A veering off-course – but it’s to be corrected
THE ANC launched its manifesto with an admission that the party “made mistakes and veered off course”.
As a result the organisation is resolved “to work with our people to address this cancer of corruption in our society”.
This admission is important if the ANC is to rekindle the love lost with some sections of the electorate over the past 10 years. Silent in the admission is a tally of what these mistakes were and how far off course did the movement derail. The electorate deserves to know this in order to determine whether or not the ANC appears fit for purpose to drive the country back from the brink of collapse because of an ANC-led government.
The manifesto for the 2019 general elections is under the tag line “Let’s grow South Africa together”. It builds on 2009’s “Working together we can do” and 2014’s “Together we move South Africa forward”.
The repeated emphasis on “togetherness” is probably derived from the mantra that “the ANC is the leader of society” intended to unite all progressive forces under its banner. The 2019 manifesto makes emphasis on how government, the private sector, labour and civil society should work hand-inhand to pursue transformation of the economy to serve the people.
Ideologically and politically, the idea of “the people” is significantly contested. Who are the people? This question applies greatly to our context as the most unequal society in the world.
The ANC will do well to clarify and explicitly state, without fear, who the people are; especially those it imagines as being systematically locked out of economic participation.
The ANC identifies 10 key areas that need attention for transformation of the economy: more jobs and decent jobs, broadening ownership, a sustainable land reform programme, addressing monopolies that lead to excessive economic concentration, an investment plan, an industrial strategy, the digital revolution, small enterprises, co-operatives and township and village economies, transforming and diversifying the financial sector and developing a macro-economic framework. These are not novel ideas from the ANC. It is a rehash of its past areas of focus when making promises to the electorate. Of interest is how the ANC proposes broadening the ownership of the economy through employee ownership schemes that would lead to workers owning a part of the companies in which they work.
There is silence on community ownership – a significant aspect given the continued presence of the extractive economy through mining, oil and gas exploration. Mining communities have been asserting themselves through protest and litigation as important role players in the exploration of mineral resources. The absence of communities when thinking of broadening economic participation makes the ANC appear ignorant of the centrality of communities where industries are placed.
The ANC appears less ambitious in its targets this time around. The party proposes that it will create an extra 275 000 jobs each year “by boosting local demand for goods, investing more in mining, manufacturing and agriculture and expanding export markets”.
Another avenue to increase economic participation will be internships and training opportunities. Coupled with this will be the removal of work experience “as a requirement for employment of young people, especially in the public sector, as it robs the youth of employment opportunities”.
The job creation targets fall far behind the target of the National Development Plan (NDP) that intended to see unemployment drop to 20% by 2020. This will not be achieved. Yet, the 2019 manifesto still gives centrality to the NDP even though a significant number of ambitious targets and fundamentals to jump-start the South African economy, contained in the NDP, are far from being achieved.
The ANC is aware of this difficulty as it wants more plans to develop a macro-economic policy framework that will “support the distinct and vibrant social and solidarity economy which is based on addressing social and environmental needs rather than profit maximisation”. This commitment is important if the ANC is to build a mixed economy that is responsive to the challenges of income and asset ownership inequality that confront our country, much to the detriment of hopes and dreams of young people; especially those who are black. This emanates from the racialised hierarchy of oppression developed by the apartheid government that was an evolution of the colonial governing system. The ANC recognises that it ought to broaden its options in the pursuit of land reform. The support for land expropriation without compensation is clearly stated by the party.
However, it sees this as one of the instruments that should be available to expedite land reform.
The ANC is tight-lipped on other instruments to be implemented.
The manifesto also addresses the advancement of social transformation, building safer communities, fighting corruption and promoting integrity, building national unity, embracing diversity and imaging South Africa in the world. Many of the ideas proposed under these areas of the manifesto are similar to those proposed in the 2009 and 2014 manifestos. What is interesting in this manifesto is the ambitious target to build “at least one new South African city of the future”.
I suppose Steyn City in this instance does not qualify as a city of the future and it will be interesting to hear the ANC unpack where this city could be located. During the manifesto launch there was a moment worth celebrating. Ramaphosa called on all men present at Moses Mabhida stadium to stand up and make a commitment to women that they will end gender-based violence in society.
This heralded a new era in the governing party being ready to confront the scourge of gender-based violence. For some time activists have been accusing government of being lacklustre in the fight . For once the ANC identifies something as having reached “crisis proportions”.
This should bring great hope that government may be moving towards an agenda that seeks to emancipate women in society and have them enjoy the full benefits of our freedom, with significant focus on those who are perpetrators of patriarchy to unlearn and commit to a society that is truly in pursuit of equality for all.
Mnguni is a PhD candidate and researcher at the Maurice Webb Race Relations Unit, UKZN
SUPPORTERS sing during the launch of the ANC’s 2019 election manifesto at Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban yesterday. | ROGAN WARD REUTERS