STATE OF THE ORGANISATION – TEN QUESTIONS FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL 

The Secretary-General of the African National Congress (ANC) Comrade Gwede Mantashe has delivered the Organizational Report to the 54th National Conference of the ANC. It covers the five-year period since the 53rd National Conference at Mangaung in 2012.

ANC Today interviewed him on the side-lines of the National Conference about the work covered by the report; organizational challenges, and the future of the ANC.

How do you see the ANC’s current role in society?

Owing to its programmes of advancing change and transforming the conditions of the country’s poor and marginalized, the national liberation movement, the ANC, remains at the helm of South African society. It is our responsibility to continue to earn the trust of society.

What are the biggest challenges we face as a country?

We are now in the second phase of transition to the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) which is characterized by radical socio-economic transformation. This is in acknowledgement that unemployment, poverty and inequality must be obliterated. Full change cannot be realized unless economic power is conferred on the majority.

The Organizational Report has strongly referenced the Decade of the Cadre – please elaborate on this?

For any organization to withstand contemporary challenges and at the same time remain true to its values, principles and ideological grounding – it is imperative that we need to undergo a process of developing the right calibre of membership. This is where the notion of cadreship comes in. The focus of this decade-long programme is the ideological, political, academic and moral training of a critical mass of ANC members. Notwithstanding our challenges, efforts are underway to realize this objective. At the heart of this is political education. The discussion on organizational renewal must be a permanent feature of our movement to ensure that we adapt and change.

Please elaborate on what you have identified as the key challenges facing the ANC?

Some of the challenges we face are as a result of self-inflicted wounds. One notes for instance Then there are the fierce, even fatal contestations, together with an almost endemic factionalism between and amongst comrades dominating our structures, causing grievous divisions in the movement.

Others can be attributed to external factors opposed to our movement and its outlook on society and the world. There is for example a rising groan about state capture, corporate capture and the role of money in politics and policymaking.

It is also a reality that over a sustained time period, our movement has experienced a decline. This has manifested itself in a multi-faceted manner – including but not limited to the quality and quantity of our membership; ideological outlook and policy articulation; efficiency and effectiveness of structures; organizational discipline and the waning of values and principles amongst the leadership and membership alike; cohesiveness in the Alliance; electoral performance and ability to govern – and influence in the broader society.

In your view are any of these challenges insurmountable? 

No, because all normal organizations pass through such phases. However, decline is arrested when there is recognition that something dramatic has to be done – and a new growth trajectory initiated. We have reached such a moment.

The report speaks to a ‘trust deficit between the ANC and the people – please elaborate?

As a result of some of the aforementioned factors, there is a growing gap between the movement and the people, which has placed the legitimacy of our movement as the standard bearer in society under threat. In the second half of this term, we witnessed a decline in our performance at the polls in the 2016 municipal elections – with our support dropping by 8% compared to the 2014 elections. Of particular concern was the massive losses incurred in the Metros. The latter threatens to relegate the ANC into a rural party in a manner similar to those of other liberation movements that are in decline.

It is important however to note that trust deficit is a problem facing liberal democracies in general, and also occurs where there is a general mistrust for the ruling and business classes.

This Conference is taking place in the centenary year of OR Tambo. How do you see his legacy living on in the movement?

Next year we will also begin to mark the centenary of Comrade Nelson Mandela. We should use such anniversaries as an opportunity to energize our movement and remind us of the quality and selflessness of the leadership that has inspired us and provided a vision as well as sense of unity and purpose to our movement, but to the people as a whole.

What has been your observation regarding the unity of the leadership in this period?

Despite extremely challenging conditions, we have sought to maintain our unity as a leadership collective. This however has come under strain as a result of factions and slates. In some instances, decision-making has been removed from structures – reducing them to being sounding boards. That notwithstanding, structures are expected to take collective responsibility for as well as defend decisions they cannot honestly own.

How has the ANC culture of internal democracy suffered as a result of factionalism and slate politics?

This vibrant internal culture, wherein all views are sought and consensus reached based on the best and most appropriate course of action – is virtually non-existent. A symptom of this is when the results of every conference are immediately appealed – because some are motivated only by the need to win any debate or election. Court challenges have become the preferred method of engagement when results do not favour one or another faction.

How have perceptions of corruption dented the reputation of the ANC?

We are faced with a painful situation where the entirety of the liberation movement is projected as corrupt as a result of the actions of some. State capture is a reality and forms part of public discourse – and the ANC cannot afford to be perceived as confused or defensive in the face of this debate. The Conference must provide concrete guidance to the leadership not only on the position the ANC must take, but on how it should engage with this debate.

What can be done to arrest the ANC’s electoral decline, particularly with the 2019 elections looming?

The ANC remains the only realistic formation that can unite a cross section of all our people and engender real change. What is lost on some is that the ANC has since the inception of democracy continued to be victorious at the polls. In each national general election, we have maintained a majority of 60%. This despite many commentators and analysts predicting the ANC would poll in at below 50%.

