Speech by FW de Klerk to the Conference on National Policy at the Crossroads
SPEECH BY FW DE KLERK TO THE CONFERENCE ON NATIONAL POLICY AT THE CROSSROADS
JOHANNESBURG, 25 JULY 2012
I should like to thank all the speakers and panellists who have participated in this conference today. In particular, I would like to thank Premier Helen Zille for finding time in her busy programme to share her views with us this afternoon.
This conference has clearly shown that we cannot ignore the ideological and policy debates that are currently being conducted within the ruling alliance. The decisions that will be taken at the ANC’s National Conference in Mangaung in December will affect the future of the country for years to come. They will, in the first place, determine who our national leaders will be for the next five years. They will also indicate the direction in which national policy will move during the critically important period that lies ahead.
The presentations and discussions at our conference today show that national policy is indeed at the crossroads:
We can either take the road to economic growth and social justice that is indicated by the National Planning Commission - or we can take the “second phase” road toward the goals of the National Democratic Revolution.
Although some of the National Planning Commission’s analysis is open to debate, few reasonable South Africans would disagree with its overall vision - or with its identification of the challenges confronting South Africa.
The NPC presents a vision of a future South Africa that we all can share. It includes
• Constitutional democracy;
• Unity in diversity;
• High quality education;
• Health and social services providing security to all those in need;
• Sustainable and equitable economic growth;
• Fair employment for all;
• An environment in which business can invest, profit and contribute to national goals;
• An effective state and public service;
• Mutual respect and human solidarity; and
• A South Africa that contributes to Africa and to the world.
Neither would reasonable South Africans disagree with the NPC’s diagnosis of the problems confronting South Africa. They include:
• High unemployment;
• Poor education - especially for black South Africans;
• Inadequate and antiquated infrastructure;
• Spatial planning that marginalises the poor;
• Unsustainable resource-intensive growth;
• An ailing public health system;
• Poor public service delivery;
• Corruption; and
• the fact that South Africa is still a divided society.
We would, in particular, agree with the NPC’s analysis that the two main priorities that we must address are education and unemployment.
The National Development Plan makes proposals to address these challenges. We might not all agree with all aspects of these proposals - but at least they provide a pragmatic, inclusive and rational basis for discussions about our future.
That is the one road that we can take.
The other road has been examined in some detail at our conference today. It is the increasingly radical, ideological, statist and racially divisive path that is set out in many of the ANC’s present and proposed policy directions.
The SACP is one of the driving forces behind this radical new direction. At its recent Congress it enthusiastically welcomed the ‘Second Phase’ as the most appropriate route to the achievement of the National Democratic Revolution. However, it does not see the NDR as the final destination of the revolutionary process. On the contrary, it views it as the beginning of a new phase when the SACP - as the self-proclaimed vanguard of the working class - will take over leadership of the revolution which will culminate in the establishment of a communist state.
At its 2006 Congress - the SACP’s ally COSATU - adopted a resolution in which it declared that the only appropriate route from the NDR to the establishment of a communist state would be the installation of a dictatorship of the proletariat. Traditional ANC supporters should ask themselves what the ANC’s role would be in such a dispensation, what would become of our Constitution - and what would remain of the NPC’s vision for a future South Africa.
The NPC warns us that “political change brings no guarantee of social, economic or indeed political progress.” It observes that “throughout history many civilisations, empires and countries have experienced dramatic decline rather than progress”. It then identifies a number of indicators that are associated with societal decline.
According to the NPC, the first indicator that leads to societal decline is corruption.
Few would question the threat that corruption poses to our society. However, what chance do we stand of stopping corruption if the entire state procurement system is built on a racially-based tender mechanism that invites malpractice? According to the Special Investigating Unit, it is estimated that 20 - 25 % of state procurement expenditure, amounting to roughly R30 billion a year, is wasted through overpayment or corruption.
How can we combat corruption if highly-placed individuals who have been imprisoned for corruption are released on the pretext of ill-health? Let me hasten to qualify - I am not referring to Mr Selebi in this regard.
