Rudderless ANC surrendered radical economic transformation struggle immediately after their unbanning
Over 40 years ago, Steve Bantu Biko said, ‘There is no running away from the fact that now in South Africa there is such an ill distribution of wealth that any form of political freedom which does not touch on the proper distribution of wealth will be meaningless. The white have locked up within a small minority of themselves the greater proportion of the country’s wealth. If we have a mere change of face of those in governing positions what is likely to happen is that black people will continue to be poor, and you will see a few blacks filtering through into the so-called bourgeoisie. Our society will be run almost as of yesterday. So for meaningful change to appear there needs to be an attempt at reorganizing the whole economic pattern and economic policies within this particular country.’
Bantu’s prophetic words were uttered during the heights of apartheid repression and still true today. It is astounding that besides such forewarnings, the ANC capitulated, deviated from radical economic transformation immediately after their unbanning. It conducted its struggle from a Marxist-based economic ideology against apartheid, but the collapse of the Soviet Empire deprived the ANC a practical and intellectual base for its economic ideology. Surprisingly, the ANC accepted a vast apartheid-era debt, which should have been cancelled. It defines the state as a mixed economy, however, the economic outlook is decidedly capitalist-dominated.
From his autobiography Armed and Dangerous, Ronnie Kasrils wrote, “What I call our Faustian moment came when we took an IMF loan on the eve of our first democratic election. That loan, with strings attached that precluded a radical economic agenda, was considered a necessary evil, as were concessions to keep negotiations on track and take delivery of the promised land for our people. Doubt had come to reign supreme: we believed, wrongly, there was no other option; that we had to be cautious, since by 1991 our once powerful ally, the Soviet Union, bankrupted by the arms race, had collapsed. Inexcusably, we had lost faith in the ability of our own revolutionary masses to overcome all obstacles. Whatever the threats to isolate a radicalizing South Africa, the world could not have done without our vast reserves of minerals. To lose our nerve was not necessary or inevitable. The ANC leadership needed to remain determined, united and free of corruption – and, above all, to hold on to its revolutionary will. Instead, we chickened out. The ANC leadership needed to remain true to its commitment of serving the people. This would have given it the hegemony it required not only over the entrenched capitalist class but over emergent elitists, many of whom would seek wealth through black economic empowerment, corrupt practices and selling political influence.”
Anthony Sampson, Mandela’s official biographer, wrote: “it was not until February 1992, when Mandela went to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that he finally turned against nationalization. He was lionised by the world’s bankers and industrialists at lunches and dinners. He argued with them that other industrialized countries, including Britain, Germany and Japan, had needed nationalized industries to restore their economies after world wars … But he sounded, as one economist complained, like an early Fabian socialist; and he was outgunned by both De Klerk and Buthelezi, who made their own arguments for free enterprise at the conference.”
Drawing from Ronnie Kasril’s assertion and the ANC abandonment of the freedom charter as reference or a model for economic emancipation, one can conclude that the ANC was at the mercy of National party negotiators who did not hesitate to dictate the economic trajectory which the country followed post-apartheid. Two decades later, the party talks about radical economic transformation which its leaders provide incoherent explanations to its meaning. On the other hand, the National Development Plan (NDP), which is a government plan to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030, is also found wanting especially when looking at the current poverty and employment figures.
Victory on non-negotiable’s belongs to the masses not the ANC
Without the benefits of the CODESA minutes, in hindsight, it seems the ANC were completely outgunned on the negotiations table when it comes to economic transformation matters. They went there as freedom fighters, come out as Popes and Saints preaching recompilation. They failed to appreciate the fact that the apartheid government was under enormous pressure because of economic sanctions and disinvestment’s. International lending institutions could not inject capital on the apartheid government due all the outcry coming from the injustices of the regime. In hindsight, the ANC led negotiation conceded ALL economic arguments citing a lame excuse that negotiations are a give and take. It will seem their focus was to gain political power because they knew the masses was behind them in a ballot box. The one man one vote was a non-negotiable that was already won through mass struggle. The fact that the national party unbanned political parties shows that they were ready for a majority role. Their only concern was to retain all their apartheid-colonial gained loot, which they did.
ANC have no political conviction nor courage to lead black people to economic freedom
The resent poverty figures amongst South African’s speak volumes about the poverty endemic the country is grabbing with. Two decades later, the ANC remain unclear how the political freedom attained in 1994 is supposed to yield economic freedom for the masses. Calls of a CODESA sellout are heard intermittently, those close to the ANC cringe to such calls and decries those with wisdom in hindsight. Their argument is premised on a view that at the time, the country was in a precarious position. Any mistakes could have led to a blood bath, civil war and economic ruin. They claim that the national party had the army and state resources on their side. Again, with the benefit of hindsight, the ANC failed to recognize that they had the world and the masses on their side. Maybe, the ANC was a great liberation movement but had proven themselves incapable of dealing with issues of black economic emancipation. Their record on dealing with the Land restitution, Employment equity, their inter-party political management, cadre-deployment, state capture and corruption is appalling. In hindsight, the ANC have failed to use their silver platter handed political power to forge economic power for the masses. Instead, only those close to the ANC gained meaningful economic power in the pretence of empowering the majority. This is a disaster for black people who invested decades of their lives and pinned their economic freedom hopes on the ANC. Like a mice in a cheese factory, the ANC gorged itself through state resources to comatose.
By Sivodlo Silombo
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