While the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape has chosen to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic head-on, and to secure its own supply of Covid-19 vaccines, the African National Congress (ANC) is once again clinging to outdated thinking.

The Greek philosopher Plato’s famous allegory of the cave provides a good template to understand what is going on. In this piece, Plato’s mentor, Socrates, describes a group of people who have been chained inside a cave for their entire lives, facing a blank wall. They can see only shadows projected on the wall from objects passing in front of a fire behind them. They give names to these shadows, which – while they constitute the reality of this group – are not accurate reflections of the real world.

The ANC, like the people in the allegory, is also stuck in a cave. This is a cave that has been constructed out of the party’s own ideology and outdated policies. The Sunday Times reported this past week that the vaccine procurement process will be centralised in an effort to prevent a repeat of the vast PPE corruption. My colleague, Nicholas Babaya, put it another way: “decapitation process to be centralised in effort to prevent a repeat of vast losing of heads”. Of course, this is absurd but that is exactly the point. While the DA speeds ahead through policy innovation, the ANC is still clinging to its belief in intellectually bankrupt beliefs and a dogmatic approach to policy embodied in their intention to once again centralise systems of government.

Chained within an ideological cave, the ANC comes up with shadow-like policies that come nowhere near to dealing with reality. This is something we have experienced over the years – the ANC refuses to listen to reason and appears to occupy a self-referential version of reality. Ideology trumps reality.

Shared misery

The shadows they see on the blank wall are the supposed improvements that their socialist policies will bring. On some level, they look to countries like Venezuela and Zimbabwe for inspiration. But much nearer at hand – though they have their backs to it – is the reality that reveals that socialist policies do not lead to shared prosperity but only shared misery. Venezuela’s inflation rate was expected to reach 929 790%, the highest inflation in the world, according to the 2019 World Economic Outlook report. Zimbabwe has demonstrated its own tragic trajectory; its inflation rate was more than 600% in 2020, forcing many Zimbabweans to flee to South Africa in search of a better life.

The ANC’s policies have led us, and continue to lead us, down a path to economic ruin. What the party cannot – or refuses to – understand is that if policy is to be productive, it must produce beneficial outcomes, not merely embody sentiments or reflect ideological predispositions.

‘Land reform’ is an exercise in futility when that land cannot be worked, or when it is prone to the venal gaze of crooked officials. Ask Zimbabweans (in fact, ask a good many South Africans).

Radical economic transformation can lead to radical economic consequences, but not the positive kind. Ask the Venezuelans, as they trek to Colombia to shop – or just to get away.

Ideological cave

The reality which the ANC does not see reflected on the wall of its ideological cave is that its policies have put South Africa on a path of steady decline for the last decade, both in social and economic terms.

In 2008, Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF), which is a measure how well a country uses or invests capital, was 23.51% as a proportion of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Fast forward to 2019 and, according to World Bank data, GFCF declined to 17.9% as a proportion of GDP. South Africa is not only poorer, but is losing the capacity to make itself wealthier.

Social welfare does not give hope either; in 2001 there were 313 people employed for every 100 people receiving a social grant, but in 2018 this declined to 91 for every person receiving a social grant. Moreover, the number of social grants went from 3.9 million in 2001 to 17.8 million in 2018. This is no reason to celebrate, as increased grant payments mean that a growing class of people are unable to take care of themselves and rely on state assistance. There is plenty of evidence to show that what South Africans want is wage-paying work.

Besides, having bled the economy, we could be approaching a moment in which those grants become all but impossible to pay. The data clearly shows that South Africa is in a hole and the government simply keeps digging.

In the allegory of Plato, Socrates says that the philosopher is like a prisoner in the cave who is freed and subsequently understands that the shadows on the wall are not an accurate reflection of reality at all.

Will not see

However, the other captives in the cave do not even have a desire to leave the cave in the first place, for they do not know better. The ANC ranks among the latter captives. It shows no desire to be freed from the shackles of its own ideology. Its existence has been structured in such a way that it cannot or will not see beyond the cave, or seek liberation from its chains.

So, it is up to us, the freed philosophers, to leave the ANC in their cave and free ourselves from their ideology.

  • This article has also been published on the Rational Standard

[Picture: mvivirito0 from Pixabay]

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  1. “Social welfare does not give hope either; in 2001 there were 313 people employed for every 100 people receiving a social grant, but in 2018 this declined to 91 for every person receiving a social grant.” Went from approximately 3:1 to 91:1, surely an improvement?
    Other than above, I agree with most of your sentiments. Unfortunately the same seem to be true to most (all?) political practitioners out there – worldwide.

    • I assumed he meant there are now 91 working for every 100 receiving grants, but yes this doesn’t make sense as written.

    • I assume that this was a typo. Surely should have read: ‘declined to 91 employed for every 100 people receiving a social grant’? Other than that, an interesting way of looking at the calamity that is the ANC.

