| ‘Economic crisis can’t wait for December’

Johannesburg – The country’s current economic crisis will take centre stage at the ANC’s upcoming national policy conference so that swift action can be taken to mitigate the damage, African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters on the eve of the six day conference, Mantashe said the party’s subcommittee on economic transformation would discuss this throughout the conference.

“[The subcommittee] deals with these issues and it will deal with these issues for six days, because they are serious. We need to come out of here with more clarity,” Mantashe said.

The policy conference does not have constitutional powers to change policy, but proposals will be taken to the December elective conference for adoption.

But despite this, Mantashe said the policy conference would implement immediate action where necessary.

“Yes, the policy changes go to the national conference, but there will be issues that we must action on immediately to deal with. An economic crisis can’t wait for December.

“We must debate [and] come up with issues that we should do almost immediately to deal with that,” he said.

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Gloomy news

South Africa is in a technical recession, its unemployment rate is at a 14-year high, it has suffered junk status downgrades by three ratings agencies and, on top of that, it faces potential interest rate and electricity price hikes.

This spell of gloomy news also follows growing tension between government and business after respected former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was given his marching orders by President Jacob Zuma.

A heated debate is expected at the conference, with the party’s factions arguing over the definition of radical economic transformation.

The conference will also dedicate two days to assess the “health” of the party after being rocked by several scandals, declining electoral support, and calls for Zuma to go.

Following a number of court cases, marches by members of the public, as well as the recent release of emails linking Zuma and other government officials to the controversial Gupta family, Mantashe said the issue of state capture would be discussed “candidly”.

“State capture will be part of discussing the diagnosis of the ANC,” he said.

“Any diagnosis that does not talk to that issue today will be less than candid. We don’t go into diagnosis into ourselves that is trying to present a good story to tell because that is not a diagnosis, it is a report back.

“So it will be discussed in details.”

The conference will begin on Friday at 09:00, with an opening address by Zuma.