Opening Address by President Jacob Zuma 5th ANCNational Policy Conference

NASREC Expo Centre, Johannesburg,

30 June 2017



We convey warm greetings to all of you at 5th National Policy Conference of the African National congress.

Over the next few days we shall scrutinise the health of the organisation in pursuit of organisational renewal, and also discuss our policy proposals for the country ahead of the national conference in December.


Our discussions must be informed by unity, which is the rock upon which the ANC was founded. We were taught this by the founding leaders of the movement.


In 1911 when he announced the founding conference of the ANC, Pixley ka Isaka Seme made an appeal for unity, stating that the

The demon of racialism, the aberrations of the Xhosa-Fingo feud, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tongaas, between the Basutos and every other Native must be buried and forgotten; it has shed among us sufficient blood! We are one people. 

“These divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes and of all our backwardness and ignorance to-day”.


Unity must be the thread that keeps this movement and our country together.


Comrades and compatriots,

The policy conference takes place during a difficult period economically in our country. The economy has entered into a technical recession. At the time of the Budget in February, the economy was expected to grow at a low 1.3 per cent in 2017.


Given the current difficulties, even this low grow rate may now not be achieved.


Our deliberations in this conference on the economy will need to look at what needs to be done to reignite growth over the next five years.


This conference also takes place against the background of good progress that has been made in the country in the past 23 years in consolidating democracy and also in expanding access to a better life.


We have over the past two decades developed a functional democratic State, with an executive, parliament and judiciary that continue to execute their tasks, informed by the Constitution, serving the people of our country.


The ANC affirms the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law and we promote respect for our courts as final arbiters in disputes in society.

Our constitutional democracy is also characterised by freedom of the media which is enshrined in the Constitution. The ANC promotes the rights of journalists to work freely, safely and without hindrance in our country. We also promote media independence from various interests, professionalism as well as balanced and accurate reporting at all times.


The ANC government has worked consistently to expand basic services that improve the quality of life to the poor and the working class. These include improved education and health care, housing for the poor, electricity, water and infrastructure in areas that were neglected by the previous apartheid regimes.


Social security has been expanded to reach 18 million people made up of vulnerable children including orphans under the age of eighteen, senior citizens, persons living with disability and military veterans.


This has contributed immensely to the alleviation of extreme poverty.


This is in addition to other social security covers like unemployment insurance, compensation for injury or duty and road accident cover. These have also been made accessible to all our people.


The ANC has increased access to economic opportunities for black people who were excluded before through various economic programmes.


The ANC prides itself on the growth of the black middle class through its policies and programmes, including affirmative action and broad based black economic empowerment. These need to be broadened to reach even more people in the next five years.


The huge expansion of basic services has been achieved in spite of an economy that had been gutted by the Apartheid system.


Much more still needs to be done to reach more communities who are still waiting for services across the country.


Conference will thus need to reflect on the pace and quality of the implementation of ANC programmes and how this can be improved further to improve the lives of more people in our country, as we reverse the legacy of apartheid colonialism.


Comrades and compatriots,

The ANC is a national liberation movement which is now in government.

The movement has also faced several challenges over the past few years in the changing terrain of struggle, which have impacted on the character of the organisation.


There has been a development of some very negative tendencies which have caused frustration and disillusionment amongst the membership and population at large.


This policy conference is called upon to seriously look into these developments and emerge with recommendations that will help redirect the movement to its core business and its core mission and character.


In doing so we must draw on lessons from the past 100 years, with regards to how the ANC has survived to become the oldest liberation movement in the continent.


The ANC survived for a century because of amongst others the following traits;


  • Its deep roots and connection with the people;


  • Its vibrant internal democracy and collective leadership;


  • Its readiness and willingness of its members to make sacrifices in pursuit of the cause of the people as a whole;


  • Its readiness to acknowledge its weaknesses and decisively address them in order to escalate and accelerate the people’s struggle;
  • Its ability to adapt to changing conditions and rise to the occasion at critical moments;



  • Its ability to uphold and build unity a cross section of South Africans and progressive forces in the world in pursuit of the cause of humanity.


Importantly, the ANC has succeeded over the past decades due to its capacity to mobilise other sectors such as business, the faith-based community, non-governmental organisations, community organisations,the sports fraternity, students, traditional leaders, the international community and the intelligentsia amongst others behind the programme of transformation.


We need to restore these traits as they have made the ANC a parliament of the people.


It is not the first time that we discuss organisational renewal. We do it ahead of every national conference of our movement. However, at this conference, we must be solutions-based.


We will discuss the health of the organisation not just for the sake of it, but because our country needs a united, strong, focused and cohesive ANC. The ANC belongs to the people of South Africa, and we must fix it so that it can continue improving the lives of our people.


Ahead of the discussions, we need to remind ourselves of the objectives and mission of the movement.

