THE ANC's most important policy brainstorm, held every five years, gets under way in Midrand on Tuesday.

About 3500 delegates will attend the policy conference at Gallagher Estate, where 13 policy documents will be discussed over four days ahead of the ruling party's national conference in Mangaung, Free State, in December.

The ANC's policies, the progress it has made in reaching its strategic objectives and the state of the organisation will be reviewed at the event, which takes place during its centenary year after almost 19 years in power.

The party's constitution requires that a policy conference be held at least six months before its national conference. Decisions made at the four-day policy conference will be discussed and finalised at the national forum. These policies will form the basis for the ANC government's policies and new or amended laws.

At the time of the release of the policy documents in March, Jeff Radebe, head of the ANC's national executive committee policy subcommittee, said: "The ANC's policy conference in June will take place within a paradigm shift in the approach of the ANC towards the economic development of our country."

In January this year, ANC president Jacob Zuma said: "Political emancipation without economic transformation is meaningless. That is why we have to commit ourselves to economic freedom in our lifetime."

This thinking is developed in a key document up for discussion, titled The Second Transition: Building a National Democratic Society and the Balance of Forces in 2012.

'CRISIS OF CREDIBILITY'

The ANC also recognises that it is facing a "crisis of credibility" and needs to find a solution at its policy conference.

In 2007, the party's national conference in Polokwane identified organisational renewal as critical to its survival.

Renewal was again discussed at the 2010 national general council, where the ANC resolved "that decisive steps must be taken to reverse negative tendencies that are eroding the political integrity and moral standing of the ANC among our people".

The 2012 discussion document titled Organisational Renewal: Building the ANC as a Movement for Transformation and a Strategic Centre of Power, continues this debate. According to the document, although the party has reflected on the fact that it is facing a "crisis of credibility", it has not yet found a solution.

"And yet," it says, "we have not succeeded in effectively dealing with factionalism and ill-discipline. Mangaung must be a turning point, because unless we halt the decay, we will soon reach a stage where it becomes irreversible."

The ANC needed to change from a resistance movement that led the anti-apartheid struggle to a "transformative movement and effective governing party that succeeds in building a developmental state, deepening democracy and effecting fundamental socioeconomic transformation of our society".

WEAKNESSES

The policy document identifies three main organisational weaknesses: the erosion of the ANC's values; in-fighting and factionalism affecting service delivery; and organisational capabilities that do not match the demands of the current phase of the revolution.

It proposes a decade-long programme of action to deal with these problems, including building the ANC's capability to act as the strategic centre of power.

It says the party must lead social movements to change the legacy of apartheid colonialism and overcome the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. The ANC has to revitalise its grassroots structures and focus on the problems of the masses.

Also, the party needs to fast-track large-scale infrastructure development and enhance the capacity of the state to intervene in key sectors of the economy in pursuit of higher growth rates, employment creation and broad-based black economic empowerment.

The document also calls for urgent steps to "restore the core values, stem (sic) out factionalism and promote political discipline", and proposes that the ANC undergo a 10-year programme of organisational renewal "that consolidates and expands the character and values of the ANC as a revolutionary people's movement while building its capabilities and its capacity for innovation and renewal".

According to the policy document, the ANC has concluded its first transition into democracy, which focused mainly on political emancipation. It should now enter its second transition, focusing on the social and economic transformation of South Africa over the next 30-50 years.

"Our first transition embodied a framework and a national consensus that may have been appropriate for political emancipation, a political transition, but has proven inadequate and inappropriate for our social and economic transformation phase," Mr Radebe said at the policy document launch.

Other policy documents outline proposals for social transformation, state intervention in the minerals sector, economic transformation and gender.

Also on the agenda are papers on peace and stability, education and health, communications, legislature and governance, international relations, and land reform.

Mr Radebe said there would be "no holy cows" when it came to discussing the policies.