South Africa

ANALYSIS

ANC January 8th Statement: Promises, promises — but can they be kept?

Paul Mashatile, Premier Stan Mathabatha, President Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president David Mabuza and Gwede Mantashe cutting the cake at the ANC 110 anniversary held at the old Peter Mokaba stadium in Polokwane on 08 saturday January 2022. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Daily Maverick

While the official start of the 2022 political year, the ANC’s January 8th Statement, has been overshadowed by the Parliament fire and the release of the first part of the Zondo Commission report, it is clear the party is still hoping to set a tone for the year. And that the words and thoughts of the official document are a response both to last year’s local election results and the chaos within the party itself.

This matters. The ANC is still the only political party able to form a national coalition of interests in our country. But, despite the noble aims to improve service delivery, and work for unity, the road ahead for the movement is still strewn with self-constructed potholes. And the usual promises.

It is easy to forget that while it is the leader of the ANC who delivers the party’s annual January 8th Statement, Saturday’s speech by President Cyril Ramaphosa was in fact a statement of the ANC’s entire national executive committee. This means it is the entire NEC, with all members and factions, speaking as one voice. In this case, Ramaphosa suggested it had gone through a full 15 drafts before being published.

This suggests it has been thought through. It may also be hoped that its contents are the result of general broad agreement across the factions in the NEC. Of course, this may be a forlorn hope.

One of the major promises made by the NEC is to “build a social compact to decisively address unemployment and poverty”. The document suggests the compact would “set out the obligations and commitments of all social partners, government, business, labour and community”. This would then “address the burning challenge of youth unemployment”.

This appears to be in stark difference to the occasional studied silence of the ANC on the issue, and the absolute silence that greeted the last release of our unemployment figures.

That said, this is not a new promise.

Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign, ahead of the Nasrec elective conference, mentioned exactly the same idea, that of a “social compact”. It is now more than three years later and there has been no implementation of such a thing.

We could go back much further, to 2009, when the ANC promised to create jobs, particularly for young people.

So far, it has singularly failed to do so.

Ramaphosa has been President since 2018 and has not implemented such a compact, so the only reason he may now be able to do so is because he believes he has an increased mandate.

The ANC NEC also says: “We have undertaken several economic reforms in areas such as energy security, the efficiency of our ports, digital migration and access to broadband, and ease of doing business.”

This may be partially true.

It is true Ramaphosa has said companies will be able to use embedded generation to produce their own electricity and to sell the surplus they generate. But it has taken some time for this to be fully implemented.

While there have been announcements about massive investment in our ports, it is also true that Transnet has been hit by computer hackers and was for a period last year unable to process cargo at the usual rate.

And it is unlikely that most business organisations believe it has become much easier to do business.

While it is important for the ANC to make these promises, it is hard to see how they will be implemented — certainly to the extent that they will deal with the extent and scale of the problem.

Perhaps the most burning issue is a basic income grant (BIG), with pressure building for its introduction.

The NEC does refer to this, but very carefully, saying only “there is a clear need for some form of income support for unemployed and poor South Africans based on clear principles of affordability and sustainability”.

This is a statement, not a promise.

However, during her speech before Ramaphosa spoke on Saturday, Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi said it was the ANC that provides “free electricity” to the poor and “provides social grants to 27 million people”. This links to claims that many voters believe they could lose their social grants if the ANC is voted out of power. This claim is highly contested.

So urgent is the need for a BIG, and so brutal the politics around it (as many millions of voters stand to gain from it), it may be difficult for the ANC to avoid implementing some kind of measure before the 2024 elections. This may be one of the issues that allows the ANC to stay above 50% support level in those elections. This may mean the ANC wants to use the issue as a promise ahead of those polls.

Related to the issue of unemployment and jobs is the NEC’s statement that “transitioning to a low-carbon, ecologically friendly and socially sustainable economy presents opportunities to create jobs, inclusion and growth in sectors such as renewable energy, grid construction, manufacturing of renewable components, battery storage, green vehicles and green hydrogen while furthering our environmental protection objectives”.

This suggests, again, that the ANC believes the move towards greener energy is a huge opportunity for the country. And while he will deny it, some may see this as another rebuke for Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.

The NEC’s comments about recent events, the violence in July and perhaps the fire at Parliament (the SACP’s general secretary Blade Nzimande linked the two in his speech on Saturday) also suggests an important political view of the situation.

