The ANC's January 8th statement informs the governing party's plans for the coming year and sets the tone for the State of the Nation Address in February.
Saturday's statement will be the second delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa and is taking place in an election year – which will mean even more ANC rhetoric than usual.
The party will also be launching its 2019 general elections manifesto. Here are seven things to look out for if you're watching.
1. Party unity will be the primary message
Ramaphosa has been walking on eggshells all week. Former president Jacob Zuma, who remains at the centre of allegations of grand corruption and state capture in government, has been omnipresent in KwaZulu-Natal, where the party has been campaigning ahead of the speech on Saturday in Durban. Ramaphosa knows he will have to give Zuma a wide berth if the ANC – and by extension, him – is going to perform in the May election because of the support the former president still enjoys in the province. There are a myriad of factions and interests he will have to balance before May. And more visible fractures will hurt the party in the run-up to the polls.
2. A good story to tell
The January 8th statement will tell us about the party's achievements, which in the last election cycle have been demonstrably limited, as the party was dominated by Zuma, state capture and corruption. The ANC, as in previous elections, will emphasise its status as the party of liberation and will be able to draw on its accomplishments in the first decade of democracy, including the provision of basic services, stabilising the economy and attempting to forge a new nation. This could, however, start to ring hollow given the lost decade under Zuma.
3. Non-racialism and a nod to Mandela
Ahead of the ANC's leadership election in December 2017 the Ramaphosa campaign focused heavily on a return to the vision of non-racialism that became a big part of the party under the leadership of former president Nelson Mandela. The argument in the Ramaphosa camp was that under Zuma there had been a shift to a more strictly Africanist ideology that started to alienate not only minorities, but many in the broader alliance as well. Non-racialism was a major theme in his first speech as ANC leader. Expect the issue to get a significant airing in Durban, especially given the events this week in the North West town of Schweizer-Reneke.
4. A not so good story to tell
The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture has, so far, given us fascinating insight into how the ANC operates and how it managed the problem that became state capture – and it hasn't been pretty. Pravin Gordhan spoke about the damage it caused the ANC, Barbara Hogan about the opaque role of the deployment committee and Ngoako Ramatlhodi about the "season of madness" in the party. Ramaphosa will have to tackle the party's enormous and very public problem with corruption if the speech is going to have any credibility. The ANC has failed dismally to deal with corruption because it insists on putting factional interests before those of the nation. The speech will be an indicator of where Ramaphosa and his party leadership are headed.
5. It's always about the economy
The second half of 2018 saw Ramaphosa appoint a team of investment envoys, host a jobs summit as well as an investment summit and trying to pacify foreign and local investors. But the economy remains sluggish, with business confidence during the last quarter taking another nosedive and investors remaining wary. Thanks to efforts by the minister of public enterprises, a large-scale clean-up operation is taking place at state-owned enterprises, but heavily indebted parastatals such as Eskom and SAA pose a clear and present danger to the economy. Add to that uncertainty about the expropriation of land (the Reserve Bank reported a drop of almost 16% in mortgages granted in the third quarter of 2018) and South Africa keeps racking up own goals.
6. The land shall be shared among those who work it
Last year concluded with the feeling in the ANC that it had taken charge of the heated debate on land and largely managed to take the sting out of the EFF's attempts to press-gang the party into a particular position. Although a parliamentary committee did in the end resolve to amend the Constitution to provide for expropriation more explicitly, there still seems to be clear blue sea in what the ANC envisages the amended clause to read and what the EFF is building its election platform on. Ramaphosa this week reiterated that "land will be expropriated", which is in tune with the party's general thrust on the matter. But the Ramaphosa kitchen cabinet knows EFF-style nationalisation and land grabs are not an option. The ANC, through Ramaphosa, will have to phrase its vision very carefully.
7. Is it Cyril's party yet?
The January 8th statement is a collective vision crafted by the party's executive, and as such is not a speech delivered strictly by the president. There is no doubt, however, that in years past it has mirrored the vision of the party leader, whether it was Zuma or his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki (who incidentally has indicated he won't be present on Saturday). The speech is long and text-heavy, and certainly not an inspirational and flowery call to arms in service of nation and party. It will, however, be instructive to see whether Ramaphosa has been better able to coerce the ANC into stronger and clearer positions on the economy, corruption and land than he has over the last 12 months, or if he will continue to be straitjacketed by the broad church philosophy and the Nasrec resolutions.