The ANC’s 12th January, 8th of January Statement
THE ANC’S 12TH JANUARY, 8TH OF JANUARY STATEMENT
By Dave Steward, Executive Director of the FW de Klerk Foundation
The ANC’s annual 8th January statement - commemorating its founding date - has traditionally presented an important opportunity for the articulation of policy. This year’s statement - which was delivered by President Zuma on 12 January - deserves careful analysis, particularly because it followed so closely on the recent National Conference in Mangaung.
One wonders why the statement was issued only on 12 January? Was it to suit President Zuma’s busy schedule - or was it perhaps an indication of the difficulties that the newly elected leadership has been experiencing in reaching consensus about the road ahead? One can imagine the hardliners insisting on a forceful statement regarding the implementation of the second phase of the national transition in accordance with the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).
On the other hand, the pragmatists would have warned about the dangers of further alienating foreign investors, international opinion, the local business community and minorities. One can hear them insisting that the statement should also endorse the pragmatic National Development Plan and call for moderation in the current wave of ruinous labour disputes in the mining and agricultural sectors.
If this was the case, both factions appear of have achieved some successes.
On the one hand, the statement is a particularly harsh articulation of the second phase NDR line. It opens with repeated and inflammatory references to the depredations of apartheid:
- “We meet 100 years since the promulgation of the 1913 Land Act, which dramatically robbed the indigenous people of 87% of their land and turned them into pariahs and wanderers in the land of their birth."
- The National Party policy of apartheid had institutionalised “the complete disempowerment and dehumanisation of black people”;
- The Mangaung National Conference “had deliberated at length about the impact of this racist legacy, which resulted in the persistent poverty, inequality and unemployment in our country.”
- As the ANC entered “the second phase of the transition from apartheid colonialism to a national democratic society”, it committed itself “to a programme of action to speed up the elimination of this legacy and bring about socio-economic freedom.”
Most reasonable white South Africans would today accept the validity of much of the criticism of apartheid - although they might point out that the situation was far more complex and nuanced than the ANC’s remorseless good/evil, black/white analysis. Nevertheless, we delude ourselves if we ignore the disturbing fact that the ANC is involved in a process of racial mobilisation. The intention is to depict South Africa’s complex challenges within the framework of a rich oppressive white/poor exploited black paradigm in which all the country’s problems can be ascribed to the “racist legacy of the past.” It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the objective is to stir up racial grievances and more insistent demands for “restitution”. In short, there is nothing in the statement that promotes reconciliation or national unity.
We should take particular note of the increasing references to “apartheid colonialism” - which according to the ANC still characterised the National Party as late as the 1980s. In other words, those involved - supported by a considerable majority of white South Africans - were not really South Africans at all but alien interlopers.
We should also take note of the underlying theme that the “racist legacy” - and not the policies and actions of the ANC government during the past 18 years - is responsible for “persistent poverty, inequality and unemployment” in the country.
“Monopoly domination of the economy” (whatever that means) and the “skewed patterns of ownership and production” are responsible for the “inequality, dualism and marginalization” that characterise the economy. Accordingly, “decisive action is required to thoroughly and urgently transform the economic patterns of the present in order to realize our vision for the future.” Among other priorities the ANC has “directed our government to urgently speed up the process” of land reform “through a variety of measures”.
All this is completely in line with the NDR. According to the ANC’s 2007 Strategy and Tactics documents, “The progress made since the attainment of democracy is such that we are still some way from the ideal society of national democracy. The ownership and control of wealth and income, the poverty trap, access to opportunity and so on - are all in the main defined, as under apartheid, on the basis of race and gender.”Accordingly, “the central task in the current period is the eradication of the socio-economic legacy of apartheid. This will require “the elimination of the legacy of apartheid super-exploitation and inequality, and the redistribution of wealth and income to benefit society as a whole, especially the poor.”
That is what the “second phase” is all about.
At the same time, there were clearly some pragmatic influences on the formulation of the statement:
- It calls on “ANC members and citizens to celebrate, promote and defend the country's Constitution at all times”.
- It urges “all South Africans to unite behind the National Development Plan…”
- It refers to the infrastructure development plan and calls on government “to hasten the implementation of all 18 strategic infrastructure projects…”
- It states that the implementation of land reform measures “will take into account the principles contained in the Constitution in relation to land expropriation”.
- It calls on workers “not to undermine the right to strike or to protest by engaging in violent action which undermines their cause” and on employers “to enable workers to exercise their labour rights freely, while exercising their own rights as employers which are also enshrined in the Constitution”.
- It calls on teachers “to be in school, in class, on time, teaching for at least seven hours a day” and on “learners to dedicate themselves to their studies so that they become productive members of society”.
- Without any apparent awareness of the underlying irony, President Zuma appealed “to ANC members and society in general to remain vigilant and support the fight against corruption.” He said that “corruption is the enemy of development” and diverted resources “meant for the poor”.
Time will tell what the outcome of all this will be:
- Whether the “second phase” ideologists will impose their will and bring us closer to the NDR precipice;
- whether the pragmatists will be able to exercise a moderating influence and lead us to the uplands of greater prosperity and social justice; or
- whether we shall continue to bumble along on a moderately downward path as we have done for the past four years.
Published in: FW de Klerk Foundation