Don't laugh off the NDR

John Kane-Berman says our media should start taking the ANC's declared intentions seriously

Donald Trump and the South African revolution

One of the things Donald Trump has going for him in the race for the Republican Party's American presidential nomination is that the party establishment failed to take him seriously. Although Mr Trump has not yet secured the nomination, the party hierarchy may live to rue the fact that their complacency led them to laugh him off.

Also working to Mr Trump's advantage is the fact that he has been subjected to so much derision by so many sections of the media. They have been so busy heaping scorn upon him that they have failed to appreciate that he might be more in tune with Republican voters than they are, with the result that he now seems to be a more serious contender for the nomination than they ever imagined.

In South Africa, the African National Congress (ANC) benefits from a similar refusal by nearly everyone outside its own ranks to take seriously its commitment to bring about a National Democratic Revolution (NDR). Few newspaper commentators pay much attention to the ANC's revolutionary agenda. The same is true of nearly all opposition politicians, and of institutions in civil society that are otherwise sometimes critical of the ANC.

Many are so focused on whether or not the ANC is implementing the National Development Plan (NDP) adopted in 2012, that they ignore whether or not the revolutionary NDR plan is being implemented. They do not even ask the question. Nor does business, which likewise focuses on the supposedly pragmatic and reformist NDP while ignoring the revolutionary NDR. As for the international credit ratings agencies, if the NDR is on their radar screens, they seem too polite to mention it.    

Yet cadre deployment has been steadily imposed right across the public sector. In the private sector many companies have put ANC cadres on their boards. The use of cadre deployment to capture all centres of power is a key component of the revolutionary NDR. Another key component is to bring about demographic proportionality/representivity in the personnel running all institutions, public and private. Racial targets and quotas imposed by employment equity legislation are the means by which this component of the revolutionary NDR agenda is enforced.  

Black economic empowerment requirements, along with plans for more comprehensive land redistribution, are yet another component: they give effect to the radical redistribution of assets required by the revolutionary NDR agenda. Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of both the ANC and the country, recently said that the government was hell-bent on making sure that blacks owned and managed the economy.

This is far more in line with revolutionary NDR thinking than with that of the reformist NDP, even though Mr Ramaphosa's name is usually associated with the latter. Also in line with the NDR are the commitments earlier this year by President Jacob Zuma to accelerate land reform. Expropriation legislation currently being processed for enactment is a further example of how the revolutionary NDR agenda is being implemented.

The revolutionary agenda of the NDR was adopted by the South African Communist Party (SACP) in 1962. The ANC adopted it in 1969. Since then the NDR has been reaffirmed regularly at ANC conferences. It somehow seems to survive all the other plans adopted from time to time, among them the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), and the Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (Gear) strategy. It will no doubt survive the NDP.

Commentators in the media, opposition politicians, and institutions in civil society have recently had much to say about state "capture". Their focus is on capture of organs of state by business interests and/or by factions and/or by individuals within the ANC. Almost entirely ignored is the question of the extent to which the ANC itself might have been "captured" by the SACP. In this respect the SACP has certainly come up trumps.      

* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the South African Institute of Race Relations, a think-tank promoting political and economic freedom.