Politics – Interview with Kgalema Motlanthe

The challenges of the day in the ruling party and in Cosatu

Kgalema Motlanthe, secretary general of the ANC, speaks to Numsa Bulletin about the multi-class nature of the ANC, the difference between a coalition and an alliance, the gender quota and the challenges of implementing ANC policy in government.

What we see from the media is some struggle within the ANC, how is that going to be addressed?The ANC is a multi-class organisation.

We have hard-nosed capitalists and 'die in the wool' communists all as members of the ANC, all with equal rights to pursue their vested interests and to pursue their points of view vigorously within the ANC.

The strength of the ANC has always been its ability to develop consensus positions out of those debates.

If the ANC pronounces on any position and you are an outsider and you critique that position, you will find that you have very strong allies inside the ANC, because your views will have been expressed in the ANC whether you come from the left or right.

Those shades of opinion in the political spectrum are fully represented in the ANC. That contest of ideas is a permanent feature of the ANC, it is not seasonal, virtually on any matter under discussion, people will come from different starting points.

The policy conference reaffirms the importance and centrality of the alliance. Alliance partners, Cosatu and SACP have voiced their concerns.

Cosatu in its recent Central Committee (CC) reached a decision that the alliance should be reconfigured and there was the issue of the alliance pact. What is the view of the ANC in terms of these resolutions?

A revolutionary alliance is based on a common political programme as distinct from a coalition. In a coalition you will find parties with different political programmes, different ideologies coming together.

There are always these three parts in a pact or coalition – how the coalition will be established, maintained and terminated.

We need to ensure that we improve in terms of how the debates, consultation and decisions and even policy is being debated and adopted within the alliance.

When Cosatu says 'we need a pact', in that is contained an understanding that there is no common political programme of the alliance. I am saying that this is a departure from the policy that has always guided and governed each component of the alliance.

The ANC says it will welcome a discussion on how to reconfigure the alliance.

Would you like to comment on this?What needs to be reconfigured and improved upon are the intra-alliance processes of debate, policy formulation, implementation and decision making – not the alliance. The alliance is likely to be around long after we are gone.

Cosatu took a decision at its CC (which in your days the federation never took) to nominate preferred candidates for leadership.

The Cosatu general secretary has tried to clarify that what the CC was doing was trying to influence those delegates in the branches that would be nominating.

What is the view of the ANC? Was Cosatu out of line?If Cosatu goes to a conference and adopts a resolution it must remain loyal to those resolutions and implement them.

It must also ask the question 'what are the practical implications of this resolution that we are adopting?' It is the same phenomenon that confronted us.

We adopted the constitution of the republic in 1996 and in that constitution we said nobody must be discriminated against on any basis whatsoever including sexual orientation.

Down the line in 2000 the courts then say people that are of the same sexual orientation have the right to marry because marriage is discriminating against them.

We came from a background of discrimination and that is why we were against it. But if you now say 'no but i-gays' and this and that, it is too late in the day, you have to be loyal to your constitution because you adopted it.

The same logic applies to Cosatu, the same to a government minister. If a government minister doesn’t read what the bureaucrats submit for signature, you can't turn around down the line and say this thing is creating problems.

We regard Cosatu as a body of opinion within the alliance; they know that they have no right to nominate leadership.

To the extent that they resolved to do so, they ought to implement the resolution and correct it in the next congress.

You can go back and say that 'this resolution had the following implications, we have practical experience, let's revise it' and you can revise it. But the CC can't do that; it must go back to congress. The point that I am highlighting is that we must be very, very careful on how we word our resolutions.

Let's talk about the NGC decision to have a quota of 50-50 (men and women). It was implemented during local government elections, there have been some challenges.

Now we are going to be electing leadership that goes to the NEC. We know that it was a NGC decision, not a conference decision. Is it going to be the criteria for NEC elections?In electoral commission guidelines, they do remind delegates, structures, that there were these kinds of recommendations and that they should be mindful of those recommendations.

At conference, there will be constitutional amendments presented for conference to consider. I think this will be one of them. Rule 6 of the current constitution, provides for a quota of 1/3 in terms of the gender issue.

