Defend Truth


The aims of the National Democratic Revolution are not inimical to the Constitution


Chrispin Phiri is spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Correctional Services.

The National Democratic Revolution offers a comprehensive approach to transforming our society, with the economic liberation of the underprivileged and marginalised being a cornerstone of this vision.

The National Democratic Revolution (NDR) has recently been a topic of debate, with some arguing that it threatens the Constitution. One such argument comes from advocate Paul Hoffman, who suggests that separating the NDR from the Constitution could prevent potential disaster.

While Hoffman’s views are widely available online, it is important to approach them cautiously. Propaganda often repeats falsehoods to create the perception of truth, and this argument may be guilty of the same tactic.

Hoffman’s argument relies heavily on an appeal to authority, citing the views of the late Kader Asmal as evidence in favour of separating the NDR from the Constitution. It is telling that Hoffman fails to provide an actual quote from Asmal to support this claim. This omission is significant and raises questions about the validity of the argument.

This is a fatal flaw in his argument because the direct quote from Asmal shows up as Hoffman’s strawman.

Asmal’s response to Hoffman’s question about the relevance of the NDR is clear. He believes that the real revolution is supporting the Constitutional order, and the outdated notions of revolution are not only irrelevant but also give young people the wrong idea. Asmal does not think NDR is offensive or harmful, as Hoffman claims, Asmal thought the NDR is outdated. In his own words he does not suggest it is inimical to the Constitution, as Hoffman purports.

To quote Asmal, “I believe that the National Democratic Revolution is an outdated, outmoded description of our work in a democracy, because what’s the revolution for? The real revolution is support for the Constitutional order; that’s the revolution. The National Democratic Revolution was the decolonisation of South Africa. The important thing here is that we have not got over the old system of how we vote along racial lines and that is crucially an additional reason why the principles of the Constitution are very important as is a sense of a transcending constitutional state that has largely displaced the NDR and enjoys greater legitimacy.”

It is important to note that Hoffman’s understanding of the NDR suggests that it aims to secure hegemonic control of the levers of power in society in South Africa, which is problematic reasoning.

The NDR aims to build a South Africa that is free from discrimination. A South Africa that is democratic and prosperous. The path to achieving this vision is empowering the historically marginalised black majority in general, specifically Africans in particular. The principles outlined here differ starkly from those upheld by the apartheid regime.

The primary objective of the NDR is to transform South African society into one that no longer embodies the hallmarks of a specific type of colonialism. This transformation is characterised by the historical oppression of select races and genders, land expropriation, and a small group of white male oligarchs monopolising our mineral-industrial-complex economy.

Adopting the Constitution does not eliminate the dominant and oppressive grip of apartheid. Unfortunately, our society remains drastically divided along racial lines, with levels of inequality that are unmatched worldwide. Moreover, it is disheartening that poverty still disproportionately affects black African women.

As Pallo Jordan argues and points out, the liberation movement aims to unite all colonised individuals, transcending the boundaries of ethnicity, race, language, and culture. Rather than forcing assimilation into a singular entity, the movement embraced diversity as a strength instead of a cause for conflict. This is evident in South Africa’s national motto, “Unity in Diversity”.

Jordan notes that the ANC’s strategy is to unite diverse ethnic, racial, linguistic, and cultural groups under a common home territorially determined as their country.

D for Democracy

The principles of a democratic society that we aim for are clearly articulated in the foundational documents of the ANC, which include the African Claims, the Women’s Charter, the Freedom Charter, and the Strategy and Tactics document. These principles are also reflected in our nation’s Constitution.

R for Revolution

Prof Asmal took issue with one specific component of the NDR – the revolution. To this end, one sees a literal reading of the word revolution. The literal reading is misplaced. In the case of South Africa, the fundamental conflict at play is the struggle between national oppression and national liberation.

As such, the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) represents a gradual process of societal transformation aimed at achieving the objectives outlined in the preamble of our Constitution and various developmental plans over the years from the RDP – NDP to date.

Creating substantial change requires a systematic approach and unwavering determination. Collaboration across all sectors and levels is necessary to make a significant impact.   

Our National Democratic Revolution programme identifies crucial objectives and domains of influence that will facilitate economic expansion, development, and fair distribution while promoting global transformation.