The statement says:These democratic gains are, however, threatened by a concerted effort to destroy the institutions of our democratic State, to erode the values of our Constitution and to undo the social and economic progress made. This worrying confluence of subverting actions is evinced by the blatant acts of state capture and criminality described in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, the concerted campaign of public violence and destruction that took place in July last year, as well as ongoing acts of wanton theft, destruction and obstruction of vital public and private infrastructure, including communication and logistical networks. 

Of course, there is no mention or speculation of who may be involved in doing this. And, for many, the finger of speculation may well point to people within the ANC itself. This is because it is they who have the most to lose from a fully functioning state — and particularly the party’s former leader and former president, Jacob Zuma, who, despite being sentenced to jail, has not lost his right to attend NEC meetings as an observer.

In a sense, this may be directly related to the party’s stated aim of renewing itself.

Key to this is the Zondo Commission report and the release of its first part at the start of the year.

As part of its response to this, the NEC states: “We will put in place mechanisms to process any parts of the commission report that pertain to the organisation, its deployees or members and to consider how the commission’s recommendations can help to enhance the fundamental renewal and rebuilding of our movement.”

This gets to one of the key political questions of this year. There are now several people in the NEC who are likely to have adverse findings against them in the final Zondo Commission report. These include the liar Malusi Gigaba, Nomvula Mokonyane, Mosebenzi Zwane and several others (there is a much longer list of people to peruse on this).

These are people who sit on the NEC, which issued this statement. And while some, such as Gigaba, have resigned from their Cabinet positions, they have not resigned from their positions on the NEC.

Former health minister Zweli Mkhize, while not implicated at the Zondo Commission, is another example. He resigned from Cabinet but retains his position on the NEC.

Will the ANC allow them to remain in their positions if they go on trial? Could it be that some are even elected back to the NEC at the party’s conference in December this year despite the very public evidence that has been seen against them.

The issue of the renewal of the ANC is now clearly an electoral issue, and it seems from this statement that the NEC understands this. This is why that phrase is mentioned so many times in the final document.

It is also possible that the ANC is about to start its campaign for 2024 now, because it knows how vulnerable it is (it should not be forgotten that the most likely outcome of that election is still for the ANC to retain power with one small coalition partner).

This also folds into what may be the other dominant story of the year, Ramaphosa’s bid for re-election as ANC leader. He is still the most popular politician in the country by far. However, so many promises have been made and broken in the past that it is hard to see the party making huge progress in dealing with these issues over the next 12 months.

Which may lead to the ANC promising, again, in a year’s time, to create jobs and to renew itself. DM

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All Comments 18

  • As you say Mr Grootes, promises, promises, promises, which of course remain futile messages unless acted upon, and we all know how poorly the governing party does in this respect. What will be interesting is whether the formidable challenges presented by the Zondo report, break( no proper response by the ANC) or make it( bring the miscreants to justice) We shall see!

  • Very good article Stephen. However, reality is that the ANC is paying voters through the tax payers to vote for them, simply because of social grants. Of course they will not keep to those promises, but the majority of ANC voters do not read, listen, or watch news reports of this nature, preferring the social gossip on either social media, cheap tabloid newspapers, or short 3 minute news bulletins on SABC media, ETV, or music radio stations, mostly about soccer results. Then there is the burning question, is there even remotely another party at this stage that can upstage the ANC? I for one do not believe so (and I already see the comments of die-hard DA supporters). Even if the ANC falls below 50%, they will still have the majority in pure numbers, and likely to have many smaller parties in support of a potential coalition government to push them above 50%. I am afraid the promises made today/yesterday was simply political waffle to 2000 attendees, and can be ignored in totality.

  • The crooks will, largely, suffer no great sanction. They will keep their NEC seats and defend themselves from losing power, to the death.
    One part of their defence is the BIG, translated into ANC-speak as ‘renewal’.
    And, I think, President Frogboiler, is not the benign, last honest man standing in the ANC but the architect of the ‘renewal’ campaign to retain power.
    Will he subdue the RET faction? Will the outcome of this struggle make any difference for SA in the long run?
    It’s a rocky road ahead.

  • We’ve listened to this hot air bulls*** for 28 years. Nothing happens and nothing changes. EVERYTHING is stuck in a quagmire. These people CANNOT make a decision about anything. The spectrum debacle runs into 15 or 16 years, ESKOM 20+ years, SAA 10+ years and on and on…..

    • Something happened and a lot has changed. Look at the dorpies especial in the free state and the north west. The real tangible change I have seen is the distruction of infrastructure, and increasing corruption. The status quo remains: the previously privileged are even more so, except for the few connected BEE comrades. The poor are getting even poorer and destitute.

