African National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa called for self-correction in the party following what he said was a "dramatic decline in support" during the 2016 local government elections.
Giving the opening address at the party’s thirteenth Gauteng provincial conference, in Pretoria, Ramaphosa said the election results suggested that the ANC was not fulfilling peoples' expectations.
He said the results revealed the true extent of the party’s presence in communities and its responsiveness to the needs and concerns of voters.
“Delegates to this conference must honestly assess the extent to which our own weaknesses contributed to the decline in electoral support, even among our traditional supporters. In doing this, we must not tear each other apart, but we must speak the truth without fear or favour with the sole intention to self-correct,” Ramaphosa urged.
He said the ANC should take collective responsibility for its weaknesses just as it did for victories.
He stressed the importance of unity during introspection and reminded delegates that the decisions taken at the conference must support party renewal and restore the confidence of members.
He wanted the party to put aside “negative tendencies” following the conference.
“Never again must our people believe that as we gather here, we are interested only in fighting for positions of leadership. [The] conference must be firm against all foreign practices which erode the confidence of our people in the ANC such as the manipulation of processes, gate-keeping, bulk-buying of membership, and even violence,” Ramaphosa asserted.
He reminded ANC members of the oaths they took when joining the organisation voluntarily and without motives of material advantage or personal gain and pointed out that South Africans needed to see the pledge reflected in words and actions.
Ramaphosa added that the pledge must include combatting any tendency towards disruption and factionalism.
ON THE GROUND
The conference, he said, needed to focus on the relationship between ANC structures and communities.
“We must measure the strength of an ANC branch not by how many members it has or how many delegates it sends to conference, but by how centrally it is involved in the life of the community. This extends to the role of branch members in their communities,” he said.
Ramaphosa called on branch members to be active in community structures such as ward committees, clinic committees, hospital boards, school governing bodies and community policing forums.
They should also support nongovernmental organisations, community-based organisations and faith-based organisations and work with them to advance local development.
He said the conference needed to reflect on whether this was the case in Gauteng.
“The economic emancipation of all our people is a responsibility that history has placed on our shoulders and we dare not fail. This conference must determine what practical measures we need to take to make this a reality,” Ramaphosa said.
UNEMPLOYMENT AND INVESTMENT
Unemployment must be the focus as many are denied the opportunity to play a role in the country’s economy.
Even though Gauteng was a major destination for investment, the infrastructure, skills and capacity in the province must be used to attract even greater local and international investment.
He stressed the need for jobs for the youth through investment and suggested that spatial development of the province could play a role by ensuring that investment is made in the areas people live.
Further, the poor and working class needed to be brought closer to existing economic centres, Ramaphosa suggested.
LAND AND HOUSING
He applauded provincial government for providing people with land for housing in the major urban areas.
“In addition to the construction of suitable housing in well-located areas, we should also be providing people with serviced sites so that they can build their own structures. We should continue and accelerate the process of providing people with title deeds as part of our efforts to redistribute land and to tackle asset poverty,” he stressed.
On the issue of radical economic transformation, Ramaphosa said this must be realised at a grassroots level and that each conference delegate should think about how this can be realised in their respective areas.
“Radical economic transformation means taking steps to ensure all project targets are reached in order to benefit local people. We must act decisively against those within our ranks involved in activities that disrupt these projects,” he warned.
He called on ANC members to refrain from involving themselves in violent local protests as this undermined the stability of democracy, caused damage to property and bred conflict.
He said the ANC would have failed if it did not come out of the conference with solutions to how the pace of service delivery would be improved.
“I have every confidence that we will not fail, that we will come out of the conference more united and stronger, ready to tackle the challenges ahead and ever more committed to work with our people to create a better life for all,” Ramaphosa concluded.