Why the ANC dooms us to relentless state decay

Koos Malan on the fatal flaw that leads 'progressives' to deliver only regression

The current ANC regime, as explained previously, suffers from a constant diminishing of governing resources. Consequently, it exercises authority over fewer and fewer areas and functions.

The regime increasingly abdicates functions to local and corporate substitute governments. In several areas and in respect of a growing number of governing functions, these (substitute) governments are replacing the receding regime. Some of these substitute governments are organs of state, such as provincial and municipal governments. Even more important is the emergence of non-state substitute governments, namely civic and business institutions morphing into de facto governing institutions in the communities within which they are organised.

These substitute governments are bound to gain in strength and acquire more governing functions, thereby giving increasing effect to fragmented constitutional dispensations in place of a single 1996 order now gradually fading away.

There is no party-political opposition or civic initiative strong enough to reverse this tide countrywide. However, in certain provinces (as is the case to a significant extent in the Western Cape), municipal areas, and newly emerging autonomous enclaves and micro-republics – as shown in the discussion cited above – substitute governance is not only feasible, but indeed an increasingly prominent reality.

More important, however, is the fact that the “ruling” ANC, regardless of its penchant for centralisation, can also not arrest growing constitutional fragmentation and guide it back to constitutional unity.

The reason is that the ANC has a political mentality that makes it unfit to maintain an advanced modern dispensation. The ANC, in keeping with its communist and leftist ideological kin elsewhere in the world over the past century or so, purports to be a so-called progressive force. The claim is premised on its transformationist ideology.

Regardless of these claims, however, the ANC is essentially an agent of regression. As we have all plainly observed, the party has sent South Africa far down the path of a new backwardness. In consequence, the ANC is not progressive at all; it is regressive and, in practical terms, we might say, neo-primitivist.

The cornerstones of an advanced order: the indispensable triad of Capital formation, maintenance, and specialisation

Since it comes almost naturally to most of us, we usually do not reflect on the foundations of an advanced society. But as ANC-led regression becomes entrenched in current-day South Africa, the essential requisites for an advanced society come to light. Three of these are particularly pertinent, namely the closely intertwined requisites of capital formation, maintenance, and specialisation.

These characteristics are not exclusively modern, because traditional civilisations and societies such as the ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Indians, Japanese, medieval Christians and others were also premised on them. That is precisely why I am not talking only of a modern society, but of an advanced society, encompassing contemporary modern as well as traditional civilisations and societies. Such advanced societies stand in contrast to primitive societies, which do not possess these three cornerstones or at least lack them to a material extent.

Advanced societies come to develop what are often described as complex systems. These include complex infrastructure for water supply; rail, road, air, and sea transport; electricity supply and similar energy supplies such as gas and petroleum, solar, wind, etc; a health system; an education system; a financial system combined with an accounting system; a legal system and administrative systems that enable public and private institutions to function predictably based on clearly defined norms; security systems; sewage and storm water systems and numerous others. All these complex systems of advanced societies are structured on the basis of capital formation, maintenance, and specialised expertise, which are largely absent in primitive societies.

Capital formation embodied in infrastructure and in fixed capital for economic activity provides the foundation of all complex systems. The complexity and resource intensity of capital formation necessitates careful and extensive planning.

Capital formation and permanence – the next decades and centuries – go hand in hand. Therefore, fixed capital often transcends the life span of individuals. Capital formation has been particularly enhanced by the highly innovative phenomenon of the private juristic person (instead of only the state or similar political entities), whose lifespan exceeds that of individuals, namely companies, trusts, foundations and the like; and accompanying legal-financial instruments such (security of) property and contract, shares, insurance, accounting systems, stock markets and the like.

Capital in the guise of physical infrastructure, buildings, factories, machinery, tools, facilities for production, storage, mechanised transport and similar structures and facilities, is there for the long term. It is not necessarily there for direct consumption, but for use – and more specifically for utilisation – in the productive processes that serve final economic ends (including consumption) over the long term.

Capital assets in an important sense, are usually not only the assets of the capital investor/s. It is not only mine, but often, in a sense, ours. Even if certain identified persons start a fixed capital project, its ownership often vests in a larger group of shareholders. Moreover, whole communities (of successive generations) often benefit from fixed capital and take proverbial (albeit not legal) ownership of it. In other words, they have a stake in it because they benefit from it. They show the character of a res publica – a common asset of all (the public) – even though property rights reside in specific individuals or juristic persons.

