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The path towards renewal: An ethical, people-driven state

Occasional Paper 11/2022

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by Dr Klaus Kotzé

BA Social Dynamics, BSocSci Honours Political Communication, Master in Global Studies, PhD Rhetoric Studies


When the African National Congress meets for its National Elective Conference in December, it will have to resolve significant concerns beyond the election of a new leadership. In what could be a watershed event for a party facing existential challenges, the decisions on and details of its conference resolutions will prove to be fundamental to its future. Whereas it has previously committed to internal and operational renewal, the detail and direction of such renewal may prove to be critical to both the party and the country’s future.

This article pursues understanding of what renewal has meant for the ruling party and what renewal should mean if it is to achieve its goal of building a capable, ethical and developmental state. It argues that it is critical for the next leadership to pursue an agenda that advances a people-driven state.

True renewal would, therefore, be underscored by a positive power structure that enables all people to be actively involved in the development of the state. The building of a devolved, cooperative democracy and thus a departure from the statist, centralized power structure would signal a return to the consultative, collaborative approach the party employed with great fortitude and success when it first came to power.


The African National Congress (ANC) will convene its 55th National Elective Conference (NEC) in December 2022. The NEC is the party’s highest decision-making body. At each NEC the party dissolves its leadership structures and through a broadly democratic process elects new representatives to reflect on the approach and achievements of the preceding administration. The conference then designs the party’s path forward.

At its 54th NEC, the ANC resolved to address the various concerns facing the party, its role in the government and the state at large. Chief among its resolutions was that the party must be renewed. In its 2022 policy conference documents, captured in a special edition of Umrabulo, the party recognises that the shift from being a liberation movement to being in government has given rise to problems associated with the capacity and functionality of the state. These problems are associated with the self-enrichment by opportunists and the over-centralisation of social and economic control by the state, respectively. The policy conference documents call on the party to resolve its inward-looking, overly centralised focus (ANC, 2022).

As redress, the policy documents advance the need for broad party renewal; for stricter vetting processes; that the ANC deal with its internal issues and that it repositions itself as an effective and trusted leader in society. For it to renew and deal with its concerns, it would be incumbent on the leadership to determine the required processes, structures and intended outcomes – determining what a renewed party and state would look like. And what role the party, state and citizenry would play.

At the 54th NEC and again at the recent National Policy Conference (NPC), the party has resolved to urgently build a capable, ethical and developmental state. This can be read as its interpretation of renewal. With this target in mind, the appropriate and pragmatic policy is required to comprehensively catalyse the roles of the party, state and citizenry. Due to the sizeable task at hand, as well as the existing limitations, policy must create an enabling environment that stimulates active participation by all stakeholders. The ruling party, in its commitment to renew itself, must embrace pragmatism and through a comprehensive approach guide a social compact that will bring all hands on deck.

By virtue of the ANC’s influence on the state and society at large, this article intends to contribute to the debate by discussing concerns and pathways toward renewal. Through assessing the ANC’s approach and strategy, the article seeks to draw causal perceptions and recommendations that will further the constitutional goals in general and the development of a capable and renewed state in particular. In order to plot and pursue these ends, we commence with a short discussion on the composition and function of the state.

South Africa’s developmental state model

The developmental state refers in general to significant state-led macro-economic planning and policy. The term was conceptualised by Chalmers Johnson, who defined the developmental state as one where the state shapes and drives economic development for the social wellbeing of the people. The role of the state is to “single-mindedly mobilise society to achieve industrial modernisation” (Gumede, 2009: 4). The developmental state has become a term synonymous with East Asian states such as Japan and South Korea, states that share a “major preoccupation to ensure sustained economic growth and development on the back of high rates of accumulation, industrialisation and structural change” (UNCTAD, 2007: 60).

