DWINDLING voter support is giving the ANC sleepless nights.

Party policy chief and Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe told reporters on Monday that the ANC was concerned about voters — especially in urban areas — turning their backs on the party.

Consequently, next year's ANC national general council, scheduled for June in Gauteng, will focus on how to arrest this decline in support.

Not surprisingly, special attention will be paid to the municipalities under the ANC's control as the party seeks to prevent some of them from falling into the opposition's hands come the 2016 local government elections.

Radebe was quite candid about what he described as "a trend of overall decline in support for the ANC" and said the organisation was "worried" about it.

But then again, the ANC always provides us with a frank analysis of its state of affairs ahead of important conferences.

As for solutions? Well, that is a different story altogether.

ANC national general councils are not as important as the party's elective conferences.

For starters, they cannot elect new leaders or change policies that were adopted at a previous national conference.

All they do is review the implementation of policies and resolutions adopted by the last elective conference.

Traditionally, they are more talk shops than anything else.

But events at the 2005 ANC national general council taught many within and outside the party just how useful such platforms can be in the pursuit of particular political agendas.

It was at that national general council that the campaign to have Jacob Zuma elected ANC president and therefore future head of state — began in earnest.

One cannot rule out the same happening at next year's national general council, though the conditions are significantly different to those of 2005.

Yes, several ANC leaders' names are being mentioned as possible successors to Zuma, but all of them are playing their cards very close to their chests.

What is clear, though, is that the ruling party would shoot itself in the foot if it spent much of its energy at next year's council fighting over leadership rather than dealing with the underlying causes of its electoral decline.

Among the decisions taken at that conference was to do away with the "innocent until proven guilty" principle, which often saw leaders accused of serious criminal acts remain in public office.

Roads not being fixed, water being cut off and other services not being delivered will probably top the agenda.

But the party will have to seriously deal with public perceptions that it is not only soft on, but complicit in, corruption.

At its last national conference in 2012, the ANC adopted a number of resolutions that promised a hardline approach to the fight against graft involving its members.

Among the decisions taken at that conference was to do away with the "innocent until proven guilty" principle, which often saw leaders accused of serious criminal acts remain in public office.

From then on, the party promised, anyone charged with corruption or any other serious criminal act would be asked to step down from office until their names were cleared.

Since the conference, however, it has been "business as usual", and only a handful of politicians have fallen on their swords.

The party's response to accusations of corruption is often as dismissive today as it was before the 2012 conference.

Take the Sunday Times front page story this past weekend revealing that a lawyer, who acted as a fixer for arms giant Thales, claims in court documents that he arranged flights, bought clothes and paid legal fees for Zuma.

The story reveals that Zuma used the code words "Eiffel Tower" to confirm he was accepting a R500 000-a-year bribe from the arms company in return for political protection.

Instead of responding to detailed questions sent by the newspaper before publication, Zuma's office reacted by dismissing the story as "nothing new". There was not even an attempt to dismiss the claims made as untrue.

It is this kind of response to allegations of corruption that is slowly eroding the public's confidence in the ANC — hence the dwindling votes.

How can the ANC expect voters to believe ministers such as Public Works's Thulas Nxesi when they say they are engaged in a war against corruption if the office of their commander-in-chief does not see the need to give a serious response to allegations so serious that they suggest that the country's number one citizen was in the pockets of a foreign arms company?

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