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Opinionista

Roll on 2024 — the emperor has no clothes, and the cupboard is bare

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Ghaleb Cachalia is an MP in the National Assembly and the DA spokesperson on Public Enterprises. He serves on the Ethics Committee in Parliament.

Six often-contradictory economic plans over nearly 30 years of ANC hegemony have brought us to the edge of the fiscal cliff, facilitated a tit-for-tat race-driven elite mired in ongoing corruption and mismanagement — resulting in 44.4% of the labour force being without work.

Now that the dust has settled on the local government elections, let me reveal a brief encounter in the run-up to the vote. I had taken a quick break from election duties — souvlaki on the go at lunchtime — when a close relative walked into the takeaway restaurant: “Aren’t you busy with elections” he quips and adds in quick succession, “I’ll be campaigning in Ekurhuleni this weekend, you know I’m on the NEC now.”

Well, the ANC in Ekurhuleni has fallen from just under 50% to around 38%. To place the decline in perspective, the self-proclaimed successor to the liberation movement garnered 62% of the votes in the municipality in 2011.

Fascinating, particularly from a man who once sought to stem the malfeasance and corruption that has contributed in no small way to the continued electoral misfortunes of the ANC — resulting in his ejection from the ANC Gauteng legislature because he wouldn’t accede to multi-million rand deals that were initiated when Paul Mashatile was in charge of the province. Cancelling the motorsports contracts alone saved R700-million.

To his credit, he also removed Mashatile’s appointees in badly run agencies like Blue IQ and the Liquor Board. I wonder how he is feeling now that the results are plain for all to see? Still, despite misgivings and untoward experiences within a party that is riddled with factions vying for their “time to eat”, there appear to be some, hitherto untainted by graft — but sold on the policies of the ANC — who still believe in what the post-liberation party has to offer. Surely, the time has come, in view of the results, to question this?

Mashatile is now ANC treasurer-general — the same man who was seen handing out money recently to congregants in Limpopo, where he was campaigning door-to-door. Both were in full swing as NEC members — feverishly canvassing votes for the party. Clearly, the broad church of the ANC encompasses both those who dole out 30 pieces of silver and those who railed against such disbursements. Both are united in ensuring that enough votes are garnered by a party mired, many would say irredeemably, in mismanagement, malfeasance and corruption, to ensure their municipal hegemony — something that appears not to be lost on the voters.

A continuance of government by the ANC in key municipalities — Ekurhuleni in particular, where the ANC under Mzwandile Masina (a Zuma man to the core) led the metro as mayor — will continue to cement the non-delivery of basic services to residents brought about by anarchy and chaos, an environment of patronage, infighting, factionalism and a disrespect for governance.

Regardless of the collapse of statist monopolies, the embedded opportunities for corruption in cadre deployment, concomitant mismanagement and the patent miscarriage of BEE to address the upliftment of broad sectors of historically disadvantaged people, some are as yet unwilling to cut the umbilical cord with the diseased body of the mother of all failures.

Will the feckless faithful still cling to the umbilical cord that binds them to the party? The answer proffered over the ordering of a bifteki (Greek burger) was: the ANC is the only party with a history and attendant policies that is able to stem a slide to the right, that has delivered, that champions the racial redress of affected people, and that has historically been true to this mission.

Really? The historical narrative trotted out by the ANC that attempts to present itself as the sole and decisive organisation that delivered our post-apartheid democratic dispensation is fatally flawed and fails to recognise the various strands of struggle and circumstance which combined to bring down apartheid.

In his memoirs, Tony Leon observes that the history of the Progressive Party is not that of a “pristine political priesthood”, but of a political party that had to make “pragmatic ideological compromises in order to stay competitive and relevant”.

Moreover, the assertion that the ANC is the only party with a history and acceptable policies is untenable. The trajectories of the parties and movements in opposition to apartheid often followed parallel paths, differentiated by nuanced political and philosophical differences and the race-based access to the legislature.

There were moments of cooperation and points of divergence, but the collective opposition to the status quo by the ANC, Liberal Party, Progs, PAC, Unity Movement, IFP, Indian Congresses, Communist Party, UDF and others, was never in particular question — until 1994 when a new dispensation was being forged and the various parties began to contest for a share of the votes that would provide them with the wherewithal to govern and stamp their Weltanschauung on society. That’s when the ANC went into mop-up mode and the narrative of the only knight in shining opposition was hatched — armed propaganda in the ANC’s own speech.

