ANC finance report: ‘Everything at Mangaung is fat’
THE African National Congress (ANC) is to introduce new measures to ensure that its finances are managed sustainably, says Zweli Mkhize, the ruling party’s new treasurer-general.
Presenting a report on the ANC’s finances at a media briefing on Thursday, Mr Mkhize echoed the sentiments of his predecessor, Mathews Phosa, that stricter financial discipline was necessary to avoid expenses exceeding the ANC’s available funds.
The party primarily relies on membership fees, proceeds from its investment vehicles such as Chancellor House, and donations from individuals and business. Raising the membership fee (R12) was among proposals tabled ahead of Mangaung, but Mr Mkhize said on Thursday that the fee would remain unchanged.
The ANC’s involvement in business has often raised concerns over conflict of interest in cases where the deals involved the government. Mr Mkhize said the ANC had the right to participate in the economy and its investment arms should be treated like any other businesses.
"Regulations do need to be worked on that will guide and manage possible conflict of interest," said Mr Mkhize, with a possibility of "specific" laws for business where the ANC was involved.
Also, questions have been raised whether political parties ought to disclose their funders, amid concerns that some donors may seek to swing the awarding of state procurement contracts in their favour. Mr Mkhize said donations to political parties should have no conditions attached or benefits anticipated.
In an interview with Business Day this week, Mr Phosa said the ANC needed to "trim the fat" in its operations. "We need to begin to cut our fat, it’s a thick layer of fat, it will cause political diabetes for the ANC," he said.
Ballooning staff figures — with 118 staff hired since 2007 — mean the party needs R24m every month for head-office operations and salaries.
"We are very wasteful. It’s sad," he said. "At the moment, you have to raise R24m every month for salaries and overheads. It’s very difficult with a revenue line of almost zero."
He said staff needed to cut back on the frills.
However, on Thursday Mr Mkhize said the delegates at Mangaung did not discuss ways of cutting costs as these were administrative matters to be handled by the party’s headquarters in Luthuli House.
Decrying the party’s hefty bill for this week’s conference in Mangaung, Mr Phosa said local businesses had colluded to inflate prices, pushing up the overall cost to more than R100m.
However, business people in Bloemfontein were also reluctant to do conference-related business with the ANC as some had still not been paid for services rendered when the party was in town in January for its centenary celebrations. Some demanded full upfront payment for the elective conference, which wraps up on Thursday.
The giant marquee in Mangaung hosting 4,500 delegates, 850 journalists and other guests cost R30m to hire.
The total cost of R100m was much more than what the ANC would have spent had the conference been at Gallagher Estate in Midrand, Mr Phosa said. The cost of Mangaung was equal to what the party had spent on its year-long centenary celebrations.
"That’s fat. Everything here (at the Mangaung conference) is fat, everything is expensive … everything here is big," he said. "The hall is big, the stakes are big, it’s expensive. We need to have small things that are effective."
To avoid expensive conferences, Mr Phosa said, the ANC should consider asking its provinces to bid for the host status, which would keep prices competitive. He had suggested this to Mangaung delegates.
"Bloemfontein would never qualify for any event," he said. "They have shot up prices, they have colluded, it’s crazy. A four-roomed house here costs R100,000, the cost of two RDP houses. You spend that in four days."