While East Asian nations have been synonymous with the developmental model, these states also traditionally have an overly authoritarian approach, a modality that is employed more as a matter of culture and practice than one which is universally most appropriate for development. Instead of necessarily being those that centralise political power, developmental states are those that guide and enable stakeholders to take up responsibility in, and share amongst themselves, the distributive ends of development. Developmental states are thus those that create and enable development. In successful developmental states, the state functions as an entrepreneurial agent that crowds in private investment and “rally business, labour and other social partners behind its efforts” (Gumede, 2009).

Instead of following a defined course, successful developmental states select their pathways according to that which would ensure the goal of social economic improvement for the society at large. The ends of the developmental state, as socio-economic development of the citizenry, are more defined than its ways. The distinction between statist (centralised) and people-driven (distributed) developmental paths is a foremost strategic determination to be made by all countries undertaking such a path.

In South Africa, due to incapacity, historical disparity and insufficient resources, together with a constitutional mandate for meaningful citizen participation, a statist approach is inappropriate and insufficient. While the public policies of the democratic government have and must continue to advance the ends of socio-economic justice, the case for an East Asian-type developmental state runs contrary to the democratic principles of the state, as well as those of the ANC.

While some may suggest that ANC policy, as well as strategy and tactics, documents assert state-centric interventions, these documents must be read in response to local realities, as well as in recognising the various recent failures. Instead of serving the interests of the public, the state service has drifted to advance narrow personal and party-political ends. Nepotism and cronyism have been witnessed in far too many state institutions, doubtlessly brought to light by the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud in the Public Sector (Zondo Commission).

The findings of the Commission do not only point to gross irregularities, such as the landing of a private jet belonging to the Gupta family at Waterfkloof Air Force, or to corrupt proceedings, such as siphoning off millions of rands at the Vrede Dairy Farm, in a projects-for-friends arrangement managed by senior government officials (News24, 2018). The exploitation of state resources by leaders and their acolytes is revealed to have been nothing less than procedural, a pathway of propping up the interests of individuals at the cost of the people.

The Zondo Commission reports play a key role in discerning this reality. It effectively illustrates a number of examples, such as how the State Security Agency was central to state capture. Under President Zuma, the Agency was instrumentalised to serve him and not the people of the country. Covert and irregular operations such as ‘Mayibuye’ saw millions of rands allegedly being siphoned from the Agency to Zuma. It represents “a collection of operations designed to counter threats to state authority. In practice, they and others sought to shield Zuma from a growing chorus of criticism of his misrule. The commission found that the project destabilised opposition parties and benefit the Zuma faction in the ruling African National Congress” (Duncan, 2022).

Throughout the other volumes of the Zondo Commission reports, the picture emerges clearly of a state service that was procedurally weakened so as to advance personal interests. The breakdown of Transnet, where Gupta allies were appointed to strategic positions, and the sustained damage brought by chairperson Dudu Myeni to the national carrier are but two examples. The politicization of state infrastructure extends well beyond those implicated in the Zondo reports. The appropriation of state resources by a politicized civil service is indicative of a national situation where the distinction between ANC and state has been obstructed and has become systematically blurred. It has emerged that the party is in charge of the civil service, too often serving itself and not empowering the people.

The Zondo Commission reports have definitively shown that a statist developmental state does not and cannot work in present South Africa. So, which path should South Africa then follow? According to Gumede, “a successful developmental state involves getting the nature and relationship between different social institutions right, and managing conflicts within and between these, whether through social pacts or through national consensus” (Gumede, 2009). Gumede goes on to say that there are essential conditions for a successful developmental state. These include having a developmental vision, an efficient bureaucracy, an efficient coordinating centre to manage development and an integrated long-term developmental plan. It is compelling to note that each of these factors have been front-and-centre to the present administration. It has stressed the need for a capable state, it has bolstered the presidency as a coordinating centre, and it has the National Development Plan 2030 as its long-term vision.

