ANC NPC discussion document: The changing balance of forces

Party says projections are its support will dip below 50% in 2024 national elections for first time


The Changing Balance of Forces around the South African Transformation Agenda


1. A continuous discussion of the domestic and global Balance of Forces is a requisite for the successful prosecution of our struggle for a National Democratic order in South Africa.

2. We need to appreciate the objective conditions and subjective factors, the opportunities and threats which are likely to expedite or impede the advancement of our transformation agenda on an ongoing basis in order to device pertinent ways and means of achieving our goals.

3. The balance of forces discussion is not a presentation on the entirety of Strategy and Tactics of the ANC. It is a discussion which is primarily confined to the evaluation of the strength and weaknesses of our struggle at a particular historical period, its opportunities and threats (that is a SWOT analysis).

The ANC S&T is a much broader conversation which addresses the character of our revolution, the contradictions it seeks to resolve and its motive forces, including the balance of forces and the immediate transformation program arising from that evaluation. It is in its totality the theory of our revolution, and tends to have a longer trajectory in its projections.

4. The Strategy and Tactics of the ANC as adopted at the 54th National Conference in 2017 remains largely current in its analysis of the balance of forces. However, there are developments which have significantly shifted the balance of forces since the last National Conference in 2017.

5. These events primarily include the breakout of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, and its unprecedented devastation on the global community and the world economy. The country also experienced a deterioration of national security and stability engendered by the orchestrated insurrectionary destabilisation plan of JULY 2021. Furthermore, the ANC witnessed reduced support at local government level in November 2021, with its aggregate national votes dipping below 50%. Lastly, we recently witnessed the breakout of large-scale war in Europe with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, impacting negatively on the global economy and international relations, and with major implications for geopolitics and geoeconomics forward.

6. In this discussion document, we commence with an analysis of domestic stakeholder-interests and how they affect social transformation in our country.



7. The conceptual understanding of the contradictions in our society from the ANC’s point of view, has always been premised on the perspective that our struggle was against colonialism of a special type in which the liberation of blacks in general, and Africans in particular, was its strategic intent. This is the premise from which the ANC anchored South Africa’s transformation project.

8. The strategic breakthrough of 1994 made it possible for the ANC to commence work in earnest to realise the practical liberation of blacks and the building of a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society, through government developmental programs.

9. South Africa’s constitution is a valuable heritage the liberation struggle has bequeathed generations to come. It is more than a mere legal framework for the governing of our public affairs. The National Constitution importantly also serves as a statement of socio- economic transformational goals too. This matter is dealt with later in this document.

10. The ANC constitutional principles for a democratic South Africa, was an act of astute and proactive revolutionary foresight which firmly anchored South Africa’s course on the policy injunctions and traditions of our struggle.

11. The political and other generations of rights – including social, economic, gender and environmental rights – enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic, derive their origin from the demands of the 1955 Freedom Charter. The ideals of the Freedom Charter are therefore embedded in the country’s Constitution

12. In its preamble, the constitution of the Republic of South Africa asserts that the people of South Africa, “recognises the injustices of our past; honour those who suffered for justice and freedom in our land,” and calls on all South Africans to “heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights;” It further says we must, “lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law; Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; and build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations.”

13. The national constitution therefore provides the broad framework for the attainment of objectives of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). It describes the contours of a National Democratic Society, one that goes beyond the attainment of nationhood and formal political rights, by encompassing the achievement of socio-economic emancipation. It recognises the symbiotic relationship between the resolution of the antagonisms thrown up by national oppression and the fundamental problem of social injustice, economic deprivation and patriarchy.

14. The cumulative changes brought about by the attainment of universal suffrage in 1994 have, over the years, induced corresponding adjustments to the social structure of our country’s communities, albeit to a limited degree in other respects such as the gap between the rich and poor. The progress and the weaknesses have also thrown up new challenges. All these developments continue to impact on the alignment and re-alignment of the objective interests of the motive forces of revolutionary change.

15. The reforms of the past 28 years have been life-changing to huge segments of our society and must be analysed and interpreted in a way that assists our strategic and tactical postures going forward. Whether further progress is made in this journey and, indeed, whether there are reversals, is a function of the balance of forces and the capacity of the transformers both to shift and to respond to this balance. The next section reflects on the balance of forces in relation to the five pillars of struggle: the state, the economy, organisational work, ideological struggle and international work.



16. Following the 1994 breakthrough, we forged a vibrant multi-party democracy based on a constitution that enjoys the allegiance and support of the overwhelming majority of South Africans. “We transformed state institutions and put in place formal instruments of accountability. We also created space for organs of civil society to thrive. What seems to be new, with major implications for state legitimacy is the deeply-entrenched corrupt practices driven by a few state employees, public representatives and the private sector, . . .which has directly affected service delivery”, (see the Balance of Forces document, NGC 2015.)

17. It must however be noted that in 2015 the problem of corruption was correctly or incorrectly characterised as a challenge which involved “a few state employees, public representatives and the private sector leadership”. However, thanks to the Commission on State Capture, we now know that the problem was much bigger than we thought. Extensive networks through which public servants, senior government officials and corporate executives have been involved in widespread looting of public finances, have now been exposed.

Furthermore, the Commission has correctly opined that the problem of state capture and corruption is reasonably much more than the Commission was able to uncover because its terms of reference effectively limited the Commission’s work to the national sphere of government. The challenges of criminal wrongdoing in the public sector at provincial and local government levels, including public enterprises, were not investigated.

18. A singular development which has strategically impacted the South African democratic state negatively, is the July 2021 organised acts of subversion in parts of the country. It has raised concern over the capacity of the state to defend its sovereignty against attempts to undermine and topple it through extraconstitutional means.

19. Since its inception, the South African democratic state has enjoyed overwhelming moral authority to the extent that the agenda to subvert it militarily by the extreme right-wing in the early days of the new order, eventually withered away. However, past threat assessments did not sufficiently underscore the fact that insurgency against the Democratic State could be orchestrated from within the National Liberation Movement itself, save for the observation in the 2017 Strategy and Tactics document that ‘it cannot altogether be ruled out that the liberation movement itself can be so corrupted – in terms of its objectives, policies, value systems as well as composition and conduct of its leadership – that it becomes a bed of counter-revolutionary infestation’.