For capital formation to provide its benefits over the long-term, maintenance and upkeep are essential to arrest deterioration and prevent wastage so that existing capital can be replenished and remain beneficial. A mark of primitive settings is both low levels of capital formation and minimal maintenance. By contrast, a mark of advanced societies is the diversion of significant resources to maintenance of fixed capital.

In contrast to advanced societies, primitive societies tend to have an under-developed consciousness for capital formation and maintenance.

Capital formation also involves societal capital like mutual trust so that essentially everyone in society can count on each other that capital will not be at the mercy of vandalism and neglect. People trust each other that since everyone has a stake in the relevant capital work (road, railway, factory, dam, school, park, office complex or whatever), all will help to maintain it, by at least refraining from damaging it, regardless of them not being private owners. This is essentially a matter of civic virtue emanating from a civil culture.

Capital formation involves the accumulation and recording of knowledge, insight and skill in books, manuals and the like so that the knowledge does not go to waste but can be expanded, shared and transferred to new participants in economic intercourse and to new generations. Viewed in this way, writing, which enables recording and transmission, is an essential characteristic of an advanced society, both in modern as well as traditional civilisations. In fact, it is arguably the most important capital (and intellectual) innovation of all time.

Authoritative norms of the law, which apply to the public, governments, and the public administration, that lay the foundation for legal authority (usually called the rule of law) are likewise stabilised by scripture, since the law is traditionally contained in writing. (Fernanda Pirie The rule of laws: A 4000 year quest to order the world New York: Basic Books 2021 provides a handy summary of this.) The law, particularly when encapsulated in codifications is one of the foremost stabilisers of behaviour - also behaviour in relation to capital works, since the law (and predictable behaviour) is permanently captured instead of having to negotiate and renegotiate it again and again from case to case interpersonally, temporarily and with unpredictable outcome.

Specialisation in minute detail in all fields - an enormous variety of specialisation in an ever-expanding number of trades, professions, and occupations, supported by specialised education and training and continuous innovation - is of course also integral to an advanced society. Traditional civilisations characterised by capital formation and a sense of maintenance were already familiar with specialisation to a significant extent.

An advanced order consisting of complex systems is impossible without specialised expertise; that is to say, enough professionals, technicians, tradesmen and administrators with the necessary knowledge, qualifications, skill and experience in the field of each of the complex systems. These are specialists with insight into the functioning of each of the complex systems and the ability to maintain and improve them and so to sustain the whole of an advanced dispensation.

A primitive condition, however, lacks detailed specialisation. There exists at best only the most basic infrastructure and capital formation, which, moreover, is not durable and lasting. There is only a meagre cultural sense and understanding for maintenance and upkeep. The specialisation that does exist is fitting to a primitive subsistence economy and way of life. However, it does not come close to the varied specialisation of an advanced way of life. In a primitive scenario people tend to be generalists. Large numbers of people can fulfil the basic, relatively simple tasks associated with the functioning of a subsistence society.

There is no financing. Far fewer resources are "invested" in human capital than in an advanced setting, simply because specialised knowledge and skills and specialised areas are only known to a minor extent. There is no written culture. Everything is oral. Recording and the written transmission of knowledge is therefore absent and as far as a distinction between law, morality and religion is at all feasible, the "law" is not consigned into writing, and consists of customs or negotiated understandings concluded from case to case.

The regressive path of the "progressive transformationist" ANC

The ANC made its big breakthrough in 1994 by gaining control of the South African state. The South African state was a typical advanced modern dispensation with a multitude of smoothly-functioning complex systems. Extensive and deep capital formation, continuous maintenance and a very high degree of specialisation were the order of the day.

The ANC rejects primitiveness. Fed from the fountains of Marxism, especially since the middle of the twentieth century, the ANC was rather inspired by the opposite of primitiveness. Accordingly, the ANC lauds itself as progressive. Moreover, it is unequivocally statist. It is committed to centralised state power and to a uniform statist culture. That is why the ANC rejects what it considers the characteristics of primitiveness, namely inequality, class division, tribal and ethnic ties, "primitive" languages and cultures which it considers to be the source of division and an obstacle to state unity, "nation building” and the achievement of equality. In place of the primitive languages, it embraces English, viewing it as an expression of progress which can help to throw off the chains of backwardness and division and enabling the entrenchment of a progressive dispensation of equality and a uniform state culture under the control of a centralised ANC regime.

