President Jacob Zuma has been lauded for the frankness of his political report delivered at the ANC’s National General Council currently underway in Midrand, north of Johannesburg.

The President spoke about a number of issues including factionalism, vote-buying and gatekeeping at branch level. These, he says, have led to a fall in the party’s membership – a decline of approximately 450 000 members since its centenary in 2012.

However, not everyone was satisfied believing he could have presented more in the way of solutions.

The almost two hour political report delivered by President Zuma was candid about the state of the ruling party.

Zuma painted a picture of an organisation caught in the cancer of vote-buying, factions, people calling themselves king-makers – trying to subvert the will of the branches.

This comes after recent reports of a so-called premier league made of the premiers of the Free State, Mpumalanga and North West, alleged to have sought to influence the outcomes of the recent ANC Women’s League and Youth League Conferences.

Zuma’s frankness was much appreciated by Gauteng ANC chairperson Paul Mashatile. “I think he was talking to us the members to say these are the challenges in the organisation. Stop factions, stop gatekeeping get more people into the ANC [and] let there be discipline unity etcetera. So I think he was really trying to be frank about what he sees as problems in the ANC, so that we don’t brush things aside so we can deal with them so that when we leave here we are able to build a strong organisation,” adds Mashatile.

“He was talking to the organisation to say let’s admit we are in trouble, let us fix these issues … here are they he did speak about other issues [including] the crisis of the economy, I am happy.”

For Congress of the South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) President Sidumo Dlamini it was important that Zuma did not shy away from the organisation’s problems – saying that the President dealt comprehensively with the issues that they as workers are concerned about.

The labour federation understands all too well the effect of an organisation at war with itself – having in the last three years witnessed running boardroom battles amongst its leadership.

“He was talking to the organisation to say let’s admit we are in trouble, let us fix these issues … here are they he did speak about other issues [including] the crisis of the economy, I am happy,” adds Dlamini.

The vanguard of the national democratic revolution the South African Communist Party (SACP), which itself has been at loggerheads with the ANC Youth League over the party’s insistence that the Premier League manipulated the Youth Conference, paid attention to the President’s analysis of South Africa’s struggling economy.

SACP’s deputy General Secretary Solly Maphaila says, “The main things for us were the questions of the economy because he has indicated that one of the main tasks of the NGC is to get seized with responding to the economic problems facing our country. I think with respect to what is happening in the world, the approach we have seen is quite calm [and] quite clear. Secondly, which was also critical for us is how he responded to the organisational questions I mean he came out clear openly and said there are no king makers in the ANC and I think this kind of boldness by the President empowers all members of the ANC.” However, not everyone was convinced. Political analyst Professor Susan Booysen says Zuma missed the opportunity of such a grand platform to energise not just the ANC membership but South Africans as a whole. Booysen believes so much more could have been said about the direction policy should take. “That is where one needs something spectacularly inspirational even to put it mildly given the situation the ANC is in at this time but that was lacking. There were diagnoses of many of the problems but we didn’t hear anything in those respects like clean government, new directions additional directions ideas needed on energy or education and health – there was no new direction there,” explains Booysen. Also critical was Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi. He says that Zuma did not make the critical linkage between the problems facing the ANC and the role of its leadership. Matshiqi says the ANC tends not to review the success or lack thereof of its interventions to improve the party. “The ANC is very good in its diagnosis but is not as good when it comes to implementing corrective measures. What tends to happen is that at every national conference, at every NGC you hear the same critique but you never hear an explanation as why corrective measures are as effective as they should be to the extent that there have been corrective measures,” adds Matshiqi. Zuma’s political report was followed by that of party secretary general Gwede Mantashe which was closed to the media. The delegates are expected to go into commissions to discuss the various discussion documents following the report on the party finances. Click video below for more on the NGC:

– By Busi Chimombe