The governing African National Congress (ANC) has seemingly awakened to concerns about the negative impact of social ills such as crime and racism, calling on more “sharpened instruments” to deal with the rampant problems plaguing South African society.
The reconvened conference raised concerns about the recent spate of racist attacks, crime and violence against women and children.
The party’s strategy and tactics commission, chaired by former Gauteng chairperson and NEC member David Makhura, was the first to report back on its decisions from the conference’s main hub in Bloemfontein, Free State, on Thursday night.
While the commission agreed that more action was required to curb racism and gender-based violence, Makhura said there was no suggestion of possible legislation to help stop the scourge.
He said the governing party recognised that it has “dropped the ball” and thus opened a door for civil society movements and opposition parties to sharpen knives ahead of the crucial 2024 general elections.
Makhura added that although there had been some gains since 1994, glaring regressions that have led to increased unemployment, the energy crisis, state capture and crime and violence were a threat to the country’s constitutional law and order.
“Yes, we have setbacks. We identified issues threatening our democracy, it is threatened by issues that are in regress and stagnant – such as the poor economy and unemployment and gender-based violence which is the crudest form of violence we’re seeing today.
“Violence is becoming the order of the day, and racism is rearing its ugly head. All these threaten to erode and undermine the gains of democracy.”
‘SA becoming dangerous place for blacks’
The former Gauteng chairperson said tackling racism requires the State to come up with “stronger instruments”, and that although other commissions might propose direct interventions, those needed to be agreed to by conference first.
“We need more serious instruments to deal with racism and gender-based violence – we can’t allow racists to roam around beating people… we just can’t allow that. An outing to a restaurant or even a public place sees black people not only discriminated against but attacked.
“The ANC says we need to deal with that decisively and we want the State to sharpen its instrument and confront racism. We are heading towards all these turning our country into a dangerous place for black people, and we cannot accept that.”
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He added that it was agreed that where policies do not work, especially in economic transformation and growth, then they should be changed.
He wouldn’t divulge the specific policies the party has set its sights on.
“The discussions on strategy and tactics also say we must boldly review policy. Do not ask me about which policies because that is yet to be announced. We can’t be married to policies that do not produce results. We are going to undertake a series of consultations on policies this year
“We can’t change policy all the time and equally, we cannot stick with a policy that doesn’t produce desired results. We need that tactical flexibility,” he said.
Far-right ‘gaining prominence, undermining government’
ANC delegates further raised concerns about pro-white social activism by organisations which they said were gradually gaining recognition, and even drag government before the courts.
Makhura said conservatives still opposed to transformation still hold the view that black people should remain marginalised and that they even hope for the return of the apartheid regime.
He said conservatives were becoming elevated because of the ANC’s negotiated settlement with the white apartheid leaders after the unbanning of liberation movements back in the 1990s.
“They go to court to challenge us and are gaining confidence through what they are doing. They are with us and live with us because we didn’t defeat them, it was a negotiated settlement. Today, we have more forces opposing throughout society.”
The ANC continues to defend the country’s constitution, even when the courts rule against it, said Makhura.
“The conference says democracy gains must be defended. There are people who want to say life was better under apartheid, so we must return to apartheid. That is not openly proclaimed, but certain forces want to retain all that was colonialism, while some say the ANC sold out.
“We reject that. We have a constitution that we defend every day even when courts rule against us. To criticise the Constitutional Court can’t be a crime. This constitution was borne by us.”
Other commissions are expected to report back on Friday.
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