The young and the landless: that's the poll soapie we face
Faced with its toughest election yet, the ANC seeks to balance its past with its future – with the youth and the land at the centre
As the African National Congress sat down alongside experts and academics in Pretoria on Monday, it gave observers a glimpse at how it planned on approaching next year’s national election.
Facing a vote that is expected to be its toughest since 1994, its draft elections manifesto has given a hint of how the party plans to approach next year’s polls.
And, at least for now, it seems that the party is hell-bent on limiting key EFF supporter topics: the youth and the land.
At an elections manifesto consultative workshop at the St George’s Hotel in Irene, Pretoria East, on Monday, the ANC distributed a key document that would guide the party’s activists as they engaged on a door-to-door campaign canvassing for the votes.
The document, perhaps predictably, covers the current hot topic of land – and also addresses issues like education, crime, jobs, corruption and state capture.
Addressing the workshop, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the focus had to be on the future. He said that half of the voters that would participate in next year’s general elections were younger than 40.The party had to, he said, respond to what the youth needed and wanted.
“This workshop will also be required to help us come up with a key priority areas and a message that responds to the needs of a young nation. The young people who are out there want to hear a message that would enable them to want to be part of this change process that is taking place in our country. Let us come with a message that they will find attractive,” Ramaphosa said.
The move appears to be an attempt to counter the EFF, which has attracted many young people.
On the current land debate, it is also evident that the ANC was worried about the EFF’s policies on land – so worried, in fact, that it has directly referenced the red berets in its manifesto notes.“We have always been committed to land redistribution. The EFF would like all land to be nationalised and to belong to the state. We have not adopted the EFF’s policies and are opposed to their reckless and anarchistic approach to land redistribution. We will not tolerate illegal land invasions or land grabs and everyone who needs access to land must abide by the law and follow the proper process,” the documents notes.
The document states that if the ANC were to adopt a “wild west” approach to land allocation it would soon be dominated by warlords and crime syndicates – and the most vulnerable would remain landless.
But perhaps most crucially, Ramaphosa said at the gathering that the ANC could no longer rely on its history, irrespective of the fact that it led the country out of apartheid.
“We can’t dwell on the past,” he said. “We must craft a manifesto that will take us to the future. It is through the manifesto that we communicate our political programme for the next five years. It must resonate with the core values of our people and speak to their interests and concerns.”
He said voters could no longer vote for the ANC because it led the process to liberate them.
“We will be asking them to vote for the ANC based on what we have done and also based on what we are going to do for them,” he said.
Ramaphosa pointed out that the ANC will demonstrate its track record of delivery when it unveiled its election manifesto.ANC North West provincial chairman Supra Mahumapelo said it was important for the party to plan better for the next year’s elections.
“We must humble ourselves and take every opposition seriously,” he said
Ramaphosa was adamant that the election manifesto must be informed by the lived experiences of all South Africans, and was set to include input from experts and academics from within and outside party structures.
He likened the process to the drafting of the Freedom Charter‚ which was officially adopted 63 years ago on June 26 1955.
“Like the Freedom Charter … the manifesto must be a revolutionary document‚” he said.
Ramaphosa said the workshop was aimed at kicking off the process of drafting the manifesto but the party wanted to hear as “many views as possible” before finalising it.
This includes input from academics and experts‚ many of whom were present at the workshop on Monday. He added that it should be based on “research‚ data and academic inquiry”.
Ramaphosa urged experts‚ civil society and academics present at the workshop not to hold back in ensuring that the manifesto was the best possible vision to take the country forward.
“Don't hold back … be as direct as possible. Call a spade a spade‚” he said.
A draft document is set to emerge from Monday’s workshop‚ which will then be sent to ANC structures to be further fleshed out. Community meetings are due to be held by structures to further refine the document.