While these factors lie within the ambit of the government, Gumede mentions one more important condition which does not: “a developmental partnership between government, business, labour and civil society” (Gumede, 2009). It is through this partnership that the developmental state (in a democracy) achieves the appropriate relations between social partners. It is key to ascertain a national consensus that places the citizenry centrally, both in delivery and service execution. Accordingly, a South African developmental state cannot copy the authoritarian, undemocratic models applied in East Asia. Instead, a local developmental state must do the opposite. It must, through being people-driven, deepen democracy.

Herein, it is imperative that the state must successfully persuade the citizenry, not only to buy into, but also to help create such a model. The example of China is useful. While the Chinese state is extremely hierarchical and rigid, it has a clear mandate for both the people and the government. The people must both buy into and help shape the party’s direction – the party being the expression and will of the people. This, while the government must, according to policy and practice, unceasingly open up and reform.

“In most successful developmental states, the state and the private sector work out a constructive partnership, which involves trade-offs both ways, but with the ultimate goal of radically transforming the economy: lifting economic growth levels, reducing unemployment and poverty and making the country competitive vis-à-vis its competitors … at the heart of such social pacts must be an appearance of not only the burden of suffering, but also the benefits of economic growth, being equitably distributed across society” (Gumede, 2009). From these observations it becomes clear that a South African developmental state should not only empower the citizenry and be entrepreneurial, but it should also be people-driven.

ANC policy and orientation

Appropriate policy is that which deals best with the strategic environment that an entity finds itself in. In the case of the ANC, it is guided by several core documents, declarations, principles and values.

The Freedom Charter of 1955 functions as such a document. It presents a set of core principles and is characterised by its founding statement, “the people shall govern” (SACA, 1955). It lays the foundation for the kind of state that should be sought. The Freedom Charter sets out a hugely ambitious and transformative programme whereby people working in democratic concert, achieve self-actualisation. The Freedom Charter served as South Africa’s lodestar to dispel the subjugation of colonialism and apartheid. As a united declaration of an undivided, sovereign people, the Freedom Charter informed the drafting of the new South African Constitution, finalised in 1996.

In its preamble, the Constitution gives expression to the principles and goals of the Freedom Charter. Its preamble does not only declare, “we, the people of South Africa … believe that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity”, thereby overcoming separation or apartheid. The Constitution also takes forward the conviction that the people shall govern. It empowers and charges all people to actively participate in building a transformed country. Collaboratively, “we” must “heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and human rights … and build a united and democratic South Africa” (RSA, 1996).

Herein, the Constitution, much like the Freedom Charter, lays great significance on the participation of the citizenry in the practice of governance and statehood. A just government would not only have to be based on the will of the people, but the citizenry would also have to be consulted and cooperated with actively. To legitimately lead South Africa, the ruling party, in abiding by the constitutional principles and goals, would have to be people-centred in its orientation, while its administration would have to function in collaboration with the people, or be people-driven.

People-centred state

Through its various policy programmes, the ANC government has undertaken a people-centred approach. Its foundational Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) stressed that “no political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty, without land, without tangible prospects for a better life. Attacking poverty and deprivation must therefore be the first priority of a democratic government” (RSA, 1994).

To ensure a people-centred policy framework, the ANC government introduced the 1997 White Paper on Transforming Public Service Delivery. The White Paper sought to align the work of government to the constitutional principles under the guiding concept of Batho Pele (people first) (DPSA, 1997). Batho Pele and the RDP, while noble in their orientation, centred power inwards in the administration. It placed the country on the path to delivery dependency. The government placed a huge burden on itself to counteract the racialised delivery programme of the former regime.

The White Paper sought to guide a government that did not have governing experience, never mind the capacity to overcome the biased system it inherited. The White Paper, in seeking to drive transformation, produced policy tools that would be government-driven and therefore susceptible to political influence. The party’s policy formulation meant that the maxim of “the people shall govern” became suffixed by: “through political representation”.

Whereas Batho Pele comprised noble foundational principles, such as that service delivery should be guided by “value for money”, the party deployees often had too much sway in decision-making. In his foreword to the White Paper, former President Mandela stressed that: Batho Pele should entail “the relentless search for increased efficiency and the reduction of wastage within the Public Service” (DPSA,1997). Instead of formulating policy where the state works with the people, policy increasingly became cloistered under ANC control.

