Monday, 24 September 2012

SA Institute of Race Relations comments on the ANC National Democratic Revolution

(Excerpts from South African Institute of Race Relations article)

Address by the Institute's Head of Special Research, Dr Anthea Jeffery, to the conference on ‘the national democratic revolution, land ownership, and the Green Paper on land reform’ in Pretoria on 31st May 2012.

Research and Policy Brief: The National Democratic Revolution (NDR): Its Origins and Implications - 31st May 2012.

In the post-apartheid period, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) has persisted in its determination to implement a National Democratic Revolution (NDR). 
The ANC makes no secret of this, regularly re-affirming this objective at its five-yearly national conferences. Its commitment to continuing revolution has enormous ramifications for the country and has already cost South Africa dearly. 

Yet neither the goals of the NDR nor the thinking which underpins it has ever been given much attention by the Media. 
The topic seems to be off-limits to the Press, which earlier generally ignored the first stage of the revolutionthe people’s war strategy which gave the ANC its domination over the new South Africa – and now largely overlooks the NDR and its ramifications.

[The NDR theory] was endorsed by the South African Communist Party (SACP) in its 1962 programme, Road to South African Freedom. 
Here, the SACP urged a ‘national democratic revolution to destroy white domination’. 
The ANC, it said, must overthrow the ‘colonial state of white supremacy’, ‘democratise’ the new state by ‘making it fully representative of the population of South Africa’, use the new state to suppress the former ruling classes and transform society, and then defend the gains of the revolution through a ‘vigorous and vigilant dictatorship…by the people against the former dominating and exploiting classes’ and any attempt to ‘restore white colonialism’;

At the Morogoro Conference in 1969, the ANC endorsed this perspective and committed itself to a national democratic revolution (NDR) to correct ‘historical injustices’ by destroying existing economic and social relationships. This would give rise to a new society based on the core provisions of the Freedom Charter: a document adopted in 1955 with significant communist input.

At its national conferences at Mafikeng (in 1997), Stellenbosch (in 2002), and Polokwane (in 2007), the ANC repeatedly recommitted itself to the NDR via the Strategy and Tactics document it has adopted at each of these gatherings.

The Mafikeng document identified the key goal of the NDR as being ‘to liberate Africans in particular and black people in general from political and economic bondage’ by transforming the machinery of state, using a cadre policy to give the ANC control over ‘all centres of power’, ‘redistributing wealth and income’, and ‘de-racialising South African society’ through ‘a consistent programme of affirmative action’.

The Stellenbosch document mainly reaffirmed the 1997 one but included a short Preface which stressed the need to ‘eliminate apartheid property relations’ through ‘the deracialisation of…wealth, including land’ and the ‘redistribution of wealth and income’. This would involve a ‘continuing struggle’ which would intensify over time. ‘Because property relations are at the core of all social systems’, the tensions arising from redistribution would have to be managed via ‘dexterity in tact and firmness in principle’.

The Polokwane document (the current one) reaffirmed the need for affirmative action until such time ‘as all centres of power and influence become broadly representative of the country’s demographics’. It called for the ‘de-racialisation’ of wealth (including land), along with management and the professions. It also urged a strong state able to ‘direct national development’ and stressed the importance of cadre deployment to all centres of power.

A discussion document, prepared for the national general council of the ANC in September 2010 said the global financial crisis had demonstrated ‘the bankruptcy of neo-liberalism’ and opened up space for ‘progressive alternatives’. 
The discussion document identified the Freedom Charter as the ANC’s ‘lodestar’, and said the major current task of the NDR was to ‘build a national democratic society’ which would address the historical injustice via the redistribution of land and other resources, affirmative action, and ‘the eradication of apartheid production relations’.

In 2012 the ANC has released a new discussion document on ‘The Second Transition: Building a National Democratic Society and the Balance of Forces in 2012’. 
This, it says, requires ‘a second transition’ that moves beyond democratisation (the focus of the first transition) to ‘the social and economic transformation of South Africa over the next 30 to 50 years’.

The implication is that this framework will thus have to be changed. In addition, the document suggests that the ANC is no longer willing to stick to an earlier ‘implicit bargain’, in which the organisation ‘committed to macroeconomic stability and international openness’, while ‘white business agreed to participate in capital reform to modify the racial structures of asset ownership and invest in national priorities’

The Strategy and Tactics documents, along with the 2010 and 2012 discussion documents outlined above, are public documents which are carefully phrased and often express worthy aims (to heighten state efficiency, increase economic growth, expand infrastructure, and improve education). However, they also make it clear that the ANC’s key objective is not to reduce inequality by growing the economic pie but rather by taking existing wealth from whites and transferring it to blacks. Though progress in the redistribution of wealth has thus far been slow, the ANC expects its pace to quicken as the balance of forces shifts further in favour of this.

According to the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the NDR provides the foundation for a shift to a socialist and then communist society.

