Vol 10 No 30

13 - 19 August 2010


Letter from The President
Let the real media debate begin

Letter for the PresidentThe media has put itself on the pedestal of being the guardian. We therefore have the right to ask, who is guarding the guardian? The suggestion by others that the Media Appeals Tribunal is an attempt by the ruling party to control and bulldoze the media using the tactics of apartheid regime. To even suggest that the ANC and its government could have any similarities to the apartheid regime is not only preposterous, it is also disingenuous and an unbearable insult. >>> MORE

VIEWPOINT | by Tina Joemat-Pettersson
Our focus in on improving the quality of life and conditions of farm workers

Viewpoint by Tina Joemat-PetterssonThe Vulnerable Worker Summit opened up dialogues towards engaging on the lives of these groups and realising government's promises to the South African people. While the opposition makes negative media stories about government programmes that seek to empower our people, they do not offer concrete proposals and clear commitments to redress the apartheid past. >>> MORE

National General Council
Building a National Democratic Society: the balance of forces - Part 2

At any given point, the progressive forces must therefore seek to create an environment conducive to transformation and seek to shift the balance of forces towards this end. Our response to a given balance of forces may either be to intensify existing efforts, adapt new tactics or measures or like with negotiations to open up an entirely new terrain of struggle in order to achieve movement forward. >>> MORE 

Letter from The President

Let the real media debate begin

Letter for the PresidentSixteen years after freedom, South Africa's young and fragile democracy continues to mature and has surpassed that of some of the world's most developed democracies. The features and strength of any democracy is amongst others, robust and open debate, without fear and prejudice.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, (Act 108 of 1996), has a Bill of Rights, which amongst others guarantees the freedom of the media and expression.

As the ANC, we worked hard to get this clause into the Constitution and with good reason. We firmly believe that the media must be allowed to do its work freely and without fear or prejudice, within the context of the Constitution and the law. Nothing must be done by government or any authority to undermine or erode these fundamental rights.

While recognising the role that the media plays in a democracy such as ours, this role must be understood within the context of strengthening our country's human rights culture and promoting the values enshrined in our Constitution. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa is the supreme law of the land, and serves as a guide to all of us, including the media. We must all operate and function within its letter and spirit.

The critical question to ask is what is the role of the media in the promotion of our country's human rights culture and the Bill of Rights? Does it have a role in promoting nation building? Does it have a role to play in the promotion of the country's prosperity, stability and the well-being of its people? Is it a spectator, or does it have vested interests and an agenda, political and commercial, that it cherishes and promotes?

I have observed and have been following the debate on the ANC proposal to have parliament investigate the desirability of establishing the Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT) with keen interest. I must state from the onset that I am astounded by the commentaries and opinion pieces written by some within the media fraternity and within the society broadly, in reaction to this important debate. Some suggest that the establishment of the MAT is meant to settle scores. Others still suggest that this is an attempt by the ruling party to control and bulldoze the media using the tactics of apartheid regime.

To even suggest that the ANC and its government could have any similarities to the apartheid regime is not only preposterous, it is also disingenuous and an unbearable insult. Arguments that the ANC wants to muzzle the print media is premised on a falsehood that the ruling party, the ANC has no ethics, morals and values and that it does not want the media to expose some of its cadres when they are in trouble with the law, including corruption.

We will not dwell on refuting these arguments. All right thinking and properly informed people know that it is the ANC democratic government that has made it fashionable to fight corruption, and even to talk about fighting corruption. We have a big arsenal of instruments to fight corruption within the State, and these are performing their functions very effectively and the positive results of these are there for all who are willing to see them to see.

Other than law enforcement agencies, we have Chapter 9 institutions such as the Public Protector, South African Human Rights Commission, Auditor General and others, managed by highly capable and distinguished men and women. We are very proud of their work.

Unfortunately, it is the misleading and over-defensive arguments by some media practitioners and their supporters that have muddied what would have ordinarily been a productive and a necessary debate within the context of our Constitution.

The time has come for the real debate to begin. Let us move away from the hysteria and dwelling on individual experiences. Let us look at the issues and the state of the media in South Africa as an institution that claims to be the watchdog of South African society.