In the policy conference there is another recommendation on the size of the NEC which is informed by the fear of male comrades because if the 50-50 amendment goes through, it means that most of the male comrades stand less of a chance of being in the NEC.

So if it is enlarged it will accommodate some of them and enable the NEC to do sectoral deployments. It may mean that there will be sufficient NEC members to do sectoral work without overstretching anybody. But they have to be presented and considered by conference.

If conference says it is now a decision?Normally constitutional amendments are handled right at the beginning. If conference is of the view that this must have immediate application, it will say so. If conference says 'no, it will have application going forward' it will also say so. Conference can take any decision.

The resolution on the women's ministry – is that not going to lead to demands from other sections that they have their own ministry eg youth?Already you have this in the office of the minister in the presidency – all these chapters fall within there.

I don’t know if that recommendation will enjoy favour at the conference. Ex-combatants also want their own ministry of veterans. When people sit down and engage with the detail of it in the broader scheme of things, they will realise that it is not a priority.

There has been an allegation from alliance partners and society that the ANC is tailing government. What would you say to that?

If you go back to our document on organisational review you will find that we raised this issue of the management of the relationship very sharply between the organisation and government.

In accordance with our electoral system of proportional representation, it is the party which contests elections and wins them.

It is the party which deploys people into legislatures, parliament and into cabinet as well. Once they are there the party contests elections on the basis of a manifesto, informed by broad policies adopted at conference, therefore government must be guided and must implement policies of organisations.

If you build a house, you get an architect to do the plans and specifications, here will be a door – it doesn’t say it will be a wooden door or a glass door – this is the detail of implementing the plan.

That is left to the project manager who will be given a budget. Depending on what decision you make, if it's a wooden door, it means a handle is going to be required.

So the specifics, the details are left to you. In the same way we need to strike a balance between ensuring that the party is pre-eminent in relation to government; it is the strategic centre.

The party cannot micro-manage government departments. Therefore we must strike a balance between the temptation to try and micro-manage.

What do you mean by 'micro-manage'?We know that in local municipalities, 'you must nominate so and so to be the mayor' and they sit in the gallery and they watch how the councillors who must vote, vote. If the councillors nominate someone else, they come back into the ANC and institute disciplinary proceedings against the councillors.

That is micro-managing – it means they did not make sufficient time to consult with the councillors, persuade them so that they own the decision themselves and nominate whoever has been agreed to.

That kind of challenge you have to work at on an on-going basis. In government there is a bureaucracy and it remains in place regardless of who the political head is.

Sometimes that bureaucracy would also present proposals and policy directions for signatures to the political head which do not conform with policies of organisations.

So if the political head does not read the documents properly, he or she may sign off and find that that policy represents a deviation from the policies of the organisation.

There is a temptation on the part of those who end up in government to say 'we are government, we govern'. You have to pull them back in to line with the policies of the organisation. These two extreme temptations have to be registered so that you strike that balance.

I heard that there is a comrade that used to be in government and she now leads a big parastatal and it is said that she once said that 'delegates to the ANC policy conference don’t know anything about economics and as an economist I am going to do this' which was not in line with what ANC policy conference had decided.

Is this normal? It is one of those temptations, here is a qualified economist making assumptions that those who are not economists know nothing about economics.

Whatever you implement impacts on the lives of people and people experience that same policy and that experience can't be factored out as inconsequential, it is an important indicator.

You may have policy that is well written, well thought out, but the impact, practical impact of the experiences by the people may be negative and if they say that it is negative on their lives, it doesn’t matter what books and certificates you have, it is nonsense if it doesn’t make sense to those people!

Motlanthe was speaking to Cedric Gina, Numsa's second vice president and Rolly Xipu, Ekurhuleni regional organiser.

ANC conference in numbers

5 000 participants, consisting of 4 075 voting delegates, 425 non-voting delegates, 130 observers, and 300 guests. 5 000 capacity marquee for the plenary sessions 4 000 beds in University of Limpopo residences 500 rooms in hotels in and around Polokwane for guests, observers, veterans and staff. 14 commission venues.


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