ANC seeks China's help to win votes
Ace praises one-party state's ideas on building cadre loyalty
The ANC is turning to the Communist Party of China to help oil its propaganda machinery ahead of next year's elections.
The ruling party is bringing in officials from the CPC to train its communicators on strategy and propaganda.
Speaking at an elections communications strategy workshop held at Luthuli House two weeks ago, which was attended by ANC and selected government communicators, ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said the party was looking at taking lessons from the CPC on sharpening its communications machinery.
Insiders who attended the meeting said Magashule, who spoke off the cuff at the workshop, told them the ANC was considering bringing in the CPC officials before the list conference at which candidates for parliament and provincial legislatures will be selected.
"He said we could learn a lot from the Chinese on issues of strategy and propaganda; that is why they are bringing officials from the CPC to South Africa," said an insider who attended the meeting, and asked not to be named.It is not clear what lessons the ANC seeks to learn from China as the country is a one-party state that is accused of human rights abuses. Under the CPC there is limited media freedom, with the state controlling mainstream media. Its propaganda machinery is aimed at brainwashing citizens.
ANC spokesman Pule Mabe confirmed that the party was looking at the CPC for assistance but said it was not necessarily taking propaganda lessons from the Chinese.
"From time to time we do send cadres of the movement to the party school in China. The context through which the secretary-general was speaking was about the extension of those relationships, also making communicators aware that a party school is going to be constructed in Tanzania, where he has gone as well.
"This was a broader reflection he was giving about experiences that we can also draw from other countries as well on how they run their organisations," he said.But elections head Fikile Mbalula said the ANC could learn nothing from the CPC in terms of propaganda and strategy.
"Why would we look to China for propaganda when they are an undemocratic state?" he said. "Our relationship with China is about strengthening ties in building a new world order."
The ANC sent a large delegation to the CPC in June, led by Magashule.
The team included Mabe, national working committee and national executive committee members Nomvula Mokonyane, Ronald Lamola, David Mahlobo and Tony Yengeni, and ANC Women's League secretary-general Meokgo Matuba.
Writing in the party's online publication, ANC Today, Magashule says the CPC has agreed to accommodate 300 ANC cadres in its leadership academy for five years.
"The exchange programme includes holding political education sessions with some of their commissars inside our country," Magashule writes.
Mabe said the partnership with the Chinese would extend beyond the elections.
"I think it goes beyond elections. At all material times we must work towards building external and internal capacity to be able to communicate and carry forward the message of the ANC, because the biggest thing that any political party sells out there is its own ideas."
He said the ANC was mostly inspired by the Chinese emphasis on party loyalty and discipline."The emphasis of the Chinese is loyalty. If we achieve that in the ANC to build a greater sense of loyalty from amongst our own cadreship, loyalty to our own resolutions of conference, loyalty to our own conventions, loyalty to our own value system as an organisation; then we know it would not be difficult for us to carry forward the programme of leading society."
The ANC also conducted a frank assessment of its electoral weaknesses at the communications workshop.
Elections co-ordinator Roshene Singh presented a draft 2019 elections strategy document that admits for the first time that the ANC could fall below 50% voter support and be forced into a coalition to remain in power. The document also suggests that the ANC could lose another province next year.
"Through our own weaknesses and negative tendencies, we have squandered the goodwill we enjoyed from voters [over] the past 24 years. We now face the possibility of losing our majority support in most large cities and in much of the economic heartland of South Africa," reads the document, which the Sunday Times first reported on.
It cautions that the ANC will have to do things differently if it is to regain lost support, especially the youth and urban vote.
"Making promises that sound like more of the same will not be enough. Our usual broad message of service delivery, togetherness and good future plans is beginning to sound hollow, even to the most fervent ANC activists."