With a view of achieving this, the ANC acts as the revolutionary vanguard party, which, because of its commitment to progress, must carry out a revolution towards a new order.

With this in mind, the ANC believes that it must concentrate all power within itself – within the party. In fact, it makes no secret of it, and has declared countless times that it is striving to establish party-control over all centres of power. This includes the national legislature and executive, all other levels of government, the judiciary, the civil service, the police and military, universities and other educational institutions, professional organisations, civic organisations and sports bodies, women’s, and youth organisations and in fact every possible institution possessing public power, influence, and assets. Consequently, all capital and finally all factors of production must be under the control of the central government and party leadership and cultural communities must merge into a single state culture.

For the ANC, its drive for concentrating power in itself always takes precedence. In its view of governance, party control is the supreme value, trumping everything else. Professional suitability is lower down the value hierarchy. If an ANC loyalist, that is, "cadre" in its parlance, is also professionally suited for a particular position, he/she might (possibly) be appointed. But party loyalty and the party's hold on power come first. If no party cadre is professionally suitable for a position, a cadre will be employed nonetheless. Appointments, in whatever positions, are therefore always political appointments - the appointment of a loyal cadre - rather than a professional appointment. Party control over all institutions and levers of authority requires it. The history of the ANC in government over the past decades provides conclusive evidence of this.

In this lies the great self-defeating irony, because it is precisely this undiluted craving for party control that has already inevitably caused large-scale regression. The passion for party control is drastically incompatible with the requisites of capital formation, maintenance and specialisation, which are essential for upholding an advanced dispensation. As long as the ANC remains in office, this spiral of regression is destined to inevitably worsen. All the tools the ANC uses to strengthen its party control cumulatively contribute to de-modernisation and regression.

The tools of regression - Cadre deployment and favouritism

Cadre deployment and favouritism are the basis of the ANC's project of comprehensive party control over all aspects of the state and society. This is what enables it to neutralise all possible opposition - counter-revolutionary forces as the ANC likes to call them. All the other programs of the ANC, more specifically, representivity (representativeness), affirmative action, and Black economic empowerment (BEE), revolve around it and are actually subdivisions of its cadre politics and party control.

Cadre deployment is the key tool, according to which the regime deploys loyalists of the ANC to positions in state organs. Senior executive positions come first. Once that knot has been tied, the senior cadres take care of the rest, namely, to ensure that other appointments are similarly “suitable,” that is, are also party cadres, or at least will not oppose the party leadership or otherwise disrupt the ANC.

Representativeness bolsters cadre deployment. It gained such importance that former justice Kriegler on occasion rightly described it as the "be all and end all" in the South African constitutional discourse. Representativeness traces back to the 1962 document of the South African Communist Party entitled Road to South African Freedom. According to it, the national racial profile must be reflected in the staff of all institutions. Under the guise of representativeness, it is then possible to further consolidate party control.

In addition to state bodies, affirmative action also applies to private institutions. Although affirmative action does not necessarily mean that the regime gains control over private institutions, it nevertheless enables it to assert its ideological influence there. Affirmative action enforced under the Employment Equity Act (EEA) of 1998 on the basis of racial representation perforce has the effect of making minority institutions impossible, since the staff of all institutions must reflect the national population profile; and minority institutions can by definition of course not be so representative. This issue is analysed in detail in https://journals.co.za/doi/abs/10.10520/EJC55332.

Black economic empowerment (BEE) is similarly an important strategy of cadre favouritism and party control. BEE is built mainly on the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act (PPPFA) of 2000 and the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act (BBBEEA) of 2003. It is standard that the beneficiaries of government contracts are people within the immediate political and ideological sphere of the regime. Others are usually excluded from it. Through BEE, the cooperation and loyalty of BEE-participating "businesspeople" is bought by the regime. This of course comes at a high price because state organs often pay exorbitant prices for these BEE suppliers with taxpayers' money. The BEE contractors' loyalty is thus bought and so the regime's control over those contractors (and the private sector) deepens.

Otherwise, the regime co-opts contractors with licenses and similar government permits that bind them to the regime. Therefore, BEE has put in place a strategy through which the regime further seeks to strengthen its hold and influence in the business sector.