The NDR has indeed been linked to cadre deployment, which has unfortunately been misused in the past. Despite this, striving to transform the state bureaucracy strategically is important. The original design of the bureaucracy was meant to reinforce racism and patriarchy, but we must work towards imbuing it with the values of our Constitution.

To accomplish this, enlisting individuals with a particular skill set who can help us reimagine South Africa may be necessary. History has shown us that this is a challenging task, but it is not impossible.

It is important to note that the NDR cannot be used to justify appointments of people who lack the necessary skills or integrity to prosecute the mission of reconstructing South Africa. While maladministration and corruption are legitimate concerns, dismissing the NDR is not a viable solution.

Instead, it is crucial to ensure that the programme is implemented effectively and transparently, with a keen eye on rooting out any corruption or malfeasance. Only by doing so can we achieve the transformative change that the NDR seeks to bring about.

Hoffman draws attention to some important policies in his citation of the Free Market Foundation’s CEO. Let’s take a closer look at them briefly.

Expropriation without compensation:

As per Section 25(8) of the Constitution, the state can implement legislative and other measures to address land, water, and related reform without any hindrance from any provision of this section. The aim is to rectify the impact of past racial discrimination, provided that any deviation from the provisions of this section is in line with section 36(1).

According to the opinion piece below by advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC and advocate Michael Bishop, this section allows property expropriation without compensation. This suggests that the ANC’s land reform policy complies with the Constitution.

National Health Insurance:

Section 27(1)(a) of the Constitution enshrines the right for EVERYONE to have access to healthcare and puts an onus on the state to take legislative and other measures to ensure this right is fulfilled. Currently, the state spends the same amount of money servicing 84% of the country’s population as the private sector spends servicing the remaining 16%. This is grossly unequal and contributes to the problems in our healthcare system. The NHI seeks to provide more equal access to those who use state facilities by bridging the gap between the private and public healthcare systems. Again, this is fundamentally constitutional in its nature.

Employment Equity and Broad Based Economic Empowerment:

As per Section 39 of the Constitution, there are certain guidelines that must be followed when interpreting it. Regrettably, the South African economy still bears the marks of structural racial inequality, which directly contradicts the Constitution’s fundamental principle of equality. While all South Africans have a right to be treated equally, not all are fortunate enough to be born under the same circumstances.

Due to the country’s history, significant economic and opportunity disparities exist based on race, with many black individuals not enjoying the same opportunities as their fellow citizens and, therefore, not enjoying true equality.

In order to promote equality and fairness for all, the BBBEE (Employment Equity) policy was created to answer the question of substantive equality. However, there have been unfounded accusations that this policy discriminates against certain groups, like those of Indian or coloured descent. It is important to address these accusations promptly and clearly state that the policy’s objective is to promote equality, not impede it.

It is worth noting that Hoffman overlooks the social and economic obstacles confronting our society, a predictable outcome, nonetheless. On the other hand, the ANC has made tangible progress towards addressing these concerns through its policies and initiatives.

The NDR offers a comprehensive approach to transforming our society, with the economic liberation of the underprivileged and marginalised being a cornerstone of this vision.

Sadly, the economy remains in the hands of a select few white individuals, and the ANC looks to remedy this by implementing pragmatic state-led interventions.

Despite a recent dip in electoral support, the ANC remains the most legitimate means of bringing about social and economic change in our country. The ANC recognises the challenges ahead as we approach the next election; however, securing an absolute majority in 2024 has never been more crucial, as the goal of the NDR, a national democratic society, is on the line. DM

Chrispin Phiri writes in his personal capacity. 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Concerned Citizen says:

    Maybe just watch the interview with Alec Hogg and Anthea Jeffery about the NDR on Biznews on Youtube

  • Rod H MacLeod says:

    Let’s be honest here.

    The ANC has now had 29 years of absolute power during which the basics have not really changed. We still lag the world in terms of population literacy. And on top of that, as the average age in this country is less than 28, fully more than 50% of our population have never lived a single year under apartheid, so isn’t it about time to stop pulling that hoary old chestnut out of the fire?

    The SA state is now officially the biggest employer, if you add the SOEs to the administration, being in the enviable position of employing more than 50% of our employed population. So what are you doing about their lot, other than grossly overpaying for largely incompetent and corrupt service delivery?

