March 6, 2018, marks another moment of confirming the African National Congress despite its entrusted mandate to lead, failing dismally to lead when it matters most.
Hardly a week after it was led by the Economic Freedom Fighters on a motion of land expropriation without compensation, it tabled a motion on the rethink of the SARB as its 54th National Conference instructed. The 54th Conference was categorical that the South African Reserve Bank in its role and ownership must be reviewed. That review directly translates to the bank being nationalised. The ANC caucus tabled the motion and instead of honouring what it tabled, it decided to withdraw its own motion.
What then does this indecisive clearly meddled and confused action or inaction of the ANC confirm?
This inaction on the part of the ANC Caucus may at a narrow level confirms the dysfunctionality of a caucus while it at a broader level may confirm the contending forces in the ANC that refuses to let the centre of the ANC count. This cagey and lack of leadership may also confirm external forces with a much stronger voice in the ANC in this season.
It would appear that last week’s land motion which the president and minister of DIRCO attempted to explain as not really what it means to the international world, was a mile and stretch too far for some in the ANC. I noted last week that more than 60 members of the ANC did not support the motion on land. Claims were made that these were not present, which raises again the subject of caucus leadership inefficiency which we will conclude with. How is it possible that such a crucial motion was carried by only 241-83, when we know the EFF and other smaller representatives in the national assembly supported the motion to the hilt as full caucus groups.
This crucial motion as tabled by the EFF, amended and endorsed by the ANC was not supported by the full caucus of the ANC. This is worrying since we must ask what the meaning of an ANC Caucus is in the national assembly in this epoch?
The apparent proffered reason for the ANC to do a 180-degree u-turn on its intended motion is ‘further consultation’, this may sound sensible from a point of view of consultation the undeniable hallmark claim of the Ramaphosa administration with its litany of commissions, task-teams, economic advisory panels and groups, yet it also appear hollow since the consultation from the ANC side was attained by Conference resolution.
Is the ANC Caucus with this saying despite an unequivocal exacted mandate of its most recent conference it still needs to consult, with who may we and on what? The subject of consultation rings further hollow when you realise its most recent partner and potential coalition partner come 2019, the EFF is on record in its response to this withdrawn motion is that it supports the tabling of the motion as matter of urgency. It would appear the EFF stands ready to pay back the favour in voting with the ANC on the actual nationalisation of the SARB.
On another level the withdrawal of this motion confirms a Caucus redirected by other interests, we must therefore ask what are these interests that can redirect the ANC Caucus in defying its mandate as exacted by Conference? Are we to surmise that the ANC Caucus is now a free for all, where the notion of vote with your conscience is as blackmailed dominates as presiding factor instead of an accepted party position?
The African National Congress proves unique at National Assembly level to have its members of caucus be afforded the liberty to decide on an individual basis on issues the party and organisation have already determined a position at its highest level.
Perhaps hidden if not really glaring is the evidence of confirmed weak leadership on the part of the caucus with focus on its chief whip. We will recall this Caucus has seen extraordinary behaviours in particular last year when some members of the Caucus openly defied the Chief Whip and decided to address issues that ANN7 raised about the Treasury on R4,5 Billion questionable contractual agreements and actions. We saw chief whip proving very reluctant to support some members to raise the issue. We also so that despite the ANC position as led by the previous Secretary General, members of the National Assembly in particular ANC caucus defied and voted with the opposition on a motion to have its president removed. The case then was made that members should be afforded the liberty to vote with their conscience, the challenge is no other party entertain this created vote of conscience notion or practice it. The chief whip appeared absconded to campaign for his favourite candidate when caucus was an auto control.
The recent land motion vote again points to the challenge of leadership of Caucus. Is it therefore not time to ask tough questions as to whether the ANC is best served with the current leadership of Caucus?
The APC who welcomed the motion as tabled, confirmed that they were surprised that the ANC as majority party later informed the house it seeks to engage further on the subject matter.
The IFP, on its score, calls this a tactical blunder on the part of the ANC, they claim that the recent land expropriation motion that passed warrants first digesting before the ANC could come and introduce another challenging motion.
Conference has decided the SARB must be owned by South Africans and that cannot be delayed, the resolution of a nationalisation of the SARB, is mutually exclusive and not linked to the land issue, hence we one cannot assume that one must follow the other when one has been exhausted in the public debate and discourse. Clearly the ANC did not cover itself in any glory for this indecisiveness.
Unfortunately, the African National Congress is finding itself in retreat and spinning in its own dust because potentially the contesting forces in the ANC renders it inept, incapable and stuck to give live to the 54th Conference resolutions. It then must be that the ANC is not afforded the right by us as ANC voters to continue this doublespeak on resolutions. We as voters must keep ANC leadership accountable to honour the mandate that gave them an identity.
We may expect the ANC to be outfoxed again, because the EFF will seize this moment and table their own motion, which will again see a historic moment absent of ANC leadership and it merely rubber stamping what a 6% mandate holder leads.
One remains concerned for this indecisive if not defiant behaviour of the ANC, yet we may also ask who called who in Caucus to give this instruction to have further consultation on a finalised ANC resolution? This indecisiveness will hurt the ANC in a 2019 elections race, because the ANC will not be liked by opposition and it will not be trusted by those who vote for it. Beyond public relations the ANC needs to show decisive leadership in this season.
Clyde N.S Ramalaine
Political Commentator and Writer
Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation