Monday, February 25, 2013

Mangaung 2012: we were there!

By the end of conference,, had received more than 12,000 hits. This number does not include the hits on our partner,, the largest website on African news. Not bad for an entity that only came into existence two days before conference started for the purposes of training students for the five days.  So successful has it been that we are discussing ways to keep it going.

Minimal resources and much planning went into the establishment of WhatsUpANC. Our total budget was R18,000, put up jointly by and the University of the Free State.  The staff comprised the two of us, both experienced journalists; four students from the UFS Communication Science Department: Linda Fekisi, Moeketsi Mogotsi , Libokanyo Mokhadinyana and Seithati Semenokane and one UFS law student, Sibusiso Tshabalala.

We knew that if anyone was going to read our blog, it had to start with a bang.  On Friday, December 14, we launched it with a curtain-raiser that predicted what would happen and turned out to be dead accurate: that Cyril Ramaphosa would stand,  Zuma would be returned and that Kgalema Motlanthe would be the loser.

 At 5.28am on Saturday, December 15, we loaded onto the blog what would turn out to be biggest scoop of the conference, later to be picked up by other, much better resourced news organisations: the decision by Trevor Manuel that he would not make himself available for election to the NEC. The story appeared on a host of websites and immediately drew attention to WhatsUpANC.

To further publicise the blog, we exploited the guerrilla marketing tactics that make the internet such a boon to the newcomer: our technology-savvy students put every story out on a myriad of media. We recycled our lead stories for the Voices section of News24,  which doesn’t pay but has a huge readership, and Times Media’s We made sure each story was stamped with WhatsUpANC branding. New Age also carried a number of our stories and will pay us for their use.

It turned out to be a hectic, exhilarating week: reporting, writing, editing and producing on the hoof from early each morning till late at night.  Our ambition was to make the blog as attractive and youth friendly as possible: the format was designed to be easily read on cell-phones, the most common access point for young people, who comprise almost two thirds of the population and are tomorrow’s prime consumers.  The content combined fashion, humour and gossip with the deadly serious.

We were delighted with the ease with which the students manipulated the technology, making and loading video clips; cropping pics; all with boundless energy and enthusiasm.  We, on the other hand, tried to teach them everything we knew: from basics like checking the spelling of names and other facts over and over again, to the importance of networking and how to keep that subtle balance between mutual trust and independence with one’s sources.
At media conferences we encouraged them to ask questions, which produced one of the week’s lighter moments.  On the last evening, Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, and ANC spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu, hastily called the media together to announce that a severe storm was imminently expected and the conference was suspended until it passed. Moeketsi Mogotsi put up his hand and asked demurely: “Excuse me, is that a metaphorical storm or a literal one?” which had the whole room in stitches.

As the week came to an end, 20-year-old Linda Fekisi wrote this about her experience:
“What I found challenging, coming into this conference, was relating to it from a political sense. I was not ignorant. I was well aware of what was happening in my country, the history and the democratic process. I just did not have any interest.  Until I came to university, I was colour blind.  Then I found that race always seems to be at the core of political associations. This I could not relate to.
“During the conference, the media centre was the best place to be. Seeing established fellow journalists at work was so exciting. I was star struck half the time.
“These past few days have been a steep learning curve. I did not only get practical field experience but I feel that I went through a character building process as well.  I’m filled with joy and contentment as I put my pen and notebook away into my memory box. Not only because I took part in capturing one of the most significant political stories in our country, but also because I can imagine myself with grey hair, sitting on a rocking chair with my grandchildren around me and being able to say: “Manguang 2012: I was there”.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy holidays to all our readers!

A very warm thank you to all who have read and supported this blog. WhatsUpANC is taking a break until the New Year. Until then, goodbye and happy holidays!

All the best from
The Team

Thursday, December 20, 2012

On Discipline, Renewal and 'Strategic Nationalisation'

Thursday highlights:
ANC Cleans Up Disciplinary Procedures

ANC Adopts Policies to Address Weaknesses

Conference Adopts 'Strategic Nationalisation'

Manuel sums it all up for us

Zubeida Jaffer and Liz McGregor write:

As conference draws to a close, Trevor Manuel says he is a satisfied man.  Delegates have given significant support for the implementation of the National Development Plan, especially in localized ways.  Nevertheless, he wants to raise the bar.  “We have to keep improving,” he said. “We have to get better at what we do.”

Manuel may no longer be on the NEC but, in a wide-ranging interview with WhatsUpANC, it was clear that he remains invested heart and soul in his country and his party.   The activist spirit that has propelled him throughout his adult life remains undiminished.

Looking tired but relaxed in a crisp white linen shirt, jeans and leather loafers, Manuel said his decision not to avail himself for the NEC had not gone down well with some of his colleagues. He, however, thought it was important for older comrades to step aside and make space for a younger layer of leaders. “I want to have the time to mentor younger leaders,” he said.

He was pleased about the growth in membership to over one million but not happy about the lack of attention to quality. “At Polokwane, we committed to raising the economic literacy of our members but have not done much of that,” he said.
At Manguang, conference decided to implement a ten year programme of education for members. This will be one of the tasks the new NEC will have to deal with immediately.

