The ANC, Its Popularity Since 1994 & Strength Today
Firstly, I would like to dispel the notion that the dip in ANC popularity happened in the Zuma years. Granted, the ANC suffered dents during his tenure, but some of us saw this coming. It was a matter of time, before the ANC revolutionary rhetoric and its concrete reformationist stance and policies caught up with it.
The first ever split since the wake of the PAC split, happened under Thabo Mbeki’s watch, that is, the formation of the breakaway called COPE (Congress of the People). This happened because Thabo Mbeki insisted on a 3rd term, despite internal dissent and dissatisfaction. The dissatisfied, rather than submit to the Zuma faction, decided to exit the organisation and form COPE. Then you have those who stayed on like Thabo Mbeki, albeit seething with anger.
Note: We are not always conscious of the fact that leading COPE figures like Terror Lekota, were in the Mbeki faction in the period leading to COPE’s formation. It could be that the divergence though, happened with the strategy of how to fight back. While COPE-aligned individuals chose leaving the ANC, others like Mbeki chose to buy time, knowing that two 5-year terms do pass, and a 10-year internal fight-back is bound to produce results.
I am interested in the Mbeki faction that stayed on in the ANC, sitting out quietly while fighting back, and the Zuma faction, the rivals.
This carries some potent indictment: the split indicated an internal power struggle between what I term, ‘nationalists’ and ‘internationalists / neoliberalists’ – a respectful term really for White Monopoly Capital (WMC) or Transnational Corporations (TNCs) agents.
- It is historical to pre-1994’s Transitional Executive Council (TEC) rule, particularly that of the TEC Subcommittee on Finance (TEC Sub Comm on Fin). Some interesting names spring up when one looks at the composition of the TEC Sub Comm on Finance – led by former President Thabo Mbeki. Also,
Trevor Manuel – former Minister of Finance.
Maria Ramos – ABSA Group CEO.
Tito Mboweni – former Reserve Bank Governor, and now Minister of Finance.
Pravin Gordhan – From 1991 to 1994, he chaired the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), and he was the co-Chairman of the Transitional Executive Council, which prepared South Africa for the country’s first non-racial election in April 1994). From 1994 to 1998, Gordhan chaired the Parliamentary Committee that focused on the implementation of the new Constitution and the transformation of local government in the post-apartheid. From 1999 to 2009 he was the Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and also Chairman of the World Customs Organization from 2000 to 2006. From 2009 to 2014, he was Minister of Finance (appointed by former President Zuma). On 14 December 2015, Gordhan was re-appointed as Minister of Finance, amidst World Market outcries for him – demonstrated through the falling rand and its stabilisation upon his appointment. In 2018, he was re-appointed to the Cabinet of President Cyril Ramaphosa as Minister of Public Enterprises.
- Another interesting name is President Cyril Ramaphosa: In January 1990 he accompanied released ANC Political Prisoners to Lusaka, Zambia. He served as Chairman of the National Reception Committee for the Release of Mandela, which co-ordinated arrangements for his release, including subsequent national welcome rallies. He then became a member of the International Mandela Reception Committee. He was elected General-Secretary of the ANC in July 1991. In his capacity as a General-Secretary he headed the Negotiations Commissions of the ANC and participated in CODESA. In May 1994, he was elected chairperson of the New Constitutional Assembly – a position he resigned in May 1996 together with that of General-Secretary of the ANC. Ramaphosa holds various chairmanships and directorships in industry.
- On December 1, 1993, the TEC accepted an $850 million loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The loan was a bloodless abortion of the revolution into a neo-liberalist reformation project – the strangulation of the Freedom Charter, yet Mandela’s ANC gladly signed off on the dotted line for:
* Lower import tariffs;
* Cuts in state spending,
* Large cuts in public sector wages;
* Free trade routes;
* Excessive flight capital off the borders of SA;
* Privatisation of state own enterprises;
* Fiscal controlled economy; and
* Moving away by ANC from its historical radical position of nationalisation, including expropriation of land.
