This National Policy Conference of the ANC, held over the four days of September 27th to 30th was attended by 687 delegates from ANC national, provincial, regional and branch level structures, from the ANC Youth and Women's Leagues, COSATU, the SACP, SANCO, COSAS and SASCO. It has been marked by extremely high levels of active participation, discussion and debate. This Conference was preceded by a comprehensive process, and it serves, in turn, as a major step towards our 51st National Congress to be held in December in Stellenbosch.
Our policy process has proceeded in the democratic traditions of the African National Congress and included the following elements:
Preparations for this Policy Conference began last year with requests for submissions from all structures of the ANC, from government departments, and parliamentary study groups.
Ninety-seven regional and sub-regional policy workshops were held throughout the country. These involved the active participation of our Alliance partners (SACP, COSATU and SANCO) as well as other organs of progressive civil society.
Provincial policy conferences were held in all provinces, bringing together over 8,000 delegates from ANC and other progressive structures.
The Policy Department of the ANC received more than 400 separate submissions from branches and regions.
Our discussion documents were also made available to the general public, through the publication of Umrabulo Special Edition (#16).
As a people's organization we invited, and indeed received, many comments and contributions from a diverse range of individuals and organizations.
Therefore, delegates to this Policy Conference came enriched by an extensive participatory process involving thousands of our people. The robust debates that have taken place over the last four days were an indication of how seriously the participants took the President's invitation, in his opening address, to engage with policy challenges facing our movement and our country.
In reviewing our Strategy and Tactics as adopted at our 50th National Congress in 1997, and in assessing key ANC and government policies, this Policy Conference has re-affirmed the general thrust of our policies and perspectives. Furthermore, the Policy Conference has identified many new challenges as well as the need to intensify implementation of existing policies.
We are well aware that democratic policy development and evaluation is an ongoing task. This is especially so in the case of the ANC: we are a ruling party, a mass-based movement, the leading formation in a dynamic Alliance and at the head of all progressive forces for change, for transformation and for nation-building.
Comrades, the transformation process has never been easy, particularly if the change takes place within a revolutionary context. In our case we must recognize the fact that we are in a period of a changing global situation. It is within this understanding that the task facing the ANC should be understood. This task is to develop policies that are able to address the problems faced by our people at a variety of levels: from the local tasks of a ward councilor to the challenge of providing leadership in a globalising world. Our responsibilities include, therefore, developing policy and providing leadership locally, provincially, nationally, in the SADC region, in the African continent, amongst developing countries, and amongst the nations of our planet.
Since we met in our 1997 Congress in Mafikeng, the international balance of forces has been radically transformed by the postures adopted by the countries of the West. There has been a re-emergence of conservative forces that embrace unilateralism, growing protectionism, big power politics as well as other policies with the capacity to destabilize the world. Also of concern have been the acts of terrorism, which also contribute to destabilization. These developments have led to growing tension amongst the peoples of the world.
Nevertheless, we have been able to navigate these troubled international waters and have placed the issues of poverty eradication and a fairer world order firmly on the international agenda. In particular we hosted and contributed to the success of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, The World Conference Against Racism, the launch of the African Union and the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
On the domestic front, this Policy Conference has affirmed two fundamental challenges:
What is needed is a determined effort to ensure that our policies are implemented effectively and with more strategic co-ordination. Our Policy Conference devoted considerable attention to examining reasons for successes and shortcomings in this regar
Above all, the commissions and plenary sessions of this Conference have underlined the overriding challenge of tackling poverty and unemployment in our society. Indeed, tackling poverty and unemployment is the consistent thread that runs through the gt majority of draft resolutions that we will be taking from this Conference to our National Congress in December.
SOME KEY PROPOSALS
It is impossible to do justice in this brief overview to the diversity, detail and richness of the discussions and draft resolutions emerging from this Conference. The full text of our draft resolutions for the 51st Congress will be distributed throughout our structures and allied formations, and also made available to the general public, in the coming days.
However, to provide some idea of resolutions coming from our nine commissions and our plenary sessions, we highlight the following, among others:
This Policy Conference has adopted an important draft resolution calling on government to continue, with a sense of great urgency, with plans towards a comprehensive social security system. This should include the consolidation of all existing social measures such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) and all social grants. The strengthening and progressive expansion of the social wage, including removing obstacles to the delivery of free basic services to all in the shortest possible time, was also identified as a priority.
