South Africa: Ruling ANC holds crucial policy conference

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress this weekend holds its mid-term national general council (NGC) to review its policies.

The policy congress, often been described as “festivals of ideas”, comes at a time South Africa is at a crossroads, as the ruling party is accused of corruption, while the economy stutters.

Addressing the three-day event, which also serves to evaluate progress made by the party and government in implementing ANC resolutions, President Jacob Zuma said the NGC needs to analyse “what makes the party’s traditional voters unhappy”.

Zuma reiterated the power of ordinary ANC members across the country, saying: “Leadership doesn’t have the final authority but branches have the power.”

Speaking at a presidential gala dinner at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on Thursday evening, President Jacob Zuma said: “We will also be looking to ourselves and perhaps to a very large extent looking at our own…”

He said the NGC was a very important meeting for the ANC.

“This is also a policy conference, where we sit and work our policy and then recommend the resolutions to the national conference.

Earlier, ANC chairperson, Baleka Mbete told delegates that the NGC is not about “changing policy, but to review some of the policies”.

“The NGC doesn’t amend policy…we’ll look at how far we have gone since that conference (Manguang 2012),” she explained.

The NGC takes place amidst deepening economic woes for Africa’s most advanced economy, with a slowdown in global commodity prices affecting the country’s currency, while a strike in the mining sector has far reaching consequences.

The who’s who of the ANC is also in attendance including veterans like the late Nelson Mandela’s close comrade Ahmed Kathrada and former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

Although there is no voting taking place at the NGC, the leadership succession issue is often not far from delegates’ minds and informal lobbying and discussions among different branches and regions takes place, but the ANC leadership often discourages this.

Zuma is serving his second and final five year-term of office.