    Whatever you might say, in reality on the ground employment and BBEEE practices discriminate badly against the Asian and Coloured communities, and are hopelessly anti-white, as is your paper above.

    You ANC guys talk a lot and in a rather weird way use wonderfully colonial expressions in your arguments. Also, Johnny Walker Blue and Green, Armani, Gucci, Mercedes Benz, Bentley and champagne are all eurocentric colonial brands that are well known to your fellow cadres.

    At the end of the day, you have done very little to uplift the lot of black people in this country. Your idea of equality is not to lift all to a higher standard, but rather to lower all to the lowest common denominator. In that, I must hand it you, you as the ANC are succeeding in leaps and bounds.

  • Ian McGill says:

    Again, a plea for SA to be considered “special” and a victim of the most devastating imposed social order…. Unfortunately, not supported by a look at history. The NDR is a cold-war Soviet fantasy whose aim is for THE PARTY to dictate and control every aspect of human life. It is every politician’s dream to dictate how to conduct one’s life, because They Know Better! (Than you,sniveling worm!)
    That is why the NDR is dangerous.

  • T'Plana Hath says:

    This Kool Aid tastes funny …

  • Chrispin,
    You are mistaken about the reference to Kader Asmal: I relied on what he said in 2010 at a PSC conference on ethics in public service. He was more direct and outspoken then than he was in 2008 at the HSF do with Colin Eglin, to which you refer. The link to my hitherto uncontested comment on what he said is in the piece I wrote last week. By 2011 Asmal was even more outspoken, when he jousted in the Sunday Times with Prof Motala for criticising the majority judgement in Glenister 2. (I.e. not the main judgment which is not binding on the applicability of the STIRS criteria to the anti-corruption machinery of state mistakenly – as the ANC SG now concedes – destroyed by the NDR cadres deployed by Luthuli House in parliament.)
    You do not quibble with my statement that the main aim of the NDR is to secure hegemonic control of all the levers of power in society. This aim is indeed inimical to the constitutional project in SA which contemplates multi-party open, accountable and responsive governance under the rule of law with checks and balances, an impartial judiciary and an independent media with fealty to the doctrine of the separation of powers NOT hegemony firmly in place.
    Inequality, joblessness, grinding poverty, failure of service delivery after 29 years of NDR-speak all suggest that the NDR has failed. Bury the NDR or let the EFF run with it. The NDR is demonstrably not what the constitution contemplates, on any fair reading and assessment of the mess since ’94.

  • Vas K says:

    From an obviously well educated person, this is a pretty poor effort. To give words meaning other than as defined in dictionaries or to use euphemisms is either disingenious or Mr. Phiri needs some English lessons. For example Revolution is “a change in the way a country is governed, usually to a different political system and often using violence or war”. And the pathetic “expropriation without compenasation” euphemism means no more than “stealing someone else’s property”, no matter how big words you use. Mr. Phiri would make a very valuable member of any team of propagandists. The likes of Putin would be sure proud to have him.

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      Well said ! When a ‘cadre’ singing for his bread every day attempts to ‘justify’ something that his master extolls …. you are on slippery (or is it Hloperry?) slope to nowhere ! In the hands of such charlatans (pretending to be ‘intellectuals’) the NDR is not just ‘inimical’ … but downright misguided ! Remember how CR in an outright servile manner, during the Zondo ‘hearings’, tried to convince a judge that cadre deployment was constitutional ? There is just no letting up … in a criminal agenda , to subvert the constitution and replace it with ANC ‘justification’! It is right out of the playbook of authoritarian and fascist regimes.

  • Dou Pienaar says:

    Very Simple to me Mr. Phiri, with all these illusions from the ANC lets face it the masses of poor people in South Africa are still suffering 29 years after the ANC came to power, except off course a few connected Cadres who live very well. It is typical that you fail to mention how corruption as the DNA of the ANC has failed all in our country.

    You have to get to a point where you stop focusing on Apartheid and it’s evils, but rather focus on how we get ALL South Africans to collectively and united, stand together to GROW our economy so that we can all benefit and leave something to our children and their children. We are past the point of fruitless academic arguments and essays, frankly we live in a failed state that affects the poor people in our country the most and correcting this state of affairs, should be our only rationale.

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