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National General Council 2000: Report back Number 1

30 July 2000

Report back from the ANC National General Council, 11-15 July 2000



The ANC National General Council met in Port Elizabeth from 11-15 July, with cadres of the movement committing themselves to build the ANC as an agent for democratic change. Declaring that the people are their own liberators, the NGC reaffirmed the ANC's commitment to people-centred and people-driven transformation.

Over 2000 delegates attended the NGC, which was held at the University of Port Elizabeth. Over half of these were representatives of ANC branches, Regional Executive Committees and Provincial Executive Committees. The ANC Women's League and Youth League, Cosatu, SACP and SANCO were also represented, along with stalwarts, military veterans and youth. The NGC was also attended by cadres deployed in various sectors, including government departments, parastatals, NGOs, business and parliament.

The NGC was preceded by several months of preparations in branches, regions and provinces. Extensive discussions took place around the three NGC discussion papers: Tasks of the National Democratic Revolution and the Motive Forces; ANC People's Movement and Agent for Change; and Uprooting the demon of Racism.

President Thabo Mbeki opened the NGC with a Political Report, followed by the Mid-term Report and Review, presented by the Secretary General Kgalema Motlanthe. These reports outlined the key challenges currently facing the organisation, progress that has been made since the 1997 National Conference and the state of the organisation.

On the basis of these reports, delegates met in 16 different commissions to discuss issues relating to the ANC as an Agent for Change. The commissions then discussed the Programme of Action under eight broad areas: Economic Transformation; Social Transformation; Human Resource Development; Peace and Stability; Local Government; Governance and Transformation of the State; The National Question: race, gender and class; and International Affairs

The consolidated reports from these commissions were presented to the NGC plenary and adopted. An NGC Declaration was also adopted, before an address by former President Nelson Mandela. A public rally was held in Port Elizabeth's Dan Qeqe Stadium after the close of the NGC.


All ANC cadres need to deepen their understanding of the economy and economic questions, President Thabo Mbeki said in his keynote address to the NGC.

This was necessary because the building of a strong and vibrant economy was one of the strategic tasks of the continuing democratic revolution that we lead.

The President said the ANC's cadre development programme would need to develop the economic understanding of cadres as part of their overall political understanding. Economic theory could not replace political theory, but would enrich and deepen it.

This understanding among cadres of the movement was crucial if the ANC was to be an effective agent of democratic change.

The President said the ANC needed to understand the process of globalisation, including the rapid and continuous integration of the world economy, the fundamental impact of information technology, the growth of the global system of governance and the reduction of state sovereignty.

'We must understand these issues because they are critical to our success in ensuring the reconstruction and development of our economy so that it meets the needs of our people at the same time as it gets further integrated into the world economy,' he said.

Responsibilities of an agent of change

As an agent of change, the ANC needs to discharge its responsibilities both as a movement for national liberation and a governing party, the President said.

These responsibilities include:

  • the transformation of South Africa into a non-racial country, overcoming the heritage of a millennium which has defined Africans as the despised among the peoples of the world; * ending sexism in this country, breaking down and destroying the historic social mould that has sought to define women as underlings;
  • entrenching and deepening democracy and ensuring that none should resort to force to solve any social problem we might confront as a people;
  • ending poverty and ensuring a decent and continuously improving standard of living for all our people without discrimination;
  • working for the construction of a caring society, sensitive to the needs of the most vulnerable, including children, the youth and the disabled. This society must be distinguished, among other things, by the prevalence of a new patriotism, respect for the cultural and linguistic diversity of our nation, and a new social morality radically different from the morality we have inherited from centuries of colonialism and apartheid;
  • continuing to place ourselves among the forces in Africa and act together with these forces, for peace, democracy and the reconstruction and development of our continent;
  • acting together with all other like-minded forces to impact on the process of globalisation so that this process and the institutions of global governance that accompany this process work to end poverty and underdevelopment.

New morality starts with the ANC The ANC must act against corruption in its own ranks and in society by, among other things, promoting cadre development and a new morality, Cde Mbeki said.

'We have attracted into and continue to retain careerists and opportunists within our ranks. These are people who join the movement not because they respect or support any of the strategic objectives [of the ANC]. They join with the sole aim of furthering their personal careers and using access to the state power we have as a ruling party, to enrich themselves,' he said.

Corruption is able to flourish in society through social factors, such as the scramble for access to scarce resources; the absence of a truly popular political movement loyal to the interests of the working people; and the demobilisation of the masses so that they become passive objects of policy rather than activists for their own social emancipation. 'It is also important that we state this firmly, that during the last six years, our movement and its supporters have remained among the front ranks of those who have been fighting against corruption... Our challenge is to ensure that we sustain and deepen this tradition'.


The ANC needs to actively work on its weaknesses to ensure that the National Democratic Revolution remains on track, Secretary General Kgalema Motlanthe told the NGC.

Delivering the Mid-term Report and Review of the last two and a half years, Motlanthe said it was not enough to know what the organisation's problems were: 'We need to do something about them'.

The report assessed the organisation's work in a number of spheres, and the challenges facing us as an organisation, a government, a people and a country.

'Many aspects of our assessment inspire us with confidence. What we have found is that significant progress is being made in many areas. This includes the work done to address the great divides of our society - race, poverty and gender.'

