‘The South African economy is experiencing an economic crisis manifested in the collapse of investment and economic growth, as well as the further deterioration of the standard of living of the majority of South Africans.’

Well, who would dispute any of that? In August 2021, this statement is hardly noteworthy – except for the remarkable fact that it was made last week by staff members of the ruling party.

‘The price increases of petrol, electricity and basic needs,’ (unpaid) ANC staffers went on to say, ‘is affecting us and more so our families. We have tried to sustain this situation but it is not sustainable anymore.’

Don’t we know it.

But here’s the priceless rider: “As workers of this organisation we have served the ANC with utmost dedication in ensuring that it executes the tasks of the national democratic revolution [NDR] and as such must be treated with dignity by the organisation.’

This, after they had received a letter from ANC general manager Febe Potgieter informing them that there was no money to pay either their outstanding July salaries or their August salaries.

The truth is, nobody really cares – and why should they? How many more times do ANC foot soldiers need to have the consequences of NDR spelled out for them? The shambolic state of the party is one thing; the state of the country is what’s shocking – and that party loyalists continue down the road to ruin.

South Africa’s jobless millions could tell ANC staff a thing or two about ‘the further deterioration of the standard of living’.

Last week, the unemployment rate ‘surged to the highest on a global list of 82 countries monitored by Bloomberg’, the international news agency reported – rising to 34.4% in the second quarter from 32.6% in the three months to March (and to 44.4% on the expanded definition).

Bloomberg noted: ‘South African companies’ ability to hire is undermined by an education system that doesn’t provide adequate skills, and strict labor laws that make hiring and firing workers onerous.’

Tough luck for the poor

But, tough luck for the poor, fixing these things is not part of the NDR agenda.

News of the spike in joblessness came just days after the ANC’s latest brilliant idea: the green paper published by the Department of Social Development proposing ‘comprehensive social security and retirement reform’. 

Put like that, it sounds quite generous. Once again, though, it’s just another penalty for being governed by a feckless party that cannot even pay its own staff.

As the IRR warned: ‘The paper represents a further State Capture v2.0 initiative to divert private savings and assets to the state. In this, it resembles other proposals such as prescribed assets, the National Health Insurance, and expropriation without compensation. All of these measures are aimed at shoring up the dire finances of the ANC and the state.’

The main beneficiary of the proposal will be the ANC, the IRR pointed out.

‘Taken together, the State Capture v2.0 initiatives will feed the ANC patronage networks by allowing corrupt politicians to tap into large pools of private savings, while providing opportunities to create jobs for pals and family members in the enormous new bureaucracies that will have to be established for nationalising private pensions into the NSSF.

‘The victims will primarily be South Africa’s workers and savers, as well as the financial services sector that manages their hard-earned money. But in the end all South Africans will suffer, as crippling taxes and shaky property rights will undermine the productive economy without which no welfare system can be sustained.’

Failing project

Behind it all is ‘utmost dedication’ – to borrow a phrase from those aggrieved ANC staff members – to a failing project.

In a masterly summing up on Friday, fellow Daily Friend writer Terence Corrigan traced the ‘roots’ of state capture and the gathering disaster that has attended it to ‘the nature of the ANC and its self-conception as a natural and eternal leader of South Africa. No mere political party, it was the embodiment of “the people” and a repository of political morality. To travel with the ANC was to be on the correct arc of history. It followed that any restraint on its power was at best unnecessary and at worst an outright burden laid upon the deserving masses who looked to the party for their salvation.’

Even for its own workers, now, the weave of this increasingly threadbare narrative is fraying.

To be sure, that is a crisis for the party in its deepening ineffectualness and decrepitude. But who can doubt that it is a hopeful sign for the country?

[Image: Pete Linforth from Pixabay]

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IRR head of media Michael Morris was a newspaper journalist from 1979 to 2017, covering, among other things, the international campaign against apartheid, from London, and, as a political correspondent in Cape Town, South Africa’s transition to democracy. He has written three books, the last being Apartheid, An Illustrated History, and has an MA in Creative Writing from UCT. He writes a fortnightly column in Business Day.