      • That may seem so, but in fact most of the previously privileged middle class has their backs against the wall. The others have all left. The presently privileged middle class does not pay tax, and the political elite know nothing except how to gather tenders. Believe me, it’s not only the poor getting poorer. It’s all of us, except for the cadres.

  • Great grandstanding, like every year since 1994. With all good intentions yet there is no determination to deliver or how to implement and how to sustain. We are in a pickle!

  • neither the ANC nor government can create jobs – only business can and under the control freak legislation of the government this is extremely difficult. filling SOE’s with people is not job creation neither is the bloated uncivil non serving public service. local manufacture is closing down because it is cheaper to import and the thought of creating jobs via the new energy efficiency/climate challenge is way beyond the learning of the young of today. so government listen for once in your life – your function is to ENABLE business to operate – not choke it to death.

  • The ANC hierarchy detour round the twin craters in the road leading to the future, talking about all except the huge issue of deep corruption and criminality throughout the party and the abject failure of the twin pillars of ANC policies to date of cadre deployment and BEE, which between them have destroyed the economy, beggared the SOEs and killed off even the hope of improving unemployment.

    The hierarchy of the ANC is so far removed from reality, what it takes to run a modern economy, and with no idea what it takes to even run a company, have simply run out of road leaving a swathe of burnt tarmac in their wake.

    Stephen Grootes is sadly right when he states that they are the only party who realistically can summon enough support to run our country, but this says more about the quality of the electorate than the qualities of the ANC.

    It is very hard to discern even the roughest of dirt tracks that can take us to a better future.

    This is the depths to which the disgracefully corrupt and inept ANC has led us to; Ramaphosa owes it to us all, to gather with him sufficient competence – unlikely to be found solely from within the ranks of the ANC – to cobble together a lean, focussed cabinet, and to rid his party of all the dead-wood corrupts that has got us all into this deep, dark abyss, and here he needs to fully implement all that the Zondo Commission reveals is necessary. Leaving even one white ant remaining in the slimmed-down ANC structure will result in the whole being eaten from within.

  • I guess it’s necessary to analyse statements made by the ANC and its president, sorry, our president, but it is absolute folly to believe a word of it. It’s all just fiddle.

  • Stephen, the claims that grants are paid out by the ANC party are not just “high contested” they are patently untrue. It is tax payer money and any party in government would continue to make these payments. I know you know this and probably most of the readers of your column know this. Why can’t these claims be refuted and the peddlers of this misinformation be denounced in simple language. Tax payers pay grants, not the ANC, who can’t even pay their own staff…

  • This article provides a link to a recent paper by Jeremy Seekings. Extract below:
    6. Conclusion
    South African voters decide whether or not to vote for the incumbent ANC
    primarily on the basis of partisan identification, their assessment of the overall
    performance of the ANC government, and race. Receipt of a grant and general
    attitudes towards grants make little or no difference to this calculation. Whilst
    bivariate analysis suggested that receipt of a grant and attitudes towards grants
    do matter for voting intentions, the multivariate analyses showed that these
    correlations are the result of other factors and do not indicate a causal
    relationship. This finding corroborates the findings of studies by the CSDA/UJ
    team (Patel et al., 2014; Ismail and Ulriksen, 2017; Patel, Sadie and Bryer,
    2018).

    • Hi Stephen. Interesting comment you made. Two things: 1. How valid are those studies by now 2022, considering that grants have changed considerably over the last few years? 2. The studies itself, was it a market research survey, and how truthful will respondents be to such a question, especially people in rural areas?

      • Good Day Coen.
        I urge you to read at least the Abstract and the Conclusion of Seekings’ working paper. Then refer to Annexures A and B. The Abstract gives a concise summary of the paper. Seekings uses multivariate (as opposed to bivariate) analysis. The data are from Afrobarometer survey South Africa 2018. The survey questionnaires are set out in the Annexures. You are free to disagree but at least then give some constructive criticism of the design of the questionnaires and/or the method of analysis. Seekings uses a mutivariate model. Do you disagree with his analysis and, if so, why?

  • The ANC leadership has not yet realized that if they appoint honest, competent people to every position based on merit, service delivery will rapidly improve and with it the lives of all the people. The ANC will then be rewarded at the polls on a sustainable basis. The current inward focus on the party and rewarding its cadres is destroying the economy and leaving the vast majority of the population in poverty. This is completely unsustainable and no matter how impressive, all speeches do is kick the can down the road. At the Sunday Times presentation, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana, acknowledged that he knew and respected Rob Hersov, and much of Rob said in the Biznews video was true. So why not make SA investor / employer friendly? Fear of alliance partners ideology?

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