Equally important was a commitment to rigorous accountability.
 “When we leave here on Thursday, we have to ask whether or not we have a firm framework for accountability. For example when Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, goes back to his job in government next week, what form will this accountability take? How is he accountable to the movement to which he owes his government position? How is he accountable to Parliament, the centre of accountability?”

The president’s announcement that school inspectors would be introduced also speaks to issues of ensuring accountability. “The president announced this in his speech. There will be no further argument. This will be implemented.”

He saw progress in certain areas, especially in the health sector.
 “We have definitely improved, partly because we have learnt from past mistakes and we have a competent, dynamic minister in Aaron Motsoaledi.”

Manuel spoke about his commitment to the ANC. It had always been amazingly good to him, he said. “In 1991, I was part of a cohort plucked out of obscurity. We were young when we were drawn into the negotiating team. I was 35. Valli Moosa and Cheryl Carolus were 34. Sydney Mufamadi was 32. Three years later, I became a minister. So there was a trust in us and an affording of opportunity.”

Manuel says he wants to do the same for a younger generation.
“I think it’s very important that we bring young people through. Not all of them will be ready, groomed and perfect but we must give them the opportunity.  If they stumble, we must support them. We have to ensure they have the correct ethics and values.

It was important that those elected to the new NEC understand clearly that they were making a big commitment. “They will have to accept there will be no weekends or holidays for five years,” he said.

There was also a need for those who had served on the NEC to realize that they should not hang around and wait to be ejected. “The regeneration of leadership is a crucial task for the organization,” he said.

A further challenge was to create policy consistency in the government. It was a problem if policies chopped and changed with every new incumbent. “We cannot afford to start afresh every time someone new comes into a position. This happens too often.”

At times, delegates had insufficient information at conference to make informed policy decisions. For example, a Polokwane resolution committed the government to paying 75% of the SABC budget without stipulating targets. “Some with particular agendas can also load a commission and obtain the outcome they want. A minister then finds him or herself obliged to implement it.”

Each conference brought new lessons.  After the dramatic events at Polokwane and the subsequent recall of President Thabo Mbeki, he decided it was the principled thing to do to tender his resignation and allow the new president to decide whether or not he would like him on his team. “All of us serve at the prerogative of the president and we have to make it possible for him to assemble his team.”

Principled practices must predominate. “Comrade Kgalema’s resignation and his speech from the floor was an example of proper conduct. He was gracious in defeat.”

Ministerial jobs were not for life. “If we leave people in positions for too long, the person becomes inseparable from the position in the minds of the public and the market.”

It was important to build up a strong skills base among a new generation of leaders to whom the baton could be handed. “When we first came into government, many of us at the time had strong backgrounds in reading and writing.  This was a practice widely encouraged in the movement,” he said.

There was not the same conscientiousness now. This was reflected in weak skills in the public service, an issue discussed at conference.
“We have to set the bar higher so that ministers, mayors and councilors can receive quality advice.”
He was concerned that a deterioration in the public service contributed to a relationship with the private sector based on favours. “Our economy is not what it should be,” he said.

Some of this could be blamed on poor education but socio-economic conditions were also part of it.  As a former student and current chancellor of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), he could observe at close quarters what factors affected the prospects of graduates.

“I see these youngsters coming through and their grades in engineering, say, are very good. They pass maths and applied maths.  They however do not have the same confidence as students who have grown up surrounded by books and conversation, who invariably find it easier to shine in interviews. The  disadvantaged students battle to find jobs.”

This same discrepancy in social capital applied to schools.  “Just over 60% of our schools are no-fee. And whether you are at a top performing state school like Westerford or the poorest performing school in Khayalitsha, the per capita contribution from the state is the same.  But at the higher-performing schools, you have active parents on the governing body who raise funds so that the school can employ more teachers. The kids’ performance is then accelerated and so the class differences remain.”

He raised some of these issues when he presented the National Development Plan to the conference plenary. Improving education would have to be one of the priorities.

Manuel refused to be pushed on where he saw himself after the next general election in 2014. “The question is academic,” he said. “I am a bit long in the tooth now. I am not sure that I will be able to run around all over like I used to,” he said, chuckling. “I will probably not do any one thing but a host of different things."

Reflecting on the possibilities of the 2014 election, he commented that people tended to vote in ways they felt comfortable with. “We cannot know with any certainty but all our numbers have grown,” he said. “Voters are loyal and influenced by class and race.”

He hoped that South Africans will talk together in the new year.

“What the National Planning Commission says is that we must create the space to talk about our  issues. It’s not about slinging mud and apportioning blame. It’s about putting all of this on the table for everyone to discuss – not just the government but the community as well.”

Life includes perfections and imperfections.  Both were on display at Mangaung. “Our future is under construction,” he concluded.

This is the person I wanted to be president

Pic: Moeketsi Mogotsi
Linda Fekisi writes:  I bumped into my heroine, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, at the Progressive Business Forum. Meeting her was such an honour. She was so friendly, kind and interested, I admired her even more

The storm is over...sorry, what storm?

Pic: Linda Fekisi
eNCA news anchor Iman Rappetti playing Mary Poppins. Mangaung was issued with a severe weather warning on Wednesday night. It turned out to be just rain.