While this approach started as cultivating a culture of service in the ANC-led government, centralising the force of power inward led to perverse personal aggrandisement. Instead of ensuring value for money, a culture developed where the politically connected overextended the power they held – serving the self vis-à-vis serving the people of the state. Not unique to South Africa, the power that the incumbent ANC afforded its deployees created cults of personality. The egalitarian people-first principle would be moot from the start when those charged with enactment were first serving themselves, as noted in the NPC discussion documents, mentioned above.

The result: the people were first no more. The ideals of transformation became subverted in the distorted discharge of the state. Service had been rerouted from a progressive approach to one that served the connected and state employees, first. In 2020, government had spent more money paying its 1.3 million public servants than it did the 18 million South Africans receiving social grants (Mahlaka, 2022).

The well-documented failures of service delivery illustrate the failure of translating principles into the corresponding action. While corruption, practiced in the name of Batho Pele, is central to the state failures, it is not the only problem. The statist, government-driven path has not achieved development and transformation. Instead, it has built a dependency on an overburdened state that has become increasingly corrupt and incapable. The distinction between a state that cares, one that offers free basic services, and an overly redistributive, welfare state has not been established in South Africa. The translation of pursuable strategies by leadership, for adoption by the public, is sorely needed.

The present South African social welfare (dependency) policy is worth noting. In addition to its social grants programme, the number of informal settlement dwellers has been growing unabated since 2000. Among other welfare proposals, the NPC discussion documents suggest:

“Since the dawn of democracy in 1994, about 4.8 million houses have been delivered in South Africa, providing safe shelter to over 25% of South Africa’s households ... Approximately 2.8 million households in South Africa do not have access to improved sanitation services. The ANC has resolved to eradicate the bucket system in order to improve sanitation services. By December 2020, a total of 41 290 out of 52 249 bucket sanitation systems were eradicated. Furthermore, a total of 14 235 rural households were served to eradicate sanitation backlogs” (ANC, 2022:100).

The numerous social protection programmes supporting deserving households are valid and pursue the principles of both the national Constitution and ANC conference resolutions. However, given the limitations and failures of the state, South Africa cannot develop only through redistribution. There are real restraints to South Africa’s welfare state, not least the lack of resources.

People-driven state

The report of the 54th National Conference states that “the ANC’s approach to state power is informed by the Freedom Charter and the principle that ‘The People Shall Govern’” (ANC, 2017). The report continues to explain that the “attainment of power by the ANC is a means to fulfil the will of the people and ensure a better life for all” (ANC, 2017). This articulation continues the path of dependency of ANC power as the expression of people power. It assumes the same centralist (or statist) position as previous NEC reports. But this position is not the only one expressed by the party. In recent years, also at policy and elective conferences, the ANC has articulated new approaches for itself and the state.

In 2012, the National Planning Commission, which sits in the Presidency, released the National Development Plan (NDP). The NDP was formulated to form a long-term perspective for South Africa. It offers a comprehensive plan to execute the mandate of the Constitution: to build a transformed state whereby poverty and inequality is eliminated. The NDP, therefore, presents an impression of and a path to state renewal. While it carries the official support of the ANC, as supported by NEC resolutions, its reformist approach to distributed, or people-driven, power has been widely rebuffed by ANC leaders, not least when it did not receive formal approval and endorsement at the National Policy Conference, in 2012 (Mogotsi, 2013).

While there are various reasons to explain this disparity, the most important, according to this analysis, is the NDP’s push to reorganise power relations in South Africa towards being more people-driven. Principally, to devolve control away from the national government and create a developmental state where, through the active involvement of the citizenry, truly the people shall govern. The NDP stresses that “South Africa can realise its goals by drawing on the energies of its people … To accelerate progress, deepen democracy and build a more inclusive society, South Africa must translate political emancipation into economic wellbeing for all. It is up to all South Africans to fix the future, starting today” (NPC, 2012).