'The popularity of the ANC stretches beyond its membership. This is not only indicated by the 1999 election results, but by the confidence and faith communities, and the South African society place in the political leadership of the ANC. There are more people, especially the African poor, who put their confidence in the ANC and its programmes both in government and civil society. This leadership and support goes beyond our borders, as the details in the report, especially on international matters, will show,' he said.

The review also covered the work of government from the perspective of reconstruction and development. It found that some of the weaknesses of the organisation arise because the concentration of efforts, including from the most experienced and committed members, is focused on effective governance.

'Finding the correct balance between the involvement of grassroots structures and government departments in the implementation of policies, is one of the key challenges facing this National General Council. This will help bridge the gap between government and the people, reducing the sense of distance identified as a problem before the general election of 1999. This will also be a critical factor in mobilising the electorate for the forthcoming local elections,' cde Motlanthe said.

The report assessed work done in building the ANC as a movement that organises and leads the people in the task of social transformation.

Strong branches

Since the 1997 National Conference there has been a fluctuation in the growth and quality of branches, the Secretary General reported.

'The branch is the most important unit of the ANC, with the critical responsibility to mobilise people into action aimed at changing the immediate circumstances of the poorest of the poor,' he said.

Strong branches could only be built through a consistent political programme, strong and united leadership, and an active and politically developed membership.

'Strong ANC branches are the result of a combination of actions and efforts which draw on the experiences, consciousness and initiative of people at local level and the values, political programme, organisational discipline and collective strength which the ANC as an organisation embodies,' he said.

Links to the masses

Although the ANC has a rich tradition of being rooted among the masses, the organisation has not been consistent in finding ways to mobilise people against problems. 'The ANC needs to re-assert the strategic importance - and build its capacity - to use mass-based campaigning as a vehicle for social mobilisation and transformation,' cde Motlanthe said.

Cadre development

A comprehensive review of our political education work since our unbanning reveals that we have not been able to produce enough cadres grounded in the politics, organisational values and culture of the movement.

'As an organisation we need to develop a better understanding of how cadres are developed and sustained - what social and political factors and organisational interventions are essential to build cadres willing and equipped to take up the tasks of the NDR,' he said. Cadre development also needs to be closely linked to policy development and the structured deployment of cadres. In this regard, it is important that deployment committees act in a non-sectarian manner, promote unity and accountability in the organisation and don't create perceptions of 'jobs for pals'.

The report emphasised the need to build a new cadre, a 'New Person', which would embody the values and culture of the ANC, of Batho Pele, and who would be equipped to meet the challenges of the future.

Organisational democracy and discipline The democratic and mass character of the movement remains the cornerstone of the political discipline of the ANC, cde Motlanthe said.

The application of the principles of democratic centralism requires structures in which all members are able to participate, where open and frank discussion is encouraged and where political considerations are paramount.

'We need therefore to place greater emphasis at all levels of the organisation on cadre development and political education, internal communication, effective organisational administration and policy coordination,' he said.

ANC Women's League and Youth League

The Women's League has been in the forefront in gender related campaigns, combating violence against women and children and HIV/Aids and promoting the economic empowerment of women. It has however been unable to attract to its ranks large numbers of women from different walks of life.

The League has experienced organisational problems such as poor mass activism, low levels of political consciousness, distance between the leadership and membership, disunity and a lack of cohesion at leadership level, Motlanthe said.

The Youth League has experienced similar organisational difficulties, including the slow adaptation to the new situation of youth, weak or collapsed branches and the lack of material resources. The League has responded by adopting a Programme of Action for 2000-2001 under the theme 'every Youth League member an organiser, a commissar; a string organisation an essential tool for social transformation'.

Tripartite Alliance and the MDM

One of the major strengthes of our revolution is the existence of an alliance representing the broad liberation movement and organised union and working class formations. Outside of election campaigns, however, the Alliance has failed to implement any significant common programme around the mobilisation of our people behind reconstruction and development.

'There is unevenness in the functioning of the Alliance at these levels, and an absence of any central guidance on issues and a common programme of action,' cde Motlanthe said. The organisation must develop the capacity to work among the organisations in which various sectors of the motive forces find themselves, he said.

ANC constitutional structures and governance

The ANC has not succeded - at both provincial and national levels - in mobilising its structures around governance tasks nor continually assessing the impact of policies in government.

Local government is still the weakest sphere of government: 'Relations between ANC branches and regions and our ANC councillors tend to be weak and our council caucuses are not functioning well.'

'The creation of a Policy Institute and Political School should help to inform strategic policy determination by the ANC, enable us to review the impact of policies on our society, assist long term planning and provide a forum for open debate among cadres, wherever they deployed,' he said.


The overwhelming victory scored by the ANC in the 1999 election was a clear statement of the confidence in the ANC and its ability to represent, fight for and defend the interests of the great majority. While the elections demonstrated a reduction in support for the forces opposed to transformation, they also exposed the danger of increasing depoliticisation of sections of the population, especially the youth.

Building a new South Africa

The report examined in detail progress made in building a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa, covering the strategic challenges outlined in Strategy and Tactics.

 'We have sound policies aimed at transforming our society. This review has, however, pointed to a number of weaknesses, which we will have to address if we want to make that qualitative leap that will mean accelerated progress towards a better life for all,' the Secretary General concluded.