A Resolution Defied: Does ANC Have A Succession Plan?

PICTURE: TRM

Abandonding a resolution that paves way for a Deputy President to succeed a President, and the fact that eight ANC leaders are vying for SA’s top job shows that the ruling party does not have a sound succession plan in place, writes Lordwick Nkuna

A resolution, simply put, is a firm decision to do or not to do something. At the 1949 ANC National Conference, it is recorded that the party unanimously adopted a principal blueprint which clarified the election of a President.

At that conference, delegates overwhelmingly resolved that the Deputy President of the organisation shall preferably succeed an outgoing President. It is a proven fact that the past practices that informed the election of leadership ensured a smooth transition from one leader to another without plunging the ANC into a crisis.

It can also be argued that there’s no established tradition or Constitution of the ANC for the Deputy President to succeed the president, but it has proven to work well in the past, in some cases.

If the Deputy President does not ascend or succeed the President, a question of whether or not a “succession plan” was in place arises. The fact that we have a situation where at least eight candidates are vying for the highest office might suggest that the ANC does not have a succession plan in place.

One good example of a succession plan is that of former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki. This was a transition period for South Africa after the dismantling of apartheid and the negotiations for a new Constitution.

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The process was obviously pact-driven and one of the principal compromises was the consensus about the desirability of a post-apartheid market-economy. The new Constitution was presented as providing “a historic bridge”.

On the one side lies “the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice”. On the other was “a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all South Africans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief or sex”.

After taking over the reigns in 1999, Former President Thabo Mbeki continued from where former President Nelson Mandela left off, a clear example of a successfully executed transition or succession plan. The South African case remains an example of decolonisation taking the form of neo-colonialism – one elite surrendered power to another, with the incoming group agreeing to govern in a way acceptable to the outgoing one.

Whether or not that was the right way to handle negotiations is a story for another day. It is no secret that the ANC was constrained by the continuing legacies of apartheid rule and the power of global capitalism, that it has been unable to pursue the radical agenda that would bring true freedom to the masses. However, the succession plan was not destructive to their agenda of “working together” as a collective society.

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Going beyond that, the resolution has been defied and the “succession plan” has been vandalised in many ways than one. As the December conference is fast approaching, we have come to witness the heated race to succeed President Zuma, with at least eight candidates sweating for the number one spot. Cyril Ramaphosa appears to have the numbers, with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma breathing down his neck. Other presidential hopefuls include “[i]t’s a must” campaign runner Lindiwe Sisulu, National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete, ANC Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize, Former ANC Treasurer-General Mathews Phosa, ANC Gauteng Chairperson Paul Mashatile and longest serving Cabinet Minister Jeff Radebe.

What this shows us is that when the ANC elected Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in Mangaung, he was not necessarily part of the succession plan but only a tool used to get rid of Kgalema Montlante. Failure to put in place a “succession plan” has resulted in factionalism within the ANC. The Zuma camp is pushing for Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma to take over from her ex-husband, and the anti-Zuma camp is rooting for Ramaphosa.

Both Sisulu and Mbete have not been able to put together a camp that can fill-up a community hall and they have not been able to get their campaigns successfully off the ground. The other candidates are simply too ambitious; their chances of winning the Presidency are as good as the chances of Jimmy Manyi’s ANN7/NewAge passing the legitimacy test.  

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The most neglected step when it comes to succession planning is preparing for what happens after the successor is named. Making succession a sink-or-swim shock is simply too risky to endure. 

There is no such thing as a “ready now” candidate, hence the need to have a Deputy President who will acquaint himself or herself with the necessary skills, knowledge and the expertise before ascending to the highest office.

Part of the succession-planning process must be for the Deputy President to take advantage of the Presidential term (five years) to identify loopholes, problem areas, and find resolutions to remedy the identified obstacles so that when he or she ascends to the highest office, the mistakes of the outgoing administrators are avoided. Otherwise, what’s the point of having a Deputy President?

What is most critical is creating and continually refocusing succession on the moving target of the knowledge, skills and abilities the next President in order to effectively lead. When the departing President has had a strong run, there is worry about his successor’s ability to maintain the momentum, as was the case when Mbeki stepped down.

When he has performed poorly, there’s anxiety about whether and how fast his successor will be able correct course (Zuma to Ramaphosa or Dlamini-Zuma). There is a paradox in succession planning – trained successors are in many ways at a lower risk than those who have not been trained, although it was not the case with the Mbeki-to-Zuma succession. What is clear about the ANC is that they have everything else but a succession plan, a mistake that should have been remediated post 2007. 

 Nkuna is a business and economics graduate who is keenly interested in the political economy. This article first appeared in the realpolitik