The ANC's biggest problem is not its policies, but a failure to put them into practice, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Friday.
"We lack political will to implement our own decisions, in particular when those decisions are against powerful interests in the organisation," Cosatu said.
This was contained in a paper drawn up in response to the ANC's policy documents, to be discussed at its policy conference in Midrand next week.
Cosatu said the ANC's discussion document on organisation renewal "makes a candid analysis about organisation strengths and weaknesses, threats, dangers and opportunities".
The ANC had moved away from its roots as a party for the masses.
"Experience shows that it has over the years gradually moved to be exclusively a party of mass support at the expense of mass participation," the union federation said.
However, if the ANC wanted to enter what it has termed the "second transition", it needed to have a more meaningful relationship with the working class, Cosatu said.
According to the ANC document, in the past 18 years the ANC has gone through a first transition into democracy, where it focused on political emancipation. Now it needs to introduce a "second transition" that focuses on the social and economic transformation of South Africa in the next 30 to 50 years.
Cosatu said this document's major weakness was that it ignored certain organisational prerequisites, needed if the ANC was to lead a second transition.
These were that the ANC returned to mass participation, that it revived activism at branch level and redirected branches to serve the people; and that it recognised the paralysing effects that factionalism, corruption and disunity posed to the movement.
Cosatu blamed the ANC's leadership problems on "slate politics, divisions and factionalism".
"The main reason why leadership has been weakened is that almost every leader today in the movement is a product of slate politics, divisions and factionalism."
Slates are lists of candidates for top leadership positions drawn up by different factions.
Cosatu called for the rejection of slates "which can lead to talented individuals who do not belong in a 'correct' slate... being sidelined and their talents not utilised for the common good of the organisation and country".
Cosatu said this led to a vicious cycle where the slate that won in the previous conference was always having to defend itself from the slate that lost.
If this continued, the national conference in Mangaung in December could be reduced to a narrow leadership contest.
"In this case, post-Mangaung you will have a defeated slate that launches its campaign towards 2017," Cosatu said.
"Eventually the movement will use all its energies in internal battles and leave our masses leaderless."
This could present opposition parties with opportunities to gain more power.
Cosatu said the ANC's paper ignored the danger business interests posed to the party.
"We propose that all public representatives should choose whether they want to be people's representatives, who must live within the means of the salaries their position provide — or business people. They can't choose both!"
The ANC will meet for four days starting on Tuesday to discuss 13 policy documents ahead of its national conference in December. These policies will form the basis for the ANC government's policies, new laws or amended laws.