The ANC’s January 8th statement: Counting the elephants
By Tunicia Phillips
Following a politically eventful 2016, it was expected that the ruling party’s annual anniversary statement would shy away from the elephant in the room. The elephants vary in shape and size but all have certainly defined, and possibly catapulted it into a new era, for better or worse.
From a party (and not government) perspective, I had imagined that the speech would seek to quell worries regarding the ANC’s dwindling majority at the polls ahead of the State of the Nation (SONA) address. Last year’s local government election made history when opposition parties scooped the big metros that had previously only ever been governed by the ruling party. As a speech that is expected to speak to the state of the party, I also anticipated that party President Jacob Zuma would help its members understand what could have gone wrong during the local government elections- and what would be done to ensure that the 2019 national election is a success for the ANC. Instead, President Zuma thanked the people who worked tirelessly throughout the election campaign and admitted that they knew it would be a hard road to the polls. Yes, it is indeed necessary to thank the thousands of foot soldiers who mobilised and campaigned throughout the election – but with the 2016 election perceived to be defining, in a negative way, for the ANC, why not put greater attention on specific steps to be taken to halt the slide as opposed to shying away from it?
“At the same time, the ANC has heard the message that the people delivered in August 2016. We accept that we have made mistakes and shall correct these mistakes. One example of correcting our mistakes is that where list processes have been manipulated, the ANC has sent teams to these regions to take the necessary corrective measures. The ANC is in the process of refining our approach to the selection of candidates to prevent manipulation of ANC list processes.”
Political Killings Elephant
Kwa Zulu Natal Premiere Willies Mchunu has commissioned an enquiry into the politically motivated killings in that province following a spate of deaths last year. In October 2016, Mchunu said the provincial government’s records showed that 12 members of the ANC, 3 members of the IFP, 3 members of the National Freedom Party (NFP) and 2 SACP members had been slain. If that is not a big enough elephant to address when speaking to your members, possibly for the last time- then I don’t know what is. Apart from bringing up the theme of unity and anti-factionalism, President Zuma mentioned nothing of the crisis in Kwa Zulu Natal.
It’s worth noting that the commission into political killings may cost the tax payer R15 million.
The Marikana Elephant
The January 8th statement was also a great opportunity to finally give victims of the Marikana massacre adequate closure. For 5-years civil society, opposition parties and labour unions have called for an official apology for the role that government played during the events of August 2012. While developments in the opening of cases as well as plans to compensate families are underway, once again the ruling party fell short of an actual apology.
“It has been five years since the 2012 Marikana Tragedy wherein 44 people were killed. The ANC, once again, extends its condolences to the families of those killed. We re-commit to our ongoing efforts aimed at improving the social and economic conditions in all mining areas. The ANC calls on mining houses to give greater effect to the obligations undertaken in their social and labour plans and to work more closely with government and organised labour in this regard.
It is time to return the land to our people.”
State of Capture Elephant
Despite the notion of state capture dancing on everyone’s lips almost throughout all of 2016, it also seemed President Zuma (and his speech writers) opted to stay far away from any such talk. President Zuma is currently seeking legal counsel to review the findings of the Public Protector’s state of Capture Report which suggests that he may have overlooked the influence of the Gupta family on state affairs. While such talk may also be reserved for the SONA address, I would think ANC members want to know if there party is as captured as the state it governs.
I must admit that my expectations for the 2017 January 8th statement may have been too high. I truly expected President Zuma to stand up, and make what could be his last statement as ANC president count, but with all those elephants, there’s always a risk of a stampede.