AFRICAN National Congress President Jacob Zuma has called for the party’s structures to consider the possibility of electing two deputy presidents in a bid to quell divisions.
Zuma said the loser of the elective conference in December should become deputy president while the winner of the deputy president position becomes the second deputy.
He made the remarks during closing address at the 5th ANC national policy conference at Nasrec, Johannesburg where he told delegates that it was the only way to kill factionalism in the movement.
“This is a remedy to kill factions in the ANC. These are proposals to take to the branches. Even if we don’t apply it in the conference in December, we apply it in the conference thereafter. I have no problem. When one does not win, let us not get rid of the one who did not win. Let us take the one who came second and make them the deputy,” he said.
Zuma said party members had to do everything in their power to eliminate slate politics and factions.
He said history had taught them that factions and slates leave the organisation crippled and robs it of good leaders.
“In the spirit of combating slate politics and factionalism, a significant number of comrades have proposed that we find a mature and sound way of politically managing possible contestation of leadership positions especially in the run up to the 54th National Conference.
The experiences of the last two National Conferences have taught us that the factionally driven ‘winner takes all’ attitude is not in the best interest of the ANC. It is worth repeating what I said during the opening remarks to this conference that our movement has lost many talented and capable comrades in whom it invested significantly due to slate politics, a terrible manifestation of perennial factionalism,” he said.
Zuma’s proposal was met with mixed reactions. He said in order for that to happen, they would need to amend the constitution of the party.
The president used the aftermath of the 2007 Polokwane, where he defeated Thabo Mbeki in a bitter contest, and the subsequent formation of the Congress of the People (Cope) by Mbeki’s supporters as examples of the rifts caused by slates.
He said the winning faction had 60% of the votes while the losers had 40%. Zuma said it was a significant number which should have been accommodated for the growth, unity and well-being of the organisation. He also alluded to the formation of EFF after Julius Malema was expelled from the ANC.
He said delegates needed to take the suggestion back to their branches and he was willing to criss-cross the country, going to provinces to advocate for the idea.
“As a practical measure to put an end to the entrenched practice of slate politics and factionalism, branches should consider a proposal to have a second Deputy President so as to include the candidate who obtained the second highest votes in the contest for the position of President. There is consensus that our movement can no longer afford to totally reject leaders who were preferred by a significant number of members to lead. You can have denialism about it, but its reality. I can go province to province to motivate for this proposal. Branches should consider this proposal,” said Zuma.
He further added that there were proposals to reduce the number of the National Executive Committee by making it smaller while at the same time strengthening the full-time capacity at the head office, Luthuli House. Those suggestions included another deputy secretary general. He said the party was suffering due to policies not being implemented and increasing capacity would address that.
“This reality means the capacity of our movement to ensure accountability is severely limited. Implementation is a problem of evaluation. There are options to be considered by the National Conference for more Deputy Secretaries General, an additional Deputy President and more directly elected full-time NEC members to manage the day to day work of the organisation in policy, political education, elections, organising and communications,” he said.
Zuma also touched on the issues of white monopoly capital, reserve bank and land expropriation.
He said in the context of South Africa’s history it was correct to call if White Monopoly Capital but the organisation’s fight was against monopoly capital as a whole, regardless of colour. On land, Zuma said expropriation without compensation would take place within the law.
“Where it is necessary and unavoidable this may include expropriation without compensation. The Constitution provides for legislative changes to be effected in the democratic process,” he said.