The true face of the ANC

Anthea Jeffery | May 23, 2019
Now that the ANC has won power for another five years, the true face of the organisation is once again emerging.

The pre-election period was a time for what the ANC calls ‘dexterity in tact’ – the provision of seemingly convincing but in fact empty reassurances. President Cyril Ramaphosa, in particular, took great care to play down his earlier radical rhetoric in support of expropriation without compensation (EWC). Instead, in the run-up to the poll, his repeated promise was that his ‘new dawn’ would deliver investment, jobs, and rising prosperity – if only the voters would forgive the ANC’s transgressions and give it the chance to make good. 

This propaganda proved convincing enough to give the ANC a 57.5% majority in the National Assembly. Despite its corruption, incompetence, and outdated ideological folly, the organisation managed to secure its grip on state power for a crucial further five years.

The ANC won that 57.5% parliamentary majority with the support of only 10 million people or 26.5% of all eligible voters. At least twice that number – more than 20 million potential voters – opted rather to stay away and not endorse any party at all. This is hardly a resounding show of confidence in the ANC. But the organisation naturally prefers to play this down, and to pretend the May election has given it a clear mandate to proceed with its policy plans.

What policies does the ANC propose to introduce in the next five years? Mr Ramaphosa has provided few details of his ‘new dawn’ strategy. ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, by contrast, has made it plain what is proposed. 

During his memorial lecture for ANC/SACP stalwart Walter Sisulu last week, Mr Magashule stressed that the resolutions adopted by the ANC’s highest decision-making body – its national conference – are binding on all ANC members and must be implemented, not ignored. 

The most recent such resolutions – taken at the Nasrec national conference in December 2017 – now oblige the ANC, as Mr Magashule puts it: 

  • to ‘expropriate land without compensation’ (which will cripple investment, growth, and job creation);
  • to ‘nationalise the Reserve Bank’ (which will pave the way for a different monetary policy focused around lowering interest rates and printing money);
  • to ‘transform’ financial institutions so that they ‘serve the needs of the people’ (which is likely to see the introduction of ‘prescribed asset’ rules requiring investment in failing state-owned enterprises or SOEs);
  • to ‘implement national health insurance’ (NHI) (which will give the state a monopoly over health care which is likely to be just as disastrous as its monopoly over electricity);
  • to ‘implement the minimum wage’ (which is sure to deepen unemployment by pricing the young and unskilled out of the labour market);
  • to ‘stop retrenchments’ (which could push many mines and other struggling businesses into bankruptcy); 
  • to ‘stop the privatisation of SOEs’ (which will ensure the continued mismanagement of Eskom and other crucial parastatals);
  • to ‘achieve free and universal education’ (which the ANC sees as vital to the ‘battle of ideas’ and the indoctrination of the young in statist and socialist thinking); and
  • to increase the ‘socio-economic power’ of the state (which will increase dependency on the ANC, rather than put power ‘into the hands’ of ordinary black South Africans, as Mr Magashule claims).

As the ANC’s pre-election mask has begun to slip, so the hostile rhetoric in support of these changes has begun to increase. Again, the trend is evident from Mr Magashule’s memorial address, in which the ANC secretary general additionally said:

  • ‘we can no longer be slaves in our own nation’;
  • ‘we can no longer be counted as the poorest of the poor while those who hold our wealth through historic theft still enjoy it’; 
  • ‘white people are the descendants of colonists who stole our wealth and land’; and 
  • ‘we are surely coming for what is ours!’

This race-baiting is integral to the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution (NDR), which aims to take South Africa by incremental steps from capitalism to socialism and then communism. NDR ideology justifies the transfer of ever more land and other resources to the state (not individual black South Africans) on the spurious basis that all whites are ‘colonialists of a special kind’, whose ill-gotten prosperity stems solely from ruthless dispossession and exploitation and has nothing to do with skills, entrepreneurship, or innovation.

Cosatu has a similar message for the post-election period. Having helped to ‘defend, deepen and advance the NDR’ by promoting the ANC’s electoral victory, Cosatu likewise wants ‘an end to retrenchments’, the introduction of the NHI, a prohibition on the privatisation of SOEs, and the introduction of a ‘comprehensive’ social security plan which will further de-link South Africans from the capitalist economy.

Mr Ramaphosa is just as bound by the Nasrec resolutions as any other ANC member, but his appointed role is currently to keep on with the empty reassurances. However, now that ‘dexterity in tact’ is no longer so important, both Mr Magashule and Cosatu are reverting to what the ANC describes as ‘firmness in principle’. In essence, this means a determination to press ahead with the NDR irrespective of the economic, constitutional, and other objections to this path.

The Nasrec resolutions now to be implemented are fully in line with NDR proposals going back at least 50 years. They reflect what the ANC has always intended to do with the ‘prime prize’ of ‘state power’ it won in 1994. That prime prize was achieved through a ruthless people’s war that was always primarily directed at destroying the ANC’s key black rivals. 

Yet this important reality has long been consigned to George Orwell’s ‘memory hole’. This has left most South Africans blind to the ANC’s real agenda and battling to understand both the first stage of the revolution – the people’s war – and its second stage - the NDR in which the country is now embroiled. 

 

Dr Anthea Jeffery is the Head of Policy Research at the IRR. Jeffery is also the author of People’s War: New Light on the Struggle for South Africa, now available in all good bookshops in abridged and updated form.

 

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