Thus, the emergent ANC political party image became different from the revolutionary or liberation struggle one. Its icon, Mandela, notably flanked by individuals from the TEC Sub Comm on Fin., publicly enjoyed the company of the very rich, like the Chairman of Anglo-American, Harry Oppenheimer, and Vice Chairman of the rival Anglo-Vaal Mining Group, Clive Menell. In 2013, Kasrils use the phrase, Mandela signed a self-sabotaging ‘Faustian Pact’ with global capital.
No wonder, under the Neoliberalist Reformation Project, the ANC furthered its controversial policy actions:
- Reappointing Apartheid’s Finance Minister, Derek Keys, together with Reserve Bank Governor, Chris Stals, to oversee the new Neoliberal Reformation Project.
- Joining the then ANC’s long-life enemy, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), for that matter on the most adverse terms, viz. as a transitional economy vs a developing. This has killed multiple local industries, like the clothing and textiles, appliances and other labour-intensive firms. (It is a house joke that under the ANC, ‘made in SA’ label has vanished – we like them foreign and imported).
- Agreed to a repayment of the US $25 billion apartheid foreign debt. Money that was used to shoot, maim and kill activists, internally and in the Frontline States, or in the war against the Southern Angola against South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO), both inside Namibia and Southern Angola. However more concerning, this was money that the ‘new’ Mandela government was supposed to use for socio-economic recovery; for delivering the promises made to Black people, especially Afrikans, in the 1994 Elections.
- Granted the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) formalised freedom, resulting in autonomy its officials from democratic accountability. This led to the high interest rates of those years, coupled with deregulation of exchange controls.
- Limiting the redress potency of the Constitution by prioritising embedding property rights. Hence to date, ‘the SA Constitution is acclaimed as the most democratic in the world’. But the question is: democratic for who?
- Permitting most of South Africa’s ten biggest companies to move their headquarters and primary listings oversees. Herein lies the recipe for illicit financial flows (IFFs), as in loopholes for both tax evasion and avoidance, profit shifting and misinvoicing – resulting in a massive base erosion scheme.
Just as the ANC was unable to overthrow the political, so it was unable to overturn the economic order.
It is to be remembered that the ANC was a nationalist movement whose primary preoccupation was the capture of the state and subsequent pursuit of democracy, by overthrowing colonialism, gentrified development tied to racism and its legacy, as well as a radical socio-economic (social justice) transformation project. The ANC has failed both to capture the state (political) and to deliver social justice to the majority poor, whose poverty was systemic and statutory pre-1994.
As whether the ANC hold is likely to get stronger, or regain its strength, with Cyril Ramaphosa at the helm; it remains only highly unlikely if the voter population is exposed to the Whole Truth about CODESA and Mandela. This is because he remains the ANC’s trump card, a licence to kill, because he has been iconised and ‘canonised’; primarily with the help of the international community, mainly, traditional Western Europe (WE) and North America (NA) – known as the West. These are the neoliberal giants, creators and upholders of imperialism, some of whom are the former racist colonisers, to whom Afrikan economies are tied. It is common knowledge that one of such established and big economies, is that of SA.
Naturally, the West had more than vested interest in the post-apartheid SA, and CODEA was engineered and used as such. Hence for years in the bush in uMkhonto WeSizwe (MK), the War Doctrine was that, we shall never negotiate, we chose insurrection over negotiations. This hard line was informed the evidence throughout the continent, including Zimbabwe, of how such negotiations never translate to a land and economic revolution. Thus, for as long as the voter population remains ignorant of Whole Truth about CODESA, mandela shall remain its opium, the magic that never translates into bread on the table. Perhaps that is the reason it is called Madiba Magic in the first place, for magic is a fantasy.
The comforting reality is that the nation has started to question the growing poverty and inadequacy of the ANC to mitigate it, based on the binding clauses and policies it signed itself to. My prognosis is that the noises and rumblings will continue until the ANC comes out and clean and separate itself from the inedible Madiba Magic. That is unlikely though under the Ramaphosa dispensation, because its leaders were in with the creation of the Madiba Magic and Afrikan Poverty.
