Kgalema Motlanthe. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Kgalema Motlanthe. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

WHILE there is room for the modernisation of the African National Congress (ANC), the jury is out on whether there is the will, says Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.

His comments, expressed in an interview on Friday, come as the party seems to be floundering in achieving its strategic goal of creating a united, democratic, nonracial and nonsexist society.

There is a strong push within the ruling party for it to modernise and renew itself. But attempts to reform the party’s internal electoral processes faced resistance at its policy conference in June.

The party has also expressed concern about its diminishing support among minority groups after the local government elections in 2009.

Mr Motlanthe said the ANC was aware that despite being at the forefront of attempts to transform South African society, the party itself was undergoing a "silent transformation" on which it had "no handle" at all.

"The national liberation movement attracted people who were prepared to sacrifice, but a ruling party doesn’t necessarily attract people who are willing to sacrifice, and therein lies the distinction ."

The ANC was not making "sufficient inroads" in achieving its goals, which included creating a united, democratic, nonracial, nonsexist and prosperous nation.

"We are not succeeding in that regard," Mr Motlanthe said.

"There is always the task of democratising South Africa. We are trying, but from time to time we have to be pulled back into line by the judiciary ," he said.

The renewal of the ANC means that the party should be at the "forefront" of pushing these goals. "The ANC must present itself as a natural home for all South Africans.

"In practice we’ve not been effective in that regard, so comparatively speaking we have in a sense been retreating from there, except that most of these national groups have organised themselves ."

The party was engaging with various communities, including the Jewish, Italian, Greek and Portuguese communities, on their concerns about the country.

Mr Motlanthe said the ANC could only count itself as the leader of society if those serving on its national executive committee were outward looking, and belonged to other organisations which were in touch with the rest of society, such as taxi or residents’ associations. "If the only structure you belong to is the ANC and the national executive committee, then you can’t lead society as you’re leading the ANC."

An ANC leadership not in touch with society could lead to the relevance of the party diminishing in the eyes of the electorate.

Mr Motlanthe said the ANC needed to reach out to the communities so it could have a proper sense of their needs. "If the ANC was to do what it does during election campaigns throughout, then it would be leading society, because it would be getting constant feedback and suggestions from people."