Perhaps the most fundamental question in our politics since the local elections has been whether or not the ANC can “self-correct”, whether it can stop the slide. All of the evidence presented in 2016 suggested that it could not.
The Nkandla judgement, the State of Capture report, the refusal of President Jacob Zuma to take responsibility for anything, the Gupta’s influence; all of this indicated the ANC was heading in just one direction. But to listen closely to Zuma speaking at a packed and wet Orlando Stadium on Sunday, 8 January 2017, and then to read the ANC National Executive Committee’s full January 8th Statement, is the party planning to change for the better? That it really has heard the message sent so loudly last year. However, the ANC Women’s League’s behaviour over the weekend suggests that it is still going to be a long struggle for the party to change.
Jacob Zuma is not someone who likes to concede a point. He would not resign after the Shaik judgement in 2005, he did not take personal responsibility for Nkandla, he has continuously claimed the Gupta family’s apparent success has nothing to do with him. Speaking of the economy, the ANC has again (yawn?) promised “radical economic transformation”. There was a time when capitalists were really scared of that phrase. No more. The ANC does not seem able to agree on almost any aspect of policy at the moment, never mind something as complicated as an economic policy. Even something as technical and minor (for most people) as the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Act is the source of very real disagreement. Which surely suggests that proper change to the economy driven by a united ANC is almost entirely out of the question.
Considering that this is (presumably) Zuma’s last January 8th address as ANC leader, it is probably important to say a few things about the touch-and-feel of the address. Zuma himself is not who he was just a few years ago. For those who support the ANC, Sunday’s event turned out to be important, the first signal is that the party wants to turn around the corner. There are many things that did not happen that are also important; Zuma was not booed, the stadium was not empty – despite the rain, everyone was disciplined.
But there was also the absence of real celebratory spirit. The ANC is not what it was when its previous leader gave his final January 8th Address in 2007. Back then, it was possible to keep the veneer of unity in public. No longer. It is hard at this point to see how the party could get that spirit back. Zuma has stolen the party’s spirit, the sense that it is unique. Now, it’s a political party. And it has to act like one, and find a way to manage the competing interests within it. Below are some of what the president unfolded.The president said, “the ANC must have unity of purpose and display unity in action in advancing the NDR! The ANC must concentrate on radical economic transformation and ensure that the people become more prosperous. We must grow the economy, create jobs and return the land to our people!”
“President Tambo often emphasised that the ANC has a vision of South Africa in which black and white live in conditions of peace and prosperity. The struggle for economic freedom and prosperity of all South Africans underpins all our actions during this phase of our transition.” “Building a non-racial society is a necessity in a country as diverse as South Africa. It does not matter where we came from. We are all here now. The humanist approach of the ANC is that all people are equal. Respect for the inherent humanity and dignity of all people, especially the historically oppressed majority, must inform all our actions.” “President OR Tambo recognised that the struggle for national liberation is intrinsically linked to the emancipation of women and advocated that women take up their roles “among the fighting ranks of our movement and its command posts.”
“We are proud that our Constitution espouses progressive values and protects all persons equally. We are especially proud of the protection available to women, children, persons living with disabilities, the provisions aimed at safeguarding cultural, linguistic and religious rights and those entrenching the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) South Africans.” The president concluded by saying, “Our world is increasingly moving away from the concepts of unity across nations and multilateral engagement on issues of global importance. There is an apparent upsurge of right wing nationalism in Europe and worrying signs of similar phenomena in other countries,” said the president. The Democratic Alliance (DA) has described President Jacob Zuma’s January 8 Statement as a repetition of past statements from the African National Congress (ANC).
The DA says this shows that the ANC has run out of ideas and lacks a vision for the people of South Africa. Zuma delivered the ANC’s January 8 Statement at Orlando Stadium in Soweto earlier on Sunday, 8 January 2017. DA spokesperson Mabine Seabe says the President didn’t dwell much on corruption and an economic plan for the country. “The ANC January Statement generally forms what will be said at the State of the Nation Address.”
“Therefore, as the Democratic Alliance (DA) we are left feeling empty by the hollow words of the ANC and President Jacob Zuma with very little said about corruption and a proper economic plan for the people of South Africa.” “With our education system being one of the worst in the world, especially when it comes to Maths and Science, there were no plans around that. Young people continue to face the brunt of unemployment, joblessness and the poor economic system set up by the ANC,” he says.