Conference also resolved to expand the reach of existing programmes, such as the child support grant and the school nutrition programme. Specifically, we are proposing that the age eligibility for the child support grant be raised, and that the school nutrition programme be extended beyond children in grade R, as well as to secondary schools where possible.
In regard to health care, the Policy Conference is proposing the strengthening of the distribution of drugs so that they reach all our people. We are calling for access to affordable medicines for all, including through the speeding up of the implementation of Act 90 of 1997, on generic substitution and parallel importation.
We are calling for the strengthening and acceleration of the implementation of our national AIDS strategy, as amplified in the cabinet statement of 17 April 2002. The ANC must continue to be at the forefront of community mobilisation and leadership around HIV/AIDS, especially with regard to awareness, prevention, voluntary testing and counseling, treatment and care.
Conference noted the progress that has been made in restructuring the South African economy, expanding its manufacturing base, diversifying our exports, skills development and black economic empowerment.
However, conference noted the high unemployment rate in our country, underpinning continued poverty and many other social problems. We are calling on our government at all levels to embark on programmes that combine short-term measures for immediate relief with longer term interventions for sustainable job creation, skills training and alternative income generating opportunities. We are also supporting a major extension of community based public works programmes using labour intensive methods.
In regard to state-owned assets, this Policy Conference reaffirmed ANC policy on restructuring of state owned assets in a manner that enhances the developmental capacity of our state. To this end, the mandates of state owned assets and enterprises must continue to be aligned with the social and economic mandates of our developmental agenda. Furthermore conference affirmed the importance of the National Framework Agreement, and proposes that it be extended to apply to all spheres of govenrment. Conference also identified the need to give priority to job retention, job creation and social plans in the process of restructuring.
Conference took note of the recent escalation of the price of basic foodstuffs and proposes that urgent and sustainable measures be introduced to mitigate the impact of these on the poor.
In regard to inflation, we note that monetary policy must be used in a flexible manner, consistent with the broad aims and objectives of ANC policy. Our draft resolution calls for maintaining our approach on inflation targeting, while ensuring that such targets are consistent with our overall economic objectives.
On agriculture and food security, we note the work that has already been done to reverse the legacy of centuries of dispossession. In order to take this work forward we proposed a resolution to engage with other formations and lead a popular campaign for rural development, including the formation and development of cooperatives, farmers and rural enterprises' associations. In this regard, it is not correct to raise the problem of landlessness as if nothing is being done.
This Policy Conference has noted that greater levels of funding are now available to significantly enhance infrastructural development. Our draft resolution proposes that the ANC should endorse the principle that infrastructure development is the primary driver of growth and development. A major emphasis on infrastructural development should focus, amongst other things, on job creation, poverty eradication and an expanded public works programme.
Peace and Security
We have noted the important progress made with our Crime Prevention Strategy. Our draft resolution proposes that ANC structures play an active role in expanding the role of Community Policing Forums from their important community-police liaison work to include a wider focus on community safety.
We are calling for the strengthening of the criminal justice system, in particular to more effectively deal with crimes against women and children. The ANC will also be tracking the ongoing transformation of the SANDF and in particular we shall be focusing upon its capacity to respond to international peace-keeping responsibilities.
Transformation of the State and Governance
This Policy Conference is proposing to our 51st Conference, that the ANC advocates the retention of the current proportional representation electoral system because of its inclusivity and nation-building features. However, we are also strongly recommending that the ANC actively review the constituency work of our public representatives to enhance accountability to communities. Considerable emphasis was placed on ensuring that, as the ANC, we take up the transformational challenges in the local government sphere. We are proposing that the ANC creates institutional capacity aimed at giving systematic political support to cadres who are deployed in the local government sphere. We are proposing that national and provincial spheres of government must actively participate in the process of formulating Municipal Integrated Development Plans; and we are proposing that ANC branches must complement the functioning of Ward Committees to mobilise communities to participate actively in programmes of governance and socio-economic development.
In regard to the Public Service, we are proposing that the pace of transformation must be accelerated through the creation of a single, development-oriented and integrated system of public administration. Advances towards such a single public service should be done on an informed basis and be preceded by a review of the various capacity levels required by different government institutions.