20. It is common knowledge today that at the core of the subversive anarchy and looting of July last year, there were purportedly disgruntled and aggrieved individuals, who included ANC members, over the decisions of the courts, in particular the Constitutional Court, on matters involving alleged transgressions by ANC members. Their agenda found resonance with individuals who were associated with wrong doing and acts of malfeasance. These organisers were prepared to do everything and anything to prevent the execution of the decisions of the courts, thereby debilitating the authority of the country’s constitution and its democratic order.

21. The orchestrators of the 2021 acts of subversion were unambiguous in their intention to remove a democratically established government by extra-constitutional means. They agitated for the dissolution of parliament. They also aimed at intimidating law enforcement services and to assault the judiciary in order to collapse the authority of the courts. They deliberately ignored the progressive role that the judiciary has played in advancing the various generations of human rights in the recent time.

22. The leaders of the 2021 instability project were also attacking the foundational principle of our democratic system, viz the principle of a “constitutional democracy” as against a “parliamentary democracy.” Their rationale purportedly seeks to bring government closer to the poor, when in reality they represent crass populism which is bent on grabbing power by hoodwinking the masses. The debate on Parliamentary Democracy versus Constitutional Democracy, the pros and cons thereof, were broadly canvassed in the movement in 1994 when a political settlement was crafted.

23. Those who hold a view that the matter should be revisited have the right to be heard. It will however be wrong and a betrayal of the oath of membership of the ANC for any member in good standing to seek to be heard in such a counterproductive, regressive, and anti- progress manner.

24. Whereas in itself the reason this counterrevolutionary partial-insurrection failed highlights the fact that our constitutional democracy and its transformation agenda still enjoy broad support, the unconvincing performance of state security apparatus is nonetheless concerning. It is a recipe for the possible break-up of state authority, and the emergence of characteristics of a failed state.

25. This development calls for a speedy intervention to strike the appropriate balance between the security of citizens and that of the democratic state in our national security doctrine. This we must do to defend our revolutionary gains and to protect the agenda and power of the progressive majority.

26. Such revolutionary vigilance must equally recognise that underpinning the current insecurity and instability in South Africa are the dire economic conditions of huge segments of South Africa’s poor, as a result of lack of economic opportunities and chronic joblessness. Poverty in South Africa’s urban townships and informal settlements is today in the public face. This further underscores challenge the ANC has to win back the country’s metro municipalities.

27. The question of South Africa’s poor cannot be resolved without addressing their relationship to South Africa’s economy. Over the past three decades they got increasingly pushed to the margins of economic life by several factors including the legacy of poor access to quality education and life skills in an environment where the state lost control over who has access in the domestic labour-market and business opportunities, as the country’s borders were melting down.

28. The July partial insurrection however, has thrown up new possibilities and energies which can be harnessed to re- engage the masses. The stand taken by residents to protect business centres in their neighbourhoods at the height of the July unrest and the volunteers who came forward to clear rubble and clean destroyed business complexes should not go a begging. This ownership by communities of their own fate can help overcome the passive attitude created post-1994 that every problem is government’s responsibility. There are several community initiatives recently which have exposed the deficiencies of ANC branches to act as ‘local fora for the resolution of people’s problems’.

29. Several areas of government have been targeted by rogue and corrupt lumpen elements, especially at local government level. Several schemes and ruses are devised to realise wholesale looting of public coffers leading to paralysis of service delivery. Several municipalities are currently under administration by higher authorities partly because they’ve been collapsed by corruption-induced mismanagement.

30. However, since 1994 the legislative arm of the state at all levels of government contributed decisively to the transformation in South Africa, thanks to the decisive democratic majority of the ANC. However, the legislatures, which have served as genuine tribunes of the people in advancing transformation have been assailed by a streak of pseudo-militancy whose traction among some young people in particular is the rude, vulgar, theatrical and violent form of politics.

This traction is made possible by the high levels of frustration among the core motive forces of change. This phenomenon can only be successfully defeated through visible hard work by ANC members in addressing the needs of the people. It is the only way to enhance the legitimacy of the democratic order. The failure visibly and progressively to address the people’s aspirations can only encourage this counter- revolutionary culture to spill over to other mainstream societal institutions with devastating consequences for democracy and our constitutional values.

31. This counterrevolutionary tendency has already started to tilt the political power-balance in the country in favour of South Africa’s traditionally conservative and right-wing political forces. It is a political tendency that brings together old-order apartheid political and ideological institutions and thrives on exploiting impatience with the pace of transformation to gang up against the ANC and realise an anti-transformation agenda. Behind these opportunistic political deals lies a world of systematic defence of the privileges of the apartheid order in a modified form, as well as corrupt rent-seeking schemes of the ultra-leftist.

Opportunistically aligned with these forces is the drive by some self-declared ‘leftist’ political tendencies to pursue material self-aggrandisement combined with a pathological hatred of the ANC and attempts at widening its divisions.


32. Just as the Covid-19 pandemic has tested the capacity of the state and the efficiency of government, it has also profiled opportunities to grow our capacity to realise a myriad of our developmental endeavours. As the Alliance Economic Recovery and Reconstruction perspective suggests, we need programmes which address unemployment, poverty and inequality taking advantage of the needs of the moment.

33. The capabilities developed over the past two years since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which involve scientific and evidence-based planning, swift targeted action in response to challenges, intergovernmental coordination and implementation, effective communication and coherent leadership capacity, must be consolidated into a new way of carrying out government solutions going forward.

34. The distribution of wealth and incomes in South Africa is largely still characterised by the racial and gender demographics of the colonial past (Stats SA). In 2020, 7.8% of the South African population, (which happens to be white) constituted 64.7% of top management positions and 52.5% of senior management posts (Department of Labour – Commission for Employment Equity Annual Report, 2021). In Q3 of 2021, according to Stats SA, unemployment among Africans was at 38.6% compared to 9.2% among whites.

35. Low economic growth and a huge budget deficit are compounding the difficulties in realising the ideals enshrined in the RSA Constitution. While progress has been made in the two- and-half decades of freedom to extend basic services and reduce poverty, distribution of income and assets still reflects the fault-lines of apartheid colonialism “The issue of distribution of national income – the fundamental question of political economy – now occupies an important place in mainstream discourse.” (Ibid, 2015 NGC).