A number of things need to be done to arrest this decline. It starts with ensuring that our support base goes out and votes; and that we are registering more voters for each set of elections. We need to reduce opportunities of local parties and independent candidates who are breaking away from the ANC. We urgently need to continue to improve our candidate selection processes. It is important equally that our leaders at all levels are made to appreciate that factional selection of candidates is very costly to the ANC, and even more so in the long term. Provinces and regions that need our urgent attention must be helped. Most importantly, we need to prioritize rebuilding the reputation and image of our movement. The serious signs of decline must be arrested – and a new growth trajectory developed.

REMODEL ANC COST STRUCTURE TO ELIMINATE EXCESS

ANC TODAY sat with the ANC Treasurer General (TG), Dr Zweli Mkhize, after his presentation of the organisations audited financial statements at the 54th National Conference for the years ending March 2013, March 2014, March 2015, March 2016 and March 2017.

ANC TODAY: How has the economic environment affected ANC fundraising over the last five years?

TG: The economic environment under which the ANC has operated over the last 5 years highlight to the members that the success of fundraising programmes and the flow of donations are heavily impacted upon by the economic situation. However, despite the challenging economic environment, the African National Congress has been able to raise funds which far surpasses previous records, in order to cover most of its activities, but more work still needs to be done.

ANC TODAY: Where does ANC get most of its funding?

TG: 65% of ANC Funding comes from our Fundraising programmes.

ANC TODAY: Does this not affect the organisations independence

TG: It is important for organisations to maintain independence from external donor influence. The recent examples have demonstrated that donors have a possibility of dictating terms to some parties, creating distortions to those parties in how they exercise their policy choices. This is a subversion of the will of the people. However, such subversion can never happen in the ANC.

ANC TODAY: Is the independence of political organisations the reason ANC has been championing a different model of funding in Parliament?

TG: It’s important to emphasise the need for the fiscus to be the main source of funding for political parties. That way the control of the political parties in South Africa remains securely in the hands of South African people.

ANC TODAY: How has negative perceptions about the ANC affected its fundraising ability?

TG: Fundraising for the ANC political programmes dependent on the public appeal of the “BRAND ANC”. Perceptions about the ANC as a brand over the last few years, corruption, nepotism, cronyism, unprofessionalism, have made the process of fundraising all the more difficult because these are the traits most private donor’s loath, as does the rest of society.

ANC TODAY: Does the ANC have enough income and investments?

TG: The main challenge for the ANC is to create a culture of saving and investing resources as well as to reduce the high expenditure pattern. This required the revamping of its administration and review its Human Resources Plan.

ANC TODAY: How is ANC’s spending pattern and what are its high cost drivers?

TG: The monthly operational cost of running the movement still remain stubbornly high. Remuneration costs, Travel and Accommodation costs, Communication costs, Legal Fees, Stationery and Consumables and Security costs continue to be the key cost drivers. The biggest expense of the ANC, is employee benefits which take almost a third of the budget. We must revamp the administration and review Human resource plan in order to eliminate all excesses and costs.

ANC TODAY: Would you say the organisation is financially stable?

TG: The organisation has a stable and consistent income stream, with modest increments year on year.

ANC thanks all its supporters who have ensured that we remain a financially viable entity that is able to fund all its programmes and fulfil all its responsibilities.

We remain a people centred organisation sustained only by the generosity of our members and donors.

SOUTH AFRICA AND THE ANC MUST EMERGE AS WINNERS

The ANC must emerge from this 54th National Conference more united, with policies that take forward its mission of building a united, non-racial non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa, according to President Jacob Zuma.

Speaking at a gala dinner on Friday night, President Zuma said the ANC and the country must emerge as winners. “We have called on all our members and delegates to ensure that unity prevails at the conference,” he said. While much attention has been paid to the leadership contest, it is just as important that Conference adopts policies that improve people’s lives.

Organised by the Progressive Business Forum, the gala dinner was attended by ANC leaders, business people and supporters of the organisation.

President Zuma called on progressive businesses to invest more in the economy to create jobs, drastically reduce poverty, break monopolies and deal with inequality.

 

“Your investment in strategic sectors of the economy will help secure meaningful participation in the economy by the majority of our people. We want to partner with investors who, notwithstanding profit motives, also understand our strategic national interest as well as the imperative of creating a better life for all,” he said.

 

It is important that such investment advances radical economic transformation by ensuring the participation of the black majority in key sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, industrialisation, mining, agriculture, tourism, telecommunications, water, energy and others. He said the long term interests of the country are guaranteed under conditions of social stability.

President Zuma said the partnership between the ANC and progressive business people allows the business community to engage meaningfully with the ANC in a solution oriented manner, “understanding that the work that needs to be done to achieve our desired and necessary levels of economic growth does not and cannot rest solely on the shoulders of our organisation”.

 

He reiterated that the ANC has always held the view that the society we are building will have a mixed economy, with state, cooperative and other forms of social ownership, and private capital. This is important because the economy requires massive investment from both public and private capital.