Our draft resolution on communications highlight our concern to ensure that there is much greater media diversity, that all languages are more effectively represented, especially on the Public Broadcaster. One of the delegates at our Policy Conference, who happens to be deaf, had an important impact on the Commission on Communications and on our plenary session. She drew our attention to the often neglected fact that there are 4 million deaf people in South Africa. Accordingly, in our draft resolution to our 51st Conference, we are proposing that the Public Broadcaster should use "closed caption" technology on television - a system that enables deaf people to access subtitling on their TV screens with a decoder device.
Our draft resolutions for the 51st Congress included important resolutions on international challenges confronting the ANC. Amongst other things, we are proposing an active ANC engagement with branches to empower and educate our grass-roots structures around NEPAD and the African Union (AU). We need to consolidate popular participation around the struggle to overcome Africa' s crisis of underdevelopment.
Building the ANC
The policy conference further resolved that fundamental to progress in implementing our programme is a strong ANC, at the head of all organized formations committed to fundamental change. The core of these forces, is the tripartite alliance plus SANCO, which the ANC will continue to build and consolidate. Further, the ANC, as a disciplined force of the left, pursuing the interests of the poor should continue with its principled ideological struggle against neo-liberalism and ultra-leftism.
Contrary to what is sometimes stated, our branches continue to exist as vibrant centers of democracy. This has been proven in the preparations for and conduct of this Policy Conference. The process of realignment and induction of our branches is nearing completion. This process has led to the rejuvenation of our structures at local, regional and provincial level. As we approach the Stellenbosh Congress, we do so with a greater number and better quality of ANC membership than that with which we approached Mafikeng in 1997.
Important in this process of organisation building has been the political induction of leadership at branch, regional and provincial level as well as ongoing political cadre development programmes.
Nevertheless, a lot more work needs to be done to strengthen our branches. This conference did not take a resolution on the building of organisation. The commission that discussed this question saw this matter as the subject of ongoing work leading up to our Congress, where a comprehensive resolution on organization building will be taken.
We shall be proceeding from this Policy Conference back to our branches with all of our draft resolutions. The full text of our draft resolutions will be available in the coming days. We will engage our own structures, our allied formations and the widest range of forces with these draft policy resolutions.
Our task will be to carry forward debates both in our branches and amongst the broader public. We call on the public to participate in this unprecedented policy development and evaluation process.
To engage in this ANC policy-making process is to take part in determining the future of South Africa. This process will culminate in the 51st Congress of the ANC in Stellenbosch in December.
This Congress will be a convention of ANC cadres. Indeed, a parliament of the people of South Africa.
This conference has engaged in democratic and open debate. That debate has been a culmination of a series of democratic debates, involving our structures from branch to national level, our alliance partners and our people as a whole. The quality of these debates reflects the fact that the call we made at the Port Elizabeth National General Council for the building of a New Cadre is beginning to be realized throughout our movement. In this process, nobody was prevented from expressing his or her viewpoint, whether as an individual or as a collective representing a branch, province or our alliance partners.
Most heartening is that in commissions as well as in plenary, all ideas were aired and consensus was reached, even on the most difficult issues. This applies even to the resolution on the economy on which public perceptions do not accord with the character of our debates, within the ANC and within the Alliance.
Therefore, given the level and openness of the debate that has taken place, what emerges from this conference is a collective view that must bind us all. This does not mean that we wish to enforce an unnatural unity on our diverse movement. But at the same time none of us should act in a manner that undermines the decisions we have collectively taken here.
As the ANC we have a history and culture different from other movements. We are a movement with integrity, with discipline, which has been able to unite our people for national liberation. We have been very sensitive to questions of unity. Because unity is the rock upon which this movement is founded. Building and maintaining unity requires us to learn from our history and apply the lessons to the manner in which we relate to one another as comrades, to the manner in which we engage with our Alliance partners and to the way in which we interact with the broader set of progressive forces in our country.
It is because of this history and culture that we should appreciate the good work that we have done in this conference. It is this understanding that should inform us as we proceed with our work leading up to our December National Congress. If we remember these principles, our history, our culture we will remain strong, united, ready to complete our task of transforming South Africa into a truly democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society.