"Baffling" developments fit the game plan - Business Day, 12th September 2011.

Sep 14, 2011
In his fortnightly article in Business Day, John Kane-Berman argues that the "baffling" decisions made by the ANC of late are part of a larger plan outlined in the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

Many people have puzzled over recent developments.

First, the insistence by the African National Congress (ANC) on proceeding with legislation to imprison journalists and others exposing official corruption. Second, the snubbing of Dikgang Moseneke for the chief justiceship. Third, suggestions that the willing-buyer-willing-seller principle should not be allowed to retard land redistribution.

“Baffled” is the term frequently used in newspaper columns trying to understand why Moseneke was being passed over. Surely, it was suggested, Jacob Zuma misunderstood the importance of an independent judiciary in the context of the constitutional separation of powers.

As for a free press, is that not a vital component of a democracy?

Are these “baffling” adverse developments mere coincidences? Or is there some other factor at work - a game plan perhaps?

Well, there is. Back in 1969, at its conference in Morogoro, the ANC adopted a “national democratic revolution” (NDR) as its overriding strategic goal. The NDR was based on Lenin’s theory of imperialism, though adapted for South Africa as a ‘colony of a special type” because whites are indigenous. They are nevertheless viewed as the equivalent of the imperial powers and blacks as the colonized victims. Critically, this means that white wealth is seen as having been illegitimately acquired.

Although people such as Kader Asmal said some months before his death that it was time to abandon the NDR, there is no sign that it has been abandoned.

Indeed, these “baffling” policy developments are consistent with the NDR, to which the ANC reaffirmed its commitment in various “strategy and tactics” documents for its conferences in Mafeking in 1997, Stellenbosch in 2002, and Polokwane in 2007.

Key economic components include the redistribution of wealth, income, and land. Political aspects include affirmative action to make all centres of power demographically representative, cadre deployment to take control of all centres of power, and winning the battle of ideas to counter both “neo-liberalism” and “ultra-leftism".

When Julius Malema says economic liberation necessitates nationalisation of mines and white land, he is expressing not way-out opinions but voicing NDR ideology.

Though Malema is a young man in a hurry, the ANC recognises that it is not operating in a vacuum, so implementation of the NDR requires "dexterity in tact and firmness in principle’. You move forward when the “balance of forces” favours you, and you stage a tactical withdrawal when it turns against you.

Malema recently wrote: "We accepted that the ANC could not nationalise mines and take back the land during the transition from apartheid to democracy because the balance of forces was not in favour of the progressive forces. [Now] the balance of forces has shifted in favour of the forces of change”.

The ANC's failure to rule out nationalisation suggests that its differences with Malema may be over timing rather than principle.

Among potentially adverse forces are a free press which can challenge corruption and propagate “neo-liberal” ideas, an independent judiciary, and a constitution which guarantees property rights – even though white property was supposedly illegitimately acquired.

Hence the fact that many in the ruling tripartite alliance - which includes the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) - see the 1994 constitutional settlement as not the final word in the liberation struggle but only a beachhead on the way to the NDR.

This was recently confirmed yet again when the deputy minister of correctional services, Ngoaka Ramatlhodi, said the ANC had made "fatal concessions" at the time of the political transition. Given the balance of forces then prevailing, including the collapse of the Soviet Union, it had accepted a constitution which "emptied the legislature and executive of real political power” and transferred it to civil society and the Judiciary.

Ramatlhodi may not be the most important policymaker. He has, however, merely reiterated what Zuma has himself said on more than one occasion. The implication is that a key aspect of “transformation” of the Judiciary is that it will do its duty by the NDR. If not, the constitution will be revisited.


* Kane-Berman is the Chief Executive of the South African Institute of Race Relations.
First published in Business Day on 12th September 2011.

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