The media has put itself on the pedestal of being the guardian. We therefore have the right to ask, who is guarding the guardian? All institutions, even parliament has mechanisms in place to keep them in check. Almost all professions have similar mechanisms from teachers to architects, doctors, engineers, politicians, lawyers and others.

This is based on the principle that in practising their rights and doing their jobs, these professionals may trample on the rights of others and the victims must have recourse through legitimate institutions. The starting point is that media owners and media practitioners cannot claim that this institution is totally snow white and without fault. They cannot claim that the media products we have in our country today, adequately reflect the lives and aspirations of all South Africans, especially the poor.

Can a guardian be a proper guardian when it does not reflect the society it claims to protect and represent?

They cannot claim that there is a diversity of ownership, content and staffing within the newsrooms. When a person from ku-Qumbu in the Transkei opens a newspaper in the morning, does he or she see himself or herself in it? Is it a mirror of his or her life - past, present and future.

For instance, South Africans rebelled against the media in June-July this year, united in their diversity. When the gloom and doom dominated news reportage over many months, they decided to defy the chorus of division and negativity and projected the type of society they want to be, and how they want to be viewed by the world. That is one 2010 FIFA World Cup tournament lesson that the media has not yet realised or that they are choosing to pretend it did not happen.

Let us move beyond the hysteria, let the real debate begin. Our first point is that before looking at what they regard as external threats and perceived external threats, the media should conduct introspection first. During our State visit to Russia a week ago, Russian television was running a promotional jingle saying: "How dependent is the independent media? Who pays for the news?"

We also have every right to look at other pressures facing journalists, which make them compromise quality of their stories. The media is a business enterprise. Its primary issue is to make a profit. The media products must make money and be commercially viable. Press freedom and the like are noble principles, but we all know that what drives the media is money, like all businesses.

There is fierce competition to increase circulation figures in order to boost advertising. This puts many editors under constant pressure from media owners. They do not talk about this in public. They talk about press freedom and perceived potential external threats to it from government, the ruling party and not threats from commercial interests.

Therefore, the debate about "who pays for the news" must also be opened, in a constructive manner. Are editors under pressure to sell their papers and to increase their circulation figures at whatever cost, including at times relying on unchecked and unverified smears in order to boost sales and circulation?

What protection does an ordinary citizen who cannot afford lawyers have when their rights have been violated? How can they compete with powerful business interests who control the media either through ownership or advertising spend?

The ANC cannot and will not pose any threat to the media. It is not in its interests to do so. Not when it is working so hard to consolidate and protect this hard-won democracy and freedom. We would never do anything to jeopardise the gains we have made. But we have a responsibility to democratise every aspect of South African society including the media. It is our historical duty.

The ANC has for many decades led struggles to liberate the masses of our people, both black and white, from the repressive system of apartheid. As early as the 1950's, the ANC defined the kind of South Africa it wants. This culminated in the adoption of the Freedom Charter, which forms the basis of our work and programme of action since 1994.

It was in this context that the African National Congress adopted the MAT resolution at its 52nd National Conference in 2007.

It is proper to publish the full resolution.


125. The ANC must promote the school of thought which articulates media freedom within the context of the South African Constitution, in terms of which the notion that the right to freedom of expression should not be elevated above other equally important rights such as the right to privacy and more important rights and values such as human dignity.


126. Conference adopts the recommendation of the Policy conference that the establishment of a MAT be investigated. It accordingly endorses that such investigation be directed at examining the principle of a MAT and the associated modalities for implementation. Conference notes that the creation of a MAT would strengthen, complement and support the current self-regulatory institutions (Press Ombudsman/Press Council) in the public interest.

127. This discourse on the need for a MAT should be located within a proper context. It has to be understood as an initiative to strengthen the human rights culture embodied in the principles of our constitution (Constitution Act of 1996) and an effort to guarantee the equal enjoyment of human rights by all citizens.

128. It particularly relates to the balancing of human rights in line with section 36 of the Constitution of the Republic. This especially relates to the need to balance the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the media, with the right to equality, to privacy and human dignity for all.

129. The investigation should consider the desirability that such a MAT be a statutory institution, established through an open, public and transparent process, and be made accountable to Parliament. The investigation should further consider the mandate of the Tribunal and its powers to adjudicate over matters or complaints expressed by citizens against print media, in terms of decisions and rulings made by the existing self-regulatory institutions, in the same way as it happens in the case of broadcasting through the Complaints and Compliance Committee of ICASA.

