Political analysts predict there could be disruptions at the start of the ANC’s five-day conference today as the party is clearly divided and has a recent history of failing to maintain discipline.
Some delegates may want to use the conference as a referendum on whether former African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma or Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa should take over as ANC president, while some may try to avoid that.
“How will they be able to police all this? The horse has already bolted,” said political analyst Ralph Mathekga.
ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said at a state-of-readiness briefing that heckling and booing would not be tolerated as party branches descend on Nasrec in Joburg, where the conference is taking place.
“We won’t allow people to intimidate and boo others. We can’t accept disruptions in a meeting of the ANC.”
On the question of songs being used to relay a message on divisions in the party and campaigning for individuals, these would also be stopped.
“We do sing songs about leaders of the ANC. For example, we can’t out of the blue ban any song about the president of the ANC,” Mantashe said, using examples of songs about Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela.
“But can you imagine we begin to have songs about ourselves? Obviously [for example], if there is a song about [ANC spokesperson] Zizi [Kodwa], we will stop that song. Because that will be nothing but a campaign song. But songs about leaders of the ANC and about the struggle, those are songs of the ANC that unify us.”
Mathekga said singing and dancing had always been part of the ANC’s culture and tradition and could never be policed.
“For Mantashe to say what they must sing – is he going to give songs in advance? You cannot stop political gestures they are going to make. He can only express his position that those gestures are unwelcome, but can do nothing about it,” he said.
Mathekga charged that booing was once used as an instrument to their advantage by some leaders in the ANC but now “when it doesn’t work for them, it’s not good, and they will try to stop it”.
“And it’s going to be difficult. Booing has become part of the conversation in the ANC.”
Mathekga said while he was not a security expert, he foresaw disruptions: “The media accreditation doesn’t even have a bar code, so how are they going to manage security? How will they know members are even ANC? I won’t be surprised if some people walk around just to disrupt.”
Analyst Professor Somadoda Fikeni attributed the serious problem of a lack of discipline to an inconsistency in application at previous events: “For them to deal with current challenges, they stand little chance of imposing discipline.”
Fikeni said there had been a lack of leadership during the past decade.
“So how are they likely to enforce that [discipline] in a credible manner when the message has always been the same?
“Recently there were attempts to boo the former finance minister. There were threats to say this should not be done, but there is no action, so others may see it as inconsistency in the application.”
Should undisciplined behaviour occur at the conference, nothing could be done except to ask factional leaders to talk to their members, Fikeni said.
But Professor Susan Booysen of the Wits University School of Governance said the ANC had in the past week pulled itself together and shown more unity to ensure it did not derail.
“It will be interesting to watch … It can go either way. There could be a thrust of unity or a thrust of confrontation … I can only imagine the ANC will be keeping tabs on who does what.” – email@example.com