Mogomotsi Magome and Mcebisi Ndletyana discuss how after 20 years of slow change the ANC has resorted to drastic policies to change people’s lives.
The ANC’s 5 radical changes for SA
Programme’s far from radical, but it’s a shift from a cowering administration, writes Mogomotsi Magome.
During the State of the Nation debate in Parliament last month, President Jacob Zuma was taken to task by opposition parties over the overarching theme of his address; radical socio-economic transformation.
While the president claimed this would be the ANC and the government’s motivation is its programme of action for his second term, both the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters, the two main opposition parties in Parliament, challenged this notion.
They both contended that there was nothing radical about the president’s plans to transform the economy, land ownership patterns or job creation.
To the EFF, radical means the expropriation of land without compensation and the nationalisation of key economic assets like banks and mines. This is unlikely to happen while Zuma is in office.
However, as the furore over Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti’s policy proposals on land redistribution gained momentum in the last few weeks, one could be forgiven for thinking the minister has been having too much coffee with Julius Malema in the corridors on Parliament.
Nkwinti has proposed a policy according to which white farmers would be forced to give up 50 percent of their land for redistribution to farmworkers.
The money paid by government for the land would not go to the farmers, but would be allocated in a fund to support the emerging black farmers with skills, training and farming equipment.
Nkwinti was quick to point out this week that this was in fact contained in the ANC’s own policy documents from the 2012 policy conference.
The proposal has been slammed by the Freedom Front Plus as equal to expropriation without compensation, but it remains a policy proposal.
However, government this week moved on the land issue when Zuma signed into law the land restitution and property valuation bill, which effectively reopens the process for people dispossessed of land to submit claims.
This is an ANC policy adopted at the Mangaung conference in 2012, where the phrase “radical socio-economic transformation” dominated ANC discussions.
The phrase has been sustained and it shaped the tone of the party’s manifesto and Zuma’s State of the Nation Address.
It appears that the party is succumbing to the realisation that business can no longer continue as usual, but many would be disheartened by the previous promises of radical shifts from macro-economic policies that have failed to transform the lives of millions of the poor.
The announcement by the president that government would investigate the issue of a national minimum wage should be understood in the context of growing discontent over income inequalities.
It is a contentious issue between the ANC and its alliance partners on the Left, and even the president’s promise to “investigate” it was met with suspicion, especially over the lack of time frames being announced for the process
The recent five-month Amcu strike in the mining sector, which had a negative effect on the economy and might still result in the loss of jobs in the sector, has shown how urgent the equal distribution of the country’s resources is.
The realignment of power among the labour unions – Cosatu-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers is being ravaged by the growth of Amcu and Numsa planning a break-away from Cosatu – are indications that labour might become the new frontier over which the battle for socio-economic transformation is fought during this term.
But if there is one thing that unions agree on, it is the introduction of the national minimum wage.
Introducing it would go a long way in addressing the income inequalities in the labour market, but its most vocal critics believe it will be detrimental to job creation.
Government’s target of 5 percent growth by 2019 is an ambitious target that, if realised, would in all likelihood see the creation of more jobs, but this will not be easy.
Figures released by Statistics SA last month showed the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) had contracted 0.6 percent quarter-on-quarter in the first three months of the year.
This was its first contraction since the second quarter of 2009, when the global economy was sliding into a recession.
Zuma was to start his first term in the same year, and he has now started his second time when unemployment remains incredibly high, especially among the youth.
Government appears to be relying on massive infrastructure development project for the creation of more than 6 million jobs by 2019, but unions are convinced that these are not “real jobs”.
The main election issue in the run-up to the recently held elections was the economy, and the ANC appears to realise that massive job creation is not possible in an economy that is not growing, or that growing too little too slowly.
The establishment of the Small Business Development ministry, and the appointment of Lindiwe Zulu as the minister for this portfolio, has signalled the need for an emphasis on the development of small businesses as a means to create jobs.
It shows government can no longer rely on big business to create jobs, and that the informal sector has never been this important to the growth of the overall economy.
The deployment of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan to the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs was a big appointment that probably signals emphasis on service delivery.
Gordhan is heading a department which is at the coalface of service delivery, and the number of service delivery protests that have taken place this year alone indicates how fed up people are with the lack of delivery by most municipalities.
This week, the president announced the appointment of various inter-ministerial committees, including that of service delivery which Gordhan will chair.
According to the presidency, its purpose is to fast-track service delivery in areas where there are bottlenecks, quickly respond to areas where there are service delivery problems and ensure that general service delivery is improved.
This will be particularly important for the government and the ruling party as the local government elections are set to take place in 2016.
The forced removals of residents in Lwandle saw government responding with speed, with ministers dispatched to the area as soon as news of the evictions made the headlines.
While ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe maintains this will be a standard response to such issue by the executive, it remains to be seen whether it will be maintained throughout the term.
But more importantly, the response that communities are crying out for is the actual delivery of the services they are protesting over.
This week the country was faced with rolling power outages in various regions, highlighting the massive power constraints the country still has to deal with.
The National Planning Commission and the Department of Energy are known to have argued for the delay in the procurement of nuclear energy, but government is intent on forging ahead in the face of massive energy constraints to the economy.
This perhaps signals a radical shift from an administration that has previously appeared content with leaving Eskom and the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation to come up with ways of increasing the country’s energy security.
It is perhaps against this background that there seems to be more focus on a “sustainable energy mix” that includes coal, solar, wind, hydro, gas and nuclear energy.
Some of the measures that government is introducing are described by critics as long over due, and far from being radical.
However, it can be argued that the sounds coming from government indicate a somewhat belated realisation that business can no longer be done as usual.
Mcebisi Ndletyana says the ANC cannot relent on policies for economic emancipation.