130. The investigation should further consider remedial measures which will safeguard and promote the human rights of all South Africans.

131. The Media and other stakeholders, including civil society, shall be consulted to ensure that the process is open, transparent and public. Parliament will be charged with this mandate to establish this MAT, in order to guarantee the principles of independence, transparency, accountability and fairness.

It is evident from the resolution, that the proposed establishment of the MAT, even at the time that the ANC discussed and adopted it, was never and will never be used to settle scores or to undermine the Constitution of the Republic. The ANC acknowledges the need for the work of the MAT to be transparent and fair, and this can be effectively done through people's institutions such as parliament which has public representatives.

Our parliamentarians come from different political parties, and importantly the public is also allowed through due processes to participate in the work of government. The allegation that the ANC therefore through the establishment of the MAT, wants to control the media is false and misleading. The MAT is meant to protect South Africans, rich or poor, black or white, rural or urban. The ANC, as the leader in South African society, cannot fail in its duty to defend our Constitution and to protect and defend the rights of citizens.

The debate has nothing to do with the experiences of certain individuals with the media. This is not personal, it is aimed at advancing the freedoms that are enshrined in our Constitution. It is aimed at ensuring that those who do not have money to go to lawyers can still obtain protection, as they do from the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa.

The broadcast media is regulated to protect the public as it is such a powerful institution. The print media, like other institutions, cannot be viewed to be above the Constitution. All South Africans are equal before the law, and they are equal before the Constitution of the Republic. We must remember also that no right is absolute in terms of our Bill of Rights. Therefore our interpretation of our individual rights must always be understood in the context of the rights of other South Africans.

Our contention is that the ANC does not, and will never pose any threat to media freedom. The media must seriously conduct an introspection and open a constructive debate about the role of this institution in a post-apartheid South Africa. Is the media a mirror of South African society? Is it in touch with what the majority of South Africans feel and think? Does this institution actually know and understand South Africans? Why was it surprised by the explosion of national pride during the Soccer World Cup tournament? Why did South Africans decide to rise above the daily diet of negativity and defeatism that they are fed daily in the media?

What is the impact of ownership on content and staffing? What is the ideological outlook of the media? Is there an alienation with the post-apartheid democratic order and thinking? Are we on the same wavelength regarding where South Africa should go politically, socially and economically? Does the media understand this well enough to articulate it to South Africans, to enable to accurately judge government action and performance?

Let me reiterate that the ANC will never do anything that undermines the spirit of the Constitution of the Republic, and which erodes the dignity and rights of other people, regardless of their standing in society. Let us have an open debate about the role of the media and its alignment with the Constitution of the Republic and human rights culture. Let us openly debate the ownership, content and diversity issues. Let there be no holy cows. The media should allow the ANC and the public the right to freedom of expression.

We will use our right to express what we think. And we should not be silenced by claims of "threats to press freedom".

Let the real debate begin. Let there be no holy cows!

Jacob Zuma





Viewpoint | by Tina Joemat-Pettersson

Our focus in on improving the quality of life and conditions of farm workers

Viewpoint by Tina Joemat-PetterssonWhen this fourth term of ANC government took office, it did so with an overwhelming mandate from the people to, among others, improve the working conditions of farm dwellers, including the provision of subsidized houses and other basic amenities.

Furthermore, South African citizens called for organisation as well as unionisation of farm workers and an enforcement of labour legislation to protect farm workers. The ANC government undertook this mandate through partnership - working together we can do more approach - involving all stakeholders.

This was articulated in the opening of the fourth democratic parliament and first State of Nation Address of President Jacob Zuma when he stressed that, South Africans in their overwhelming numbers confirmed that working together we can do more to fight poverty and build a better life for all. They were encouraged by the vision of an inclusive society, a South Africa that belongs to all, a nation united in diversity, a people working together for the greater good.

Against the backdrop of high food prices that threatened many vulnerable households in our country; against a global recession that threatened the means of livelihoods of many, the ANC government made a commitment to the people of South Africa that, for as long as there are rural dwellers unable to make a decent living from the land on which they live, we shall not rest and we dare not falter in our drive to eradicate poverty.

