No Stage 6 at Nasrec: From a people’s congress to an animal farm

In earlier years, you could walk easily among delegates, getting to know them and hearing them and developing a sense of who the ANC is. We had exposure to great minds, which immeasurably improved the quality of my reporting. That started changing about 2007 at the ANC’s Polokwane conference as the battle lines hardened. The meetings became dominated by the ethos of the security state.
I have always loved covering ANC conferences and am now a veteran reporter in 2022 – the ANC’s 55th conference at Nasrec outside Johannesburg is my fifth.
The organisation’s founding ethos as a congress of the people; its practice of convening to discuss that which impacts the people was deeply resonant as we grew up in an authoritarian state. Ordinary people from communities organised themselves into self-help organisations, and wise leaders turned this famous dynamism into a movement that took on colonialism and later apartheid. And won.
From early in the 20th century, the then South African Native National Congress (the precursor to the ANC born in 1912) came together in “congress” to decide on its programmes which were birthed in the lived experience of the people who gave it life. It was an animating vision and a praxis I have followed with enthusiasm even through its internal incarnation, the United Democratic Front.
At those early conferences of the ANC as a governing party, the philosophy was still apparent of a movement reflective of the people it represented and with a keen sense of its moral and political purpose. The branches were, in the main, collectives of professionals, workers, community organisers, later trade unionists and always revered intellectuals – the salt of the earth. The founders of the ANC had instilled this character into the movement, being one that thrived in the world of ideas. While they were pretty grand, the views of the equality of congress and people ensured that the social distance was mediated. This was a vision for a fairer and more equal world.
I learnt my chops at the early conferences because you had to be fast and attentive to keep up with the quality of the debates. I quickly learnt the intricacies of development economics, social solidarity systems like the basic income and the difference between liberation organisations and political parties. Either the ANC has aged badly, or I have.
When I read policy documents these days, it sounds like the same ideas and concepts (rural ...
18 Dec 2022 10AM English South Africa News · News Commentary

Other recent episodes

Despite gains, the NUM faces an existential crisis at 40

The once mighty union has many uphill battles ahead to remain relevant in a shrinking sector. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) turned 40 this month, and finds itself facing a midlife crisis. Does it retain its political alliance with the ANC? Will it continue to work with its former…
18 Dec 2022 2PM 7 min

Popular SA brand BOS spills the tea about going big in the UK

BOS iced tea is already sought-after in Europe. Now, after securing additional growth equity from an investment consortium, it will have access to the UK market – one of the world’s top five rooibos markets. BOS Ice Tea will soon be brightening up the fridges and shelves of retailers in…
18 Dec 2022 2PM 6 min

The Finance Ghost: Steinhoff, Mpact or Shoprite – who is the Grinch?

Could someone please let Steinhoff know that December is a time of giving, not taking away? It was in December 2017 that the proverbial hit the fan for the first time, when Markus Jooste resigned and the market realised that Steinhoff’s financials were about as dependable as Transnet Freight Rail…
18 Dec 2022 2PM 4 min

SA may face a crisis in education, but there is no crisis of ideas and potential

Smart and ambitious South Africans are being let down by the education system and increasingly it is falling on post-matric educators, including business schools, to bridge the gap. With matric exams done and dusted, we can look forward to stories of exceptionalism hitting our inboxes soon. Take for example, twins…
18 Dec 2022 1PM 7 min

Ramaphosa’s Renew22 team decides to back Mabuyane over Lamola

When the Renew22 caucus met on Day 3 of the ANC’s National Elective Conference, at least 2,400 delegates agreed to support Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid for a second term as party president, with Oscar Mabuyane as his second in command. Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC Renew22 grouping believes Eastern Cape provincial chair Oscar…
18 Dec 2022 1PM 5 min