Cyril Ramaphosa’s Tenure As Head Of State
He has stayed true to his neoliberal agenda. VAT increase within about 100 days in office, followed shortly by Petrol hikes, and speaking left while acting right. The markets love him though, because the threats from Moody, Standard and Proctor, as well as Fitch, have abated; and the Rand has stabilised.
Has this translated to real economic change for the poor, NO! He is still at the typical ANC promise rhetoric. He promised job creation but continued to count, like his Minister of Finance, Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP), as job creation – when it is a known factor that this is a 2-year fixed, stipend-based activity. It is a long short from employment, with amongst other pecks, social security – medical aid and housing allowance, 13th cheque, promotion prospects, and career progression.
ANC Factionalism A Threat To Itself
The ANC itself. Its internal squabbles and factionalist tendencies, intensified by the untimely removal of President Mbeki, instead of allowing him to finish his term, has sort of jinxed its own internal processes. Some of us pronounced at the time that it was precedence-setting, and it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Mandela remains a compromised message to the ANC, because as voters or citizens learn the real Whole Truth about CODESA, they switch. Besides, Mandela is an emotional opium of the masses, and where rationality prevails, sensationalism falls away. So, until the ANC finds a new message for its voters, away from the Madiba blackmail, especially for Afrikan voters; it shall remain in a precarious situation when it comes to election-time.
Furthermore, the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) space for freedom of expression and association, remains a constant threat. SA is a youthful country, therefore, the ANCYL must be given space for articulating its aspirations, and to represent those of its constituency. The tendency has been to control the YL and shape its agenda, which ultimately led to another ANC offshoot, the EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters).
The DA remains a constant threat too. Despite all the embedded criticism, relating to race and gender, for first time apolitical voters, it remains an attraction. This is because one cannot forthrightly say who owns it, unlike many opposition parties where the domination of a figure (s) is quite evident.
The EFF would be a real threat, considering its message. However, what is the strength of the DA and ANC, is the EFF’s threat, viz. visible ownership of the party by a person or persons.
The Role Of The Youth In SA’s Future
SA is a youthful country, so the future is the youth. Besides, my generation is sold out to the Madiba Magic, or the belief that what is in the News, is accurate and devoid of political manipulation. The youth have been the ones with an alternative mind-set, questioning decisions, and the ANC itself.
The concern though, is how the ANC has killed education after 1994. We are producing students whose numeric, linguistic and analytical faculties are systematically dumbed down. This is coupled with an education system that has not been decolonised enough to embrace Afrocentrism, in the face of escalated Eurocentrism and the rising Chinese domination of Afrika. For the youth to take the bull by its horns, and deliver the much needed freedom, our education system has to change. The youth would also have extended its definition of ‘politics’, beyond party politics.
The youth are not sentimental but practical in their expectation for a ‘better life for all’. The current Madiba Magic, coupled with the euphoria of Freedom, both of which has not made its way into their purses or dinner table, remains a turn-down.
SA is graded as one of the most unequal societies in the world. When one lives in such a society, economics often override politics, even though such a notion is nonsensical because economics are politics.
Then there is the issue of the apparent failure of the ANC, as evidenced by the abject poverty of most Afrikans, 25 years after. Yet there is the reality of an almost customised message by Opposition Parties, except for the EFF, PAC (Pan African Congress) and the BLF (Black First Land First).
Dr Khanyisile Litchfield-Tshabalala, is a former MK guerilla, a Retired Admiral, former MP and a Decolonisation Scholar. She boasts several National Awards proving her commitment to Gender Equity and Mentorship. She’s currently working in the Civic Society Space, Chairing the South African national Alternative Indaba, the continental Africa Parliamentary Network on Illicit financial Flows and Tax (APNIFFT), as well as being a Co-Founder and one of the Directors of the Afrikan Queen Warriors Feminist Movement (AQWFM).