36. As argued in the 2017 Strategy and Tactics document: ‘Economically, compared to ten years ago, the balance of forces has shifted against the forces of change. The debt burden wears down the fiscus leaving little room for manoeuvre. As a society with a low savings rate, the country is … heavily dependent on foreign inflows’.

In addition, attempts to stabilise the fiscal situation such as the VAT increase do have a negative social impact in the immediate. Energy insecurity has become a reality, with Eskom unable to turn around the situation; there has been a regression on some basic services like water, sanitation and roads; and between 2011 and 2015 poverty headcount actually worsened. After the progress in achieving the MDGs, we have regressed with reference to a number of Sustainable Development goals over the last few years.

37. The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in severe contraction of world economies. There has been a huge surge in unemployment globally and on the continent in particular. South Africa’s official unemployment rate at the beginning of 2022 stood at 35.5% as a consequence of the shrinkage of the economy. The investment rate has declined. Overall, poverty and inequality have worsened.

38. The economic reconstruction and recovery plan, as well as refinements being introduced, provide an opportunity to embark on a new growth path and achieve a sustainable economic future based on economic inclusion, high rates of employment and better levels of social equity. Sustainability also entails a just transition to a low carbon future, sensitive to urgent environmental imperatives and the impact of the transition on the working people.


39. A holistic appreciation of the impact of ANC government policies on the country’s social structure and, by implication, the alignment and realignment of the social forces for transformation over the past 28 years, is necessary. This will help establish whether there are any significant changes within the working people broadly and among those who own the means of production. This goes for any other strata of importance in relation to the goals of the revolution.

40. As has been consistently argued, the working class is the core motive force of the revolution. The importance of the working-class in our NDR was successfully long argued by none other than the inspirational leader of the South African working-class, General Secretary of the SACP, Moses Kotane, when he said in South Africa for the NDR to have meaning the struggle must deliver the liberation of the Black Working Class.

41. Consisting of both employed and unemployed workers, this class constitutes the majority in South African society; it is central to the production process and other economic endeavours; it has historically evinced the most progressive levels of social consciousness; and it has shown high levels of capacity to organise and mobilise. The Strategy & Tactics of the ANC adopted by the 54th National Conference in 2017 provides the ANC perspective regarding the importance of the working-class today, (see para: 117 & 118) However even then, the question was asked, “More than twenty years into democracy, does this analysis still hold?

42. The macrosocial changes which have slowly occurred over the past almost three decades of ANC transformative policies and programs, compels us to commission a comprehensive enquiry into the changes in and around the SA Black working-class and the rural power as an important policy intervention. The changes in the nature of work, the de- industrialisation of the economy, and subjective factors that include fragmentation of the progressive trade union movement and the impact of union investments on leadership conduct – all these and other factors have undermined the leadership role that the working class is meant to play in the unfolding national democratic revolution.

43. While these weaknesses do not subtract from the objective position of the working class in society, they do impact on the depth and breadth of revolutionary consciousness within society generally and in the ANC in particular. The depth of participation of this class in ANC structures and activities is a matter that requires attention. It is an acknowledged reality that the organisation of ANC branch activities does not lend itself to convenient participation of employed workers. It is about time that the ANC considers a review of its linear approach towards establishing its primary structures, the ward-based branch model, especially in an environment where organised labour is no longer cohesive as before.

44. Research on the changes of South African’s social structure in the recent period has tended to focus on the growth of the ‘middle class’ (strictly referred to as the middle strata) because of the belief that it is one of the indicators of the impact of economic policy. This is because the growth of the middle class is thought to create knock-on effects such as enhanced buying power, better education and skills in the economy which in turn attract investments and therefore create more job opportunities.

45. Regardless of the many ways of measuring the middle class population, all the methods social scientists employ point to a significant growth of these social strata, in particular the black component, in South Africa. Data suggest the black middle class more than doubled from 7% to 14% between 2004 and 2013, and by 2018 constituted between 48% to 52% of the national total of these strata. (Measuring South Africa’s black middle class: Markus Korhonen: Stellenbosch University, 2018.).

46. This development deserves our attention in assessing the Balance of Forces for the following reasons:

46.1 The driving force of our revolution, as it has always been emphasised, is the black section of South African society. Changes within this social base, the black majority, are bound to have a direct effect on the prospects and momentum of our revolution.

46.2 The capacity and propensity of the middle class to influence the direction of social change and upheavals is legendary in the history of human development and the world revolutionary movement in particular.

Revolutionary vigilance requires that the ANC must always have keen interest in the dynamics of the South African middle class, especial the black segment of this community. A matter which is relevant to the leadership the ANC must exercise is, for instance, sensitivity to the need to organise ANC branches in a way that expedites the participation of the middle class. The organisation does not lend itself to significant participation of members of the middle class in its primary structures. Just as it is the case with the working-class, the Renewal of the ANC calls for a revision of our approach in building primary structures. The ANC must connect with the huge community of professionals our transformative policies have produced.

47. The middle class is not homogeneous. It consists of various sub-groups which differ significantly in their occupations, income bands and cultural traits. These sub-groups include intellectuals and other professionals, owners of small and micro enterprises (petty bourgeoisie), middle and low-level managers, and the political elite and large sections of the state bureaucracy.

48. On higher rungs of the social ladder (higher than the middle strata) are what can be characterised as the social elite – owners of medium and large enterprises and the most senior managers of these establishments. Among these are what can be characterised as the established capitalists (owners of monopoly and large companies most of which have their roots in the apartheid era), the bureaucratic bourgeoisie (for their reliance on the state as a site of accumulation), and the comprador bourgeoisie (who depend on, and act as agents of, the established capitalists).


49. The concept of a ‘lumpen proletariat’ emerged in the analysis of the emergent capitalist system in Europe. It was in reference to the “declassed”, detached elements of the proletariat who resorted to lowly, anti-social, and criminal activities for their livelihoods. It is captured succinctly thus: ‘Alongside decayed roués with dubious means of subsistence and of dubious origin, alongside ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, were vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers,

mountebanks, lazzaroni, pickpockets, tricksters, gamblers, maquereaus, brothel keepers, porters, literati, organ grinders, ragpickers, knife grinders, tinkers, beggars – in short, the whole indefinite, disintegrated mass, thrown hither and thither, which the French call la bohème’. (Karl Marx: The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. 1852).

