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There can be no renaissance for SA without abandoning the National Democratic Revolution


Paul Hoffman SC is a director of Accountability Now.

Step one towards the envisaged renaissance is the ending of the National Democratic Revolution as we know it in favour of a wholehearted embrace of the values of the Constitution. If the ANC is not up to the task, the long-suffering electorate, as an act of self-preservation, must vote the ANC into obscurity.

An op-ed article by Joel Netshitenzhe, “South Africa’s post-disaster choices: Social upheaval, Dictatorship or Renaissance?” (9 March), has been given appropriate prominence by Daily Maverick. The headline fairly summarises the content of the article.

Social upheaval and dictatorship are not palatable options for most South Africans. They took to the streets and malls with brooms and mops after the mini social upheaval in July 2021. With vim and vigour, they set about cleaning up the mess made by opportunists who had been egged on to loot and destroy by that ever-dwindling band of supporters of former president Jacob Zuma, after he was briefly jailed.

Zuma has contrived to await trial on charges of corruption, fraud, money laundering and racketeering that have been pending since 2005 when his financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was convicted for corrupting him. That conviction and the criminal charges against Zuma himself did not prevent him from leading the ANC for two full terms and the country from 2009 to 2018.

Shame on the ANC for electing (twice, nogal) a man who, on his own version of the rape charge he beat, is not the sort of person any self-respecting father would want his daughters to meet.

Dictatorship has been out of fashion in SA since PW Botha stopped wagging his finger at television cameras in 1989. Authoritarian rule does not suit the temperament of South Africans, we have not in the past and will not in the future tolerate it.

Renaissance in governance is all that remains for South Africa in the analysis proffered by Netshitenzhe.

During the term of office of the Tripartite Alliance led by the ANC (in which the SA Communist Party and Cosatu are the minor partners), there have in fact been three major disasters — the two officially declared in respect of the pandemic and the lack of electricity supply, and a third, best described as the disaster attributable to endemic and systemic serious corruption with impunity.

The State Capture Commission considered this third disaster for several years, heard reams of evidence and produced a thorough report in which the ANC is identified as the major culprit in an exercise that cost about R1-billion.

Its practice of cadre deployment is identified in that report as a major cause of serious corruption. The Chief Justice characterises it as “illegal and unconstitutional”, but the President persists in defending and prolonging the pernicious practice despite his government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the commission, one of which is to outlaw and end cadre deployment.

One thing everyone can agree on is that corruption will continue unabated while the various forms of cadre deployment in use by the ANC — to this day — are allowed to continue. There can be no renaissance while systemic and endemic corruption is allowed in SA.

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Merit-based appointments

Why then does the ANC persist with its corrosive cadre deployment practices in the face of the findings and recommendations of the State Capture Commission? Why does it oppose the court case of the DA which seeks to have the practice declared illegal? Why can’t merit-based appointments swiftly become the order of the day as envisaged by the Public Service Commission?

Why can’t the ANC respect and implement the existing judicial precedent on the topic of cadre deployment, which, no surprise, declares it illegal and unconstitutional?

The answer to all these questions is that the ANC persists in being guided by the tenets of its National Democratic Revolution (NDR) in the formulation of policy, the appointment of public servants and the engagement of staff for public enterprises.

All aspects of the NDR that are inconsistent with the Constitution are invalid and liable to be struck down as such. Hence, the DA’s litigation in which judgment is pending. Without deployed cadres loyal to the revolution there can be no NDR. It is as simple as that.

The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Politicians swear to uphold it, public servants and SOE employees are bound by it and are required to faithfully execute the lawful policies of the government of the day.

The rule of law (also supreme under section 1 of the Constitution) is there to ensure that the supremacy of the Constitution is enforced through the impartial and independent courts of the land. The NDR’s many and varied inconsistencies with the Constitution have been described before and need not detain us now.

The point is that for the renaissance to commence, the NDR has to be abandoned. Professor Kader Asmal, an architect of the Constitution and a Cabinet member in the Mandela and Mbeki eras, called for the abandonment of the NDR from within the ANC.

FW de Klerk grumbled that he did not sign up for the NDR when the Constitution became our supreme law. He had a point. The NDR strives for hegemonic control of all levers of power in society (society, mark you, not only government), while the Constitution expressly contemplates a multiparty democratic system with regular free and fair elections; a system in which there is openness, accountability and responsiveness.

Notoriously, the cadre deployment committees meet in secret in smoke-filled back rooms at Luthuli House to select their loyal cadres for deployment in all manner of positions.

In contradistinction, the Constitution embraces the rule of law, the separation of powers, checks and balances on the exercise of power and it establishes six Chapter Nine institutions to bed down constitutionalism in the hearts and minds of the populace.

It envisages a free press, a state which respects, protects, promotes and fulfils the justiciable human rights guaranteed to all in the Bill of Rights and an impartial and independent judiciary.

It requires that the procurement of goods and services by the state be effected in accordance with a system that is fair, equitable, transparent, cost-effective and competitive. In short, a system that is not Gupta-infested. It has values and principles for the public administration (C195) that are incompatible with cadre deployment

It would appear to be the reluctance of the Cabinet, and indeed the ANC, to follow the advice of the good professor that is at the heart of the pushback against the ending of cadre deployment and with it the abandonment of the NDR.

