In a recent memorial lecture to Oliver Tambo, the now former Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, lifted the veil on how the SACP sees and understands the source of the current state capture. The news headlines claim that at its core, his speech speaks of a country in the early phase of a securocracy. However, that is not at the heart of his speech. It is Nzimande's first speech after being dismissed by Zuma, and he is doing his analysis of what went wrong, holding Tambo up as an example. This analysis brings some interesting, and some troubling, issues to the fore.
It is important to remember that the SACP leadership was instrumental in Polokwane in 2007 in toppling Mbeki and voting Zuma in. Zuma rewarded them for this with a disproportionate number of Cabinet posts. This allowed them to further the SACP and ANC's National Democratic Revolution (NDR), among others by smuggling socialist elements into policy (such as the draft legislation on property rights).
However, when Zuma’s behaviour became too much even for these staunch supporters, the breach occurred. Among the first cracks were the al-Bashir case and Nkandla, and of course the most recent Cabinet reshuffle, where the SACP's brightest star was removed. As a result, the SACP's political influence was severely damaged. The SACP is now an outspoken supporter of a Ramaphosa presidency, and an outspoken opponent of Zuma (and his preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma).
Interestingly, Nzimande quoted Tambo - in agreement with comments made in 1977 in Angola - reminding comrades that it is easier to be a liberation movement than to govern a country. This would mean having to meet many demands of the people, and, in attempting to deliver services to the people, one must also learn from the enemy (the NP government!), because “the enemy does not do everything wrong” (what would Helen Zille's critics say if they knew that the founding father of the ANC had said that!)
Nzimande describes the time of Oliver Tambo's centenary as one where the ANC finds itself in serious trouble. “Our revolution and movement” have entered unfamiliar waters, a “whirlpool” - so much so that the ANC is on the verge of implosion.
Nzimande identifies the source of the problem as the dependence of liberation movements on the state, with no economic prospects if they lose that power. There is therefore an incentive to retain the power (here he already starts alluding to Zuma). Access to state power can very quickly run to greed. The greedy abuse state power - not only to provide for their current and post-retirement needs, but also for their families. This is true of Zuma and many other South African politicians and civil servants.
By quoting 1950s Algerian philosopher, Frantz Fanon, Nzimande illustrates a second problem. Once liberation movements start on the path of greed, the “national consciousness” (read non-racialism) becomes an empty shell and a mockery. The result: race replaces nation, and tribe replaces state. The irony is that although Tambo and his associates advocated for non-racialism, the ANC government today is again re-racialising society, primarily through its ideology of racial transformation according to the 80-9-9-2 formula. And this, incidentally, is not a Zuma phenomenon, but began under Thabo Mbeki. There is, alas, no sign that anyone in the future leadership of the ANC is in any way critical of this ideology, despite its devastating consequences on capacity in the civil service and effective service delivery. In addition, one cannot escape the feeling that the Zulu nation (and especially his close family) are more important to Zuma than the ANC or the government.
In citing (and endorsing) the 1848 Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels, Nzimande highlights the third problem: “The proletariat will use its political superiority to gradually seize all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production into the hands of the state and to increase the total production power as soon as possible”.
Applied to South Africa's NDR: if “national production” is not developed and diversified soon enough after a democratic breakthrough, it reduces opportunities to create jobs and other means of livelihood. This leaves state power as the sole source of survival and prosperity. It is the foundation for state capture and its twin brothers, factionalism and corruption.
In South Africa's case, it led to a mutually-beneficial relationship between factions (read: Zuma's ANC) and business parasites (read: the Guptas). And when parasitic networks begin to sense resistance, they create parallel structures and processes inside and outside the state. Decisions are then taken by these networks and “kitchen cabinets”. If resistance to this form of state capture arises, then a securocracy emerges. Nzimande believes that the existence of “rogue” intelligence activities, including smear campaigns against other ANC leaders, proves the early phases of a securocracy.
In summary, Nzimande argues that liberation movements (read: the ANC) became too dependent on state power for their livelihoods and that the ANC (read: Zuma) place race ahead of the nation and tribe ahead of state; that the ANC did not do enough to take the means of production away from the bourgeoisie (read white monopoly capital) and centralise it in the state. All this has led to factionalism, corruption and parasitic relationships (read: the Zuptas).
Nzimande's analysis partly hits the mark, even if one does not agree with his communistic terminology and rhetoric. Nzimande is actually saying that the ANC and the country are in trouble because the NDR has not succeeded. To little was done to centralise the economy and bring it under the control of the state. That is ideological and outmoded wishful thinking. Nowhere has Socialism managed to boost a country’s economy - just ask the Chinese.
There are thus two dangers that the SACP influence has on the future of the country. If Ramaphosa should become President through the active support of the SACP, there will (again) be debts to pay, probably with Cabinet posts. That brings socialist influence on economic policy, something that was already a factor during Mbeki's term. And if one believes Malusi Gigaba’s medium term budget speech, the country does not have time to toy with outdated socialist economic policies such as the centralisation of economic power in the state. That is the danger for a Ramaphosa government and the country: that the ANC - due to compromises (as economist Dawie Roodt has previously predicted) - will adopt a schizophrenic economic policy, and that investment and inclusive growth will fall between the two chairs that the ANC is trying to straddle.
The second danger would be faced by minorities - with an influential SACP there could be the even stronger implementation of racial transformation according to the 80-9-9-2 formula. It is part of SACP and ANC policy, as expressed in the NDR, to capture all levers of power in South African society. The way it has already been done is to make use of the African majority - so that in virtually every organisation, transformation must occur to become 80% African. This means that minorities cannot in principle have their own cultural, religious and linguistic organisations. Marx and Engels's directive to “seize the power” will not only apply to the economy, but to all levels of society - with disastrous consequences for all minorities.
Nzimande's SACP is not going to disappear from the scene and should, according to him, work inside and outside of the ANC to help to rid the ANC of factionalism, corruption and corporative capture. More important is that the SACP should play a leading role in building a popular front of progressive forces that can take the NDR forward. This must be used to defeat parasitic networks.
If President Ramaphosa or Mkhize want to build the country with all its minorities, and if they want to grow the economy for the benefit of all South Africans, they will have to think carefully about their allies in the upcoming ANC presidential election.
By Theuns Eloff: Executive Director, FW de Klerk Foundation
3 November 2017