The government undertook to develop and implement a comprehensive rural development strategy linked to land and agrarian reform as well as food security. People, particularly the rural poor and the vulnerable are at the centre of our government policies and our development agenda.

Our policies and our development agenda cannot be realised when multitudes of farm workers and farm dwellers continue to be excluded from experiencing the democracy that dawned in 1994. Working together with all stakeholders, inclusive of Farmer, Forestry and Fishery organisations and unions, non-governmental organisations and other relevant groups, the following objectives were agreed upon to convene the Vulnerable Workers Summit:

  • The National Summit to develop and adopt clear resolutions on government programmes targeting farm workers,
  • Establish social services focusing on adequate housing, provision of farm schools, mobile clinics and HIV Aids programmes, transport, water and electricity, communications infrastructure and access to social grants to farm workers;
  • Focus on working conditions to look into access to organising and unionisation, determination of working hours and job security;
  • Look at issues of secure tenure, focusing at issues of illegal, racism and abuse, access to land for own needs by owners;
  • Focus on empowerment of farm workers' through employee schemes and training beyond life as farm labour; and
  • Look into cross-cutting matters including hotline for problems and establishment of a database for all farms in the country.

From the report and summaries of the provincial farm worker summits that took place ahead of the National Summit, the farm worker and the farm dweller were still very much living through the hardships and human indignation because of the infamous passing of the Natives Land Act, Act no 27 of 1913.

This notorious Act, gave legislative effect to a process of land seizure by the white settlers bringing with it untold sufferings to the generations of black people depriving them of their free access to land and placed them largely under tenancy and forcing them into servitude to satisfy the labour needs of white farmers.

Blacks were forced to live in unproductive reserves (homelands) the size of which was a mere 13% of the South African land mass and they were not able to own or even rent land outside of designated reserves.

We are grateful for the record of accounts as penned by our founding fathers such as Sol Plaatje, who immortalised the evilness of this Act through his pen when he wrote;
Awaking on Friday morning, June 20, 1913, the South African Native found himself, not actually a slave, but a pariah in the land of his birth.

These boundaries of yesteryear, kept the farm worker and the farm dwellers isolated from the rest of the community. With most farm owners persistently invoking the Trespassing Act further isolating these vulnerable groups. This situation needs to be corrected and lip service and vacillation by the opposition is getting our people no-where.

The Vulnerable Worker Summit opened up dialogues towards engaging on the lives of these groups and realising government's promises to the South African people. While the opposition makes negative media stories about government programmes that seek to empower our people, they do not offer concrete proposals and clear commitments to redress the apartheid past.

We are yet to hear of a concrete contribution from the opposition parties including the DA on the best working solution to the stalemate willing-buyer willing-seller conundrum. The government has opened a dialogue into other options for consideration. We have on various occasions stated that joint ventures, syndication and shareholding approach are options that government will apply to ensure empowerment of our people in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors.

But the short-sighted DA has clearly not been listening. Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, the DA leader has tried to stake a victory over an empowerment approach that was developed by the ANC during its tenure in the Western Cape. It is a noteworthy statement because one of the milestones in the empowerment was realised when the farm workers in the Ceres became part owners of the farm they were working on way before DA ascended to high office in the Western Cape.

After fifteen years of democracy much still needs to be done for us to see visible improvement and economic empowerment of the vulnerable workers. While listening to farmers in it became clear that not all equity schemes were working for our people. There are concerns that in certain areas these schemes are not benefiting the historically disadvantaged.

Instead, some of these farmers are even better off, sending their children to private schools while their farm workers who are shareholders in their farms still cannot afford to send their children even to a public school. This has called for a re-thinking of how this approach can be improved. This situation where one group is still reaping the benefits of our democratic dispensation at the expense of others should end. That is why we held these discussions.

In her letter on the DA website liberally published in some media Ms Zille states that government has pledged to bail out 283 insolvent emerging farmers. It will be wise for the opposition to remember that white commercial farmers benefited from a range of government support products that included among others, cheap labour and the credit and marketing boards that elevated them into profitability.