50. These are hustlers who pursue narrow material self-interests and offer their services to the highest bidder. They are what Marx referred to as the “refuse of all classes, easy to manipulate to support the capitalist system”

51. Arising from this, it stands to reason that, with high levels of unemployment and dynamic shifts in the social structure, South Africa would have such a social group in abundance. However, groups that lack principle, and that show a lack of social consciousness are not only located among the unemployed. Significant swathes of the parasitic bourgeoisie and middle strata constitute a veritable community of lumpen elements and they operate in various spheres of human endeavour – in the grey area between legality and illegality or in fully-fledged criminal networks. Susceptible to mobilisation against the revolution, the lumpen tendency also find expression in the middle and upper strata in a complex process of post-colonial class formation in today’s South Africa.

52. Who are some of these lumpen elements? Broadly, they can be found among:

52.1 the parasitic bureaucratic bourgeoisie, some of whom seek to capture state institutions and repurpose them for their own accumulation

52.2 sections of the political elite and bureaucracy who use their positions in state institutions for venal self-enrichment

52.3 some leaders within the trade union movement who swindle unions or their investments arms

52.4 troupes of religious leaders who use their institutions as platforms of spiritual deceit for purposes of larceny from devotees

52.5 elements among student and youth leaders who take advantage of their positions for purposes of making money

52.6 groups that demand ‘empowerment cuts’, outside of the law, in projects being carried out in various localities

52.7 some leaders of local protest movements who use distressed communities’ grievances to worm their way into political, bureaucratic or procurement opportunities.

53. All these and others constitute a lumpen element within South Africa’s middle and upper strata. Their interests and activities intersect in various areas of social endeavour. They collaborate across social networks and professional spheres. What characterises them is illegitimate and illegal self-enrichment and a posture that sees ethical and capable state or civil society institutions as inimical to their crass materialistic interest.

54. Because of that self-interest, this lumpen element seeks to subvert everything progressive if it interferes with their selfish desires. They are driven by greed and their loyalty is easily purchased through material and other rewards. They eschew social solidarity and worship elitism. They seek to imbue communities with their value-system of crass materialism, individualism, corruption and criminality leading to social decadence. Yet at the same time, the more cunning among them profess a populist radicalism – often combined with narrow nationalism – that takes advantage of the slow progress in social transformation to legitimise their criminal enterprise.

55. As elaborated in the Strategy and Tactics and other documents of the ANC, monopoly capital and various elements of the erstwhile colonial bourgeoisie often act in a manner that undermines or slows down the process of transformation. Further, among these and the rest of the white middle strata, there are lumpen elements of various types some of whom have found common cause with their peers among the emergent black middle and upper strata.

56. The irony of the dynamics described above, pertaining to the lumpen elements of the emergent middle and upper strata, is that some of them position themselves publicly as sworn enemies of, and fighters against, the enduring colonial capitalist establishment. Yet, because they are driven by selfish personal interests, the cumulative effect of their conduct has the same effect (as that of the established capitalist class) of undermining or slowing down social transformation.

57. This is a novel phenomenon that requires constant interrogation and vigilance. It is broadly about the strategic question of managing class formation and value systems in an emergent post-colonial society. It also relates to the fundamental question: how and from where can counter- revolution congeal in the current phase of the National Democratic Revolution?

58. Historically, many of the lumpen proletariat took part in the revolt against the apartheid system. At times, their criminal activities threatened to undermine the moral high ground that the revolutionary movement sought to occupy. Many had hope about the future and were thus susceptible to personal reformation. In the context of the evolution of democracy and the process of social transformation, with its strengths and weaknesses, and the ‘sins of incumbency’, there is always a possibility of a coalescing of interests from among lumpen elements which may paralyse further movement forward.

59. At this juncture, the motive forces of change in South Africa are at their lowest ebb. Few if any of their formations have survived the syndrome of incumbency and factional wars which have gripped even the most vital force of this movement, organised labour. While there are multitudes of underlying factors behind this phenomenon, the lumpen tendency described above is central among them.

60. Lumpen tendencies are flourishing in many structures of civil society today. The battle-tested structures are increasingly high jacked by networks of self-serving individuals, and are buckling under the weight of reactionary societal values associated more with colonial capitalism.

61. These toxic elements have also targeted the ruling party and state structures for penetration, including at sub-national government levels. Renewal of the ANC as an agent for change demands that war be declared against lumpens. The party must weed out lumpen elements within its structures for its own survival. The ANC can no longer function without a strong, highly political and disciplined security structure to support its leadership organs.

62. Many of the individuals and social forces that were involved in the July 2021 partial insurrection, both at leadership and mass level, are part of the lumpen strata that has bourgeoned in our communities partly as a result of joblessness and poverty.


63. The theatre of ideas is a vital centre for change because it talks to unceasing efforts to ensure that social values, views and opinions that enjoy hegemony are those which support change. These challenges define the very core of our transformation agenda and are therefore critical in appreciating the threats and obstacles on our way. As stated by former President Thabo Mbeki in his Nelson Mandela Lecture delivered in 2006:

“Within the context of the development of capitalism in our country, individual acquisition of wealth produced through the oppression and exploitation of the black majority, became the defining social value in the organisation of white society”

“Because the white minority was the dominant social force in our country, it entrenched in our society as a whole, including among the oppressed, the deep-seated understanding that personal wealth constituted the only measure of individual and social success. As we achieved our freedom in 1994, this had become the dominant social value affecting the entirety of our population”

“Inevitably as an established social norm, this manifested itself even in the democratic state machinery that had seemingly “seamlessly” replaced the apartheid state machinery. The new order born of the victory in 1994 inherited a well-entrenched value system that placed individual acquisition of wealth at the very centre of the value system of our society as a whole. Society assumed a tolerant or permissive attitude towards such crimes as theft and corruption, especially if these related to public property. This phenomenon which we considered as particularly South African, was in fact symptomatic of the capitalist system in all countries”

64. There are two tendencies at play in relation to the battle of ides. On the one hand, the broad strategic objectives of the ANC, now codified in the country’s constitution, define the ideational framework within which South African society operates and the vision for which it aspires. On the other hand, because of poor performance as the governing party particularly in the recent period, the malfeasance of some of its leaders and the incoherence of its message, the ANC is faced with the harsh reality that the legendary dominance of ideas it enjoyed in South Africa before and during the democratic transition has drastically diminished.