...from 1984 to 1994, the people’s war strategy was used to give the ANC the degree of domination needed to drive the NDR forward in the post-apartheid era. This required, in particular, the weakening or elimination of black opposition – and the people’s war was singularly successful in achieving this.

...the ANC sees itself not as an ordinary political party bound by the ordinary rules of the political game but as a national liberation movement responsible for implementing the NDR and thus as uniquely entitled to rule. 
This makes it contemptuous of Parliament, opposition parties, a free press, an autonomous SABC, independent civil society, and adverse electoral outcomes, as in the Western Cape. 
Hence, contrary to what many journalists have said, there is nothing ‘baffling’ about its recent initiatives to clamp down on the Press or weaken the Democratic Alliance in a variety of ways.

...the ANC does not regard itself as bound by the Constitution.
It sees this not as a solemn pact but simply as a tactical compromise which can readily be changed as the balance of power shifts in the ANC’s favour. This stance has long been hinted at by ANC leaders, but is now being more openly expressed. 

The NDR also means, of course, that the ANC has no principled commitment to key constitutional safeguards, including press freedom, property rights, and an independent Judiciary.

Fourth, cadre deployment has been used to give the ANC control over all the ‘levers of state power’, including parastatals and the public broadcaster. The aim is to use cadre deployment to extend ANC control to the Judiciary, the Press, business, universities, and influential organisations in civil society.

In the economic sphere:

...the goal of demographic representivity in all spheres means that targets for redistribution that fall short of this are likely to be increased in due course. Thus, for example, in revising the Mining Charter in 2010, the minister – along with many journalists – implied it was a big ‘concession’ that the ownership target was being kept at 26% by 2014; and this target may well be raised in time.

...implementation of the NDR requires a strong ‘developmental’ state and provides a continual impetus towards ever more state intervention.

In the social sphere:

First, the NDR promotes an increasing dependence on the Government. The aim is seemingly not to encourage self-reliance and economic independence but rather to ensure that people rely on the State for money, goods, and services given to them via social grants, free housing, free basic electricity and water, free education, free health care for many, and subsidised transport.

Second, key additional aims (at least for Cosatu and the SACP) are to ‘roll back’ market provision in areas such as health and education. In the context of National Health Insurance proposals, for instance, Cosatu would like to ‘get rid’ of private health care and bring all health care services under state control, which will further reinforce dependency on the Government.

Third, similar thinking seems to underpin current proposals on land reform and rural development. As the Land Tenure Security Bill of 2010 shows – and the green paper on land reform of 2011 demonstrates even further – the aim is no longer to build up a new generation of independent black farmers owning their own land. 

Instead, land reform beneficiaries are to be confined to leasehold ownership, while communal land tenure in former homeland areas will be retained. 
In addition, those who move to the proposed new agri-villages will have nothing but temporary permits to live and farm in these settlements and will be subject to eviction by state officials if they don’t farm well enough. 

Far from extending land ownership to many more black South Africans, the 2010 bill and the green paper will bring about incremental land nationalisation. There will be no big-bang approach, but the Government will gradually assume ownership of ever more land while more and more South Africans find themselves without individual ownership and dependent on the State’s permission for their occupation of the land on which they live or work.

Important countervailing factors
From within the ANC:

First, the ANC recognises that the ‘balance of forces’ must be correct before progress can be made with the NDR. 
As with other revolutionary movements, it accepts that it may be necessary to take one step back – though its ultimate aim is then to take two steps forward.

Second, the ANC understands that the collapse of the Soviet Union brought about a fundamental shift in the global environment. This has inhibited the rapid post-apartheid implementation of the NDR which it had earlier anticipated. 

...the ANC recognised at Polokwane, affirmative action and BEE have ‘opened up enticing opportunities’ for its cadres, including ‘unprecedented opportunities for individual material gain’. 

The ANC’s discussion documents in 2010 and 2012 also recognise that its cadres are increasingly involved in factional strife, that state resources are being used to fight internal battles within the organisation, and that the votes of ANC members are being ‘bought’ to influence electoral outcomes. 
This is all part of the ‘challenge of incumbency’, it says. It is thus (once again) seeking to develop ‘new’ cadres with strong self-discipline and revolutionary morality, but these attempts are no more likely to succeed than earlier efforts have done.


The ANC’s commitment to the NDR means that the emphasis since 1994 has not been on stimulating growth but rather on bringing about the redistribution of existing wealth from whites to blacks. 

This is particularly evident in BEE rules, in mining and water laws, in land reform policies, and in recurrent calls for nationalisation (which could be used to prepare the way for confiscatory taxes or other interventions, as in the mining sector). 

Full implementation of the NDR will deter investment, stall economic growth, worsen poverty, and increase dependency on the State. It will undermine the Constitution, give the ANC totalitarian control, and betray the bright hopes of the 1994 transition.

 Fortunately, there are many countervailing factors that militate against the success of the NDR. However, there is also no room for complacency. 
Instead, it is vital to alert South Africans to the threats implicit in the NDR and to do very much more to expose its false premises and damaging outcomes.

(Full article can be found here )

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