20 March 2010

Political Overview, by President Jacob Zuma, at NEC, March 2010

Political Overview, by President Jacob Zuma

[Address to the ANC National Executive Committee Meeting, 12-13 March, 2010]

We sometimes assume to be bigger than the ANC

This meeting of the National Executive Committee takes place less than a month after we presented the state of the nation address, and less than a month since we presented the budget speech to Parliament.

On both occasions we outlined our commitment and the programme to fight poverty, transform the economy, building on a firm solid foundation of a better life for all. We presented to the nation our commitment to change the way government works in order to fast-track service delivery to its people. Hence we have declared 2010 as the year of action and a year of speeding up service delivery.

Based on our undertaking during the election campaign to implement a performance monitoring and evaluation system, we announced that we would now take an outcomes based approach to governance and service delivery.

We also undertook to focus on a few key points as agreed to at the makgotla, instead of producing a long programme of action that would make focus difficult.

We can say that since the reconfiguration of departments that government as a whole is ready to implement the five priorities of our election manifesto.

We now have a deeper sense and an in-depth understanding of what is working or not working in government, and we will not be found wanting in fixing what is not working. We will continue to meet key stakeholders such as health workers, directors-general and others, to complete our programme to communicate the ANC government’s new style of doing things to the entire public service sector.

As part of our commitment to change the turn-around time of government delivering services to the people, and the creation of a new public service cadre, we will take action against people who are lazy, incompetent, corrupt and nonperforming. I have raised this point in previous meetings, but it is important to repeat it so that nobody can accuse the ANC when decisions are taken that affect them.

Comrades we must also attend to the issue of service delivery protests that are occurring in some communities.

Some of us feel that when there are service delivery protests, we must not go there as government as it encourages other areas to do the same. I do no think that is the right decision. We must still go to the affected areas as government, as you are then able to see whether the protest is service delivery orientated or political, that is, linked to infighting in that area. We need to attend to these flashpoints and ensure that we resolve the issues that are raised.

The environment in which we have to work to deliver on the undertakings made in the election manifesto is unfortunately intensely polluted. The ANC and allies cannot blame anyone else for this situation. We have witnessed in recent weeks very unbecoming behaviour. The media has been full of attacks and innuendoes against members and leaders of the ANC. This has created an impression that the organisation is dysfunctional and in disarray.

The public spats have raised suggestions that the country is without direction and has no leadership. Ordinary people look up to the ANC, even those who are not members. They expect to be led by this organisation. We cannot afford to make them lose hope.

You will recall that during the last meeting of the National Executive Committee, early this year, we emphasised discipline and unity as the cornerstones of our revolutionary morality in society. Organisational discipline is imperative. We cannot just erode the core values and principles of the movement.

We sometimes get carried away by our perceived standing in the organisation and assume that we are bigger than the ANC and, therefore, have no reason to adhere to its protocols. This leadership collective must ensure that nobody gets away with that type of behaviour.

Most importantly, we must ensure adherence to the decisions and undertakings made by the NEC. In the September NEC, we discussed and agreed that there is no political basis for a succession debate for 2012. We affirmed that the ANC structures, at an appropriate time, would have an opportunity to discuss and express their preferences. We further affirmed that, anything to the contrary was a recipe for disunity, labelling, factionalism and erosion of organisational culture and traditions.

Some have decided to go against this agreed position of this National Executive Committee and continue debating succession and stating preferences publicly, even casting aspersions on the senior leadership of the ANC.

Let me emphasise that the utterances that are made about the Secretary General of the ANC do not only impact on the person of the SG, but on the dignity and integrity of the ANC.

An attack on the Secretary General hits at the belly of the ANC. It is totally unacceptable that the Secretary General of the ANC should be treated in this manner. We must not tolerate it. We do not attack the SG of the ANC, it is never done, and it is not the tradition of our movement. During the years in exile there was no Deputy President, and the SG was number two in the organisation. No matter how many mistakes the SG would make, he was never attacked in public. We will not respond to those outside who are clamouring for us to defend the SG in public. Our view is that we should solve these problems right here and not join the public debates on these issues, as that does not take us anywhere.

Comrades, we have said everything that needed to be said since our last national conference in Polokwane about the need to build unity and cohesion within the congress movement.

One of the constitutional imperatives of the National Executive Committee is to protect the integrity, image and decisions of the ANC. If we cannot fulfill this task, we would have failed the organisation. We must agree that the tendency to engage or deal with members in the media and public platforms instead of through usual

The NEC must take a clear decision on who is allowed to speak in public on behalf of the organisation. This applies to the Alliance leadership as well. We raised this matter with the SACP during our bilateral meeting with them on Thursday, 11 March 2010, and we agreed that the public attacks should cease. We had raised the matter with the Party during the Special Congress in December as well.

We stated to that Congress that while we must continue to support a vibrant exchange of ideas and a culture of critical analysis on issues, we must also commit to, and practice the culture of principled debate.

We said that the Alliance was too deep-rooted and entrenched to be disrupted by activities or statements of a few of its members. We will raise the matter with COSATU as well. There is no reason why members cannot engage each other directly and in a comradely manner if there is something to be dealt with.

There is no reason to attack a comrade who is a Minister, deployed by the ANC, when you can meet and discuss issues that are of concern directly with the comrade. The ANC Youth League issued a statement attacking the Minister of Finance, Comrade Pravin Gordhan, referring to him as an un-elected leader. Comrade Gordhan is one of the key and most senior leaders of the ANC and has come a long way.

He was attacked with regards to the funding of the National Youth Development Agency, which was said to be insufficient. I had spoken to the Head of the NYDA who had explained to me that the Agency had to divert a lot of money in their new budget allocation to outstanding debts. They were given more than R340 million, it is not as if no budget was allocated to the Agency. The point is that I had been asked to deal with the matter with the Minister, and while I was still attending to it, the attacks occur. If you attack a Minister you are also attacking the President, as you are questioning his judgement in appointing that Minister. In addition, we must adhere to the principle of playing the ball and not the man. This behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.

This culture of publicly attacking each other will become entrenched if we do not act against it. We will create an image of an organisation and country dogged by tension and infighting. This NEC meeting must draw a line between what is acceptable and what is not. There must be consequences for people’s actions.

Unless we take decisive action against those who continue to undermine what the NEC has agreed upon, there is simply no reason why we are here. Unless we act upon ill discipline as an organisation, we cannot be trusted to be custodians of the history and traditions of our movement.

Once we act against this scourge and normalise the situation in the movement and the country, our messages on speeding up service delivery will then be heard.

If we fail to act, we will not be able to inspire confidence in the nation and internationally.

We will have failed the branches of the ANC that entrusted upon us this important responsibility of leading the ANC.

I thank you