Manifesto workshop is ANC's ploy to hold on to power

Ace Magashule and President Cyril Ramaphosa during the ANC's Manifesto Consultative Workshop in Centurion.
Ace Magashule and President Cyril Ramaphosa during the ANC's Manifesto Consultative Workshop in Centurion.
Image: Thulani Mbele

The ANC workshop on manifesto drafting was indicative of the ruling party's desire to have a wider appeal.

To do this, the ANC has seen the value of drawing on the social capital of other voices in society. This may help clean up its image in the short run, but it only further dilutes the ANC's identity and articulation of a clear vision and ideology.

Attendance at this workshop was not limited to card-carrying members of the party - among the participants were its national and provincial leaders, academics, activists and pundits. And, as expressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the start of the workshop, the gathering was meant to be a critical platform and not an echo chamber to reinforce positive sentiments about the party's abilities and prospects.

Once the manifesto is adopted, it will be presented as a document that reflects the microcosm of South African society and sold as a plan that everyone can get behind. It will also be brandished with the optimism of building a cohesive and united nation.

In reality, this manifesto is a ploy the ANC will use to keep arguing that it is making progress towards an ideal future that all South Africans desire, while maintaining its failures are just setbacks in the long-term process of bringing change.

Jeff Radebe, the party head of policy, intimated the ANC could not hope to convince voters on the strength of its resolutions alone. Noble as this approach may be, this workshop and the manifesto may suffer from a credibility and legitimacy deficit within ANC structures.

The ANC conference resolutions form the basis for its policy platform, which it pursues in government and at all levels.

Despite differences in opinion at its elective conference in December, the resolutions adopted signify the consensus reached on the path the party will take in developing its programme of action.

Surely the policy conference and the elective conference have a higher standing than a manifesto workshop.

The workshop could, as a result, be interpreted as an attempt to diminish the status of the conference decisions.

During the 54th elective conference in Nasrec, Ramaphosa won the ANC presidency, but the policy platform adopted is somewhat inimical to his reconciliatory emphasis and what has come out clearly as his priority of political and economic stability weary of a radicalism that may rock the boat and further diminish investor confidence.

He has taken it in his stride. But the approach to and sentiments expressed at the manifesto workshop are an attempt to retake the initiative of influencing the direction of the ruling party.

More significantly, the elevation of the workshop engagement above conference resolutions demonstrates a lack of confidence in the ANC's determination of the process and actions necessary to address South Africa's pressing challenges.

Radebe spoke of how the ANC could not afford to be inward looking, referring to having a manifesto drafted by party members and functionaries, but that it should be outward looking, embracing the views of ordinary people.

In other words, the ANC feels it needs to be everything to everyone so that it can continue to govern.

The ruling party is willing to continue promising to deliver the heart's desire of groups with competing agendas and plural interests.

This workshop was another vacuous attempt to shore up the ANC's hopes at holding on to power.

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