Mamphela Ramphele's bad start

Floyd Shivambu argues Agang completely misdiagnoses the cause of the national grievance


MAMPHELA RAMPHELE was over the past few weeks paraded in most media platforms as amongst those who want to join into South Africa's homogenous political spectrum. It is a reality that all political parties or party political platforms in South Africa, including the ANC and the Democratic Alliance have grown closer to each other in terms if their fundamental ideological dispositions and politics.

All political formations in South Africa, including the electorally untested SA Communist Party represent the neo-liberal status quo, which seeks to make superficial alterations on the economy and governance with the false hope that such will lead to the real development and upliftment of all South Africans. All these parties justify their existence in the notion of emancipation of the poor and disempowered South Africans from poverty and starvation.

Grievances will indeed be the propeller behind the formation of any political party, because for a political movement to sustain itself, it should identify the levels and extent of dissatisfaction from the people, and present sets of ideas on how to resolve what sometimes can be national, regional,ethnic, racial, or class grievances.

Whilst identifying the correct national grievances, AGANG as announced by Dr. Mamphela Ramphele completely misdiagnoses the cause of this national grievance, and therefore proposes for application of wrong remedies to the South African grievance of poverty, unemployment and inequalities. The solutions provided by AGANG are not dissimilar from what a larger liberal section of the ANC, Democratic Alliance, COPE, UDM, IFP, and other less significant parties propose. The superficial commitments to improve governance, skills, fight corruption, improve representation and accountability whilst leaving the foundation of South Africa's economy intact defines all political formations in South Africa.

The homogeneity of South Africa's political discourse was recently reflected by all political formations' endorsement of the National Development Plan(NDP), which is basically a rehash of all previous policy attempts that failed to rescue South Africa from deeper structural levels of unemployment, poverty and inequalities. The NDP, like GEAR, ASGISA, and the New Growth Path hover around the pathetic supposition that pursuit of economic growth is panacea to South Africa's developmental problems.

The NDP, like GEAR, ASGISA and NGP do not speak decidedly to the question of discontinuation of private ownership and control of South Africa's natural endowments, which currently stand as the only real basis of total alleviation of unemployment, poverty and inequalities. There will never be any growth and/or developmental strategy and plan in South Africa that will take unemployment below 15% without tapping into the resources owned by private corporations. Unemployment reduction, poverty alleviation and decreasing of inequalities can only happen through rapid labour-absorptive industrialization, or what is referred to as the big-push in development economics and without State control and ownership of the key natural endowments, South Africa will never rapidly industrialize to reduce unemployment, poverty, and inequalities.

The ANC missed its possibly last opportunity to address this resource management question in its 53rd National Conference, despite the fact that its National General Council had established greater consensus on Nationalisation of Mines and other strategic sectors of the economy. The ANC failed to deal with this important question, and chose to embrace the NDP as a route towards construction of a non-racial, non-sexist society, despite the fact that its National Policy Conference agreed on strategic Nationalisation and greater State participation in the production, processing, beneficiation and industrialization of Mineral resources. I believe that the ANC 53rd National Conference was the last opportunity for the ANC to correct the strategic retreats opted for during transition from apartheid political order to what we currently have. Despite the youth calling on the ANC to take these necessary difficult decisions, maintenance of status quo was the outcome of its Conference, and status quo means continued governance over a capitalist semi-colonial economy whose biggest beneficiaries are multinational corporations.

Mamphela Ramphele jumped into this bandwagon of neo-liberal politics of addressing superficial issues of governance with the hope of replacing the current governing elite so that she can govern more 'efficiently' on behalf of the capitalist class. Her founding policy statements commit her to unmitigated free enterprise, and Mines/Farms that should continue to be in private hands. As a self pronounced capitalist bureaucrat, it also would be too much to expect anything progressive from Mamphela Ramphele, who despite her opposition to apartheid has not paid detailed attention to South Africa's developmental challenges.

Contrary to what AGANG, the ANC, DA, COPE, Business think-tanks, and Political Analysts think, the crisis of South Africa's economic crises of unemployment, poverty and inequality are not fundamentally the crises of governance, skills, and management of perceptions. To continue believing so even after various studies, and empirical comparison is plain ideological and political negligence. Zimbabwe has skilled people, but has economic problems bigger than ours, even before the imperialist destabilization of that economy.

To reduce inequalities by more than 70%, Brazil only needed decisive actions on the management of its resources, and had almost similar skills profile, poverty levels, and inequalities as that of South Africa. If there is any skill that is in shortage in South Africa, it is the skill of the elite Political leadership to coherently develop a developmental strategy and plan which will resolve the structural inequalities, unemployment and poverty. All political formations reach the same conclusions and the whole society is failing to move forward.

South Africa's developmental challenges lie in the fact that our economy's colonial features remain intact. Intact because we continue to be producers and exporters of natural resources and endowments, whilst importing virtually all consumer goods and services. We will never supersede China and the East in manufacturing, and exports for the simple reason that our labour is correctly costly, and reduction of the cost of doing big business requires a generation to fulfill.

We can only reduce unemployment and poverty through labour absorptive minerals sector indutrialisation buttressed by a reliable skills, education and expertise development strategy and plan, because that is our stronghold. Our problems are far much bigger than the question of representative or party political electoral systems. Those are superficial matters that have no meaning and no bearing on the deeper ideological and developmental decisions that have to be taken.

AGANG does not speak to these issues. This party political platform instead whines and complains about petty issues that will not change anything even if the party political platform can miraculously win elections. The only political solution to these crises will be a Left, youthful political alternative whose agenda will be real revolutionary transformation of society based on combination of ideological clarity and political determination.

Other than this, the other alternative can be a revolutionary reconstitution of the ANC into a fighting force in the same manner of the 1940s radicalization of the Movement by the founding generation of the ANC Youth League which proclaimed 'Freedom in our Lifetime'. This will mean amongst other things, the phasing out of old Freedom Fighters, because it is now poven beyond reasonable doubt that Freedom Fighters conserve truths of the past and all failing to mutate into Economic Freedom Fighters, with the necessary sophistication and ideological clarity to understand the imperialist character of capitalist domination and how this relates to SA almost permanent state of structural unemployment, poverty and inequalities.

At age 100, the capacity of the ANC to radically transform society is obviously limited due to its age and ideological/political infertility. The ANC is too old to breed new ideas, and also too forgetful to observe lessons from liberation movements that have governed in the manner it did post 20 years of political liberation.

With the failure of the ANC to produce new ideas and hone a new culture of political leadership, there certainly will emerge various political interest ground which will present themselves as better governing elites, and like the ANC 100 years ago, the basis of these political formations will be some sort of national, class, ethnic, or regional grievances. Unfortunately, there currently is no political formation in South Africa that represent an ideologically cogent developmental alternative to what the current establishment proposes, and without this, South Africa will be stuck in the vicious cycle of unemployment, poverty and inequalities for the next two decades.

AGANG is not a solution to South Africa's developmental problems, but should be allowed to join the bandwagon of neo-liberal discourse of South African politics until a Left youthful, radical and working class based political alternative to the status quo finds expression in or outside the ANC.

Floyd Shivambu is a student at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg - MA Political Studies.

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