After the advent of our democratic dispensation, our government headed the recommendations by the Strauss Commission to do away with these boards, and now all the new farmers mostly black farmers do not have the support that was enjoyed by white commercial farmers before.

While government is geared towards the improvement of the lives of all South Africans and is committed to working together to bring positive change, the opposition should wake from its long apartheid stupor and keep up with developments instead of feeding lies to the South African public. This explains the reason behind AgriSA former President now serving as an MP in DA benches tried to politicise the Vulnerable Workers Summit.

This government does not possess monopoly of knowledge of all issues affecting society that is why it seeks to enter into partnership with all concerned parties and together work out sustainable solutions. Such interactions are not for politic and campaigning as DA leader has suggested in her letter. The ANC knows this better and the distinction.

It is because the ruling party listens to the people while the opposition condescending thinks it knows what is best for our people. But then again, that is why the ANC have an overwhelming mandate to govern, it because of the realistic progressive and developmental approach of our government for the entire population of South Africa, and not only a certain racial segment of the population.

>> Tina Joemat-Pettersson is an ANC NEC member and Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

National General Council

Building a National Democratic Society (part 2): the balance of forces

In Part 1 of this article we suggested that the review towards the NGC on progress with the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa society must be conducted with rigor. A critical part of such a rigorous review should be deepening our understanding of the prevailing balance of forces.

What do we mean by the balance of forces?

When talking about the balance of forces, we refer in the first instance to the concrete challenges and opportunities in our environment that impact or may impact on our programme to create a better life for all. These concrete environmental factors may be the result of social and economic processes and forces outside of our control or the unintended or unchecked consequences of our own actions. Social transformation, as a conscious process of creating a more just society, therefore requires that we analyse these environmental factors, in order to have a programme to mitigate the threats, lessen the challenges and make use of opportunities presented.

Thus, whilst recognizing the reality of objective environmental conditions, we also know that these are not static, and that they can be influenced by conscious actions. This combination of the concrete or objective challenges, threats and opportunities on the one hand and our responses on the other hand, is what constitutes the balance of forces at any given period.

The NGC discussion documents on the economy, transformation of the state, the media and on peace and stability all deal with aspects of the balance of forces, by examining the context of change in each of these ‘pillars' and what we have done and are doing to advance transformation. The NGC papers on organizational and leadership renewal deal in the main with the impact of environmental factors and unchecked consequences of our own actions on the character of the ANC and its ability to lead transformation. Taken together, they are critical pointers towards understanding whether the balance of forces are still in favour of transformation, or whether we face a serious threat to or even potential reversal of the project of a united, non-racial, democratic, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

At any given point, the progressive forces must therefore seek to create an environment conducive to transformation and seek to shift the balance of forces towards this end. For example, assessing the balance of forces at the time of the negotiations in the early 1990's, we said the following:

"At the start of formal negotiations in 1990, neither the National Liberation Movement nor the Apartheid Regime could claim outright victory. The National Liberation Movement enjoyed support of our people; it enjoyed international support and it had the capacity to intensify all forms of struggle. The Apartheid Regime, on the other hand, commanded huge resources - military, economic and the state apparatus. Whilst its mass base was divided, its supporters and beneficiaries still had the capacity to resist change. Internationally, there were elements still prepared to assist (at least in secret) to prevent an insurrectionary take-over. Negotiations were therefore as much a platform to find a resolution to the conflict as it was a terrain of struggle to shift the balance of forces." (Accelerating the pace of change. The balance of forces in 1999. Umrabulo no. 7, 3rd Quarter 1999)

Our response to a given balance of forces may either be to intensify existing efforts, adapt new tactics or measures or like with negotiations to open up an entirely new terrain of struggle in order to achieve movement forward. Our response may also be to agree to compromise, as with the sunset clauses in the Constitution or to take a ‘tactical detour', as was the case with our macro economic policies during the first decade of freedom.

The challenge we face with either of the latter approaches is that compromises may become entrenched and embraced by ourselves (e.g. our approach to provinces in the context of a united South Africa) and that tactical detours may be elevated to become matters of strategy or even principle. On the other hand, failure to take in consideration concrete reality may result in actions that are populist or overcautious, with benefits or stability in the short-term, but ultimately detrimental to our medium and long-term objectives. Finding and navigating this balance, is indeed what the struggle for fundamental social transformation is about.

