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‘ANC manifesto no longer worth the paper it’s written on’

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Picture: Khaya Ngwenya / Independent Newspapers / November 25, 2023 – President Cyril Ramaphosa, right, and Siboniso Duma, KZN ANC chairperson during the Raising a Boy Child progamme launch in north beach, Durban. The ANC is due to launch its 2024 elections manifesto at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in KZN, which is a sham, the writer says.

By Sipho Seepe

Clarity of purpose enabled the ANC to craft messages that resonate with the aspirations of its main constituency. Its manifestos were premised on the “liberation of blacks in general and Africans in particular”.

There was never a doubt that political liberation would be meaningless without economic power. The longest-serving president of the ANC, Oliver Reginald Tambo, was unwavering. Addressing the SACP anniversary meeting in London in 1981, Tambo argued: “It is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the country to the people as a whole.

“To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the roots of racial supremacy and exploitation and does not represent even the shadow of liberation. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy, and our drive towards national emancipation must include economic emancipation.”

This understanding was later reflected in the party’s 2017 conference resolution. The ANC argued that “political power is attained not for its own sake, but to pursue political and socio-economic objectives”. “The ANC is a national liberation movement that contests elections to obtain a mandate to exercise state power to further the transformation objective.”

It was under former president Jacob Zuma that economic transformation was to receive greater attention. Nothing short of radical transformation would be required to dismantle the unyielding apartheid architecture. Breaking it down, Zuma argued that the essence of radical economic transformation is “fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions, and patterns of ownership, management, and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female”.

Regarding state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the ANC argued that the “state’s developmental agenda must be enhanced through SOEs”. “The SOEs must be channelled towards the implementation of the objectives of the democratic state.”

This level of clarity has since been lost. With the appointment of President Cyril Ramaphosa, radical socio-economic transformation is as good as dead. The black middle class has since been decimated. What is left of the ANC are feelings of nostalgia.

As it launches its 2024 manifesto, there will be no surprises. It will recycle old material. If there is one thing the party has mastered, it is to identify challenges.

Its 2021 manifesto highlighted, inter alia, that unemployment remains high, the land question has not been fully addressed, levels of wealth inequality are extremely high, gender-based violence has reached crisis proportions, and corruption threatens our young democracy. Articulation of the challenges is followed by bold promises. The whole charade is repeated with frequent monotony. The 2024 manifesto will not be different.

All of this is a sham. In the past six years, the SOEs established to serve the people have been deliberately hollowed out to facilitate their easy privatisation. This is an old trick. As Noam Chomsky correctly points out, it is in line with “the standard technique of privatisation: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, (and) you hand it over to private capital”.

Ramaphosa has always been a trump card for the apartheid beneficiaries. They knew what they were doing when they funded his presidential campaign. In anticipation of Ramaphosa emerging victorious, the former and last apartheid president, FW de Klerk, enthused: “Everything is not dark in South Africa, there is light at the end of the tunnel. If the ANC wins and President Ramaphosa keeps his promises, things will get better.”

De Klerk’s sentiments were echoed by Roelof Botha, the son of another apartheid master, the late and longest-serving minister of foreign affairs, Pik Botha. For his part, Botha had this to say: “Thank you to the ANC for electing Mr Ramaphosa. You have no idea, you have no idea how important it is for this country’s future and my dad realised that close to his death, he was a happy man because of this monumental event in our history I can guarantee you that most South Africans have a lot more hope for the future.”

As things panned out, Africans have nothing to hope for under the ANC of Ramaphosa. Instead, they have been subjected to long periods of darkness and a debilitating sense of hopelessness. The ANC has become indistinguishable from the DA. It has since been stripped of any revolutionary content. The only difference is who does things better than the other. It comes as no surprise that the leader of the DA, John Steenhuisen, and so-called ANC veterans could easily agree that the partnership between the DA and the ANC of Ramaphosa is not only logical but ideal.

Bereft of ideas and clueless, Ramaphosa has become a victim of media creation. Out of desperation, he finds himself having to lie to himself. On the question of load shedding, he was quick to boldly proclaim: “We are addressing it and I’m sure, absolutely certain, that having appointed an engineer, a person with deep knowledge about electricity, we will be able to solve the problem”. Ramaphosa’s appointee Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa was quick in his rebuttal. Addressing workers at Eskom, Ramokgopa was categorical: “I am not an electrical engineer, I am not a mechanical engineer, I am a civil engineer, we build structures. I don’t know how these systems work. It is you who have studied these things. It is you who understand these operations.”

In his response to the State of the Nation Address (Sona), the leader of the Freedom Front Plus, Pieter Groenewald, provided a damning assessment of Ramaphosa’s presidency. Each failure can be directly linked to Ramaphosa’s promises.

Not pulling punches, Groenewald told Ramaphosa: “In 2018, the economic growth rate was 1.3 percent, last year it was 0.9 percent, so under your leadership, the economy just retreated, causing havoc for the people of South Africa.”

Groenewald continued: “When you became president in 2018, the local currency against the dollar was nothing less than R11.55. Yesterday it was R18.92. If you go and look at the unemployment rate, when you became the president, the unemployment rate was 24 percent, it is now 32 percent. If you go and look at the youth, since you became president and over the years, it increased by 20 percent where the unemployment rate for the young people, the youth, at this moment is 64 percent.”

He reminded Ramaphosa of being in charge of the war room to end load shedding. He should stop apportioning blame to others. What Groenewald failed to mention is that load shedding was ended. It came back when Ramaphosa became president.

On corruption, Groenewald quipped: “The president himself said that the ANC is accused number one when it comes to corruption and I said to (myself) but you are number one of accused number one and now you have a number two who is also accused of corruption but nothing happens.”

Groenewald concluded by pointing out that with the Phala Phala scandal hovering over his head, Ramaphosa is ill-qualified to lecture anyone on corruption and accountability. “It was this ANC in Parliament, who protected you. Why? You said you did nothing wrong, why did you not come forward and be accountable to the people of South Africa. The murder rate when you became president was 35 per hundred thousand of the population; it is now 45 per hundred thousand of the population.”

With the leader that has become delusional, the ANC manifesto is not worth the paper it is written on. This year’s Sona may have not been disrupted, but it provided the means for Ramaphosa to make a laughing stock out of himself. The phrase, “never in doubt, but often” fits neatly.

Prof Sipho Seepe is an independent political analyst