December 20, 2002

SOUTH AFRICA: ANC Party Conference re-elects Mbeki and maintains unity

South African State President Thabo Mbeki has been re-elected on Tuesday, Dec 17, as President of the country’s main ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC). The party‘s 51st conference, held in Stellenbosch near Cape Town, confirmed Nelson Mandela’s successor unanimously for a second period of five years. Until Friday, Dec 20, delegates met behind closed doors to adopt a range of constitutional amendments, resolutions and a programme of action for the next five years. Among the constitutional amendments is one on party discipline described by a Sunday newspaper as an attempt "to turn the screws on the ANC's leftwing critics". This claim was rejected by the ANC in its online publication ANC Today. "The amendments are consistent with the organisational discipline required of people who voluntarily join a movement like the ANC," the ANC journal said.

Delegates also elected the party's 60-member National Executive Committee the highest decision-making body outside conference. Thirty-six of the 71 names submitted were the unanimous choice of all nine provinces and included most cabinet ministers, except Sport Minister Ngconde Balfour, who did not stand for election. Businessmen Cyril Ramaphosa, Max Sisulu and Saki Macozoma, and public servants Frank Chikane and Joel Netshitenzhe, were also re-elected. Elected NEC members also include a number of communists, but not those with trade union links such as National Union of Mineworkers secretary-general Gwede Mantashe. Mantashe is said to have withdrawn his nomination fearing he would be caught in a tug-of-war between the ANC and the Congress of South African trade unions. Participation of women in the NEC has been increased in line with the party's one-third quota system set out in its constitution.

The conference also adopted an update to the ANC's 1997 strategy and tactics document. Among the issues were where the ANC fitted ideologically "between the extremes of new-liberalism and modern ultra-leftism". "On the one extreme is the ideology of rampant capitalism, a system in which ... form democracy should be underpinned by market forces... That is the core of the ideology of neo-liberalism and other such worldviews, which dare the democratic state to emasculate itself." The strategy and tactics document refers to the other extreme as "ultra-left practices". "A common feature of ultra-leftism is subjectivism - a confusion of what is desirable with what is actually and immediately possible." The ANC rejects both approaches, the document says.

Joel Netshitenzhe, a member of the strategy and tactics commisison, told reporters on Wednesday that the ANC was a national liberation movement and was "not fighting for socialism". The ANC was in favour of a democratic society with a culture of human rights. "In that regard the ANC does not believe in any of these 'isms'," he said. The ANC came close to being a social democratic party, Netshitenzhe said. (Mail & Guardian Online, SADOCC)

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