National General Council
The African National Congress’s National General Council can be considered a "review" session during which the party’s policies reached at the preceding national conference are discussed and evaluated. The ANC’s leadership cannot actually make hard and fast policy decision, so it’s unlikely that the party will decide to ban dual citizenship, for example. What officials could do is recommend that the 2017 national conference take a decision to act in one way or another.
However, as with most things there is an exception to the rule. In 2005, the NGC took a decision to vote on whether to accept Jacob Zuma's resignation from the NEC after he had been sacked as the deputy president of both the ANC and the country. The voting delegates decided not to accept Zuma’s resignation, a decision which set the party on the path to Polokwane and Zuma on the road to the Union Buildings for two terms. So, decisions taken at the NCG can be important.
As the biggest gathering of ANC members between conferences, this is a good opportunity, perhaps the only opportunity, to gauge the support different ANC leaders enjoy. Is Zuma still likely to get the kind of reception he used to? Does everyone in the room stand and shout and ululate, or is it only half the room? Is the singing from the Gauteng province different to the other provinces? Is the delegation from KwaZulu-Natal singing two different songs because its main region, Ethekwini, is split? These questions won’t be answered by platitudes spoken during official speeches or press conferences, but rather by talk and responses from the floor.
In this case, the biggest issue, the one that will hang over the entire event, is the battle to succeed Zuma. In other words, the race – at this stage – between current African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and trade unionist-turned-politician-turned-billionaire businessman-turned-politician again Cyril Ramaphosa. It's very unlikely that anyone will come out and say we are backing "this candidate". Rather, delegates are likely to use code words instead. People will say "the time has come for a woman president", "Dlamini-Zuma must be used effectively", that sort of thing. It may be hard to decipher this code, but EWN will help you understand it better.
On Friday, President Jacob Zuma will open the NGC and deliver a "political overview". This is usually a two-hour speech about where the ANC and the country are. This speech will most likely set the tone for the entire event. At the national elective conference in Mangaung in 2012, Zuma basically told everyone to vote for the National Development Plan, and they did.
Zuma’s speech will followed by Secretary General Gwede Mantashe's organisational report. This focusses on the ANC, how it views itself and what its challenges are.
After those speeches, the plenary session continues, behind closed doors.
On Saturday, the NGC breaks into commissions to discuss nine policy areas.
As the commissions end, the chairs will report to the plenary before addressing the media.
Carien du Plessis says the group of three premiers seems keen to demonstrate their loyalty to Jacob Zuma.
There’s no such thing as a tune without reason when President Jacob Zuma sings it.
At the end of his closing speech to the ANC’s national general council plenary in Midrand on Sunday night, it was this song that was sung: Ngomhla sibuyayo kothula kuthi tu; kokhal’ imbayimbayi. It translates as: On our return, it will all go quiet but the machine gun.
It’s a nostalgic song of homecoming that MK soldiers sang in camps in exile. It resurfaced around 2008, when the songs about individual leaders became the trend. Most recently Zuma has been singing it at funerals.
At the NGC the song was meant to pull the party back to its roots, away from the modern-day materialist factionalism and runaway corruption that is plaguing it.
At the NGC Zuma urged cadres to go back to the values of “service, selflessness, integrity and discipline”.
Five years ago, at the last NGC in Durban, a song about the young soldier Solomon was sung by the ANC Youth League under Julius Malema. Then the league pushed for more young leaders in the ANC and the nationalisation of mines. Malema was, however, reprimanded by Zuma for storming the meeting stage to push their resolution on nationalisation. Two years later he was kicked out of the party.
Having learnt their lesson about challenging Zuma, no delegate this time dared to stick out their necks too far.
A lobby group, dubbed the ‘premier league’ - consisting of premiers Supra Muhamapelo (North West), Ace Magashule (Free State) and DD Mabuza (Mpumalanga) - tried to make waves but Zuma slammed ‘so-called kingmakers’ at the start of the meeting. He said: “There is no structure or league of the ANC that has been accorded the status of being kingmaker.” This group had wanted to push for a third Zuma term in the party to align ANC presidential terms with those of the country’s.
But at the NGC Zuma said he would “never ever” stand for a third term. “Even if they beg me, I won’t stand.” Those close to Zuma said this was a well-known fact. The premier league’s stance was likely just to show loyalty to him to indicate he would be safe when he retires if they are in power.
Many delegates at the end of the NGC said the premier league got a death knell at this NGC. “They made their campaign public too early,” said one. “They never stood a chance because they don’t have the support of the NEC (ANC’s national executive council),” said another.
And then there was also Zuma’s reprimand.
It is likely, however, that things could get nasty before they calm down, as the desperate lobby will now likely go back to the provinces and the leagues (where they already have strong influence) to try consolidate their power there – and desperation might force them to become guilty of all the dirty tricks, such as vote-buying, that Zuma warned about at this NGC.
Ultimately, all that remained strong after this NGC is the Machine Gun, as Zuma has been nicknamed. His choice of successor in 2017 is likely to be the winning choice.Carien du Plessis is a freelance reporter working for Eyewitness News.