A startling omission

The fact that there is no mention at all of the NDR, cadre deployment and the illegal attachment of the ANC-led alliance to the tenets of the NDR in the essay by Netshitenzhe, is a startling omission in the three scenarios he paints.

The destruction of the South African polity is assured if the NDR is not abandoned or radically adjusted, whether this leads to social upheaval after the lights go out, or dictatorship of some kind after life in SA becomes the “nasty, brutish and short” affair Thomas Hobbes sketched in Leviathan.

Step one towards the renaissance envisaged is accordingly the ending of the NDR as we know it in favour of a wholehearted embrace of the values of the Constitution. If the ANC is not up to the task, the long-suffering electorate, as an act of self-preservation, must vote the ANC into obscurity.

It needs to be recorded that Netshitenzhe has been described by serious journalists as the ANC’s “ultimate ideologue” and its “chief spin doctor”. He was on its National Executive Committee until 2022 and his failure to be re-elected at Nasrec 2 is described by new Secretary-General Fikile Mbalula as a big problem. He is quoted as saying: “This is a big problem for me that a strategist like him [Netshitenzhe] does not make it into the NEC.”

Whether Netshitenzhe’s failure to mention the ravages of the NDR on SA is a strategic omission or spin-doctoring for the ANC remains to be seen.

The second urgent and necessary step towards a renaissance is the reform of the criminal justice administration’s capacity to deal with serious corruption in all the forms in which it has systemically and endemically manifested itself since the liberation of the country from the yoke of apartheid. There is up to R3-trillion in loot to be recovered for the benefit of the country.

The Arms Deal and various other procurements by the state could be set aside and the public money misspent could be recovered to address poverty, inequality and joblessness. The current prosecutors and the Hawks are not up to the tasks involved in prosecuting serious corruption based on expert and successful investigations.

Moeletsi Mbeki has observed that colonialism enabled the colonists to exploit the people and resources of SA, and apartheid did the same for Afrikaners, while the NDR enabled its cadres to follow suit. Many debased cadres regard their looting and corruption as an entitlement flowing from the NDR.

This is often called the “it’s our turn to eat” syndrome which, according to recent reports, has even reached Eskom. It is only through reform of the law that this cycle can be ended in favour of the proper, sustained and whole-hearted embrace of the form of constitutionalism reflected in the Constitution and supported by the vast majority of South Africans, not only in 1994 but to this day.

A new Chapter 9 institution

On 17 March, and by invitation, Accountability Now will orally suggest to the Constitutional Review Committee of the National Assembly that the best practice reform is to establish, as a matter of urgency, a new Chapter 9 institution with a mandate to prevent, combat, investigate and prosecute serious corruption.

The written part of the submission has been with Parliament and the executive branch of government since August 2022 and is publicly available. The draft legislation required to mend the defects in the capacity of the state to counter the corrupt was made available to the government in August 2021.

The ending of cadre deployment (especially in key SOEs, the education sector and healthcare) and the termination of the impunity enjoyed by the seriously corrupt in business and in government are key to the success of the renaissance that SA so badly needs.

An honest and meritocratic new order for SA, in which pragmatism replaces the outdated ideology of the NDR is possible if the necessary vision and political will can be generated.

One wonders how Netshitenzhe can suggest a renaissance without mentioning cadre deployment and the NDR’s chilling effects on sensible reform. Interestingly, the (US) Microsoft Word spell-checker of his surname Netshitenzhe is “Anesthetize”. Other spin doctors and ideologues must be consumed with jealousy at this subtle form of nominative determinism.

History will show that the ideology of the NDR and its cadre deployment practices are at the root of the disaster relating to Eskom and to the other disastrous effects (exacerbated poverty, moral bankruptcy, greylisting and economic decline) of serious corruption with impunity.

The first draft of this history is in the State Capture Commission report.

South Africa ignores its exposition of the corruption-related facts at its peril, as Netshitenzhe correctly shows in his analysis, without mentioning NDR ideology or its cadres. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Confucious Says says:

    The older I get, them more I realise that the anc is just not ready for the Constitution. It doesn’t allow for chiefs and and self-believed importance. The fact that everybody is equal does not sit well with the kings and self-entitled.

  • david clegg clegg says:

    Good article, although I’m not sure many people in the ANC will read it. I would merely add that the tripartite alliance, which under the leadership of the ANC is the enabler of the NDR (but not itself unconstitutional, I think), must also be consigned to the scrapheap. In other words, destroy both the blueprints and the delivery system.

  • Andrew Spagnoletti says:

    Viewed a short video. Singapore success: 3rd world to 1st world country, which is relevant to the above. Around for some time, the presenter uses the acronym MPH
    Meritocracy: Best people for the job, not family and friends.
    Pragmatism: quote from late leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1960s – “Black cat or white cat, if it can catch mice, it’s a good cat.”
    Honesty: Corruption – punish the senior people, not the juniors.

    I think someone should create the MPH party.

  • David Walker says:

    The best place for the ANC to self-correct is from the safety of the opposition benches. To save ourselves and our country, we must vote them out.

  • Robert Pegg says:

    As with all political parties with communist tendencies they stay in power by keeping the masses ignorant. The masses who vote for the ANC do so because they are afraid of losing the benefits paid to them and afraid of change. Better the devil you know is the case in point.

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