The ANC is guided by the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution.


As outlined in our Strategy and Tactics document, the main content of the NDR remains the liberation of Africans in particular and Blacks in general from political and socio-economic bondage. It means uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female”.

The NDR seeks to resolve the main and interrelated contradictions of national oppression based on race, class especially the exploitation of black workers, and the triple oppression of women.


The ANC also remains committed to the objective of the NDR of uniting South Africans in building a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

The non-racial character of the movement has indeedalways been one of the defining features of the ANC.


The ANC also remains a multi-class organisation, with abias towards the working class and the poor.


The ANC also seeks to retain and strengthen its position as the strategic centre of power, the leader of the Alliance, a disciplined force of the left, a mass movement and an internationalist movement with an anti-imperialist outlook.


Importantly, our discussions should be geared towards restoring the core values and principles of our movement.


These are unity, selflessness, sacrifice, collective leadership, humility, honesty, discipline, hard work, internal debates, constructive criticism and self-criticism and mutual respect.


This is the ANC that our people know and love.

We know too, that despite the challenges it faces currently, the ANC still represents the hopes, dreams and aspirations of millions of our people. Our people want the ANC to resolve its difficulties and continue with its mission of transforming South Africa and building a better life for all.


To restore and maintain its character the ANC needs to cleanse itself of the negative tendencies which have crept in over the years.


These tendencies, which have been outlined before, include patronage, corruption, social distance, factionalism, abuse of power and membership systemanomalies such as the reported manipulation of the membership data, gate keeping and bulk buying of membership.


Factionalism is a cancer that must be rooted out of the ANC.


It has caused splits from the ANC which has negatively affected us both quantitatively and qualitatively. Slate politics, another manifestation of factionalism, has cost us many good and capable comrades in whom our movement has invested significantly.


We also need to look at the issue of ill-discipline in various forms, including public utterances attacking the movement by ANC leaders and members instead of handling matters within the organization and finding constructive solutions.


Some members and leaders of the ANC have become primary conveyors of negative information about their own movement.


The challenge for the country is that this irresponsibleperpetual negative messaging by our own people has a negative impact on the economy. We need to discuss how we can balance our valued trait of self-criticism with the need to protect the ANC and provide it with the space to resolve problems in a more organized manner.


We also need to be able to differentiate between self-criticism and the furtherance of certain interests and agendas.



Our movement suffered a serious setback in the August 3, 2016 local government elections and experienced a decline of about eight percent of the national vote.

Our discussions here will reflect on these elections for lessons to be drawn and solutions to be found.


We lost control of some key metropolitan municipalities including Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay.


In Ekurhuleni we managed to form a coalition to retain control of the Council.

Opposition parties formed coalitions to wrest control from our party. Part of the focus on renewal is aimed at enabling the ANC to regain that lost ground.

The good news is that this week we managed to win Mogale City back as the ANC.


Since the announcement of the election results, members and supporters of the ANC have, out of pain and genuine concern, been engaged in varying degrees in robust discussions about what has gone wrong with their beloved movement, and how we lost the metros.


The National Executive Committee meeting in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the results attributed our loss of support to perceptions in society that we are soft on corruption, we are self-serving and that the ANC is arrogant. These are based on research findings we had undertaken before the elections, which proved to be correct.


We also visit many parts of the country and people tell us what the problems are. They do complain about ANC leaders and deployees who fail to make time to talk to them and listen to their problems.


This does not apply to all deployees or government officials but one dismissive and arrogant ANC leader or official implementing ANC policies is one too many.

The NEC has also referred to social restlessness, which manifests itself through the increasing number of community protest actions and what appears to be a growing tendency for these to turn violent.


However we do not condone violent protests as people can make their voices heard in a peaceful manner, protected by the Constitution.

In fact, the view of the ANC is that damage to state property in particular, must be categorised as a serious offence punishable by a long-term sentence. However, we should take these protests seriously as part of the diagnosis of what has gone wrong. Why do people now communicate with us through protests?


This conference must diagnose the real problems that led to the decline in electoral support, and propose effective remedial action.


We must not be emotional in our discussions about what caused our electoral loss. We must be open minded and use the facts before us combined with our revolutionary theory as the framework for analysis and interpretation.


Importantly, we must also be prepared to discuss the South African political economy as the overall context under which our electoral support has declined.


In addition to the weak capacity of the state and internal organisational problems, the unfavourable global economic environment has put a strain on our own economic development and potential for job creation which causes frustration.

As stated by Amilcar Cabral once, people want a better life.

He said; “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward and to guarantee the future of their children.”



We must unite around promoting integrity and curbing possible abuse of power and corruption among ANC members.


In this regard, it is critical for us to discuss the impact on the organization, of the ANC being in government and our cadres having access to state power and resources.



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