Analysis

Anti-Zuma camp in with a fighting chance

05 July 2017 - 13:05 By Ranjeni Munusamy
President Jacob Zuma gives the thumbs to the audience as he arrived at the opening session of the ANC policy conference.
President Jacob Zuma gives the thumbs to the audience as he arrived at the opening session of the ANC policy conference.
Image: AFP

While the rejection of the word “white” in the ANC’s main policy document means nothing practically‚ this constitutes a psychological victory for supporters of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid for the presidency.

Supporters of President Jacob Zuma and his preferred successor Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma waged a battle at the ANC national policy conference to brand the enemy of the ANC and economic transformation as “white monopoly capital”. Even though they lost that battle‚ Zuma’s supporters still tried to make a last challenge on the matter on Wednesday morning.

Zuma himself has owned the phrase white monopoly capital‚ calling it “our strategic enemy”.

“We are in a fight‚ and our strategic enemy remains white monopoly capital. We cannot say because we are politically free‚ then that is the end… even if we starve to death? We can’t. We must complete the liberation as the ANC strategy document said years ago‚” the president said at the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association elective conference last month.

The president and his supporters believed that ANC members had bought into the narrative and that there would be policy changes this week to reflect this. But they could not win the argument in favour of “white monopoly capital” in nine of the 11 commissions discussing the ANC’s Strategy and Tactics policy document‚ neither could they prevail on the plenary to adopt the phrase.

The Strategy and Tactics report presented to the plenary retained the phrase “monopoly capital” as it was adopted at the ANC national conference in 2007. Delegates were not willing to adapt the phrase in line with the Bell-Pottinger sponsored narrative on the South African economy.

Those who pushed for the term “white monopoly capital” included the KwaZulu-Natal‚ Free State and North West delegations‚ as well as the ANC Youth League. They were stunned in the plenary when the Mpumalanga province declared that they supported the phrasing of the Strategy and Tactics document as it stood – as “monopoly capital”. The Limpopo province followed suit‚ tipping the scales against those who insisted on the inclusion of the word “white”.

In a media briefing on Tuesday evening‚ ANC policy guru Joel Netshitenzhe said the relationship between the ANC and capital was one of unity‚ cooperation and contestation. He said while it was not possible to “run away from white dominance in the economy”‚ the ANC did not consider white monopoly to be the enemy.

Where there were areas of divergence or when monopoly capital undermined societal interest‚ such as through collusion and price fixing‚ they should be regulated and disciplined‚ Netshitenzhe said.

He told the media there had been “intense discussion” on the issue at the conference and it would go back to branches for further debate. There will be final adoption of the policy documents and resolutions at the ANC’s 54th national conference in December. But as the conference moved towards its conclusion on Wednesday‚ the Zuma faction was trying to force Netshitenzhe to retract his statements at the media briefing‚ insisting that the phenomenon of white monopoly capital was a reality and the ANC should not be in denial about it.

For most people watching the debates at Nasrec this week‚ these might appear like meaningless debates over semantics. The issue of “white monopoly capital” was used as a proxy debate between those following the Gupta line of march and those rebelling against it.

While the rejection of the word “white” in the ANC’s main policy document means nothing practically‚ this constitutes a psychological victory for supporters of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid for the presidency. The policy might or might not be adopted at the national conference but by then‚ it is possible that the leadership elections will eclipse all other debates.

It is not possible to predict the results of the succession race on the basis of the tortured debate this week on white monopoly capital. But the outcome reflects that the Guptas are now less able to manipulate sentiment in the ANC and that the anti-Zuma camp is in with a fighting chance to emerge victorious.

Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams addresses the media about the outcomes of the commissioin on Communication Sub Committee during nthe ANC Policy conference held at Nasrec.
Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams addresses the media about the outcomes of the commissioin on Communication Sub Committee during nthe ANC Policy conference held at Nasrec.
Image: Masi Losi/Sunday Times
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