Developments impacting on the balance of forces since Polokwane

The National General Council will convene nearly three years after the 52nd National Conference in 2007. Since then, a number of developments have occurred that impact on the terrain of change and therefore on our tactics. These developments are also matters of national debate and with broader implications for the state of the nation. The unfolding events and processes should therefore form part of our ongoing assessment of the balance of forces, of deepening our understanding of both the subjective and objective and domestic and global conditions in which we carry out the programme set out in Strategy and Tactics.

This discussion on the balance of forces is deliberately tentative, raising the issues and posing questions, with a view to provide a backdrop to the NGC reviews. It should lay the foundation for a more in-depth and detailed analysis of the balance of forces in preparations for the Policy and National Conferences in 2012. Many of the issues are not new, since we've grappled with them since our transition in 1994 and are likely to do so for a considerable time. They are however raised in a particular manner, indicating developments since 2007.

The key developments we refer to that have occurred or changed since Polokwane Conference are: the impact of the pre-Polokwane rifts on the cohesion of the ANC and alliance; xenophobic violence against African migrants and the broader issue of cross-border migration; the global financial crisis and its impact on the South African economy, especially job losses, rising unemployment and the break on growth; the 2009 elections and the implications of the results; the challenges facing ESKOM and other parastatals; the service delivery protests; the programme of the fourth ANC government; and the lessons from the SA2010 World Cup.

Amongst all of the above events and developments, the NGC discussion paper on Building a national democratic society: Strategy and Tactics and the balance of forces in 2010 highlights and poses questions with regards the following:

(a) The implication of the 2009 elections campaign and results

The period approaching the 2009 general elections was a particularly trying for the ANC. Having just emerged from a divisive National Conference, with charges against its President and a decision to recall the President of the country in September 2008, followed by the formation of COPE by former leaders of the ANC, few commentators expected the ANC to have a good showing in the 2009 elections.

Instead, ANC and Alliance activists and members rallied during the campaign, and the electorate delivered a clear and positive judgment that the ANC remains the most reliable movement to continue the reconstruction and development of South Africa. This was not only a decisive mandate for the future, but also a vote of confidence of the progress achieved under the previous three ANC governments over the fifteen-year period. Even the most avid of critics had to acknowledge that receiving over 60% in four successive elections are rare in democratic societies.

The elections also threw up other challenges, such as the inroads made by COPE, the consolidation of the opposition vote in the Democratic Alliance, the reversal of ANC support amongst Coloured voters in the W Cape and the ongoing challenge to ensure a high voter registration and turnout, especially amongst young and first time voters. Thus, although the ANC continues to have the confidence of the majority of South Africans, it is a support that should not be taken for granted.

This is a critical matter, since by the next elections in 2014 we will also face the '20 years syndrome' that confront liberation movements and dominant electoral parties alike. This syndrome usually means that after giving a movement or party two decades to effect change, the electorate and masses may not be as obliging to extend this confidence, unless the preceding decades have indeed ushered in not only a decisive break with the past, but also substantive changes in the quality of life of especially the poor.

(b) Implementing the 2009 Elections Manifesto Priorities of the fourth ANC government

In the light of the above, the changes and progress we envisaged and pledged in the 2009 Elections Manifesto are therefore critical. The Manifesto committed the fourth ANC government towards making substantive and measurable progress in the areas of education, health, sustainable communities, the fight against crime and corruption, rural development and agrarian reform and creating decent jobs and sustainable growth.

These priorities are central to creating a better life for all and building of a caring and successful nation. Thus the call in Strategy and Tactics (2007) for the consolidation of a developmental state that (i) can deliver effective basic services; (ii) have the capabilities to direct national development; and (iii) involve people in this process. It is in this context that the 12 strategic outcomes and measurable outputs linked to the Manifesto priorities adopted by government should be seen.

The 12 strategic outcomes mark a milestone in the process to improve government performance and delivery. It provides a clear programme for the mobilization of communities and different sectors around these critical outcomes in the areas of education, health, rural and agricultural development, crime and corruption, sustainable communities and the creation of decent jobs and growth. It also presents a template for monitoring our performance, and for evaluating the impact of our policies in a transparent and accountable manner.

