Mamphela Ramphele announced plans to join South Africa’s homogenous political spectrum through a platform she calls Agang.
It is a reality that all political parties or party political platforms, including the ANC and the DA, have grown closer to each other in terms of their fundamental ideological dispositions and politics.
All political formations, including the electorally untested SA Communist Party , represent the neo-liberal status quo, which seeks to make superficial alterations to the economy and governance with the false hope that these will lead to the development and upliftment of all South Africans.
The solutions provided by Agang are not dissimilar from what a larger liberal section of the ANC, DA, Cope, UDM, IFP and other less significant parties propose. The superficial commitments to improve governance, skills, fight corruption, improve representation and accountability while leaving the foundation of the economy intact define all political formations.
The homogeneity of South Africa’s political discourse was recently reflected by all political formations’ endorsement of the National Development Plan (NDP), which is a rehash of all previous policy attempts that failed to rescue South Africa from deeper structural levels of unemployment, poverty and inequalities. The NDP, like Gear, Asgisa and the New Growth Path, hovers around the pathetic supposition that pursuit of economic growth is the panacea to South Africa’s developmental problems.
They do not speak decidedly to the question of discontinuation of private ownership and control of South Africa’s natural endowments, which stand as the only real basis of total alleviation of unemployment, poverty and inequalities. There will never be any growth and/or developmental strategy and plan that will take unemployment below 15 percent without tapping into the resources owned by private corporations.
Reducing unemployment, alleviating poverty and decreasing inequalities can happen only through rapid, labour-absorptive industrialisation, or what is referred to as the big-push model in development economics. Without State control and ownership of the key natural endowments, South Africa will never rapidly industrialise to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequalities.
Ramphele jumped on to this bandwagon of neo-liberal politics addressing superficial issues of governance with the hope of replacing the current governing elite so that she can govern more “efficiently” on behalf of the capitalist class. Her founding policy statements commit her to unmitigated free enterprise, and mines and farms that should continue to be in private hands.
As a self-pronounced capitalist bureaucrat, it would also be too much to expect anything progressive from Ramphele, who despite her opposition to apartheid has not paid detailed attention to South Africa’s developmental challenges.
These challenges lie in the fact that our economy’s colonial features remain intact. Intact because we continue to be producers and exporters of natural resources and endowments, while importing virtually all consumer goods and services.
We can reduce unemployment and poverty only through labour-absorptive minerals sector industrialisation buttressed by reliable a skills, education and expertise development strategy and plan, because minerals are our stronghold. Our problems are much bigger than the question of representative or party political electoral systems. Those are superficial matters that have no bearing on the deeper ideological and developmental decisions that have to be taken.
The only political solution to these crises will be a Leftist, youthful political alternative whose agenda will be real revolutionary transformation of society based on a combination of ideological clarity and political determination. Other than this, the alternative can be a revolutionary reconstitution of the ANC into a fighting force in the same manner of the 1940s radicalisation of the movement by the founding generation of the ANC Youth League which proclaimed “Freedom in our Lifetime”.
But at the age of 100, the capacity of the ANC radically to transform society is obviously limited due to its age and ideological/political infertility.
The ANC is too old to breed new ideas, and too forgetful to observe lessons from liberation movements that have governed in the manner it did after 20 years of political liberation.
With the failure of the ANC to produce new ideas and hone a new culture of political leadership, there will emerge various political interest groups which will present themselves as better governing elites, and like the ANC 100 years ago, the basis of these political formations will be some sort of national, class, ethnic or regional grievances.
Unfortunately, there is no political formation that represents an ideologically cogent developmental alternative to what the current establishment proposes, and without this, South Africa will be stuck in the vicious cycle of unemployment, poverty and inequalities for the next two decades.
Agang is not a solution to South Africa’s developmental problems, but should be allowed to join the bandwagon of neo-liberal discourse of South African politics until a Leftist, youthful, radical and working class-based political alternative to the status quo finds expression inside or outside the ANC.
* Shivambu is a student at Wits and is former ANC Youth League spokesperson