 

“What we must work to build consensus on is the areas to which this massive investment should be directed. Finding the correct answers as to where investment should be directed must necessarily begin with understanding that in order to deal with the problems facing our country, we need the kind of economic growth that does not only increase the value of current investments but which also significantly increases our tangible assets,” he said.

 

President Zuma highlight the importance of the partnership between the ANC and business in tackling our economic challenges. This must be a mutually beneficial relationship from which the people of South Africa as a whole are the biggest winners.

“Be encouraged to continue investing in your movement, the ANC, because it is the one most capable of changing the lives of our people for the better and creating a conducive environment for business to thrive,” he said.

President Zuma concluded by thanking the progressive business community for its support during his terms as ANC President. “Everything has been done to ensure a smooth and successful national conference,” he said.

 

 

THE PACE AND QUALITY OF SERVICE DELIVERY MUST BE ACCELERATED

While the ANC government has delivered water, electricity, housing, clinics, roads and other services, many other communities are still waiting for delivery, President Jacob Zuma said in his Political Report. He said National Conference should reflect on how to speed up the pace and quality of the services provided to our people.

One of the key changes introduced since the previous Conference was the establishment of the performance monitoring and evaluation as well as planning functions which has made it easier to organise and monitor work. The ANC needs to establish the same mechanism at headquarters in Luthuli House to fill the gap that exists currently.

The President highlighted key achievements in the implementation of the National Development Plan and the resolutions of the Mangaung Conference:

  • Close to a million households have been connected to the electricity grid since 2014.
  • Reliable water services have been provided to more than 300,000 households in 2017, while overall, access to water has increased from 80% in 2002 to 85% in 2016.
  • More than a million households have been given access to decent sanitation since 2014.
  • A total of 17 million people have benefited from social grants, the majority of whom, about 10 million, are orphans and vulnerable children.
  • The ANC government has expanded access to free education for children from poor households. More than 9 million children attend no fee schools and receive free meals at schools, which represents at least 80% of our schools.
  • The proportion of South Africans with post-school qualifications increased from 9.3% to 14% between 2002 and 2016.
  • The National Student Financial Aid Scheme increased from R2.4 billion in 2008 to R15 billion in 2017.
  • South Africa has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world with 4.2 million people on treatment. Life expectancy was 54 years in 2008 and it is now 64 years
  • The Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission programme continues to ensure that we are able to reduce HIV transmission to newborn children. In 2004 more than 70,000 babies were born HIV positive. In 2017 this reduced to 4,200.
  • The number of new HIV infections has declined from 360,000 in 2012 to 270,000 in 2016.

WE MUST ACT DECISIVELY AGAINST POVERTY & INEQUALITY

The ANC needs to act decisively to advance radical economic transformation, President Jacob Zuma said during his Political Report to the 54th National Conference. He said that doing nothing “almost guarantees that there will be little progress in the resolution of the triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment”. On the other hand, he said, reckless action would plunge the country into deep economic and social distress.

In presenting his report, he paid tribute to Isithwalandwe Oliver Reginald Tambo, saying that delegates should be inspired by the vision, character, wisdom and clarity of Tambo during conference deliberations.

Below are some highlights from the report:

Economic Transformation

Radical socio-economic transformation underpins the policy framework of the ANC in this current phase of our struggle. This means the fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.

The state must play a central and strategic role in the economy by directly investing in underdeveloped areas and directing private sector investment. The ANC government has been directed to utilise to the maximum, the strategic levers that are available to the state to achieve transformation. These include legislation, regulations, licensing, budget and procurement as well as Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment Charters to influence the behaviour of the private sector and drive transformation.

Land reform

The land question is a fundamental issue. This ultimate natural resource must be distributed in an equitable manner while enhancing its productivity and ensuring food security. The ANC government has made considerable progress in the last five years especially in establishing a strong policy and legislative framework with regard to such matters as land tenure and the shift from “willing buyer willing seller” to “just and equitable.”

With regards to human settlements, we have to move with speed to roll back the legacy of apartheid spatial planning which condemns the majority of our people to be born and bred in areas determined for them by the racist Group Areas Act.

Mineral resources

The challenges facing the mining industry and the need to have policy certainty require action from the governing party. Conference should give direction on the matter in a manner that does not destabilise the industry further because of its strategic role in the economy as a whole.

We also need to protect jobs in a difficult economic environment in the mining sector.

Our cadres in parliament should also ensure the finalisation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act soon in the New Year to ensure policy finality in this sector.

Competitiveness and collusion

Among the key obstacles to transformation are the high levels of concentration in the economy and the collusion or corporate corruption and cartels. The Competition Commission has uncovered cartels in sectors as diverse as construction, steel, banking, automobile components, food markets, telecommunications and transport. Market inquiries are currently taking place into the private healthcare industry and corporate practices in the grocery sector, including in shopping malls and townships, in the public transport sector and in the data-services sector.

Theft and corruption in the private sector is as bad as that in government and must be dealt with decisively by law enforcement agencies. Corporate collusion is now a criminal offence, punishable with 10 years in prison, in terms of a new provision signed last year.