65. Can a revolution triumph without a change in values, morals, and views in society? Is there such an experience? What accounts for the growing inhuman behaviour and conduct in our communities in the midst of a project of building a morally better society?

66. Today, whereas the ANC still remains the majority party in the overwhelming majority of South Africa’s municipalities, even with the substantial loss of support in the last local government elections, the broad public’s belief in the future under the ANC has taken a knock.

67. At an elementary level, for the battle of ideas to be won, as Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the PAIGC contended, the challenge starts with the credibility of leaders. The messengers must be one with what they preach for their message to resonate with society. It means that, for the ANC voice to regain pre- eminence, the leaders must be credible; otherwise the message will not to be heard. Secondly, the delivery of services or the lack of it can either impede or expedite the dominance of our ideas.

68. The other important challenge confronting the ANC is the reduced capacity to provide context to current developments in various spheres of life on an ongoing basis. This is with respect to both the production and dissemination of ideas. The party literally has no personnel to produce and publicise party views and opinions. The organisation is sorely absent in the space of ideas. Ongoing engagement with the intelligentsia particularly in institutions of higher learning, the media, and other centres which generate ideas needs urgent special attention.

69. The desire to have independent platforms through which the party can communicate its views to the broad public, be it electronic, print or visual has not borne fruit. This state of affairs is indeed untenable if the ANC must strive to be the leader of our society.

70. There is also, at a global level, a trend towards individualism and personal aggrandisement which is combined with manifestations of social inequality. This global trend, in part, accounts for the weakened social cohesion in South Africa to a point where the irrational signs of racism begin to rear their ugly head again. Consequently, social cohesion and hope within broader society is wearing thin.

71. The ANC has a historical obligation to defeat racism in all its forms, and to uphold non-racialism and non-sexism within its ranks and broader society. In this regard, its performance in the recent years has lost its shine.

72. Misplaced and raw narrow nationalistic sentiments and ethnic chauvinism do not only scoff at the legendary vision of the founders of the oldest liberation movement on the continent, but strategically bedevil the mobilisation of the motive forces for the new phase of struggle. Added to this are continuing manifestations of gender oppression.

73. Two decades ago, we undertook to ensure that “our program to transform education is not only addressing access to and the quality of education, but also education as a socialisation institution for the transmission of new values” (ANC Strategy and Tactics 51st National Conference,2002). Education was viewed as a medium for the promotion of national identity, our constitutional democracy, non- racialism, non-sexism, human rights and our philosophy of an egalitarian society. It is evident that the greater part of this work remains to be implemented. These lofty ideals require urgent attention today more than ever before.

74. The discourse on liberation and social transformation is today cluttered with simplistic revolutionary-sounding phrases. On the one hand, a technical approach to ‘social delivery’ has taken root, tending to assume the form of patronage. On the other hand, demands and policies which are not immediately attainable are advanced as immediate objectives, creating popular expectations that only worsen impatience and social discord. This is combined with an ahistorical approach to the nature of the 1994 democratic breakthrough and revolutionary sounding slogans among some political forces outside of the ANC. As part of its renewal, the ANC has to pay full attention to ideological work that is founded on its vision and historical mission.


75. The ANC Strategy and Tactics adopted at the 2017 National Conference asserts that “the ANC faces declining fortunes. Internal squabbles, money politics, corruption and poor performances in government, all conspire to undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of the broader public. Some progressive formations and individuals who historically have been part of the broad front of forces for change are challenging the movement on important current issues, particularly corruption.”

76. As the saying goes, there can be no revolution without a revolutionary organisation. Every society which is going through change, must have agents who are the sponsors of that change and are repositories of its characteristics.

77. The ANC Strategy and Tactics explains this revolutionary tenet in the following way: “Leadership collectives should, as a whole, reflect the motive forces of change and the various centres of power. This should help burst the bubble of professional politics in these collectives: a bubble in which government functionaries and full-time ANC employees operate as if in an echo chamber, thus widening the social distance from the rest of society. The various terrains of social endeavour, gender, age, and other criteria must be taken into account. Leadership integrity also relates to criteria to qualify for such responsibility, including length and quality of service, as well as ideological, academic and ethical attributes. In this regard, lifestyle audits by structures in which the membership has confidence, is critical.”

78. It further laments the fact that deviant conduct was becoming deeply entrenched in the ANC asserting that “arrogance, factionalism and corruption have been identified by large sections of society, including ANC supporters, as dominant tendencies within the movement. Gate-keeping, money politics and fraud characterise most ANC electoral processes.

Underhand practices increasingly define interactions between various spheres of government and the private sector; and private interests seek to capture and control not only state organs, but also the ANC itself.”

79. At the end of the day, the ANC as “a strategic centre of power should command both legitimacy and authority, deriving from the quality of its collective ideas and the discipline of its members.

80. It should ensure its mandate is carried out by its members, wherever they are located. It should be able to monitor and evaluate the implementation of its policies. When and where there are weaknesses - whether these are a result of poor policies, weak implementation or poor leadership - it should be able to act decisively.” (Strategy and Tactics, 2017).

81. To deal with these debilitating practices requires a genuine and sincere commitment to execute the National Conference resolution on renewal, re- engineering and unification of the ANC without fear or favour. In this context, the movement will need to find the right balance between pursuit of unity on the one hand, and renewal on the other. Some may argue that these objectives are not inconsistent with each other.

But, given the lumpen tendencies described above, the fundamental issue about unity being based on principle, on promoting revolutionary values and ethics, and on selfless service to the people should inform the process of organisational regeneration. It should be expected that there will be opposition from within our ranks to the cause of renewal.

82. Therefore, central to this work is the obligation of the NEC to strengthen the capacity of the Independent Electoral Commission as a matter of urgency.

