Unsolicited Thoughts on a Rethink of Presidential Candidacy
The ANC finds itself in another elective year that we are told officially will only open for nominations by September 1, yet the campaigns of many are very visible. Elections in any set up in a democracy also evidence a cynical period. A few days ago, the Secretary General of the ANC Gwede Mantashe informed the public that the ANC last had this many candidate for high Office in 1952. There is no doubt that many have lifted their hands for number and number 2 positions.
A quick analysis of the candidates in their campaigns, core themes, messaging and strategic thrust confirms the emptiness of a coherent thought provoking and genuine issue based campaign, rather we see candidates pott-shotting therefore denying ANC branches and the broader SA to hear their individual manifesto’s.
The ANC attests a confirmed democratic organisation:
It is here that it becomes necessary to ask is it not time for the ANC to rethink its elections particularly its means of facilitating and producing candidates that represents its fundamental interest, for its high office. This question in a sense may be relevant for a plethora of reasons, however we consciously explore with this musing to engage the meaning of an elective year calendar and what that could mean for ensuring the best of the ANC leaders are chosen in an equal democratic and more fair and equitable setting.
On the other hand, this adopted formula for arriving at candidacy, lends itself for both the best and the worst making the cut. The current 2017 campaigns for Dlamini-Zuma, Ramaphosa, Mbete, Mkhize, Radebe, Sisulu, Phosa are all in various stages though there has been no official nomination process yet. We have heard that individuals in the current top six have been lobbied for certain slates. We also heard the Secretary General bemoaning the fact that Ramaphosa’s slate and campaign approached him to be his deputy which he rejected because in his assessment in this season confirms the least the ANC will be able to settle for in accommodating deserving its women will be a deputy president position.
We therefore wish to advance a rationale for a rethink anchored on at least four cornerstones. There may be more anchors but for the purpose of this musing we will restrict ourselves to the three herewith detailed:
The Rationale for a Rethink
The rationale for arguing it is time the ANC rethinks how it runs it presidential contest is the fact that hitherto, some of the candidates have been silent in engaging one another on the practical outflows of their respective campaigns as aligned to the two content of the ANC policy directives. Equally to how this will be made to stand in a practical sense with categorical and real life examples. For some that makes up the list of presidential hopefuls we see they are running misaligned campaigns, their campaigns has the sitting president as the target and contender.
Presidential hopefuls, Phosa, Sisulu, Ramaphosa and Mkhize have clearly to varying degrees of intensities made the incumbent who is not contesting the object of their campaigns. Their campaigns are misaligned to have a narrow state capture subject as its base. The contenders are not it engaging others who had equally have raised their hands. In a normal democracy, we would hear contenders go at each other within he decorum of the conventions of what makes for a party political presidential elections campaign.
Current contenders are shadow-boxing with a non-contender (sitting president) and hopes to throw punches at a ghost contender because they have come to believe if they attack the incumbent they will automatically be endeared to the ANC members, sympathizers and voters.
This tactic is not even uniquely crafted by the contenders it’s wholly appropriated from the tactical arsenal of the opposition parties who has a track record of this as their failed tool. It can therefore only mean one thing if the contenders are contesting with the tactics of a failed opposition led campaign theme, they too will fail.
The second reason why a rethink is needed vacillates on the fact that the ANC despite its workable plan, programme and policies can be left hamstrung if it produces leadership that are not personally synchronized to lead on its critical adopted policies such as radical economic transformation etc. The ANC runs the risk of electing a presidential team that plausibly have a personal level failed to embraced and be tested as proven swayed with a uniform and tangible and coherent parity of thought and mind.
The third axis for making the case for a rethink of the ANC presidential contest resonates in the role of the branches since ANC members who ultimately have to decide on leadership. The case can thus be made that ANC branches and structures simply do not get enough time to unpack, question, test, and engage the candidates before a critical decision is made.
The fourth aspect is the event and programme structure of the ANC in an elective year. It has the following as core calendar items, it kicks off with January 8, Statement, (followed by the Government SONA), which leads to the June Policy conference, the opening of nominations for presidential candidacy around September 1, and ultimately concludes with a date in December that makes up the Elective Conference.
This officially leaves prospective and real candidates effectively with 90 days from September to campaign and make their case across the length and breadth of SA evident in nine provinces. This time period is simply not adequate for both candidates and the ANC branches neither the general public who may not be ANC members but continue to vote for the ANC. The general public in all its manifested structures that warrants knowing who the best ANC candidates for presidential offices are.
What then is proposed?
The Augmenting of an Elective Year in Events:
In view of the above the following is proposed, the ANC must firstly augment its current format for a calendar year in an elective year immanent in events.
Meaning that following the January 8 statement, it should have its policy conference around March. It should consider opening nominations around June to afford candidates the better part of 5/6 months to contest.
The adjustment of the programme for the NPC:
The content programme of the NPC is adjusted to accommodate an aspect where candidacy as a principle are engaged on the bedrock of the ANC core documents (Eye of the needle, what it means to be a cadre…) as its base. Equally so prospective candidates either on the last day of the NPC are availed to engage as equals in a type of ‘Town-Hall debate’ forum restricted to only NPC attendants openly on cardinal aspects that include among others, leadership, policy, ethics, governance and implementation of ANC Policy positions etc.
It is Furthermore proposed that the vetting of candidacy adopt a two staged – approach (Initial and finalised)
Thus prospective candidates must be vetted through an internal process anchored in a resourced and beefed up Integrity Commission Sphere That such vetting assumes both an initial vetting and final consolidated vetting which confirms at opening of nominations that candidates have been screened and duty finalized in vetting sense. The initial vetting affords candidates a chance to be engaged in stark sense of the cardinal NPC as base.
It is also proposed ANC remains the fiduciary owner of all ANC led campaigns. It is thus proposed that the ANC own and direct all its presidential campaigns staged by its presidential candidates, since contenders are on a ANC ticket. This will ensure the ANC remains central and the claim of advanced consciences of ANC deployees is not entertained. We have seen how ANC parliamentarians were blackmailed in claims of voting with your consciences which is really an opposition led conscience.
It is furthermore proposed that all candidates are subjected to a presidential candidacy electoral code as to how to conduct their campaign. This will ensure ANC candidates for high office are directly answerable to the ANC for their respective manifestos, campaign, tactics, teams, funds messaging, and format. Furthermore, that the integrity commission serves to ensure candidates uphold the adopted code by all candidates.
Clyde N.S. Ramalaine
On behalf of Inkululeko Foundation