Black economic empowerment

Meaningful progress has been made through the ANC’s affirmative action and broad based black economic empowerment programmes and policies. The ANC must attend to the issues affecting the black middle class such as racism in the workplace or business. Concern has been raised by many black professionals and businesspeople that stereotyping is being entrenched. Being black and successful is being made to be synonymous with being corrupt.

The ANC must promote black advancement and success and fight attempts aimed at frustrating and undermining black economic empowerment and affirmative action. Access to finance for black entrepreneurs also continues to be a challenge. We need to reflect on this as we discuss the transformation of our development finance institutions.

 

 

THE ANC IS AT A CROSS ROADS – PRESIDENT ZUMA

Staff Reporter

The ANC is at a crossroads

The 54th National Conference is taking place at a time when our movement is at a crossroads, President Jacob Zuma said in addressing organisational issues in his Political Report.

“While we identify corporate greed as posing a serious threat to the ANC, we also need to look at internal dynamics within our organisation.The negative tendencies that have been creeping in since the dawn of our democracy in April 1994 in the ANC have intensified over the years. They have now come to a head and are threatening the survival of the ANC,” he said.

He said the outcome of the 2016 local government elections indicated a serious decline in support for the ANC and were “a stark reminder that our people are not happy with the state of the ANC”. The movement was afflicted by factionalism, gatekeeping, ill-discipline, membership buying and infighting.

However, despite the challenges of the day, the ANC still represents the hopes, dreams and aspirations of the millions of our people who are marginalised and who are concentrated in the periphery of our mainstream economy.

“A heavy responsibility rests upon the shoulders of delegates here and on the membership as a whole, to renew our movement and restore its timeless values – unity, selflessness, sacrifice, collective leadership, humility, honesty, discipline, hard work, internal debates and mutual respect,” he said.

To exercise this responsibility, the President said, we should:

  • Focus on the needs of our people. The ANC should once again be the first to know if there are problems in any community, and it is the ANC that must lead the process of finding solutions, working with government.
  • Eradicate gatekeeping. We should enable people join their movement and participate in its activities. The ANC is the home of all our people, regardless of race, gender and class.
  • Reaffirm the authority of the organisation over its individual members. There should be consequences for any member who acts and speaks contrary to the values, principles and political programme of the ANC.
  • Continuously guard against the use of parliament to entrench colonial and apartheid privilege and the exclusion of the majority from the enjoyment of the benefits of citizenship. Conference must thus reflect on the kind of parliamentary culture the ANC espouses and the kind of strategies and tactics to be used so that we do not permit counter-revolutionary tendencies in parliament.
  • Frown upon the subjection of our internal organisational matters to court processes. Members should use internal dispute resolution processes. Judges should not be asked to dictate ANC organisational processes and the direction of the movement.
  • Improve our engagement with civil society and regain our role as the leader of society, and not allow the space to be utilised by those whose interests clash with those of the poor and the working class that the ANC leads.

“All of us must contribute to making this conference a resounding success. As members of the ANC, we must give people reason to have faith and confidence in the movement, by the manner in which we seriously deal with the challenges facing our movement,” he said

In his last address as ANC President, he concluded by thanking the ANC membership and all our branches, the provinces, regions and indeed all structures of the movement, the Leagues and our Alliance partners.

“It has been a real honour and privilege to lead this glorious movement. I thank you all sincerely for the opportunity,” he said.

 

 

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

National Conferences are occasions when branches and the leadership collective, which includes the Leagues, conduct an introspection and reflect on the organisation’s capacity to deliver on its tasks towards the realization of the national democratic revolution.  It is precisely this soul searching that enables the ANC to respond to material conditions in the country.  Conference therefore provides an opportunity to review the ANC’s organizational arrangements in order to respond effectively to the challenges at hand.

True to the age-old practice, Conference will consider a number of constitutional amendments aimed at strengthening the ANC well into the second centenary of its existence.

Key among these is the composition and size of the NEC.  This is not a new consideration as the NEC has evolved both in form and size over the last 5 decades from an NEC made up of 3 officials and 15 additional members in 1949 to 6 officials and 50 additional members in 1991.

A number of proposals impacting on the composition and size of the NEC will be put before conference for decision.  These include an option of a second Deputy President, a consideration to introduce a second and possibly a third Deputy Secretary-General.  Consideration will also be given to the configuration of the NWC, with an option of replacing the current structure with the Officials reinforced by 5 full-time, directly elected NEC members to constitute a Working Committee or Secretariat.  Alternately, the NWC should be retained in its current form with a proviso that at least 50% of its members should not be members of Cabinet while the ANC remains a governing party.

