other provinces will not engage along factional lines as they consolidate their corner for another battle in Mangaung," a member said.
President Jacob Zuma and his entire national executive will seek re-election from branch delegates at the ANC elective conference in December.
The policy conference is being held at a time when the ANC is facing a number of challenges which include a divided ANC Youth League, and leadership battles both nationally and provincially.
As delegates converged on Gallagher Estate talk in and out of the hall was dominated by the Free State party conference, which ended on Sunday. ANC members said the Free State leadership under Premier Ace Magashule openly campaigned for Zuma.
They said that if other provinces had done the same Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters, would have come down hard on them.
They said the Zuma poster that was on stage at the Free State conference was a clear message that Magashule supported Zuma.
"There should be one rule for all of us. If the ANC fails to punish the likes of Magashule, then there should be no noise if others start their own campaigns," said a senior party member in Gauteng.
Delegates said Zuma will have to unite the organisation in words and character. Failure to do so will lead to the collapse of the ANC under his watch.
ANC meetings in recent months have degenerated into chaos as members try to best each other along factional lines.
Zuma, who is blamed for divisions within the youth league and for the expulsion of its leader, Julius Malema, has had a torrid time when speaking at youth-related events.
Youth league members jeered Zuma early this year and he avoided a recent Youth Day event, which ended in chaos.
Jeff Radebe, the ANC's head of policy, told reporters that any "manifestation of ill-discipline" would not be tolerated.
As Zuma takes to the podium this morning, every word of his speech will be analysed by party members.
The conference will then go into closed plenary session.
Inputs on three of the ANC's main policy documents - organisational renewal, strategy and tactics, and state intervention in mining, as well as the national development plan and commission guidelines - would be received.
- 514 from KwaZulu-Natal, 420 from the Eastern Cape;
- 240 from Gauteng, 226 from Mpumalanga;
- 106 from the Western Cape, 217 from North West;
- 106 from Northern Cape;
- 250 from Limpopo; and
- 162 from the Free State.