In his maiden speech as Africa National Congress (ANC) president, Cyril Ramaphosa appealed for unity in the party, pledged to tackle corruption that is crippling the party and support resolutions made to empower poor South Africans.
As the ANC elective conference came to a close, many including Ramaphosa breathed a sigh of relief that the conference had ‘successfully’ ended despite the several setbacks it faced including legal battles, ‘deeply divided’ delegates and uncertainty over the effects that the outcomes of the conference would have on South Africa as a country.
“Speculation was rife that the 54th conference of the ANC would either not take place or collapse on the very first day,” Ramaphosa said, referring to the bitter legal battles over which members would be permitted to vote for the new leader that threatened to overshadow the gathering.
We must also act fearlessly against alleged corruption and abuse of office within our ranks
“We are still here standing 106 years later — we are alive, we are leading and we are here to stay.”
Ramaphosa narrowly won the presidency vote on Monday after waging a bitter and potentially harmful campaign with fellow ANC anti-apartheid veteran Nkozasana Dlamini-Zuma.
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The conference was marred by an issue of 68 delegates whose votes were not considered because of credentials issues.
Senzo Mchunu, who lost the secretary general vote to Ace Magashule, petitioned the conference steering committee to have those votes considered in the belief that they would have made a difference in the race decided by just 24 votes.
The issue is yet to be resolved with a meeting between the 68 delegates and the ANC leadership expected to resolve the impasse.
As the newly elected National Executive Committee, and as President I can speak on their behalf, we accept, without reservation, your clear instruction that we must work together as a collective, undivided and motivated by a single purpose – the service of our people.— Cyril Ramaphosa (@CyrilRamaphosa) December 20, 2017
Ramaphosa, whose ANC win takes him a step closer to the country’s presidency, reserved his most important messages for the South Africans keenly following developments in the ruling party.
“The African National Congress wishes to send a clear message to all South Africans that we are resolved to be more responsive and more accountable leadership, and a more accountable movement to the people of our country.”
Following President Zuma’s tumultuous years, the accountability that many South Africans will be looking for will be in the areas of tackling corruption in the government and economic reforms that improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
On corruption, “This conference has resolved that corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality,” Ramaphosa said.
“We must also act fearlessly against alleged corruption and abuse of office within our ranks,” he said in the early hours of Thursday.
The ANC conference resolved to amend the Constitution to allow for land to be expropriated without compensation.
“This conference has resolved that the expropriation of land without compensation should be among the mechanisms available to government to give effect to land reform and redistribution,” Ramaphosa said.
He said the land transfers would be speeded up under the radical economic transformation program, a vague ANC plan to tackle racial inequality.
Two decades after the end of apartheid, the ANC is under pressure to redress racial disparities in land ownership where whites own most of the land.
The ANC would need a two thirds majority in the National Assembly in order to change Section 25 of the country’s constitution which allows for expropriation of land for a public purpose, or in the public interest, and subject to compensation which must be just and equitable.