In strengthening and reinforcing the centrality of the branch as the basic unit of the ANC, conference will also review ways and means to ensure that the branch is able to respond to this responsibility while remaining alive to the realities of modern day society.  The proposals under consideration include relaxing the requirement for a branch to meet monthly and rather extend this to once every two months, as well as establishing units outside the country to ensure that ANC members who ordinarily work and reside outside the country are able to participate in the political life of the ANC.  The introduction of a support member who may attend branch meetings but will neither have voting rights nor be eligible for election onto any political office, is another proposal borne out of the recognition that the ANC represents the dreams and aspirations of all South Africans beyond its membership.  South Africans who may not want to be card carrying members of the ANC, but have an interest in participating in and informing policy debates would be able to do so through their participation at branch level.

In reclaiming its role as the custodian of the dreams and aspirations of all South Africans, the ANC has acknowledged that the challenges it confronts have had an impact on its moral authority.  Conference will seriously consider strengthening the role of the Integrity Commission through a variety of proposals which range from reaffirming its independence with decision-making powers and authority to call any member, to a Commission that is accountable to the relevant executive structure with only power to make recommendations.  In addition, consideration will be given to the establishment of a National Dispute Resolution Committee as a permanent structure to adjudicate over disputes that arise at any level of the organization, with a provision for an Appeals Committee.

SIDEBAR:

SUMMARY OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROPOSALS

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

1. DEPUTY PRESIDENT

Option 1:  One Deputy President

Option 2:  Two Deputy Presidents

2. DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL

Option 1:  Three Deputy Secretaries-General

Option 2:  Two Deputy Secretaries-General

3. SIZE OF THE NEC

Option 1:  60 Additional members

Option 2:  80 Additional members

4. NATIONAL WORKING COMMITTEE

Option 1:  Retain NWC in its configuration but ensure that at least 50% of its members are not members of Cabinet.

Option 2:  Do away with the NWC and make the Officials and 5 full-time directly elected NEC members the Working Committee or Secretariat.

5. BRANCHES

BRANCH GENERAL MEETINGS: Once every 2 months

BRANCH STRUCTURE: Proposals include establishment of sub-branches and ANC units outside the country to cater for South Africans living abroad

DUTIES OF A BRANCH:  Duties augmented with new duties which include formation of street committees, collaborative partnerships with civil society, strengthen accountability of ward councilors.

6. REGIONS

DUTIES: Duties augmented to enable Regions to provide logistical support to branches towards the realization of their mandate with specific reference to programmes aimed at realizing social cohesion, strengthening relationships with alliance partners and organs of civil society at branch level.

7. PROVINCIAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEES

DUTIES: Duties of the PEC to be augmented to mandate it to develop and implement social cohesion programmes and audit the functioning of branches.  The proposed amendments have both a developmental and disciplinary element with the PEC having power to act against non-performing branches.

8. ELECTORAL COMMISSION

It is proposed that political contestation be managed through the Electoral Commission.  Its members be appointed at or immediately after the Policy Conference.  The approach of complementing the Commission with one representative per Province and the Leagues is mooted.  The proposal includes additional powers to the Commission to screen candidates in accordance with the criteria set out in the “Through the Eye of the Needle” document to serve as a confidence-building mechanism and enhance credibility of the electoral process.

9. MANAGEMENT OF ORGANISATIONAL DISCIPLINE

NATIONAL DISPUTE RESOLUTION COMMITTEE & APPEALS COMMITTEE:  The proposal is to establish these as Standing Committees as a mechanism for the resolution of certain disputes and would help restrict disputes to be resolved within the organization and not by the courts.

INTEGRITY COMMISSION:  Proposals is to establish the Integrity Commission as a Constitutional structure to adjudicate over acts of misconduct centred on unethical behavior.  Options to be considered include retaining the Commission as an independent body with power to call any member to account and inform leadership of its decisions, with power and authority strengthened.  The second option is for the Commission to derive its mandate from and account to the relevant executive and make recommendations on its findings.

 

THE RECOGNITION AND CELEBRATION OF WOMEN IS SHOULD TRANSCEND ‘SPECIAL’ PERIODS LIKE WOMEN’S MONTH

By Ntombi Mekgwe

As we draw the curtain on the month-long celebration of Women’s Month, this should by no means mean that we scale down with the recognition of the contribution that women from all walks of lives continue to make in our society. The central theme that has been rightly identified for 2017 “The Year of OR Tambo: Women United in Moving South Africa Forward” remains very much relevant even beyond this month or year.

Building on the hard-fought legacy of the courageous women of 1956 it is important that we continue to recognize and celebrate the significant role that women firstly have played in the South African struggle for liberation and secondly in reconstructing a new society anchored of the values of non-racialism, non-sexism and equality.

Women continue to break barriers of culture, patriarchy, and societal limitations and as such today we are represented across all sectors of society.

Today, many women provide leadership in fields such as education, health, science, technology, aviation, business, public service, media and many others.

More South African women continue to be the backbones of their families and communities, working hard to make South Africa succeed. The critical issue is that, the women’s economic empowerment is fully supported by the Constitution, and other legislation and policies of government.

Women remain essential to the growth of South Africa’s economy and their success is an integral part of our country’s success and prosperity.

We therefore need to make it our collective obligation to ensure that we build on the valuable work that been taking place since the dawn of democracy and encourage women to build their careers in not only the public but in the private sectors as well.

