UNLESS the structure of the tripartite alliance between the ANC, Cosatu and SACP is modernised, with new rules to govern the way it works, bitter disputes over policy will remain a constant feature under the Jacob Zuma presidency, as it was under his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki.
This, despite the fact that Cosatu and the SACP have helped lift Zuma into high office. Angry public disputes over policies between the ruling tripartite alliance partners invariably lead to uncertainty over the credibility of policies, causing paralysis and delivery and implementation failure.
With expectations among ordinary ANC members and citizens for faster government delivery of services now sky-high, the country cannot afford policy paralysis at the centre of government, and the inevitable delivery and implementation failures associated with it.
What is needed right now needed is a stable political environment for policy making and implementation.
A prerequisite for such stability is a stable ruling tripartite alliance. But unless the workings of the alliance are reconfigured, such stability will be elusive.
In fact, there is an urgent need to modernise the relationship between the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP, to take cognisance of the fact that the alliance is now ruling.
Being in government, means the conditions that govern the alliance are now different from those of the struggle against apartheid. New rules need to be drawn up to govern relationship in the tripartite alliance.
Firstly, it will make sense for the alliance to urgently draw up an electoral pact. In this pact, the role of each alliance partner should be clearly spelt out.
The pact must include a credible conflict resolution mechanism to mediate disputes between the partners over policies.
At the heart of the pact must be a set of minimum policies, delivery and implementation targets: to which each partner must agree.
An important element of the modernisation of the alliance must also be to work out a mechanism through which the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP can play a monitoring role to see that pro-poor policies are implemented, that elected and public officials are accountable, and that corruption is tackled.
A transparent quota system must be worked out whereby a certain number of SACP and Cosatu representatives are put forward for election on ANC slates.
The SACP and Cosatu should make provisions to be able to put forward individuals who are not necessarily leaders or members of their structures, but who have the expertise, and commitment to act in the broader public interest.
This is a way to overcome the problem of the waste of talent in SA: individuals with the skills and talent are not appointed to critical positions in government, because they are not linked to one or the other dominant faction inside the alliance.
Both the SACP and Cosatu must also have the ability to recall their representatives, who are elected or appointed on ANC slates, for mismanagement or failure to deliver.
An electoral pact between the alliance partners must stipulate clearly the responsibilities of individuals elected or appointed.
Those elected or appointed to positions must also sign performance contracts.
There must also be transparent monitoring mechanisms to evaluate their performance once they have taken up their positions.
Such a tripartite alliance electoral pact will be empty, unless it includes civil society organisations.
Right now, civil society groups, outside Cosatu, are being marginalised in policy making on appointments to, and giving direction to the government.
lGumede is author of Thabo Mbeki and the Battle for the Soul of the ANC