ANC’s worn-out ideologies threaten national collapse

Visvin Reddy is the President of the African Democratic Change (ADeC). Picture: Tumi Pakkies/ Independent Newspapers

Visvin Reddy is the President of the African Democratic Change (ADeC). Picture: Tumi Pakkies/ Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 24, 2023



The ANC's cadre deployment strategy, a relic from the struggle era, has proven detrimental to the development of a competent civil service.

As a concerned observer who has consistently voiced apprehensions about South Africa's trajectory. It is disheartening to witness the nation teetering on the brink of self-destruction.

The root cause of this impending crisis lies squarely at the feet of the African National Congress (ANC) and its antiquated ideologies.

My warnings have not fallen on deaf ears, as a recent two-year study by economists at Harvard University echoes my sentiments.

The report titled Growth Through Inclusion in South Africa, authored by the Growth Lab at Harvard University dated November 15 is an extensive and detailed look at SA’s problems.

It declares that the ANC's reliance on cadre deployment and the blind pursuit of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) are steering the country towards collapse.

The report labels “preferential procurement” as a critical component of state collapse in the electricity system and at municipal government level.

It cites an IMF report that preferential procurement raises government costs for goods and services by 20% — 3% of GDP — and has expanded the opportunities for patronage.

“The deeper causes of the crisis can be traced to political gridlock, ideological choices, overburdening through preferential procurement rules, and political patronage.”

“Building up and protecting capacity entails moving away from cadre deployment and replacing this with a different organising principle. An example would be broader civil service reform that changes the appointment of civil servants especially for more technical positions into a more merit-based system rather than one that is overly influenced by politics,” the report states.

The Harvard report rightly emphasises the urgent need to abandon the cadre deployment approach, which prioritises political loyalty over merit. The consequences of placing unqualified individuals in key government positions are evident in the mismanagement of critical sectors.

Take Transnet, for instance, where the focus on meeting BEE targets has overshadowed the need for skilled and experienced personnel. The result? Chaos at the Durban port, marked by a staggering 71,000 containers stuck at sea. Such negligence has transformed the once-vital port into the world's 341st out of 348 ports for performance—a damning indictment on the impact of misguided policies.

Similarly, Eskom and SAA serve as cautionary tales of the detrimental effects of affirmative action policies. While these initiatives were designed to address historical injustices, the ANC's insistence on prioritising race over competence has led to dire consequences. The energy crisis and the collapse of the national airline can be traced back to an overemphasis on demographic representation rather than ensuring that those at the helm possess the necessary skills and expertise.

It is perplexing that, after three decades of democratic governance, ANC leaders persist in employing rhetoric reminiscent of the pre-1994 era. The continual narrative of liberation struggle and the scapegoating of apartheid legacies have become convenient shields to deflect accountability. The reality is that South Africa's democracy is now in its third decade, and there can be no excuses for the government's failure to address the challenges facing the nation.

The Harvard report's assertion that political bottlenecks hinder “critical decisions” is a stark reflection of the ANC's misplaced priorities. Instead of focusing on substantive issues, countless hours are spent debating political intricacies.

This is glaringly evident in the management of state-owned entities like Transnet, where discussions revolve around meeting BEE targets rather than ensuring efficient operations. The repercussions of such misplaced priorities extend beyond the boardroom, resulting in dire consequences for the country's economy.

South Africa's majority black population has entrusted the ANC with governance for three decades. Despite this, the government seems persistently threatened by the prospect of embracing policies that transcend racial boundaries. The continued reliance on race-based policies, while ignoring the vast pool of talent within the majority, undermines the very principles of democracy the ANC claims to champion.

In light of these pressing issues, it is imperative for the ANC to heed the warnings—both mine and those articulated by Harvard—and reassess its approach before it is too late. The current trajectory, marked by economic stagnation, institutional erosion, and social unrest, demands a radical departure from worn-out ideologies.

The ANC must return to the drawing board, re-evaluate its priorities, and prioritise competence over political allegiance if it seeks to salvage South Africa from the abyss of self-destruction.

The writing is on the wall, and urgent action is the only recourse to avert a national catastrophe.

Visvin Reddy is the President of the African Democratic Change (ADeC).

Daily News