South Africa


Carl Niehaus tables radical economic transformation plan ahead of Ace Magashule’s campaign for ANC president

Illustrative image | Former ANC spokesperson Carl Niehaus. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath) | ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sharon Seretlo) | Waldo Swiegers / Getty Images | Leila Dougan

Expect this document to get a lot of airtime in the run-up to the National General Council, despite it being full of holes. It sounds more like 1921 USSR than 2021 South Africa.

ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s lieutenant, Carl Niehaus, has published an eight-page document unpacking a vision of radical economic transformation (RET). It is likely to be tabled as a discussion document for the National General Council (NGC) where Magashule is expected to unveil his campaign to become ANC president.  

The NGC is a midpoint ANC meeting between elective conferences where it takes stock of how the party is doing. The meeting is expected to be held this year. 

*Niehaus, who told Daily Maverick on Monday his threatened suspension had been lifted,  has been working in Magashule’s office and running his campaigns using the MK Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA). 

The governing party’s next elective conference is still planned for 2022, and it is becoming clear that President Cyril Ramaphosa will face a challenge from the secretary-general. 

On Sunday, Rapport reported that Duduzane Zuma, the son of former president Jacob Zuma, had openly stated his wish to become South Africa’s president. The article did not say whether he planned to run on an ANC ticket or through another party.  

The document titled Radical Economic Transformation: A Basic Document amplifies the theme of white monopoly capital and calls for the mass nationalisation of industries including mines, insurance companies, steel and chemical companies (Sasol, ArcelorMittal and Evraz Highveld Steel are named), cement and construction companies. 

Radical Economic Transforma…


“This means that a few individuals should not own such companies, be they white or black – they should be owned by the state, for the benefit of the people as a whole,” says the document.  

It is a document that will be used as a rallying point and a progress report on whether or not certain ANC resolutions taken at its 2017 elective conference at Nasrec, Johannesburg, have been achieved.  

It says: “The ANC has passed resolutions along these lines, but there is no progress in implementation. The State Pharmaceutical Company and the State-Owned Mining Company, which should by now be owning at least 30% of all new mining operations in South Africa are examples.”   

The document is written in comparison with the 1955 Freedom Charter, when socialism was still a viable dream and with the ANC’s 1969 Strategy and Tactics document. It is written as if the ANC has not been in power for 27 years, a full generation. 

Written for the social media age of soundbites, Niehaus’s founding thesis is that nothing has changed in South African wealth and ownership patterns, which he argues are still white-dominated.  

“The ownership of the South African economy is diverse, but it is dominated by white-owned and controlled companies.”  

The state, run by the ANC for almost 30 years, is in fact responsible for roughly 30% of GDP and is the biggest employer, asset manager and land owner in the country. It has regulatory power in the economy through a plethora of black empowerment and black employment laws. It wields this power like a samurai wields his sword. 

Listed companies have shareholdings dominated by pension funds owned largely by black South Africans, and the Public Investment Corporation, which manages the funds of government employees, is the biggest domestic asset manager and therefore shareholder. 

The most recent research on the JSE is that foreign asset managers (largely pension funds from other countries) are the second-biggest group of investors, although this may have changed after South Africa’s investment grade rating was downgraded to “junk” status by the three major rating agencies.    

The asset management industry is, of course, not diverse by employment or ownership of the major firms, but the document does not acknowledge that the ultimate owners of what it calls “white monopoly capital” are often black pensioners.  

This is not reflected in Niehaus’s RET document, which advocates a mix of socialism and wealth transfer as the rallying point for a faction that is organising across South Africa and in ANC branches nationally. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has depressed the economy to its lowest level and unemployment to its highest in recent history, has created a fertile ground for the populist framing of the RET campaign. In this context, it uses race as an easy scapegoat for populist support-gathering.  

Niehaus also uses statistics as damned lies. For example, one of the document’s points is that, “In terms of poverty, 56% of individuals lived in poverty [on] less than R1,000 a month.”  

By income levels, that’s correct because of high unemployment, but it does not take account of the substantial social grants solidarity system which pays out 19 million grants to households, lifting household incomes.  

The document says, “These vested white monopoly capitalist interests also dictate which resolutions of the ANC are implemented… In so doing, they work closely with comrades in our movement which, when they arrive in government, turn against resolutions of the movement, [frustrating] their implementation… (an example is the nationalisation of the SA Reserve Bank).”  

In fact, the shareholders of the SA Reserve Bank shares earn a pittance in dividends and have no say in monetary policy. There is a widely held view that some are behind the lobby to nationalise to extort a higher price for their shares. 

In modern populist political campaigns, soundbite politics are often devoid of fact or truth. That is true for the RET document, which uses painful legacies of the past as tools to organise on behalf of a faction feeling the heat of reform and which also wants to get its hands back on the levers of power. DM

This article was amended on Monday 15 March, 2021 after Niehaus confirmed that he was no longer threatened with suspension and back on duty at Luthuli House.


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All Comments 41

  • I fear the author has taken the bait thereby lending credence to the RET faction. As everyone in the country knows, including Niehaus and Co. this is the politics of distraction (and intimidation). I reckon to keep the eye on the ball – along the lines of the final paragraph: villainy.

  • Let’s see… the whites came to what became SA and found a people with no writing ,no permanent settlements no economy(apart from selling bits of animals) no infrastructure. What is the white man’s sin?

  • Why is this idiot and fraudster par excellence given any opportunity in the media? He is a nobody who lives in a crooked fantasy world and is full of hot air, vengeance, racism and hatred. A scumbag from the gutter like all his ilk.

