Policy in the spotlight at upcoming ANC conference

File: ANC leadership contenders are dominating conversations, but the governing party must also decide on which policies it'll pursue over the next five years. Photo: Flickr / GovernmentZA

JOHANNESBURG – Presidential contenders are dominating conversation as the ANC hurtles towards its national elective conference on 16 December.

The governing party must also decide on which policies it will pursue over the next five years.

Policy talks and implementation are often stymied by competing interests and even cold, hard cash.

The decisions government takes in the short-to-medium term should be guided by conference resolutions, but things don’t always work out that way.

READ: The ANC succession race and scandal: when politics gets dirty

Wits School of Governance’s Ivor Sarakinsky said: “Money distorts a democratic policy decision in that you circumvent popular mandates and decision making.”

The controversial Gupta family stands accused of manipulating government policy for its own needs and pockets.

The contentious mining charter - with a special consideration for naturalised South Africans to benefit from BEE - is a case in point, and more recently, the Naspers set-top box encryption saga with chairperson, Koos Bekker, allegedly meddling directly with the communications department’s mandate.

Political Economist Iraj Abedian said: “We have corrupted the term policy framework, so we need to sanitise it and clean it in order to ensure policy credibility so that when the president or cabinet makes an announcement, the nation knows its policy.”

This is not a South African phenomenon, Sarakinsky pointed out.

“It's not uncommon around the world for this to happen. You agree on a whole set of wish-lists on what you want to do, then you confront reality in terms of what you can achieve. This is where the real tough politics come in, in terms of information peddling and other measures to influence a policy agenda.”

Abedian said the ANC is worried that a split could take placed based on policy differences.

“They [the ANC] are scared of policy as a source of division,” he added.

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