(c) Implications of the ongoing service delivery protests

Within months after the inauguration of the new ANC government in May 2009, a wave of service delivery protests broke out, some turning violent and with sporadic outbreaks across the country since then. The key characteristics of these protests are that they are locally-based and organised, involving large numbers of unemployed youth and high school students, generally around some issue of local grievance and targeted against their local authorities, mainly ANC councilors and municipalities.

Analysis of the reasons for the service delivery protests, from within and outside our ranks, include the slow pace of service delivery (housing, electrification, tarring of roads, etc); self-serving and uncaring local officials; internal fights in the ANC; lack of attention to the financial viability of municipalities, inability to involve communities in decision making and reflective of the fault lines created by growing unemployment and inequality and by the persistence of poverty.

In addition, the service delivery protests are also indicative of weak ANC local structures, which are not organising communities around local development issues and campaigns and with weak accountability mechanisms for our local representatives, thus contributing to the ‘democratic deficit'. It is also indicative of the infighting we find in many local ANC structures, centering on municipal resources and positions, in the context of high local unemployment and poverty. The NGC must therefore pay attention to the state of organisation and governance at local level, the accountability and responsiveness of ANC local government to the people as we approach the list process and the election campaign for Local government in 2011. Critical to this is ensuring that through the list process, we indeed select the best cadres to lead local transformation and governance.

Government in its 12 strategic priorities therefore correctly identified the renewal and turnaround of local government as a critical issue in building the developmental state. The key goal is therefore to continue to build responsive, accountable and effective local government with key outputs for this period to include: a clean, responsive and accountable administration; intergovernmental agreements on services and financing and support; simplify IDP process; expand Operation Clean Audit 2014; debt collection and revenue enhancement strategies; implement and support budget and report regulations; review supply chain management regulations; and develop municipality priority skills strategy. The ANC structures at all levels must therefore ensure that our public representatives are implementing and reporting on these efforts, and drive a programme of local governance renewal, to ensure the effectiveness and confidence in local government growing.

(d) Progress and setbacks with building a non-sexist South Africa

The celebration of Women's month during August allows us to focus on whether we are making progress to eradicate patriarchy and build a non-sexist South Africa. Our programme to achieve this is based on two pillars. Firstly, we seek to improve the quality of life of all South African women especially the poor through concerted programmes aimed at women in areas such as education, health, social security, basic services and employment and sustainable livelihoods and increase gender equality and opportunities for women in the public sphere, the economy and broader society through affirmative action and gender quotas. Secondly, we also seek to eradicate patriarchal relations by creating a gendered environment and perspective in everything we do, and challenge practices, institutions and attitudes that seek to continue to treat w omen as second-class citizens and inferior.

As a country, we are making steady progress in creating a women-friendly and gendered environment, through programmes, policies and laws and through the gender machinery created and improved since 1994. More specifically, the implementation of the resolution of Polokwane to create a Women's Ministry is a major step forward.

Since the adoption of the 50% gender quota at Polokwane, we have made some progress in increasing the representation of women. However, the statistics show that bar a few areas (e.g. Premiers), we have yet to reach 50% in a number of areas, including in the NEC, in the ANC Cabinet, Provincial Executives Councils and in ANC PECs. In general society, but especially the private sector and despite employment equity and affirmative, we also still face major challenges.

Despite the progress, there is growing a perception amongst women in the ANC and in the broader women's movement that we are also facing a backlash against progress made in building a non-sexist South Africa. This backlash is represented by the persistence of gender-based violence, the continual inequality of women in the labour markets, the feminisation of poverty, and the persistence and in some instances worsening of sexist attitudes and believes.

The ANC Women's League and the Progressive Women's Movement therefore have a responsibility to continue the fight for equality of representation, and ensure that the substantive issues of building a non-sexist South Africa are placed on the agenda and become a terrain of struggle. In addition, the ANC as a movement, given its character also need to pay attention to understanding the challenges we face, beyond the rhetoric of gender equality.


The above four issues are important pointers towards shifts in the balance of forces, which the NGC will review. In the final Part 3 of this article next week, we will deal with other issues such as the global balance of forces and other domestic development, and the implications of all these developments for the project of social transformation in South Africa.