The bottom line is that whilst the tools of transformation, on which cadre deployment and favouritism are based, might be promoting regime control, they, at the same time, devastate the very edifice of an advanced society with complex systems.

Transformationism and so-called progressivism are blind or at least largely indifferent to what is needed to maintain an advanced society. These ideological imperatives do not comprehend the central importance of the indispensable triad of capital formation, maintenance and specialisation and consequently cannot sustain the complex systems on which an advanced society depends.

Only saving and channelling resources into the formation of valuable capital, and the use of suitable specialists, regardless of their political loyalties and with the requisite knowledge, insight, and experience, can uphold an advanced society and the complex systems supporting it. Cadres can show political loyalty and take advantage of the benefits it produces, and the regime and party leadership may enjoy being surrounded by loyal supporters, yes-men and women. Yet, without sufficient savings and relevant expertise, no complex system and advanced society can be sustained. It simply collapses.

Cadre favouritism of all the kinds explained above is responsible for the dreadfully relentless decay in South Africa under the watch of the "progressive" ANC. This is what transformed Eskom from an internationally acclaimed power utility to dismal failure; which devastated the railway system and ruined the ports, causing them to fall from their erstwhile high ranking to their newly transformed position among the world’s worst; which ran aground almost all municipal governments; which caused a growing water crisis; which brought potholes and impassability of numerous roads; which pushes the state towards bankruptcy; which unleashed semi-literate teachers on most of the country's hapless children, and so on.

The sorrows are never-ending. This is what leads to one "accident" after another: an exploding street in Johannesburg's city centre; buildings – including hospitals and parliament – burning out of control; sewage accidentally ending up in the Vaal River and people accidently dying of cholera; people unfortunately dying in ill-equipped hospitals; and ever more accidents upon accidents piling up.

These "accidents" are not accidents at all, but the most spectacular and macabre episodes of the general pattern of decline as capital decays through a lack of maintenance and specialised management. This is the conclusion of the inexorable logic of transformationism which has not brought about progress, but which perforce has ushered in regression. This is the result of the ANC's obliteration of capital, lack of maintenance, and disregard for specialisation, by the triad arch-antagonists of transformationism, party control, and cadre favouritism.

Yet, the ANC does not – and perhaps cannot – learn any lessons from this. It simply continues inexorably on its progressive, transformationist journey to deepening regression. Along this journey, the party-state suffers an increasing loss of governmental capacity, while organised civil institutions and enterprising elements of the business sector take over government functions. New, self-governing micro-republics and enclaves, exhibiting varying degrees of self-governing capacity, arise from this system of transformative regression.

Wherever there is truly capable substitute governance, the regression has a chance of being halted or reversed and new civilised and advanced micro-dispensations established. To varying degrees, such successes are already evident in many spheres. Where the ANC, on the other hand, is still wielding the sceptre, regression tends to be intensifying rapidly.

Addressing a meeting at the Cato Institute in Washington on 20 July, Dr John Endres from the SA Institute of Race Relations commented approvingly on this phenomenon of increasing private initiative from which communities save themselves from the spiral of ANC-led regression.

Former president Thabo Mbeki, however, thinks this spells doom. What he senses, he said on 23 September this year at the congress of the SA Association of Public Administration and Management, are dangerous forces of counter-revolution.

With this, Mbeki (long regarded by many as the brightest light in the ANC) betrays that the ANC indeed does not have the ideological and institutional wherewithal to manage an advanced dispensation. Party control, transformationism, and cadre preference must be clung to regardless of the relentless decay it has brought about.

The ANC evidently lacks what it takes to maintain an advanced dispensation and is unable to take another path. Hence, it also cannot stop the growing fragmentation of the South African state, and, indeed, the South African order itself.

Like Mbeki, the ANC may experience anxiety about its growing loss of the means of government. As it suffers further such losses, and as civic and business institutions gain more governing power and authority, there will likely be unpredictable ANC antics trying to defend its position of pre-eminence.

Nevertheless, the constitutional fragmentation of South Africa is already in full swing, and the governing capacity of civic and business formations is growing strongly as the regime weakens on the back of South Africa's general regression.

This trend now seems to be irreversible.

Prof Koos Malan is a constitutional jurist from Pretoria and a fellow of Sakeliga

This article was first published in Afrikaans in Litnet.