  2. Scary reading but no surprise. The article hits the nail on the head with pinpoint accuracy- the ANC is devoid of any applicable intelligence or organic thinking as it relates to life.

    • It could be that the ANC is doing it’s utter best to sink the RSA and to lower us to a level below Zimbabwe . The main object is to get RSA in such a state that anybody with brains will do anything and everything to get the f…. hell out of here. The rest of the world including China will then just lend them all the money and grants to carry on with their understanding of governance.

      • I don’t think so – your view would imply that they have a long term plan. If there’s one thing the ANC do not do, it’s “long term”. Their view of long term is really very short: “how quickly can I make money for myself”. The fact that they continue down the ever-descending path shows that they have no other ideas than the ones they believe, in spite of all evidence, will do good. They are informed by an outdated philosophy, very few are really economically literate, and their planning is non-existent.

        But, in spite of constantly lowering the living conditions for the country, and especially the poor, they will continue to be voted in………go figure.

  3. I’ve been waiting for such an article for a very long time – and from a 23 year-old! Using the analogy of Plato’s Cave gives a very accurate picture of the state of unreality the ANC continues to dwell in. And true, too, many have given them advice and guidance – but to no avail. Thank you, Duwayne Esau for an excellent article and look forward to some more from you.

  4. “While the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Western Cape has chosen to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic head-on” and then I laughed and laughed.

    Where did you get this from dear Duwayne? The MSM? eNCA and DM? That’s my guess.

    The DA are simply fooling everyone. A well known cartoonist said this in a moment of keen observation. Alan Winde is the premier of the Western Cape and said “he repackages everything Cyril Ramaphosa says and does” and in this instance he was talking about Contrick19 that became Contrick20 and now has mutated into contrick21.

    That is a fact is the followers of the DA fully trust their politicians, they should really start to accept that they are being lied to by the DA leaders. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when those you trusted become the traitors.
    They are fully behind the UN Agenda 2030 “Sustainable Development Goals” They deny this when asked, even Zille denies it. Yet there is ample evidence that they are following this socialist communist dream. They are fully in lockstep with the WHO in the Convid game.

    Want the proof? Send me a mail and I will give you the links. jackbean.ja@gmail.com

    • Thanks John. People cant see it, sadly. The DA is just as much under the Agenda 2030 spell as the ANC. I suppose I would be considered ‘ racist’ to feel that they are more culpable for their deceit than the ANC. The ANC follows ideological insanity , the DA are just treacherous shills.

  5. “The ANC, like the people in the allegory, is also stuck in a cave. This is a cave that has been constructed out of the party’s own ideology and outdated policies” should be re-worded: “The Government, like the people in the allegory, is also stuck in a cave. This is a cave that has been constructed out of the government’s own ideology and outdated policies.” The sad truth is that the DA are a significant part of government, stuck in the same cave and are found barking at the same shadows and do not see reflected on the wall of the ideological cave that poorly opposed policies have put South Africa on a path of steady decline for the last decade, both in social and economic terms.

  6. Well stated. The world needs new models not rehashing of failed models. Regretably very few parties even think down this road. The ANC definitely not and the EFF even less so.

  7. Unfortunately with Zille’s coup, under the disguise of ideological purity, the DA dumped its black leadership and in the process a huge swathe of black voters. The consequence is that the DA is now preaching in the desert, and fighting with the FF+ for a share of the 9% white vote. Politics are not about ideological purity, and there were/are a lot of black voters looking for a viable alternative to the ANC (not one more splinter group with no countervailing power) – they don’t agree with the ANC, its policies, its indulgence of corruption and so on. Missed opportunity gone for a long long time.

  8. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how bad you think the DA are they are still infinitely better than the ANC cave dwellers and the overall general performance of the Western Cape proves it over and over again!!!!

  9. A very good article by the young man.The ANC is a corrupt , useless , racist , communist government.Just as a reminder every single thing they get involved with either turns in to bankruptcy or needs an ongoing bail out.
    SAA , SABC , SASSA ,ESCOM, Post office, Denel ,Prasa to mention but a few. The ANC has destroyed every standard in our country to rock bottom , SAP ,Judiciary , Health , Sanitation , Roads , Education ,Service delivery and Municipalities to mention but a few.They were handed a first class world on a platter and in no time rubbished it down to beyond junk status. It is clear that these old communist fossils that run this country have no idea how to govern. Is it genetic to be so destructive or is it a plain lack of intellectual abilities or plain arrogance and stupidity. Look at the ridiculous , senseless , draconian racist lock downs. What government will forfeit billions in taxes and investments on a daily basis with the alcohol , cigarette ET AL lock down unless they have an evil political motive. So when Proff Anthea Jeffery stated in the beginning of the lock down the Anc wants to destroy our economy so that they can replace it with their socialist and communist ideology she knew exactly what she was talking about.This is the reality in SA at the moment ,so wake up South Africans,,, unless we get rid of the Anc government they will keep on with their mass destruction and eventually under their ancient old failed communist rule will turn this country into wasteland !


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