’How much longer can the revolution really be deferred?” I whispered the question to myself a few days ago, as I listened to Lindiwe Zulu, the new minister of Small Business.
On that day, June 26, she was addressing us in her capacity as the ruling party’s head of communications, marking the 59th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter.
Assisted by newly appointed party spokesman Zizi Kodwa and alongside senior party leader Zweli Mkhize, Zulu thought it necessary to invite the punditry to commemorate the adoption of the historic document.
Given the significance of the document, as it envisioned a transracial society at the height of white supremacy, the moment of introspection was not unwarranted.
The charter affirmed the ethical foundation of the liberation movement – an unflinching belief in the equality of all mankind, however disagreeable the idea was to our passions.
Zulu and her colleagues, however, were less animated by the novelty of the charter for its time.
They were troubled, seized more by the demands of the moment, but simply referenced the charter to foreground their main message – the urgency of socio-economic transformation.
This is an old-fashioned tactic, meant to show that new policy emphases are not a deviation from policy traditions, but simply denote “continuity in change”. It is also useful banter against critics within the liberation movement.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) especially has been relentless, accusing the ANC of betraying the charter.
One is not convinced, however, that appearance of radicalism – between the offspring and the parentage – should be our immediate concern.
Radicalism is secondary, a possible outcome of how the government handles the urgency of socio-economic transformation within the next few years. The latter is the primary task, and no amount of reference to the Freedom Charter will make the assignment any easier for the ruling party.
Uppermost within officialdom should not only be how they go about the “second phase of the transition”, but how they deal with the possible fallout with some powerful interests, locally and globally.
It may be useful admitting from the onset that not everyone is convinced of the necessity, let alone the urgency, of socio-economic emancipation. It threatens entrenched financial interests.
That is why the apartheid government would not concede to political transition until the ANC promised not to tamper with property relations.
Because he hardly touched the subject, but advocated reconciliation instead, Nelson Mandela was feted by business. He was elevated to an extraordinary being, without whom South Africa was said to face a bleak future.
Albeit largely continuing Mandela’s policies, his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, was not to enjoy similar adoration from South Africa’s high society.
He would be denounced as a racist, a menace to the country’s efforts towards reconciliation.
It was not always like that, however. Mbeki was initially favoured because the establishment thought him amenable to its interests.
It found him particularly appealing over his rival, Chris Hani, a raving communist who, with his fierce talk and threatening demeanour, instilled fear in the hearts of white society.
A pipe-smoking, English-educated literary connoisseur, Mbeki was considered part of the establishment, one of its own.
That is until he started speaking of South Africa as a country characterised by two nations: “One of these nations is white, relatively prosperous, regardless of gender or geographic dispersal.
“It has ready access to a developed economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure… The second and larger nation of South Africa is black and poor, with the worst affected being women in the rural areas, the black rural population in general and the disabled.
“This nation lives under conditions of a grossly underdeveloped economic, physical, educational, communication and other infrastructure.”
Listening to the reactions that greeted his speech, a visitor to our country must have thought that Mbeki had invented the demon of racism.
Yet, all that Mbeki was doing was calling our attention to the socio-economic manifestation of our racial legacy.
Reconciliation, Mbeki stressed the obvious point, would not happen until democracy leads to a change in people’s lives, to a point that race is no longer a determinant of one’s life-chances.
The ANC’s emphasis on socio-economic transformation, or “economic toyi-toyi” to quote Zulu, therefore, is not new.
Zuma’s ANC is calling for the same thing that Mbeki implored South Africa to consider.
The 2012 document, titled: The Second Transition? notes: “After 18 years of democracy, and in the context of social and economic transformation, the resolution of the national question (read racism) remains critical… the majority of our people live in townships and rural areas that are economically depressed, and social stratification and inequality within the black community is increasing.
“The vast majority of poor households remain black, rural and female.”
All this, the ANC concluded, has created a “sense of injustice” that threatens the country’s democratic stability.
Today’s ANC, therefore, has gone on to propose policy measures that were unheard of a few years ago. Farmers are being called upon to give half of their farms to workers, to advance land redistribution.
Talks are under way within corridors of power to impose a cap on the export of “strategic minerals”.
The idea is to promote local sale of such minerals with the view to encouraging beneficiation, which would, in turn, expand the country’s industrial base.
Many other reforms will soon follow on other fronts.
As has been the case in the last 20 years, these measures will face a determined opposition.
For some strange reason, some believe that a society can remain stable amid massive unemployment and with the biggest levels of inequality in the world. They’re not persuaded that people coming out of more than 300 years of racial humiliation harbour a sense of injustice and that reparation is a reasonable expectation.
And, Zimbabwe’s recent experience has not done anything to persuade them either.
And, so I wonder what awaits the 2014 ANC?
Mbeki was shouted down as a bigot for merely talking about the urgency for substantive change.
This ANC is formulating policy proposals to effect that change. What form will resistance take to these changes?
Whatever the reaction, the ANC appears unlikely to relent. Of course, consensus is much preferred to confrontation. Consensus lessens hostility and quickens the pace of change.
But, if consensus is not forthcoming, the ANC will not be shouted down to retract their proposals.
The status quo is costing them. It has already cost them 8 percent support just over two elections and they’re on the verge of losing three major metropolitan centres.
If they don’t do anything now, they’ll definitely drop to the lower 50s in the 2019 elections.
Not only does the ANC face the threat of losing power, but also society will be at the risk of a much more radical policy change.
The militant EFF is here to stay and may even grow beyond the 1.3 million voters, if life doesn’t change.
If corporates are smarter than politicians as they claim to be, this is the time to show it. Otherwise, I fear the ANC will drag them along, like it or not. Time is running out for business.