In shifting focus to the extended capacity and capability of the citizenry (people-driven), it moves it away from the government (people-centred). The NDP is therefore not simply a plan for government, but a plan for the people of South Africa. It defines renewal and presents a whole-of-society approach. This is evident from the six interlinked priorities that are set out in the NDP:

  • “Uniting all South Africans around a common programme to achieve prosperity and equity;

  • Promoting active citizenry to strengthen development, democracy and accountability;

  • Bringing about faster economic growth; higher investment and greater labour absorption;

  • Focusing on key capabilities of people and the state;

  • Building a capable and developmental state;

  • Encouraging strong leadership throughout society to work together to solve problems” (NPC, 2012).

The citizenry is clearly the decisive agent in each priority area. The plan indirectly acknowledges the limitations of government and strategically shifts power to a people-driven state. It provokes a whole-of-society approach, where each citizen is called upon to collaboratively build the renewed state. “Its success will depend on all South Africans taking responsibility for the plan, led by the President and Cabinet” (NPC, 2012).

The NDP continues to make the bold statement that “an unintended outcome of government action has been to reduce the incentive for citizens to be direct participants in their development. To prevent this practice from being entrenched, the state must actively support and incentivise citizen engagement … Active citizenry and social activism is necessary for democracy and development to flourish. The state cannot merely act on behalf of the people – it has to act with the people, working together with other institutions to provide opportunities for the advancement of communities” (NPC, 2012).

Government power centralisation and its failure to appropriately facilitate public involvement is a theme that arises in various areas of state affairs. As an example, the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2011 and signed into law on 23 December 2015. The South African Veterinary Association approached the Constitutional Court, submitting that Parliament had failed in its constitutional duty to facilitate public participation in the law-making process. In its judgement, the Constitutional Court declared the Act unconstitutional. It held that Parliament did not undertake meaningful public consultation (Constitutional Court, 2018). This failure of an arm of the state is not a unique example. It instead points to a recurring theme that requires broader recourse.

A further example of excessive statism is seen in the control exercised by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. For years the Department resisted cooperative ventures and was reluctant to raise the embedded generation threshold. While the Department has since acquiesced to greater people-driven measures, the research group Meridian Economics shows that the current energy crisis could have been significantly averted had the Department not prevented the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer programme from being rolled out. The programme’s additional capacity “would have allowed Eskom to eliminate 96.5% of load shedding in 2021” (Comrie, 2022).

Towards the 55th National Elective Conference

The African National Congress held its NPC on 29-31 July 2022. In his foreword to the compendium of policy documents, ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa proposes that the “Discussion Documents outline the ANC’s strategic approach to policies and how it shapes and impacts our transformation agenda” (ANC, 2022: 3). The NPC and its policy discussion papers prepare the party for its December 2022 elective conference. It sets a path for the party’s next administration.

The NPC and discussion documents do two things. They reflect on the decisions emerging from the 2017 elective conference, which gave the current administration its mandate. They then guide the party towards achieving its goals, while considering the strategic environment within which the party finds itself. The NPC and policy conference functions as a crucial transitional mechanism in guiding the party through successive administrations, seeking to enable adjustments that improve upon previous decisions, while maintaining momentum. As the ruling party, it is imperative both for the party and for the state, that the party undertakes a critical assessment of the path towards its goals, based on its strategic environment.

The 2022 NPC took place in “the year of unity and renewal to defend and advance South Africa’s democratic gains” (ANC, 2022). This theme is meant to provoke reflection on the resolutions taken at the 54th National Conference, in 2017 – to guide the policy considerations, so as to advance its resolutions. The theme champions the first resolution of the 54th National Conference: organisational renewal. In order for the party to arrest its decline and renew, it “has to continually review its organisational state and capacities, and its relationship with the people and society” (ANC, 2017: 11).

