Johannesburg – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa says there are no divisions among the more than 3 000 delegates attending the ANC’s six-day national policy conference at Nasrec, south of Johannesburg.
“The delegates are in good spirit, there’s unity of purpose and there aren’t divisions as many people would have suspected,” Ramaphosa told reporters during an exhibition of small business walk-about at the Nasrec Expo Centre on Sunday.
The conference is a gathering of about 3 500 delegates from branches across the country to discuss the party’s policies going into the elective conference in December where changes and new policies will be ratified.
The first two days of the conference, which began on Friday, were spent looking into a diagnostic report into the state it was in.
The report was presented to the plenary on Friday night by Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, who told reporters on Saturday that there had been attempts made by some members of the plenary not to allow him to present it to the gathering. After some discussion, it was agreed that the report would be read out and placed into the record.
It was believed that those who raised issues with having the report read out were from the Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal branches.
Earlier that day, minutes before President Jacob Zuma was set to give his opening address, members from Mpumalanga, KZN, Free State, Limpopo, North West and the Women’s League took part in a “sing-off” with delegates from the Eastern Cape.
This was after Eastern Cape delegates began singing songs calling for a change in leadership and using the substitution gesture. The battle took place in front of the podium where Zuma was set to address the gathering.
The other, much larger group eventually overpowered them and pushed the Eastern Cape group back to their seats, singing songs praising the leader.
The conference got underway amid divisions over a fiercely contested leadership race between Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Mantashe had told reporters previously that divisive songs which aimed at hurting certain leaders or appeared to be launching a campaign for others, would not be allowed.
However, despite this, Ramaphosa insists that the conference had not been divisive.
“The first two days have been a really enriching process,” he said.
“This is the ANC at its best, when it looks at itself in a very critical manner and begins a journey of self-correction, of healing, of renewal and this conference is giving us that great opportunity.”
He said all the delegates were on the same page about trying to look at ways in which it could deepen unity within the ANC.
When it came to the ideas and proposals of policies, he said the objective was not to be self-centered.
“We are not just representing ourselves and we are not crafting policies for ourselves but crafting policies that are going to guide the whole country as we move forward.”
Heated debates by the party’s factions were expected to take place over the definition of radical economic transformation, whether the domination of capital should be racially defined, the expropriation of land and whether the country’s, as well as the party’s Constitutions, needed to be amended.
Ramaphosa said the leaders of the party had come to the conference specifically to listen to the sentiment from the branches and the people on the ground.
“What we are doing here is a deep and overarching process of guiding society, of guiding us in government,” he said.
“The process of looking at policies has been bottom-up rather than top-down. This is a conference of branches, this is when branches have a voice [and] put forward their own views.
“And so as the leadership we are here to listen [and to] imbibe what our branch delegates are saying.
“The branch delegates are well armed by the experience of our people, by the poverty that our people are going through, the unemployment and the inequality. So everyone who is here is coming forward with ideas of how we can address these many challenges that our country and our people are facing.”
The conference continues on Monday and ends on Wednesday.