Ordinary ANC members will breathe a sigh of relief when Jacob Zuma steps down as president of the organization over this weekend.

His tenure at the helm of Africa’s oldest liberation movement has been disastrous. Of that there can be no doubt, notwithstanding the standing applause he received for his final speech as ANC president at the organisation’s Elective Conference at Nasrec on Saturday.

Zuma departure – and the selection of a new National Executive Committee – will allow the new president and NEC the opportunity to make a fresh start.

There is much wrong with the ANC of today. Problems that would have been unheard of, even while it was banned, and many of its leaders jailed or in exile, are rife today. The new leadership will have to be brave – and to act decisively.

Its chances of winning the next elections in 2019 will depend to a great extent on how it acts against members regarded with scorn by ordinary South Africans because of corruption and other illegal actions.

The new president will have just 18 months to set in motion a number of processes that will enable the ANC to remain the governing party of South Africa after the 2019 elections.

High on the list of priorities is the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.

In November 2016, the then Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released a “State of Capture” report which contained alarming allegations of an improper relationship between the Gupta family and Zuma and other government officials.

Madonesela, who was reaching the end of her term, sparked anger among Zuma and his allies, when she recommended that Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng appoint the presiding judge for this commission.

A year later, the commission has still not been appointed. Over the last week, yet another attempt by Zuma to take Madonsela’s report under review was rebuffed by the Pretoria High Court.

The new president and NEC should push to have the commission set up as soon as possible. Moreover, any proof of wrongdoing by any member of government should be followed by criminal charges and jail, if those charged are found guilty.

Also high on the to-do list of the new team must be the question of poverty. The ANC has claimed time without end that it is the only party that has the experience to deal with the problems of the poor. But this is a claim that holds no water.

How does the administration of Jacob Zuma explain the fact that 30 million South Africans – the overwhelming majority of them black – live in poverty?

How do they explain that the Gini co-efficient, which measures the gap between the richest and the poorest, is the widest in South Africa?

Housing is still a major problem in South Africa. Although the government can claim to have built millions of houses since the advent of democracy. It is all very well to point to bricks and mortar dwellings, with inside taps and flush toilets, the question to be asked is: do they provide people with dignity?

The new administration must tackle the issues of the poor with greater urgency. Jobs must be created and houses that provide the poor of this country with dignity must be constructed.

Crime is spiralling out of control – and President Zuma is fooling no one by trying to deny this. Most of the worst crime occurs in the townships, which the ANC criticises regularly for being left-overs of the pre-democracy National Party’s apartheid spatial policies.

Sadly, the ANC under Zuma has done little to reverse these policies. It has also been unsuccessful in tackling the problem of informal settlements.

The vast majority of service delivery protests occur in black townships, a sure indication that whatever may be said about the organisations claims that only it is able to tackle the problems of the poor.

It needs to do much more than talk in this respect. It is to be hoped that the new president will ensure that firm action follows promises. Residents in some areas have shown a willingness to do more than just protest. They have also shown that they are prepared to change who they vote for if promises continue to be broken by the ANC.

Education is another issue that will require swift action by the new team.

ANC leaders like Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo were prime movers in promoting education among the disadvantaged. To a large extent, Zuma has continued what Mandela, Tambo and others started.

But all is not well in education. Students continue to find studying at tertiary institutions unaffordable – even though Zuma announced at the ANC elective conference that free education for students in poor families is imminent.   

The key question is: where will the money come from?

This, and the challenge of ensuring that South Africa’s Grade 4s learn to understand what they read is another challenge for the new administration.

Dougie Oakes has been a journalist for more than 30 years, specialising here and in the UK in sports writing, politics and features.

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