South Africa


Ramaphosa cannot free the failing ANC from the shackles of the Marxist-Leninist NDR

Rhulani Thembi Siweya’s article titled: Ramaphosa can lead us on the path of a united nation that delivers a better life to its people (Daily Maverick, 7 January 2019) remains idealistic within the framework of the ANC’s ideologically driven paradigm, writes Roy Jankielsohn.

The reality is that the 20th Century ideology of Marxist-Leninism finds an enduring modern legacy in the form of the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and democratic centralism (cadre policy) that historically and currently remain central features of all the party’s strategy and tactics documents. The NDR remains the default position for ANC revolutionary rhetoric when emotional mobilisation is required to divert public attention from issues such as unemployment, crime, corruption, state capture and poor service delivery.

Siweya indicates that the “revolutionary goal” of the ANC remains a “united, non-racial, non-sexist democratic society that can deliver a better lifewhich is the goal of most political parties in South Africa. The differences lie not in the goal, but the ideological differences in their method of delivery. While the NDR is still entrenched within the ANC, its largest political opponent in the form of the DA is delivering an investment and delivery friendly model based on basic liberal values of a market economy with a safety net in place, separation of party and state, constitutionalism, the protection of individual rights and freedoms and respect for the rule of law.

The reason for the ANC’s inability to make the paradigm shift from a historical revolutionary liberation movement to a governing political party lies in the party’s firm attachment to its out-dated NDR ideology and rhetoric. In an article in the South African Historical Journal (2012), Russian researcher Irina Filatova writes: “Many in South Africa think that the socialist revolution did not take place only because the ANC came to power as a result of a negotiated settlement, not a military victory. But the NDR goes marching on in South Africa today, long after the theory was abandoned by its authors. It constitutes the basis of ANC official policy and from the mid-1990s the debate on the left of South Africa’s political spectrum is defined by the questions of how it should be implemented and at what pace, not about whether it should or should not be implemented at all.”

Within the Marxist-Leninist approach, the NDR is implemented in two phases. The first phase involved taking over political power in 1994 and the subsequent transformation of the civil service through the placement of ANC cadres into all senior positions in government and state institutions (party state capture). The second phase of the NDR was explained by former President Jacob Zuma during an address at the annual official Opening of the House of Traditional Leaders in Parliament as follows: “The governing party declared at the last national conference in Mangaung in 2012, that we had entered the second phase in our transition from apartheid colonialism to a National Democratic Society”.

This phase involves the radical economic transformation, land redistribution and control of academic institutions, the media and other civil society institutions. Transformation in ANC terms implies control of society by the party through a loyal legion of cadres who would be deployed under the pretext of BEE and through intimidation and coercion. Where the opposition is able to get a foothold in government, the ANC then reverts back to the revolutionary tactics in attempts to regain political control (phase one of the NDR) that includes among others destabilisation through civil unrest and racial provocation.

Few South Africans will argue against the noble ideals of the NDR, summarised in the ANC’s 2012 Strategy and Tactics document as “a united state based on the will of the people without regard for sex, race, belief, language, ethnicity or geographic location; a dignified and improving quality of life for all people by providing equal rights and opportunities to all citizens, and the restoration of the birthright of all South Africans regarding access to land and other resources”. The fact is that the NDR has been abused by factions of self-serving ANC cadres who have captured and transformed government and state institutions into networks of crime syndicates at the cost of these ideals.

Siweya rightly indicates that “people don’t eat history, they want to see their chair, their spot and their plate at the table too”. The problem remains that the chairs of ordinary people are in the gallery from where they watch the ANC cadres playing musical chairs around the dinner table. Former ANC Member of Parliament, Ben Turok (Businesslive, 14 November 2018), recently described this abuse as an “it’s our turn to eat” tendency among cadres. He asserts that this abuse has led to a situation in which inequality between black people is now greater than inequality overall, which past leaders of the ANC would not have, and currently do not, recognise as an advance to democracy.

The ANC factional narrative of President Ramaphosa being South Africa’s saviour deliberately overlooks the fact that Ramaphosa remains an ANC cadre who serves at the behest of a party controlled by Ace Magashule from Luthuli House. Like his predecessors Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma, he can be recalled by the party if he fails to tow the party line of whichever faction is in control. This is why, before the Constitutional Review Committee had concluded its public hearings on expropriation without compensation, Ramaphosa undermined Parliament by making the following comments on 31 July 2018: “The ANC reaffirms its position that the Constitution is a mandate for radical transformation both of society and the economy… Accordingly, the ANC will, through the parliamentary process, finalise a proposed amendment to the Constitution that outlines more clearly the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can be effected.”

Disillusioned ANCYL members like Siweya would like to believe that Ramaphosa has managed to “dock the ship that was sinking”. The problem is that ships are built for cruising, and under an ANC-run government the country will remain in a dry dock simply because the ANC has neither the fuel to start up the ship’s engines nor a navigator to steer it out of the dock. The cold reality is that the ANC remains firmly anchored to an ideologically based NDR agenda that is drafted in Luthuli House and implemented by a cadre president who is placed in the Union Buildings at the behest of the party. The shelf-life of voter’s historical and emotional attachment to the ANC’s revolutionary liberation identity has become depleted.

The ANC cannot self-correct, which is why the only realistic alternative is a new government that is not bound by out-dated ideology. Our country requires pragmatic leaders such as Mmusi Maimane who understand that transformation is not about whose turn it is to eat, but about the urgent need to transform the lives and livelihoods of ordinary citizens. DM

Roy Jankielsohn is a DA MPL and Leader of the Opposition in the Free State Legislature


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