  • I am not for or against nationalisation of the Reserve Bank and agree that an SA owned mining company that owns 30% of all new mining ventures should be in place. One question I have is if Reserve Bank shares give small dividends and a minority say in monetary policy, why do people buy the shares?

    • “An SA owned mining company”? Are you totally blind? The SOEs have brought the country to its knees and you want to add to it.

      • The State Owned Mining Company exists in two factions, African Exploration Finance and Mining Company, which has one or two small coal mines, and Alexcor the Diamond miner in Alexander Bay, neither of which are any great shakes and Alexcor in particular have a rather nasty track record.

    • ‘ In fact, the shareholders of the SA Reserve Bank shares earn a pittance in dividends and have no say in monetary policy.’

    • State owned strategic industries only work well in countries with functioning educated administrations and accountable democratically elected governments. Sadly we are not Norway.

  • Keep publishing the facts to expose this fake news. Ask the question why it is fine for the San and Khoi to be dispossessed by those coming down from up North, or indeed whether whites were not returning home to the cradle of human kind!!?
    Exposes how ridiculous this angle is.

  • One can understand why the Robin Hood wannabe ignored the last 27 years. It is because everyting the state has touched has turned into sewarage and drifted down the Vaal River.

  • I think if anyone had the time and inclination to strip this down point by point, it would not stand up to any Std 8 level academic reasoning.
    Typed in US English , and with no editing whatsoever it wouldnt gain the author much more than a Std 6 mark.
    Example, Evraz highveld has not made any steel for at least 5 years that I know of and in fact is decaying rapidly.
    His repetition of statistics is annoying.
    I have more things to do with my time.

  • That they even think this would find traction in ANC anywhere is more disturbing cos it confirms how braindead the elite think the proletariat is, even within its own party. If ACE wants to be elected he needs to find a few more marbles than demonstrated here.

  • We run the risk, in our white huddle, of underestimating the threat to our national life presented by this rabid ret faction. The simmering discontent among our young, hopeless, angry havenots is already manifesting in widespread protests of all kinds. It is a ripe situation for these vested-interest demagogues – irrespective of the lies embodied in their arguments. Remember Paris 1789, Moscow 1917, Berlin 1932….

  • Do not underestimate the threat posed by this stupidity. We must also expose it.

    “An example is SASOL; it is about 30% foreign-owned largely by Europeans and Americans.” Until 1979 it was 100% owned by the SA Government. Listed on the NYSE in 2003. Today, private investors own 4.2%. Where is WMC?

  • Has anyone thought about over population ? How can people carry on having children when they have no means or thoughts of raising them, clothing, educating and nurturing them ? Are those that have practised discipline, foresight and planning to be punished and expected to support those that dont ?

    • Unfortunately John, that’s exactly what it is. If you look at the demographics of the world, the number of children per woman is in inverse proportion to the resources available to nurture them. The poorest countries have the highest birth rates.

    • I would like to see an article published here on DM on the subject of overpopulation in Africa. Check the world stats if you don’t like my use of “Africa”.

  • Having looted the existing SOE’s into bankruptcy this simple populist document is not very well disguised political cover for these corrupt ANC cadres to get their greedy hands on more wealth.

  • Interesting article. What a legacy old Carl is going to leave. Someone will start a cartoon similar to The Simpsons, featuring Carl. The main character will just have to be more cringeworthy and a lot more stupiterterterterter.

  • To adulterate Jane Austin ” It is a fact universally acknowledged that Carl Niehause is a despicable, contemptable little man, who has not a clue about economics or finance but is desperate to make a name for himself, other than that of course, of a fraudster.
    And as such is prepared to sprout forth his moronic ideas of how the economy should be run in a desperate attempt to have those as ignorant of the economic realities, actually believe like him.

  • What a lot of populist rubbish rhetoric ! Never mind the poor English and spelling mistakes.
    Problem is there are many, many people in RSA that would swallow this hook, line and sinker – mainly because they have very little to lose. However if Magashule gets in, we all have a lot to lose – ALL !

  • If anybody in the ANC takes Niehaus seriously, we really are in bigger trouble than we are already -impossible as it may seem. Thanks DM for spoiling my day!

  • This is absolute drivel posted by an incompetent brain dead cadre with blinkers. This is also the type of communistic and socialistic propaganda the Russian federation abandoned last millennium because it did not work. Carl should catch a wake up or go back to his padded cell.

  • So Niehaus is back on duty at Luthuli House. He must actually get a salary from the ANC? Job title is presumably “useful idiot” for the RET faction but this delusional fool probably thinks he will be in line for high office in a future Magashule government. Heaven help us.

  • Whatever is going on? From being thrown out to being the author of key campaign document? Carl Niehaus ‘ career has been full of strange twists and turns but this is truly weird. This alliance of desperados doesn’t bode good for South Africa.

  • In all these analysis no one mentions where the initial money , expertise , experience and capability came from in the first place . We should stop fingerprinting and entitlement and rather focus on building competence and a non corrupt moral compass – if not the future is bleak . Racism must stop !

  • Interesting, but Mr Niehaus ignores sound environmental governance. Perhaps an addendum, based on personal experience, testifying to how family deaths could be a lucrative, sustainable and radically innovative economic programme that he can oversee in Ace’s new government.

  • It’s quite evident that Ace Niehaus and Co. want to destroy what’s left of our country and steal the last few billions from the poor. A well orchestrated distraction by the Circus. Clever boys.

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