Additionally, the claim that the ANC was wholly responsible for the deliverance of democracy is historically false, and worse it is swallowed holus-bolus by many including those who are unable to cut the umbilical cord referred to.

That the ANC and its fellow-travellers — reconstituted, regurgitated, resolute and reunited, you might say, in their diversity — continue to believe that ANC policies over almost 30 years have delivered on that hackneyed phrase, “a better life for all”, is astounding.

Here are the facts: the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) was introduced by the ANC in 1994 as a comprehensive framework that championed the precepts of the Freedom Charter — it was abandoned after two years because of “inadequate capital to finance it and the inability of the public administration to implement it”.

The Growth, Employment, and Redistribution framework (Gear) was then proposed as a successive policy blueprint. It was only moderately successful in achieving some of its goals, but was hailed as laying an important market-driven foundation for future economic progress. It was abandoned in favour of AsgiSA — the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa — which sought to reduce unemployment and poverty by 2014, in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals. Despite some successes, unemployment and poverty, however, remained unchanged or worsened after the adoption of AsgiSA by the government. 

This was succeeded by the New Growth Path (NGP), aimed at enhancing growth, employment creation and equity by creating five million jobs over the next 10 years. The National Development Plan (NDP), which built on the NGP, was introduced in 2012. As a policy blueprint, it focused on economic development to curb the problems of inequality, unemployment, redistribution and poverty. It aimed to create at least 11 million jobs by 2030 and to banish income-driven poverty and inequality. The reality, however, is that South Africa is one of the world’s most unequal countries, with a Gini coefficient of 63.0.

Then came Radical Economic Transformation (RET). RET gained popularity after it was proclaimed by former president Jacob Zuma in his January 2017 ANC speech as the next panacea. Statements issued on RET honed in on issues of inclusive economic growth, land redistribution and dealing with white monopoly capital tendencies.

Now we have Rudi Dicks as the power behind Cyril Ramaphosa’s recovery plan. Dicks says books by Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Friedrich Engels shaped his world view while studying at the University of Cape Town. Despite this 19th century, state-driven economic grooming, Dicks says, “I see capital as an important part of the developmental agenda for the state. I see markets operating alongside… public service delivery. And I see where markets are more efficient and can deliver.”

Well there you have it, six often-contradictory plans over some 30 years that have brought us to the edge of the fiscal cliff, facilitated a tit-for-tat race-driven elite mired in ongoing corruption and mismanagement — resulting in 44.4% of the labour force being without work in the second quarter, up from 43.2% in the first quarter of this year.

But as always, it is conveniently argued that these failures are external to the ANC and that their genesis harks back to the colonial era and its warped successor, apartheid. Little mention is made of the almost 30 years of ANC hegemony, which albeit in the face of historical challenges, and on the receiving end of much assistance provided by the enduring financial and social goodwill of the world, has delivered the country to the verges of a failed state where citizens are unable to rely on the state for protection, where joblessness is approaching 50% of the labour force, where corruption emanating from those in key positions of responsibility continues unabated.

The tragedy and common thread are that both the past and the present have been characterised by extractive economic policies, race-based policies and nationalist solutions.

When Helen Zille opined that current race laws outnumber those that were in place during apartheid, a furore erupted. James Myburgh has since pointed out in a lengthy article in BizNews, “Zille’s remark was certainly implausible and hyperbolic. But as it turns out, she was not [far] wrong”.

According to Myburgh, by one count the ANC incorporated racial requirements into 90 acts of Parliament, excluding the Constitution. As he says, “a web of binding racial requirements through constitutional provisions, legislation, white papers, regulations, charters, and party resolutions… sought to advance through the different stages of the revolution… the goal of pure racial proportionality, everywhere”.

So much for history, delivery and a better life for all — still, there’s time to refocus and reconsider, even as the offending apostles in the broad church of the ANC and disciples loyal to some fiction band together in the preservation of perversity.

The road to 2024 begins now. DM

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  • “Well there you have it, six often-contradictory plans over some 30 years that have brought us to the edge of the fiscal cliff, facilitated a tit-for-tat race-driven elite mired in ongoing corruption and mismanagement — resulting in 44.4% of the labour force being without work in the second quarter, up from 43.2% in the first quarter of this year.” A perfect summary of the anc rule in SA. Aluta continua?

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