The secret to life under and after the ANC

Ernst van Zyl says the successes of AfriForum and the Solidarity Movement revolve around a do-it-yourself philosophy

AfriForum and the Solidarity Movement have discovered the secret to life under and after the ANC

26 July 2022

For almost 30 years South Africa has only known one political paradigm: the ANC as ruling party. The ANC has had such a long, tight grip on the national government that the line between government and ruling party has blurred significantly for ANC politicians and the public alike.

Therefore, at a time where the ANC appears at its weakest since it gained power in 1994, many still fear the unknown after the ANC. “What alternative do we really have?” has practically become a South African proverb, mostly in the context of party politics. AfriForum and the broader Solidarity Movement have been hard at work for years, developing a viable alternative to a deteriorating state which already has a proven track record of practical success. All it requires is a shift of a one-track historical mindset.

For over 100 years the reigning political paradigm in South Africa has been the centralisation of power in the hands of the government. Centralisation is simply the continued entrusting of government with more and more responsibilities, functions and powers.

Domestically, the philosophy behind this top-down approach has been that an increasingly powerful and all-encompassing government is best suited to manage and administrate the affairs of, and determine the destinies of the vast collection of communities at the southern tip of Africa. It is understandable that some still cling to this philosophy, since the hammer of centralisation is the only tool you know, you will see every problem as a nail. Party politics is in essence the scramble for control of the government leviathan.

It is tempting to outsource responsibilities such as your community’s security, cleanliness, or heritage preservation to government. The real price of that convenience however only becomes apparent when government starts losing the capacity to fulfil those delegated responsibilities. That reality has now started to dawn on many in this country.

It is not only the collapse of government capacity which poses a threat, but on top of that the mounting list of misguided and damaging policies imposed by the ANC. It is remarkable how people still manage to achieve success despite government’s interventions. AfriForum and the Solidarity Movement’s survival strategy requires a significant departure from this customary state-centralisation approach.

The successes of AfriForum and the Solidariteit Movement revolve around a selfdoen (do-it-yourself) philosophy. It requires a rejection of state dependence and convenience in favour of building and providing that which is needed but the state fails to deliver sufficiently or at all. These accomplishments were not facilitated with government assistance, but rather through pursuing the ideal of becoming staatsbestand (state resistant) at every possible level. This approach ensures the independence and reliability of essential services and institutions in a hostile environment, where state collapse, misguided policies and corruption are ever-present.

Within 16 years, AfriForum has united over 300 000 donating members behind a common cause to work together towards something bigger than themselves. AfriForum has established over 150 neighbourhood watches, many farm watches, emergency support services, and over 155 branches across the country that do anything from cleaning up neighbourhoods, planting community vegetable gardens and trees, to repairing thousands of potholes.

AfriForum also started its own private prosecution unit, publishing company, film production company and theatre. The Solidariteit Movement has established its own private institution of higher learning Akademia and built a world-class technical college campus Sol-Tech. Sol-Tech was built by the community for the community, with the cost of R300 million largely being funded through Solidariteit members donating R10 per month to a building fund.

This alternative path does not involve the writing off of party politics or withdrawal from them altogether. Rather, you should not put all your community’s eggs in one party politics basket. As Flip Buys, Chairperson of the Solidarity Movement, has said, “A politician thinks of the next election, we think of the next generation.” The answer to the critical problems communities face, lies outside of the constraints of the current political dispensation. Don’t ask what the government can do for you and your community, ask what does government do that you and your community can do yourselves?

Unsurprisingly, many have recently started to see AfriForum and the Solidariteit Movement in a new light. This did not happen because the aforementioned changed course, but rather because as the ANC continues to descend to new depths of failure, reprehensibility and indefensibility, prejudiced views and public outrage-theatre towards AfriForum and the Solidariteit Movement become an increasingly unjustifiable and luxurious exercise.

An alternative approach to the one that has had its way with South Africa for generations does exist. The good news is that it has already escaped from the realm of theory and experimentation years ago and boasts a solid track record of success stories. The remaining question is whether most individuals and communities will be willing and able to wean themselves from the debilitating and dependence-forming drug of government centralisation? Only then will those communities be able to largely take their destiny into their own hands. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.”

Ernst van Zyl is a Campaign Officer at AfriForum for Strategy and Content. He co-presents the Podlitiek podcast, hosts the Afrikaans “In alle Ernst” podcast, and hosts a political commentary and interview channel on YouTube. Ernst usually posts on Twitter and YouTube under his pseudonym Conscious Caracal (follow him at @ConCaracal).