Among the reasons for the poor performance of the ANC in the 2021 local government elections is the infighting emanating from allegations of interference and fraudulent selection processes. The need for a sufficiently capacitated permanent independent machinery which is sovereign from regional level upwards as ordered by conference, cannot be over- emphasised. Similarly, the Integrity Commission must be resourced and supported to be the decisive authority on ethics that it was meant to be.


83. In the early years of the transition, the trajectory of change in the broad polity of South Africa pointed to the moral superiority of the struggle to end racial oppression. The main protagonists of minority rule and white privilege, the National Party validated this by their courageous decision to fold up, and for some of them to join the ANC. Similarly, the overwhelming majority of political formations which existed in the former Bantustans joined the ANC.

84. Beyond that historical point, changes in South Africa’s electoral politics suggested that our democracy was gradually moving away from the political party configurations defined by postures towards the fundamental issue of social transformation.

85. The phenomenon of political groups which broke away from the ANC since 1994 has resulted in an interesting outcome. Everything remaining the same, it would have been expected that splinter groups from the ANC who make it to parliament, because they all profess to subscribe to the broad historic mission of the ANC, would find common cause with the ANC on fundamental issues of transformation. To the contrary, almost all of them display extreme hostility towards the ANC. It is a question the ANC has a duty to interrogate and understand in order to play our leadership role better, including exposing such tendencies to broader society.

86. The ANC registered a decline in its support during the November 2021 Local Government elections. Whereas the decline is in both rural and urban municipalities, the loss of six out of eight metros, the economic powerhouses the country, is devastating. Especially in Gauteng, the loss of all three metros has rendered ANC leadership of the Gauteng province almost hollow. The number of hung councils increased from 25 in 2016 to 70 in 2021. It is a development with dire consequences for the ability of the ANC to advance the transformation of the material conditions of life of marginalised communities. As said before, electoral performance in as society undergoing transformation such as our, is not for its own sake.

87. Current trajectories and modelling exercises project the ANC to dip below 50% in the 2024 national elections, for the first time since 1994. Among the reasons listed as causal factors of the November 2021dramatic decline is the depressed national mood due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the devastated economy and joblessness, increase in poverty and hunger, the July unrest social dislocation, distrust of government, enormous service delivery failures including water and electricity, corruption allegations, leadership conflicts, weak and non-existent party primary structures, and ANC financial problems.

88. The long list above consists of objective and subjective impediments. Our program over the next 24 months must foreground and prioritise those factors which it is up to us to eliminate. The 2019 national elections outcome, viewed against the 2016 results, provide sufficient evidence that the ANC itself has the remedy to its own morbidity.

89. The 2021 elections saw the biggest proliferation of small parties and independents. The elections were contested by a record 325 political parties and over 1,500 independent candidates. Two important implications for the balance of forces in this regard are, firstly, that the majority of independent candidates and service delivery forums mainly came out of ANC or ANC-aligned structures, underlining the ongoing haemorrhaging of the movement as a result of the intensification of individual interests among members. Secondly, the results show that the ANC did not lose votes to the next two largest parties, the DA and the EFF, and that turnout was poorest in the organisation’s ‘strongholds’. This does underline the possibility of the ANC reversing its electoral decline – a possibility that can only become reality if the efforts at organisational and societal renewal find practical expression.

90. The ANC remains the biggest party in many councils where it is not governing. However, the bitter reality is that it has been kept out of government by the growing phenomenon of small opposition parties ganging up to keep the ANC out of office. These coalitions which have less in common than a crowd of drunkards in a beer hall, are on a crusade to obliterate the defining goals of our national transformation project. Otherwise, they would not all declare the demise of the ANC as the only primary reason they exist. Their self- realisation in the palaces they now occupy under the pretext of fighting corruption, has more to do with their careerism, wheeling and dealing and patronage. We must work hard to unmask this truth to the people. The defence and consolidation of our democratic gains starts with organisational integrity and winning the battle of ideas.


91. In this section, we briefly reflect on the global balance of forces, in the main, to the extent that it impacts on the domestic prosecution of the struggle. This is taking into account the fact that the analysis contained in the 2017 Strategy and Tactics document does not require much elaboration.

92. The Policy Conference discussion paper on ‘International Relations’ prepared by the NEC Subcommittee on International Relation provides an account of ANC work on the international front, the challenges, interventions and recommendations on how to take our work forward. These initiatives are important in support of our endeavours on the domestic front. This global balance of forces section, must be read with the submission of the International Relations Committee.

93. Half-a-century ago at Morogoro, the ANC asserted the view that our struggle was part of the global movement in which more and more countries the world over, were moving from exploitative societies towards non- exploitative societies.

94. In the intervening period the world has witnessed events which have altered global affairs drastically. A new complex environment of international relations has emerged. This was acknowledged by the ANC back in 2002 at the 51st national conference when we said: “Our transition to democracy is taking place in a world in which the system of capitalism enjoys dominant sway over virtually the entire globe. But it is also a world in which the agenda of the working people and the developing nations can find creative expression in pursuit of a humane, just and equitable world order.”

95. This is the context in which we are called upon to continue the prosecution of the struggle to transform our country. But, how broad is awareness about these challenges in South Africa today? Put differently, is the ANC still ideologically hegemonic in the way the broad public views the world? This is more than just about theoretical debates; but it relates keenly to the opportunities and dangers that our struggle faces at domestic level.

96. The twentieth century was remarkable for three major civilisation-shifting developments:

96.1 the establishment of socialist orders in vast parts of the world;

96.2 the liberation of formerly colonised countries, with the end of apartheid being the last major development; and

96.3 the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the dismantling of socialism in many countries.

97. While Fukuyama’s End of History may have trumpeted the dominance of capitalism over all other economic systems, critical developments in the early 21st century have shown up not only the weaknesses of the capitalist system but also ways in which it could be challenged and changed in a more progressive way. Some of the major defining moments in the evolving global environment are discussed under the following highlights, viz the rise of neoliberalism, the rise of China, the 4th Industrial Revolution, Inequality, Populism, Authoritarianism, and in conclusion the African dynamic.


98. Neoliberalism is a system, characterised in the main by advocacy of "strong private property rights, free markets and free trade” (Harvey 2) and the relegation of the role of the state to the periphery of economic activity and a secondary one relative to the markets.