What hope do we have if the credibility of the National Prosecuting Authority is undermined by persistent political interference? What conclusions must we draw when the NPA drops - without providing proper reason - corruption and murder charges against a senior police officer with close ties to top members of the government?
The second indicator of decline identified by the NPC is the weakening of state and civil society institutions.
The NPC ascribes the “uneven performance of the public service” to a number of factors including “tensions in the political/administrative interface, instability of the administrative leadership, skills deficits, the erosion of accountability and authority structures, poor organisational design, inappropriate staffing and low staff morale.”
How, under these circumstances, can the ANC propose the radical expansion of the role of government in its proposed developmental state, when the public sector is clearly not coping with its present responsibilities? How can we strengthen civil society institutions - including the media - if the government increasingly adopts an adversarial approach to them?
The third indicator of decline cited by the NPC is poor economic management.
For the first fourteen years of the new South Africa we experienced sound, pragmatic and successful macro-economic management. But what will happen if economic management is increasingly dominated by outmoded, divisive and discredited ideologies - rather than by a pragmatic understanding of global and national economic realities and market forces?
The NPC also identifies the danger of skills and capital flight as a factor in the decline of countries and civilisations.
But what can be more assured to cause accelerated skills and capital flight than policies that are militantly unfriendly to investors and that make it increasingly difficult for highly-skilled individuals and entrepreneurs to contribute to the economy and public administration?
The NPC warns against politics dominated by ethnicity and factionalism.
Unfortunately, the Mandela and Mbeki era of national reconciliation is over. Much of the proposed “second phase” of the National Democratic Revolution is openly directed against “white males” - who are quite unjustly blamed for the triple crisis of continuing unemployment, inequality and poverty. This happens at a time when government at the highest level exacerbates racial tensions by using aggressive racial rhetoric; by supporting the singing of racially provocative songs and by condoning the incendiary racial threats of some of its formations.
How can we hope to avoid politics dominated by ethnicity and factionalism when the ANC proclaims its intention of abrogating the constitutional agreements and compromises on which our national consensus was constructed?
Finally, the NPC identifies the lack of maintenance of infrastructure and standards of service as indicators of societal decline.
How can this be otherwise, when appointments to key posts in the public service and in parastatals are made according to racial quotas and political connections, rather than according to skill, qualifications and experience? The NPC itself refers to the problem of “undue political interference in the appointment of senior staff, including the deployment of cadres to posts for which they are unqualified and political intervention in operational matters.”
It is with a sense of deep concern that I must observe that all the indicators of social decline that were identified by the NPC are present in South Africa today.
The question is how we can reverse this decline and move in the direction of the vision that the NPC proposes.
There are two roads that the ANC can choose at its National Conference in Mangaung - both of which are supported by elements within the alliance:
• There is the NPC road of the realistic analysis of the problems that confront us and the development of pragmatic, inclusive and workable approaches to the solution of those problems.
• On the other hand there is the NDR’s ideological analysis of the nature and origin of our problems and the radical, divisive and discredited solutions that it prescribes.
These two roads are irreconcilable and lead to very different destinations. The 4 000 delegates who will gather in Mangaung will take the formal decisions about which way South Africa will go. I am confident that many delegates will identify with the vision proclaimed by the NPC. Others will not. Should the more radical NDR approach prevail, the ANC will have to consider who among the 35% of South Africans who do not support the ANC will follow them on the road to the future.
It is for that reason that I welcome the assurance of Jeff Radebe, the ANC’s Policy Chief, that the policy discussion process “is not going to be confined to the ANC and its allies” and that the ANC will “call upon all sectors of South African society and our people at large to engage with these discussion documents.”
That is exactly what we have been doing today. In the months between now and the ANC conference in December we must broaden the national debate on the country’s future policy direction. We must engage with the ANC on those aspects of its policy proposals with which we disagree. In particular, we must stress the political, economic and social consequences that will inevitably ensue if it proceeds with some of its proposed and existing policies.
The future of all our people and of our non-racial democratic Constitution will depend on the outcome of the coming debate.
Published in: FW de Klerk Foundation