In the space where I am women have been at the fore front of law making playing an instrumental role in legilstures across the three spheres of government. They have been hard at work to ensure that apartheid legislation is replaced with laws that are at pace with our much-celebrated Constitution and that our constitiutional democracy is safe guarded.

The strides that women have made continue to be threatened by the by stubborn patterns of patriarchy, sexism and the escalation of violence against women and children. Ours is an every day struggle to ensure that women can fully appropriate the inherent benefits that our democratic dispensation guarantees.

All South Africans should continuously rededicate themselves to the realization of the vision of those gallant women of 1956 who sought a country where they had equal opportunities, felt safe and had the freedom to contribute as equals to their country’s development.  Their bravery shaped the history of our country and plight of our people. It showed us that when the power of women is unleashed we can be assured of a brighter and a better future for all our citizens.

Comrade Ntombi Mekgwe is the Provincial Treasurer of the ANC Gauteng Province and the Speaker of the Gauteng Provincial Legislature

IN CONVERSATION WITH AZOLA ZUMA 

By Staff Reporter

South Africa marks the 2017 Women’s Month under the theme “The Year of OR Tambo: Women united in moving South Africa forward”. This month is dedicated to women as a tributeto the thousands of women who took part in the historic 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings against the pass laws of the oppressive apartheid government.

Women’s month a call to action for the current generation of women to continue the struggle towards the total liberation and empowerment of women.

ANC Today speaks to Azola Zuma, CEO Sanlam Investment Management, on the strides we have made and the most pressing challenges facing women in South Africa.

Question 1: What are some the key ingredients that have led to your success?

Azola: It has been a combination of things. Firstly, like many, you get role models as you growing up. My mom is one of those. From a very young age, my mom used to wake up at 04:00 am, to see to it that she puts bread on the table, educate her four kids. She got divorced when I was about a year and two months old, she had to fend for herself and provide for her kids. She had to work very long hours. A very strong women, she was the person that you could go to, she provided comfort and the support.

There’s is a lot of sacrifice that went into ensuring that we receive the basic education. I didn’t come from a well to do family. When it came to me having to go to tertiary, I applied to only one University and that was the University of Cape Town, because I wanted to get the best tertiary education there was at the time. We didn’t have a plan. We didn’t know how we were going to fund my Business Science Degree. Luckily, government at the time had put in place, what is today known as the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), to assist needy students to access education. Essentially, NSFAS pays for your education if you pass in any particular academic year, 40% of that gets converted into a bursary and effectively you only are liable for the 60%. In short, government took me through school. However, there were living expenses. My mom had to take care of those. It was that unrelenting spirit of wanting to get that education no matter what that got me through. My mom didn’t have a plan, but, we had to make a plan, and government came through for our family.

I attained my business science degree, and then I entered the work environment. Generally, ambition is one the things that has been a driver, just in terms of how I tackle life and how I approach any obstacles that are in my way. I am a go getter, those I work with can tell you that once I have set my mind to something, I will not let up until I get it.

It is that unrelenting spirit of pursuing your goal that kept me going. Being clear in terms of what your goals are and relentlessly pursing them. Having the discipline to ensure that you followup and follow your goals and see them to their logical conclusion

2. What would you say are some of the key challenges that women continue to face?

Azola: There are a number of challenges facing women in South Africa and in the World. The World Economic Forum (WEF) released their 2016 global gender gab report, the mere fact that there are even reports to track this particular set of circumstances is, for me, astounding. Considering women actually entered the work place very long ago, but they started entering the work place in a more meaningful way, I think it was in 1835, but it is now 2017, and we still face gender problems in the work place.

There is the gender gap, where you get a male and female doing exactly the same job, same qualifications, same abilities, but they will be compensated differently. That continues to be an issue. I’m not sure that we are going to chip away at the problem if we don’t populate those high decision making roles with females. I think it is the females that are going to resolve the problem, because, I think men had the opportunity to do something about it, and we are still sitting where we are today.

The second challenge that women tend to face generally, is we are not authentic in who we are in the workplace. There are studies that are being conducted around the benefits of people that live in the work environment being true to who they are, and actually economic benefits of that. Typically, if you are in a work environment and you are pretending to be something you are not that takes away a lot of your energy and as result, it has a negative impact on productivity because you have to put up appearances, try to act as if you are something you are not just to fit into the work environment. It is problematic and it continues to happen

There are a lot of women who come into the work environment, and I’m confining my argument just to the work environment, because I think that is topical. Gender mainstreaming is a big thing in corporations all over the World. Women need to find their voice in the work place. I think there is a tendency to defer to the status quo and women don’t assert themselves enough. We run a danger that society is going to remain where it is if women do not stand up and take their rightful place in this corporations and shape the future of the context within these corporations operate.

3. Critics are saying not much has been done in the past 23 years by government, what has been your experience in terms of advancing the agenda of women?