99. The rise of neo-liberalism and its framing of globalisation was not without dire consequences particularly for the poor and developing countries upon which structural adjustment programmes were imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

100. The dominance of neo-liberal ideological precepts brought about the influence of the “market society” as a product of globalisation. The dominance of the market created a distorted dominant value system and frame of ideological discourse which encouraged “greed, crass materialism and conspicuous consumption”.

101. “A market society is a way of life in which market values seep into every aspect of human endeavour. It's a place where social relations are made over in the image of the market. The great missing debate in contemporary politics is about the role and reach of markets.”

102. However, even within the bastions of capitalism, there has been a questioning of the foundations of that system. For example, the United States’ Business Roundtable in its August 2019 statement, signed by 181 CEOs, pointed out that all previous statements had ‘stated that corporations exist principally to serve their shareholders’. But in that statement it urged ‘leading investors to support companies that build long-term value by investing in their employees and communities’. Critically, the central role of the state has been starkly shown in the all-round management of the Covid-19 pandemic, spanning health, multi- disciplinary research, economic stimuli and the ordering of social life.


103. Within a period of roughly more than three decades China has emerged as a world economic giant. This is borne out by the following figures: In 2019 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of China was estimated at 14.10 trillion U.S dollars. From 1979 until 2010, China's average annual GDP growth was 9.91%, reaching an historical high of 15.2% in 1984 and a record low of 3.8% in 1990.Such growth has enabled China, on average, to double its GDP every eight years and helped raise an estimated 800 million people out of poverty.

104. The US Congressional Research Service (CRS) of 25 June 2019 reiterated the country’s concern that “China’s growing global economic influence and the economic and trade policies it maintains have significant implications for the United States and hence are of major interest to Congress”.

105. The growing hostility towards China as expressed in the US’ so-called Asia Pivot, the designation of China as a strategic competitor by the European Union and trade wars have implication for the whole world and particularly the developing countries. How the US, the EU and Japan respond to the shift in global power balances towards developing Asia is one of the fundamental questions of our time. Any escalation of conflict “could have devastating effects on the world economy” (source?).

106. This is the context in which the recent outbreak of war between the Russian Federation and Ukraine must be viewed. This development has indeed precipitated a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous international conjuncture, VUCA, overnight. This conflict is bound to have far-reaching implications for the foreseeable future. Latent tensions of the 20th Century Cold War have been painfully reignited creating a cesspool which many countries, including our own, are unavoidably going to be dragged into.

107. The situation is complicated. There are unresolved historical issues of identity and nation formation between Russia and Ukraine. But there are also matters arising from the dissolution of the USSR in both countries relating to the so-called Peripheral Capitalist state of the former Eastern bloc countries and the rosy future that is supposed to derive from their alignment with political, military and economic alliances of Western Europe and the Northern Atlantic. On the other hand, the unceasing expansion of NATO to the East in countries which were part of the Soviet Union has created unease in Russia, which argues that the security of countries should be treated as indivisible. That this sensitive matter could have been resolved in a rational manner long before the Russian incursion into Ukraine is acknowledged among many of the political and intellectual elites in the G7, NATO and allied countries.

108. The observation in the 2017 ANC Strategy and Tactics document bears reiteration: ‘Selfish geo-political pursuits and the rise of the security-industrial complex threaten to worsen global tensions and plunge the world into a devastating inferno.’ This is also reflected in the security doctrines of NATO and allied countries which seek to demonise, isolate and even physically confront China – somehow perceiving of its economic rise as an existential threat to their own countries.

109. There seems to be an ahistorical approach to geopolitics and economics and, even worse, a race- based denialism that ignores the fact that China was in fact the world’s largest economy for a large part of the 19th century. These ebbs and flows in global dynamics should be managed rationally and maturely, rather than through strategic contortions that seek to freeze the current reality, which is characterised by the pre-eminence of the United States of America and its allies.

110. The implications of these developments to our national interests are that they make our policy stance to balance interests difficult. Similarly, a unified stance of the AU on these matters has proven difficult to achieve. There are indications already that the global economy is going to be negatively impacted by the war in Ukraine just as the world’s economy tries to recover from Covid-19. There are expectations that one of the consequences of the war will be the acceleration of the transition to a low carbon economy across the globe. In addition, markets for our primary products may grow as countries seek alternative sources for Russian and Ukrainian exports. On the other hand, most world economies will choke from the substantial rise in the prices of many commodities.

111. Along with adopting a common non- aligned approach to these global dynamics, South Africa and the rest of the African continent need to exercise maximum vigilance to prevent a situation in which the continent becomes a playground of imperial ambitions of any of the global powers. Without an effective restraining dynamic of multipolarity and genuine multilateralism, Africa could once again find itself overtly and covertly subjected to the suffocating embrace of colonial and neo-colonial machinations.


112. The 4IR has come to dominate every facet of global society. We can no longer talk of it as imminent; we are in the midst of it. Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum, in his publication, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, underlines “hyper connectivity, data-science, Artificial Intelligence and robotics” as key drivers of productivity.

113. The 2017 Strategy and Tactics document characterises these developments in the following words: “Over the past three decades, the world has experienced an explosion of technological advances with massive potential to improve the human condition. Information and communications technology, bio-technologies, genetics and the science of small particles (Nano-technology) have opened many frontiers of progress in health sciences, agriculture, space exploration and other sectors. Along with this, robotics, three-dimensional (3D) printing, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence hold out the possibility of redefining, in a fundamental way, the nature of work.

What overall impact the fusion of these advanced technologies in the physical, digital and biological spheres – the so- called fourth industrial revolution – will have on humanity’s quality of life is still a matter of conjecture.

114. “In terms of their potential, these advances are a boon to humanity. But how they are owned, managed and let loose on society can have devastating consequences. The danger is that these successes of human civilisation are being appropriated by a few, in spite of the fact that many of them originated from, or were developed with the variegated support of, public institutions. They can be directed to benefit a small layer of society if not watched, with the mass of the people condemned as surplus to humanity. Many of the technological advances lend themselves to cynical military and intelligence applications.”


115. The debates about the future of capitalism arise in the context, not so much of particularly heightened left- wing agitation, but growing concern on the part of politicians, academics and business leaders around the effects of deep and fundamental flaws in the global economic system. These include the effects of climate change, rising inequality as well as threats to the global systems of governance and trade.

