The ANC's anti-jobs foreign policy

Shawn Hagedorn warns that tweaking the nose of the West comes with costs

While the ANC’s reliance on patronage greatly limits its institutional capacity and its ability to change, we mustn’t underestimate the party’s rising appetite for thwarting our constitutional protections.

If 40% of voters favour the ANC in our 29 May contest, as suggested by various polls, is an ANC-EFF national coalition government not the most likely outcome? Is President Ramaphosa being succeeded by Paul Mashitile, perhaps quite soon, not highly likely? Do corruption allegations against Mashitile not encourage his faction to favour Julius Malema as our next deputy president? 

Our per capita GDP peaked around 2010 and it is on track to stagnate throughout this decade. Yet the truly long-lasting impact of the ANC's economic stewardship is depicted by our having the world's highest, and seemingly most deep-rooted, youth unemployment.

Social justice

The ANC entrenched its political hegemony on the back of the party’s perceived commitment to social justice. As the party’s brand has been battered within SA by broad recognition that it is highly corrupt and that most black school leavers will never be meaningfully employed, the ANC has exploited BRICS pageantry, Global South pretensions and International Court of Justice theatrics to reassert its social justice credentials. Does this trace to vanity or more sinister motivations?

Short-lived growth spurts from, say, strong commodity demand, are still possible whereas sweeping policy shifts are needed to achieve sustained high growth. As the Ramaphosa-era ANC has persistently leaned in the opposite direction, our unemployment crisis has induced a deep poverty trap. 

Our consumers lack the income to fuel sustained high growth. Many are struggling to service debt - as is our national treasury. The situation has deteriorated to the point that while a commodity boom would increase GDP, the multiplier effect would be modest and job creation meagre. Government would however be able to fund more sub-subsistence payments. That would postpone the day of reckoning: when adopting pro-growth policies could no longer be postponed.

Our only path to escape the ANC-provoked poverty trap is to increase value-added exports to wealthy consumer markets. Those are predominantly the western countries that, quite justifiably, feel threatened by the ANC's favoured alignment partners, Russia, China and Iran. As if to remove any doubts about its anti-western biases, the ANC also expresses solidarity with Hamas.

Western countries opening their markets to Asian imports supercharged the pace of development in the world’s most populous region. During the same three decades, the ANC’s core deliverable was to create a large and stable black middle class. Empowering a modest number of blacks while making most reliant on government handouts, was not an accomplishment. Nor is our political economy stable given our levels of debt and idled young adults.

Success determinants

As the Soviet Union had just collapsed, Mandela, Mbeki and Manuel ratcheted down their party's lust for full-throated Marxism and wholesale redistribution. But aligning SA's economy with globally dictated success determinants meant focusing on adding value to goods and services destined for affluent western consumers. 

Former colonies in Asia spotted the opportunity and changed with the times. Conversely, leaders of the former liberation movement which had become our ruling party were unable to pivot from embracing communism to encouraging capitalistic zeal. 

They chose cadre deployment, talk of an African renaissance, and regional initiatives such as NEPAD. From that point onwards, time was against us. Poor people selling to poor people remain poor for generations.

Things like commodity super cycles and dot com booms and bust obscure underlying success factors. SA has never been on a path which could produce a large middle class. Now, cadre deployment anchors massive patronage as ANC thugs out manoeuvred the party's idealists.

Whether today's ANC elites are inspired by the trapping of power, the ideology of the National Democratic Revolution or a desire to stay out of jail, their fealty to our constitution is suspect. How could they not admire how elections are undermined in Russia, Iran and Gaza?

Apartheid … integration

Ending apartheid was never going to create a large and sustainable black middle class if it didn't lead to global integration. Neither the ANC's aligning with the Russia-Iran-China axis challenging the world order nor its embrace of BRICS or the Global South can propel large scale job creation. As high growth emerging nations know well, that requires running large value-added driven trade surpluses. This further requires integrating within global supply chains serving affluent markets - and those remain predominantly clustered in western nations.

ANC elites seem to reason that if they side with anti-western nations, then they can ignore the criticisms, and pressures, which will come from western capitals as they undermine our constitutional protections - after having devastated our economic prospects. That is, they are blunting the ability of western nations to sanction SA through self-sanctioning.


This path looked much more appealing before Putin invaded Ukraine. Russia's long-term growth trajectory has been pummelled while China has pivoted from being a darling of investors to being labelled uninvestable.

Hamas' barbaric 7 October invasion of Israel has had an equally profound impact due to how it has highlighted how woke culture is not just antisemitic but generally hateful, Marxist and destructive. The dark obsession with victimhood and inequality which is rife across many universities, media houses and entertainment companies, is being exposed to much sunlight. 

The ANC has offered itself up as the crash test dummies who show what indulging victimhood politics produces. Too bad about the other passengers.