Azola: We have to be careful around too much legislation, sometimes, it is probably necessary and really what government has to do. We have the Employment Equity Act, for example, making contributions by training your staff and be able to claim back from the various SETAS. Government has done a lot, but trouble with what we are seeing, is that there is a lot of noncompliance. You can legislate as much as you want to, but ultimately, if you don’t have a mechanism to monitor compliance to a specific piece of legislation, you are going to come short, because people know that there is nobody policing them for want they are doing.

What ultimately needs to happen, and what is happening in financial services in particular when it comes to gender issues, is not much. In terms of the JSE, the last stats that I saw with respect to the companies listed, it’s only 3% of those companies that actually have females represented on their boards. There’s is a lot that needs to be done.

The other perspective that I can bring into the equation is that a lot of the institutional investors in the South African market are your retirement funds, pension funds, money that you and I contribute towards our employer scheme that has been established for retirement saving purposes. It is really our money. This money is of the men in the streets, but those monies are being presided on and all the decision making that happens is in the financial management industry. Those financial management that you provide mandate to say help us grow our wealth, they have the power to engage with the investee companies that they place monies with. I think this question of gender mainstreaming can probably be tackled from many angles, firstly, is putting in place proxy voting policy, for example that these retirement funds can get their asset managers to exercise on their behalf so that they can incorporate within such policies things like, we want to see females being represented at the board levels of these companies, within management, and report on that on annual basis. That can be done. The legislation is already there, the EE, they compile a report on annual basis just to track how we are doing.

The mere fact that we are not making progress with respect to this suggests, to me that maybe our legislation is a little bit blunt, and perhaps it has to be re-looked at, reviewed, and maybe we need to sharpen it in certain areas.

What is fascinating is what happened in Rwanda post genocide, if you look at the the global gender gap report that WEF released, Rwanda is sitting at number 5 out of 144 counties that are tracked in the WEF report. The reason is that a lot of the men died because of the genocide and so the females now populate the parliament, they set policy, they run the institutions. It took a genocide to actually achieve that kind of stat, by the way of all the countries that are in the top 10, Rwanda is the only African country.

It is fascinating and problematic, the gender issue is really a big conundrum and I think that it is going to take women to stand up for other women and open up doors for other women and ensure that they pull them up the ladder.

Question 4: If you had an opportunity to speak to your younger self, what advise would you give her?

Azola: That is a difficult one for me to answer. I have always been serious and ambitious from day one. I would say to myself, pursue the things that I feel I let myself down, such as, getting a qualification to become a Chartered Accountant, because CAs are held in high esteem in the World, particularly, here in SA. I’m not sure if it is too late to obtain that kind of qualification.

Maybe advise for young people in general, there are a lot of things that have gone wrong, some are systematic. The AIDS pandemic also made a contribution, a lot of kids had to effectively raise themselves, and when kids are left to their own devices a lot can go wrong. The kind of advise to kids, that grow up who have made some mistakes, we have experienced a lot of teenage pregnancy, I think to those kids, I would say, life is long, as much as people say life is short, but life is very long. To them if they have made those mistakes, and maybe they are in their mid-20s at the moment, one has not obtained a matric, they must just go back to school and get it. There is a lot of support that is available for such. They must just get that matric. If you just passed matric and you wish you could improve your results because you want to follow a particular stream at a tertiary level, just go back and improve your results. You have a lot of time. There is a lot ahead of you. South Africa has many opportunities and South Africa actually needs its youth to be people that are going to make a real contribution to the future of this economy. Go back to school, equip yourself, this economy is alive with possibility.

People like myself who are in positions of influence, currently, are actually laying the ground work for those people to come in and plug into positions that are ultimately going to ensure that we continue to build the future of South Africa. Alcohol isn’t going to get you anywhere anytime fast. There is a time for everything in life. If they can get the foundational basis for their future, they won’t have any regrets.

Question 5: If you were to become President for one day, what would you do?

President for a day, first of all that wouldn’t be adequate time for all the things that need to happen, in South Africa, but, I would probably focus on giving an inspirational speech on how much potential we have as a country and how much a lot rests on our education system.

I think a lot of the problems that we are going to continue to have as a country is the fact that we have lowered standards when it comes to the quality of the education that we are providing to our youth. That is probably where I would focus most of my attention in getting that right and ensuring that we go back to a system that is going to produce quality students that are going to be able to get into tertiary side of things and thrive within the tertiary environment. Varsity just gives you an urge in life

Probably, what I would alter or enhance in our curricula is introducing an entrepreneurship stream, because for a developing nation such as ours, surely, we can’t be saying to kids the only thing that they ever going to be good for is jobs. We need to create a crop of kids that are going to be creators, they need to create companies, invent things that are going to occupy the world stage

Education would be very key, top of my agenda, is to change the curricula. Currently the pass rate is ridiculous,

Give an inspirational speech to try and encourage South Africans to come together as a nation. There is so much racial hatred happening in the country at the moment and the political environment doesn’t help much, we need to meet each other somewhere in order to take this country forward

IN CONVERSATION WITH IPELENG MKHARI: CELEBRATING IIMBOKODO – AN INTERVIEW SERIES

South Africa marks the 2017 Women’s Month under the theme “The Year of OR Tambo: Women united in moving South Africa forward”. The country marks Women’s Month in tribute to thousands of women who took part in the historic 1956 women’s march to the Union Buildings in protest against the pass laws of the oppressive apartheid regime.

