By Pinky Khoabane
The African National Congress (ANC) turned 105 years old yesterday and used the occasion to honour one of its giants, Oliver Reginald Tambo. Teacher, lawyer, diplomat, revolutionary, Tambo would have been 100 years old had he been alive today.
Speaking at the World Conference for Action against Apartheid in Lagos in 1977, Tambo spoke of the high expectations the ANC had in the largest conference of the people’s of the world in the fight against apartheid. “This Conference, dedicated to finding concrete steps that the world must take to give practical and meaningful support to our people, convenes at a crucial time for our struggle”.
The same can be said of the 105th January 8 Statement of the ANC held at Orlando Stadium yesterday.
After twenty-two years of democracy, despite political freedom, the black majority remains poor, unemployed, landless and our society one of the most economically unequal in the world.
Despite the carefully constructed narrative of the Rainbow Nation, united in the vision of a non-racial, non-sexist and equal nation, South Africans are far from being one nation. As former President Thabo Mbeki once said, that South Africa is a country of two nations; one is white and wealthy and the other one is black and poor.
The black majority remain on the margins of society in all spheres of life; economically, culturally and institutionally.
The escalation in service delivery protests around the country last year coupled with the emergence of a call for free education as espoused by the Freedom Charter are indications that the black majority have had enough of the inequality and poverty for which Tambo and others tirelessly worked and for which much blood was lost.
Nothing could have given the ANC a clearer picture of the mood of its followers than the results of the local government elections held last year. The ANC lost three metros to the Democratic Alliance (DA) largely thanks to the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). What those results said is that the ANC needs to change if it doesn’t want to give back power to the oppressors.
Delivering his last January 8th Statement at Orlando Stadium yesterday, President Jacob Zuma said the ANC had heard, heeded the calls of ANC faithful and had put in place corrective measures.
He called for unity “against our common enemies”. He identified unemployment, poverty and inequality as the enemy of the people. This has been the scourge against the Africans since 1652.
The President neither mentioned the opposition, and rightly so, nor the enemies of the ANC within and the blacks who occupy positions aimed at driving transformation in the private sector and the state owned enterprises (SOEs) but fail to do this.
SOEs play a crucial role in empowering citizens not only through the critical services they provide but also through procurement spend. There are billions of rands allocated to buy services and these should go to blacks companies if the blacks in charge had the will and basically the courage to do so. It is simply ridiculous, for example, to hear that only 2% of SAA’s procurement budget goes to black suppliers.
We have seen the onslaught from both the media and opposition parties, DA in particular, against those who champion excellence and relentlessly transform SOEs. The president mentioned former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe whose stewardship at the power utility saw the end of load shedding, which had plagued the country for many years. As it turns out, it may well have been deliberately orchestrated by the utility’s service providers who used the power cuts as bargaining tools.
The 105th January Statement comes at a crucial time for the ANC and the rest of South Africans. The ANC will this year discuss the policies and programmes of the next five years and decide on the next president to lead the organisation.
The Black majority are losing patience. The policies that the ANC adopts must fast track economic transformation, address the issue of land, alleviate poverty and close the inequality gap. The policies of the past twenty-two years have not yielded the necessary transformation and provision of a better life for the previously marginalised black majority for which Tambo and the forefathers of the ANC so desperately strived and for which much blood was lost.
The President lauded the work of the ANC in establishing a Constitution that embraced all its people. He further spoke of an independent judiciary.
The ANC faces serious challenges in a judiciary which is being used by opposition parties to set policy through the back door and a constitution that is far from ideal for a developmental state.
He said the ANC would this year use the Expropriation Act to fast track the issue of landlessness. The “willing-seller, willing-buyer” approach has proved ineffective and has moved at a snail’s pace. The bill allows the government to expropriate land and pay an amount determined by a “Valuer-General”. The bill has unsurprisingly been slammed by the opposition and the media has moved swiftly to compare it to Zimbabwe’s “failed” land expropriation programme.
With a Constitution such as ours, which allows policies of redress to be challenged in courts, we can expect to see a litany of court battles over land. We can expect an avalanche of negative publicity over this bill as the media protects white privilege.
Zuma called on all its structures and alliance partners to work through the branches and discuss ANC policy proposals and prepare thoroughly for the national conference in December.
This is crucial. The ANC faithful must thoroughly examine the policies that will give effect to its slogan of a better life for all but more importantly, they must choose a president who will espouse the goals of radical economic empowerment and the alleviation of poverty and inequality. This will be someone who is not a friend of white monopoly capitalists. They must have the integrity and selfless leadership that will encourage ANC members who had turned the backs on the ANC to return and new members to sign-up for the ANC.
The Black majority deserves better than it has received in the last twenty-two years. Another five years of the same would be a travesty of justice.