The report undertakes to recognise and address its shortcomings, which it describes as “a loss of confidence in the ANC because of social distance, corruption, nepotism, arrogance, elitism, factionalism, manipulating organisational processes, abusing state power, putting self-interest above the people” (ANC 2017: 13). It is only through a singular, renewed spirit that is awake to the realities of the land, that the party can continue to play a defining role in South Africa’s future. This theme presents a snapshot of the organisation’s larger condition. The party faces a decline in support that could lead to it losing an outright majority for the first time since 1994.

The 54th National Conference report suggests that “organisational renewal therefore is an absolute and urgent priority, and we may go as far as to say, to the survival of our great movement” (ANC, 2017: 14). The report thereby charges the next administration with the priority of formulating approaches and policies that will give effect to organisational renewal.

According to its president, the party must change its ways; “to counter these negative aspects, we have to intensify our efforts with the renewal process and revitalisation of ANC structures” (ANC, 2022: 3). The renewed function should restructure the party, away from the self-serving cronyism that it has become associated with. It must be reorientated towards serving the country at large. In Ramaphosa’s words: “Our focus has to be the improvement of the quality of lives of people, rather than an often narrow, internal party focus” (ANC, 2022: 4).

In perceiving and directing both the NPC and the Elective Conference, the President, who is also seen as a forerunner for another term in the top job, paints a clear picture of the party’s strategic position and the approach needed to first retain electoral support and to govern effectively. It is only an ethical and capable state that can administer and deliver the services required to retain popular trust.

Recommendation: Towards ethical renewal

To ensure electoral trust and a further mandate to govern, the ANC needs to truly commit to ethical renewal. At the NPC, Ramaphosa – among other leaders, such as Minister of Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, herself a contender for the ANC’s top position – condemned the collapse of the ANC, not on ideological differences, but on the failures of ANC members.

“There are not divisions about policies or ideology”, said the President, instead party issues are “driven by the competition for positions, the contestation of structures and the pursuit of access to public resources … These divisions manifest themselves in patronage, gatekeeping, vote buying and manipulation of organisations processes … We can see how our divisions have weakened governance in many areas, undermined public institutions and hampered the maintenance of infrastructure and the provision of services … This situation has contributed to declining levels of voter participation in elections and diminishing support for the ANC” (Ndaba & Sadike, 2012).

Ramaphosa submits that the ANC’s failure is due to internal weakness. He charges that without shedding the yoke of corruption and greed, the party will lose power and its mandate to rule. This strategic assessment follows his extraordinary letter to ANC members on 23 August 2020 where he accused the ANC of being “accused number 1”. “Leadership positions are seen by some as the most direct route to, in the first instance, employment and, in the second instance, to influence in the award of tenders and the distribution of other government resources. The people see how organisational principles and structures are corrupted for personal gain … Our lack of discipline and failure to deal with the issues in our movement have eroded our organisational ethos and standing … we must have the political courage and the honesty to acknowledge that ANC leaders, public representatives and members have on numerous occasions been implicated in such forms of corruption” (Ramaphosa, 2020).

While renewal has been widely pledged, details thereof have remained scarce. In concluding his letter, Ramaphosa distinguishes two sets of measures that “demonstrate clear political will”, are “unflinching in restoring the values, ethics and standing of our organisation”, and will help “win back people’s trust”. These, says Ramaphosa, are not his own views, but rather, it is the mandate received by the 54th National Conference. It represents an approach to critically providing meaning and operation to a renewed organisation.

The first set deals with ANC members. It describes the measures to be undertaken to “implement without delay the resolutions of our 54th National Conference in dealing with corruption” (Ramaphosa, 2020). It is only by punishing offenders, by acting and being seen as acting to restore discipline, that the party can become ethical and have any chance of truly renewing itself.

