Opinionista Lebo Keswa 29 September 2014

Dear ANC, stop apologising for winning freedom

Since coming into power in 1994, the ANC under Mandela learnt the art of being a party full of apologies. It apologises for its power and its leadership role in society.

This culture of apology in the ruling party is why, only after twenty years, there is talk of the second phase of the transition.

This culture of apology is why an agenda of implementing the Freedom Charter is hijacked by the likes of the EFF.

These apologies have taken various forms. Today I will focus on four main apologies that were essentially crafted at CODESA, namely:

Apology number 1: We are sorry for implementing redress.

Apology number 2: We are sorry for being the leaders of the economy.

Apology number 3: We are sorry for being the owners of the land and all its minerals.

Apology number 4: We are sorry for governing and writing the Constitution.

1: We are sorry for implementing redress.

If there is one policy that the ANC has been made to apologise for, it is the question of affirmative action and black economic empowerment. Affirmative action has been a singular failure over the last twenty years.

Various independent reports have exposed how despite attempts to introduce affirmative action across society, over 60 percent of new appointments and promotions went to white people.

If you don’t believe me, at least believe KPMG, who released a report to that effect back in 2009. This situation has not changed at all. Despite this glaring evidence that affirmative action has not affected white people adversely, the ANC is still made to apologise for this policy. Recently the DA rejected the amendments to the employment equity legislation in Parliament as part of reinforcing this apology.

The ANC is already being asked when affirmative action is ending – when in fact, according to all indications, it has not even begun benefiting black people in any significant way. The same goes for BEE. This poor concept is already being demonised before it can even take off properly.

2. We are sorry for owning the economy

The question of capitalism is one of the biggest apologies of our movement. Every indication from position papers drafted by our leaders all over the world and in exile point to radical economic policies that approximated the wishes of the Freedom Charter.

But since coming to power, the ANC has been made to apologise for its approximation of socialism or socialist-like policies that would accelerate economic development. From the radical intentions of the Freedom Charter, the apology has taken the form of the RDP, then Gear, and everything from there was nothing but an apology for owning the economic levers of power.

It is clear that with growth now hovering at about two percent, that apology is bearing bad fruit. The elites in the ANC, of course, could not be bothered: R30 billion has been easily siphoned from the economy through corruption, giving a hint at the reason for all this apologising – it does not hit many elites in the pocket.

Meanwhile, small businesses – 200,000 of them – went down in 2010/11 alone, due to government inefficiency and late payments, while the powers that be continue to apologise, and once again hand over the radical narrative to the likes of the EFF. One of the government’s own, Thami Sokutu, summarised this apology apty: Fuck the poor. The ANC has flipped the bird to the poor far more than Floyd Shivambu ever did to Cyril Ramaphosa. This middle finger is the apology for owning the economy.

3. We are sorry about the land of our ancestors

All indications are that the land redistribution has been a phenomenal letdown. Only a paltry seven percent has been redistributed in 1994, and the big apology can be known as the ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ policy. In other words, those who so wish can partake in correcting the terrible effects of the atrocious 100-year Land Act. Those who wish to continue enjoying their ill-gotten gains, however, can do so with impunity.

This apology is fortunately coming to an end, and we look forward to it being reversed, with the reopening of the claims. The ANC has for the last 20 years been apologising, essentially being sorry for saying to white people: “Look, this land you are occupying belongs to all who live in it: black and white, and look, your ancestors essentially stole this land.” They have left the difficult narrative to the EFFs of this world, who have led the pack in not apologising for having land stolen from them.

4. We are sorry for writing such a progressive Constitution.

The last few weeks have seen the ANC being sorry they ever wrote the Constitution.

This Constitution requires them to respect the Chapter 9 institutions. The conduct of the key leaders of the ANC reveals a big apology for writing a document that will see them eating humble pie.

They have to admit that the Public Protector is doing her job. The ANC now has plenty of opportunity to be sorry there is a Constitutional and not a Parliamentary system. It has apologised plenty for being at the mercy of the Constitution. The ANC government has had too many eggs in the face at the hands of the courts, and the president has had too many decisions turned down by the courts, too. This is a huge apology that the ANC is now leading. As we speak, the president is questioning the powers that the Constitution accords the Public Protector – let us remember that this is not the first Public Protector, by the way, but the first with the balls to take on the establishment without fear. The predecessors were an excuse for the role of protecting the public.

As it goes towards the NGC, the ANC must stop apologising and intervene urgently to reduce unemployment and poverty. The days of apologising for such state intervention in the economy have passed. If it means partnering with the EFF to change the Constitution, let it be! The issue of landlessness is a ticking time bomb. The issue of land cannot be left in the hands of rogue elements, but must be part of stopping the CODESA apology, and reverse the sunset clauses whose time came and went.

So here is my heartfelt plea. Dear beloved ANC, saying “sorry” doesn’t mean much to me from you anymore. Promises don’t mean much either. Apologies don’t erase the hurt, stop the tears, or delete the painful memories. Sorry doesn’t create jobs, feed the poor, provide land, make us leaders in the economy or make us owners of the land and all it’s minerals… It just doesn’t.

Promises don’t mean anything, especially when they’re constantly broken. Breaking up is hard to do, and ANC, you mean so much to me – I can’t stand the thought of losing you. But lately, I can’t think of anything but the fact that all you ever say is sorry.

The ANC has to stop saying sorry – and do something! DM

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