Women’s Month also serves as a call to action for the current generation of women; for them to continue to struggle towards the total liberation and empowerment of women.

ANC Today speaks to prominent businesswoman Ipeleng Mkhari, CEO of  Motseng Investment Holdings, on the strides we have made towards gender equality as well as the most pressing challenges facing women in South Africa today.

ANC Today: What would you say would be the key ingredients that have led to your success?

Ipeleng: Fundamentally passion. I truly love what I do. I love working with the people that I work with. I love creating things, coming up with innovative thoughts and ideas.

As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to have a creative state of mind. You need to have the passion to take on that level of risk.

The success factor is defined by broad themes around the offices people work in, the number of people that they work with.

A lot of people don’t know what it took to get to that point. It is important to talk about the real issues and challenges of being an entrepreneur, because success is not just an event.

You must have passion. That has been a major contributing factor in my journey;  getting up even when I failed many times – to still get up again and still do the same thing over again.

ANC Today: What challenges did you have to navigate to get to where you are today?

Ipeleng: I have been in business for 20 years. In 1997, I started working for a certain organisation and in that same year, I realised that I was just a front. I had just finished university and was six months into my job.

My greatest challenge was learning, in adversity, to be able to navigate obstacles that you don’t expect to come across your way. You have got to make decisions quickly, and decisions that are based on a value system or a set of rules and integrity you carry.

If I look at that 1997 to 2007 trajectory for me, I went through various challenges. There have been challenges around raising finance, cash flow sustainability,  and being able to attract the best people and keep them.

I have never gotten into business because I believed it was something sexy or glamorous to do, because it is very hard.

The challenges are necessary to make you realise the need to focus on what you are doing. They also make it that much more important to protect and grow your business.

Question 3: If you had an opportunity to talk to your younger self, what advice would you give? 

Ipeleng: I would say to a 20 year old Ipeleng, “don’t be afraid, fear is a huge crippler of people’s ideas and their own vision of self.”

I think I have done okay in that area, and I have done it only because I was young. Truly don’t have fear, those are my words even to Ipeleng today.

Try something out, because you don’t know what could come out of it. That has been, to a certain degree, a little bit part of my journey, I had a lot luck.

The time when I started, there were no policies around the codes of good governance, BBBEE was there.

There were no very strong policies as we have today around women and youth. The policies have grown over time and have enabled businesses like Motseng to survive or grow. When I started, it was a lot of trial and error.

ANC Today: Critics say nothing much has been done in the past 23 years of this government, what has been your experience?

At macro level, 2017 has been a seriously, fundamentally painful year for the country and for women.

We have experienced and seen horrific tragic femicide and other acts of brutality on women. It is not that as a country, we have not been exposed to this for many years, I believe we are a violent nation generally.

This is not a government problem requiring just a  government solution. Government has a role to play, but in my mind, it is not solely a government responsibility.

At a micro level, this is a societal issue –  civil society, government, private sector & businesses matter. It is a description and a narrative that needs to be taken and very seriously by all members of society.

When we look at our leaders, in all walks of life, we need to look at them and be able to say, you are the kind of people, men and women, who represent the people we want and feel safe around them.

As a women, I feel very strongly that the Department of Women has no voice in this conversation, has no narrative to speak of, that I can say there it is –  that’s what they stand for and have been active in this conversation since its inception.

That’s a real challenge because that is an arm of government that has been setup to deal specifically with that particular group that is so challenged.

I also that think the justice system has certainly got an even more critical role to play and I think they are playing it, within the limitations of their own challenges.

I understand that there’s discussions about establishing courts that will focus specifically on matters related to violence against women.  I think those are the kinds of things that we need.

We need to be able to hold the perpetrators of such acts seriously accountable. This means they need to feel the full might of the law.

I think our government has always spoken out against violence, the need to protect, celebrate and uplift women. As a society, we just haven’t realized how deeply wounded we are and how violence begins.

ANC Today:  If you were to be a President for a day, what would you do? 

Ipeleng: I’m a go getter, and obviously thats the type of President I would be.

My top priority would be to look at how do we get the economy growing. How do we really engage and support small to medium size businesses, like Motseng, to survive ?

We must really engage society around entrepreneurship and what that brings to an economy that cannot rely on the good old resources based sectors.

We need to start understanding what the new sectors, globally, are and engaging our young people in the concept of doing it for themselves, so that they are able to create businesses that employ other people, that put food on people’s tables, so that people can go out there work, learn and grow.

We are going through a major economic slump, we certainly are an emerging market, but that doesn’t suggest that our GDP must be growing at the very low levels it is growing at. That would be my thing, that’s what I know.