The Second Transition? A reply to Mr F.W. De Klerk

Mzukisi Makatse says if ANC doesn't act on economic demands there will be an explosion in SA

The former Deputy President of the democratic government of South Africa, Mr F.W De Klerk, on 07/03/2012, wrote an article detailing his rushed thoughts around the proposed political paradigm shift by the ANC's policy discussion document entitled "The Second Transition". In this article, Mr De Klerk expresses his understanding of the political settlement reached between the warring sections of our society at the height of political conflict in our country after 1990.

In this article, Mr De Klerk makes it clear as a former leader of the National Party, and may be above all as part of the white minority group in South Africa, that he does not agree with the ANC's proposed stance to deviate from the political settlement reached during the political negotiations in the 1990's.

For Mr De Klerk it seems, the political settlement reached during those negotiations is sacrosanct and should not be tempered with irrespective of the forward march and changing historical phenomena. As a zealous sentinel of this settlement, he also finds himself duty-bound to dispense thinly-veiled threats of a minority backlash if this settlement were to be tempered with. 

Mr De Klerk also finds solace in the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, in the late 1980's, and the meteoric rising of the current dominant neo-liberal economic ideology that has put emphasis on fiscal austerity and other economic policy measures designed to ensure a thriving environment for maximisation of profit by business.

Conspicuously, he says zilch about the 2008 global economic meltdown and the resultant loss of millions of jobs due to the ill-conceived neoliberal economic policies. What about the current Euro-zone economic crisis? He neatly avoids this subject for obvious reasons.

He concludes by ringing the usual liberal scarecrow bells about the ANC's supposed scaling down of the powers of independent courts, ostensibly to raise the ire of anyone caring about the rule of law in our country. All this is designed to support Mr De Klerk's fictional warning about the supposedly imminent South African apocalypse!

What could have led to an important figure like Mr De Klerk - who played such a crucial role to bring about the kind of democracy we enjoy today - to write such an alarmist piece of work? Few things can be made about Mr De Klerk's occasional caveats about the impending South African Armageddon.

The first is that Mr De Klerk, whether consciously or unconsciously, seems to play the role of a ghost from our past that must weigh heavily on the current generation, hindering their effort to ameliorate their human condition. As an active participant in the negotiations about twenty years ago - which led to a semi-democratic arrangement where the white minority groups would keep their wealth and property intact whilst the black majority would remain in their squalid and under developed conditions - he feels that he has a responsibility to protect that settlement so as to maintain the status quo.

For him the political transition agreed upon is a permanent transition. His use of the Constitution as a foundation on which to base this distorted and bizarre understanding of our political transition or any transition for that matter is really astounding. As he glorifies this Constitution on the one hand, he also devalues its important substantive elements that talk to the recognition of the political majority rule and the socio-economic development of our people as whole, irrespective of their race, gender or creed on the other.

Mr De Klerk's interest in the Constitution only goes as far as it protects the interests of white minority groups. One really does not hear the honourable Mr De Klerk saying anything about the urgency to satisfy the constitutionally guaranteed socio-economic rights for the majority of our people in order to quell the real ticking social time bomb. I have not heard him saying anything about the under representation of African languages in many spheres of our public realm. His preoccupation with only the Afrikaans language is divisive to say the least.

This conspicuous silence on these vital socio-economic aspirations of the black majority by Mr De Klerk is not apolitical. That is why I find it utterly hypocritical of him to seek to deny the ANC the very same right to politicise and problematise this transition in its pursuit of the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution, whose praxis is in fact no secret. The ANC has been always open about its intentions, using its political power, to create a society where all have a share in the country's wealth within a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic system.

The ANC made the historical commitment to use every available legal measure to achieve its historical mission of building a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa. Just so we are clear, each of these principles has an inherent economic content that all of us as people we should strive to fulfil as the main emphasis of this second transition. This is so because the first transition was fundamentally about building the formal constitutional structures that would dialectically give effect to this economic development content of the second transition.

For Mr De Klerk to bewail that the ANC will violate the law, and of all laws the Constitution, in its pursuit of this economic development content of the second transition is quite mischievous to say the least. The amendment of the Constitution is not a violation of any law, provided that is done within the legally permissible parameters, which parameters are ironically provided for by the very Constitution.

This Constitution, to which Mr De Klerk surrendered political sovereignty as he says, empowers the ANC as a majority party to make constitutional amendments, provided it satisfies all the constitutional requirements guiding such a process. Except Mr De Klerk says the ANC cannot use the provisions in the Constitution to amend the same, maybe because of some political understanding emanating from CODESA. Needless to say, to say that would be a serious travesty and violation of the ANC's constitutional rights for which Mr De Klerk purports to be a champion.

It would be advisable for Mr De Klerk to also note that the new generation of all hues that has just found its political consciousness and activism is prone to initiate struggles independent of the ANC. This generation is free of the historical baggage that the ANC or the National Party leaders have. They were neither oppressed nor oppressors as many liberals are wont on reminding us. However, because injustice will always be injustice irrespective of a historical stage, this new generation has begun to point out injustices in their socio-economic conditions.

To thinks that the ANC will fold its arms and do nothing in the face of this looming explosion is to invite Tahrir Square to South Africa. As the governing party, the ANC has no choice but to respond to these old economic demands by the new generation. As a responsible party, the ANC has not threatened anything outside the law to address these demands. Where such is the case, we have functioning independent courts for anyone to approach to lay a complaint in that regard.

Instead of parading liberal watchwords of the old society, property, family, religion and order for the minority and to which all must kneel and pray; and instead of playing a divisive role that diminishes the important part he played during the negotiations for a democratic South Africa, Mr De Klerk should place his knowledge and skills at the disposal of the nation in its efforts to build a meaningful democracy that has a strong socio-economic content for the improvement of the material life of all South Africans irrespective of race, gender or language.

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