116. According to Oxfam (2017), more global wealth is owned by the richest one-percent than the rest of humanity; and ‘eight men now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’ (Oxfam: 2017). During the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, human development indicators in relation to poverty, health and education worsened for the global majority, while the net worth of billionaires went up, with a new one added every 17 hours (Oxfam); and 32 of the largest corporates saw profits rise by some US$109-billion (Forbes). In most developed economies, the working class has in the past two decades experienced stagnant incomes and a declining quality of life. Growing inequality is also to be found even in some of those countries that have extricated hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.

117. The work by Thomas Picketty in Capital in the Twenty First Century served to highlight not just poverty and underdevelopment, which had been our focus for much of the 20th century, but also the level of inequality and the socio-economic impacts thereof. He argues that there is nothing natural about inequality but that it is a ‘social, political and historical’ construct due to a number of factors such as tax systems, as well as political and economic factors.


118. While populism and authoritarianism are bedfellows, it would be wrong to assume an equivalence between the two tendencies. Erica Frantz, in her book on authoritarianism, points out that of the 75% of regimes which became authoritarian between 2000 and 2010, most took the form of a personal leader who exploited populist rhetoric. Such leaders are often ‘hyper-masculinist and patriarchal rulers’. (Jillian Schwedler and Kevan Harris: 2019)

119. Frantz points out that a large part of these regimes saw democracy being eaten out from within, as the larvae of some wasps eat out host spiders. Amongst the features which authoritarian regimes display, include a narrow inner circle of trusted people; the installation of incompetent loyalists in positions of power; promotion of members of the family; and the creation of new security services loyal to the leader.


120. The African continent is counted as one of the richest in the world in terms of its natural resources. These include diamonds, sugar, salt, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium, platinum group metals, copper, bauxite, silver, petroleum, cocoa beans, woods and tropical fruits. It goes without saying that because of its natural resources the African continent will continue to occupy a strategic position in the global socio- economic and political arena. Some of these minerals are bound to assume even greater prominence in the global transition to a low-carbon economy.

121. Historically, diplomatic, political, economic and trade relations that Africa enters into have largely been guided and informed by what is in the national interests of those countries with whom Africa chooses to enter into partnerships. Some developed countries have deliberately sponsored wars and promoted chaos in Africa for purposes of destabilisation and access to the continent’s resources with poor regulation and on the cheap.

122. It is therefore in the best interests of the continent to promote intra-African trade which would be mutually beneficial to the member states. By implication, this means that Africa needs to develop a collective approach in terms of its relations with other regions of the world.

123. The continent also needs to take full advantage of its youthful population and ensure that the demographic dividend becomes a reality. According to the estimates of the United Nations, the population of Africa constitutes 16.72% of the world population. This makes Africa the second highest populated continent in the world after Asia with about 60% of the world population. Further, of the global number of young people between the ages of 15 and 24, about 20% are located in sub-Saharan Africa; and these are expected to increase faster than on any other continent, by about 89% between 2019 and 2050.

124. It goes without saying that, for the continent to advance – in terms of both its socio-economic development and it’s standing in the global community – it needs urgently to resolve the remaining conflicts that continue to dog some of its regions.

125. Needless to say, the multidimensional costs of these conflicts are enormous. According to IANSA, Oxfam and Saferworld: “There are the obvious direct costs of armed violence – medical costs, military expenditure, the destruction of infrastructure, and the care for displaced people – which divert money from more productive uses.”

126. In this context, it is correct that South Africa continues to put high on the agenda issues of economic integration, ‘silencing the guns’ and the advancement of women and youth.

127. Lest this is not fully appreciated: for South Africa, the emphasis on the Africa agenda is not a matter of solidarity or the convenience of contiguity. The positive attributes of the continent, outlined above, do stand South Africa in good stead to pursue higher rates of economic growth and development. A continental growth laggard in the current conjuncture, South Africa will increasingly rely on dynamics in the rest of Africa to lift itself up.


128. The attainment of democracy in 1994 fundamentally shifted the strategic balance of forces in South Africa in favour of the forces of national liberation and social transformation. This is underpinned by a democratic constitution with profound social content. This is an epochal achievement in centuries of South Africa’s history.

129. Combined with this achievement is progress made in changing the lives of South Africans for the better in terms of access to basic services. Profound changes have taken place on such fronts as access to education, health services, water and sanitation as well as pursuit of gender equality.

130. Yet the breadth of access requires continuous improvement in relation to depth or quality of these services. Indeed, a major concern in the current period pertains to weaknesses and even reversals, especially at municipal level and the capacity of the state generally. Further, patriarchy still rears its ugly head, sometimes in the most abominable of ways as reflected in incidents of femicide and other forms of gender-based violence.

131. While much distance still needs to be traversed in breaking white dominance in critical sectors of the economy, the past twenty-five years have seen exponential growth of the black middle class and the steady entry of black entrepreneurs into various sectors of the economy. There have been profound changes in the class structure of South African society, especially within the Black community.

132. This process of post-colonial class formation has developed along with the emergence of lumpen elements littered across various areas of social endeavour, including the economy and the political sphere. These are dangerous forces that need to be confronted and defeated, if the revolution has to make progress.

133. All this is happening against the background of a contradictory global balance characterised by shifts in economic power and tendencies towards populism, authoritarianism and militarism. The conduct of the leadership, especially in countries that exercise immense global power, can tip humanity towards a conflagration.

134. The ANC remains, by definition, the vanguard of the National Democratic Revolution. Yet, as shown in recent elections, this status which has to be earned, depends on the movement’s capacity to self-correct and implement programmes of organisational and societal renewal. The same applies to the Tripartite Alliance as a whole. This requires firmness in dealing with forces that seek to undermine and reverse the process of social change. As such, the pursuit of unity should be premised on the firm understanding that what is required is unity of principle and unity in action to take South Africa to a higher level of growth and development.

135. As experience since the 2017 National Conference has shown, this will be a titanic struggle.

136. “Transition is not a friendly game. It is a fierce struggle for the future and will bring about sharp divisions among us. We are living in transition times and you must know which shore it is you want to swim towards, because otherwise you will drown”- Immanuel Wallerstein

Issued by the ANC, 20 May 2022