Recommendation: Towards a people-driven, capable state

The second set enumerated in his letter pivots toward greater cooperative democracy. Ramaphosa calls for the mobilisation of “a ‘whole-of-society’ response against corruption and ANC members must support progressive organisations in their stand against corruption” (Ramaphosa, 2020). Rallying for such an approach performs an important leadership role. It determines upon aspirational concepts, describing the capable state to be one that is distributed and people-driven.

It gives meaning to the complex set of concepts, while detailing what a preferable path will look like. Furthermore, it delineates signification and responsibility. This distinguishment, the engagement of civil society in the process of restoring faith and building a capable state, is itself an act of renewal.

Cooperative democracy is an important concept that should be enumerated in the South African context. It refers to a state where government acts in consultation with the citizenry. According to former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, the various aspects of renewal should be subject to democratic public reasoning. He suggests that South Africa adopts cooperative democracy “as a guiding principle” (Jonas, 2022).

Cooperative democracy departs from the ANC practice of consolidating state control, regardless of capacity and capability. It resolves the tension between a statist and a people-driven state. To retain power, the party must lead and not dominate the state. This entails a capacitating or consultative role for the party. An illuminating example of such a change of course is the President’s comment during the State of the Nation Address: “We all know that government does not create jobs. Business creates jobs” (Ramaphosa, 2022).

This comment, an act of conceptual and strategic direction, reverberated throughout the country. An act of renewal, it presented a watershed moment that closed a period where the state was seen to have the core developmental responsibility.

This comment, recognising its limitations, initiates a new chapter, where development necessitates cooperation between all who have an interest in the state. It should not be seen as reneging or giving up power. Instead, as is illustrated by the decision to permit up to 100MW of private power generation, it shows a state that enables itself when it enables others. The consultative process should again be used to deliver renewal and unity.

Deliberation and engagement are required for true cooperative democracy. These are not only historical principles of the ANC but have also been its traditional strengths. When it first came into power, it employed a consultative and collaborative approach with such skill, it strategically outplayed its political opponents. True renewal would, therefore, be underscored by an enabling power. Inclusion can yet again be used to the advantage of the party. “To be effective”, says Ramaphosa, a capable state underwritten by a comprehensive social compact “needs to include every South African and every part of our society. No one must be left behind” (Ramaphosa, 2022).


The ANC faces considerable challenges on its path to renewal. The various NPC and strategic documents show that the party is alive to the reality that goals are determined by the strategic environment, and not vice versa. The NDP is instructive. It states that: “A plan is only as credible as its delivery mechanism is viable. There is a real risk that South Africa’s developmental agenda could fail because the state is incapable of implementing it … a capable state does not materialise by decree, nor can it be legislated or waved into existence by declarations. It has to be built, brick by brick, institution by institution, and sustained and rejuvenated over time. It requires leadership” (NPC, 2012).

This paper concludes by pointing to the fact that the ANC has resolved to renew and that its leadership has started to articulate what such renewal would entail. It is critical that the future leadership invigorates the renewal process. That it not only maintains its focus on capacitating an ethical, people-driven state, but that it must also actively design and implement the measures that are needed to establish it. To do so, the party must actively advance meaningful and real consultation, and cooperative democracy.


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This report has been published by the Inclusive Society Institute

The Inclusive Society Institute (ISI) is an autonomous and independent institution that functions independently from any other entity. It is founded for the purpose of supporting and further deepening multi-party democracy. The ISI’s work is motivated by its desire to achieve non-racialism, non-sexism, social justice and cohesion, economic development and equality in South Africa, through a value system that embodies the social and national democratic principles associated with a developmental state. It recognises that a well-functioning democracy requires well-functioning political formations that are suitably equipped and capacitated. It further acknowledges that South Africa is inextricably linked to the ever transforming and interdependent global world, which necessitates international and multilateral cooperation. As such, the ISI also seeks to achieve its ideals at a global level through cooperation with like-minded parties and organs of civil society who share its basic values. In South Africa, ISI’s ideological positioning is aligned with that of the current ruling party and others in broader society with similar ideals.

Phone: +27 (0) 21 201 1589


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