The ANC promises everything – except to get off our backs

Eugene Brink writes individuals must focus on what they can do for themselves and ignore hollow rhetoric

The ANC promises everything – except to get off our backs

15 January 2020

Some two years ago, shortly after becoming president of the country, Cyril Ramaphosa promised South Africa a new dawn in his State of the Nation address. “We should put all the negativity that has dogged our country behind us because a new dawn is upon us and a wonderful dawn has arrived,” he confidently declared.

Saying this, he implied that it has already arrived. Welcome to the promised land, my fellow compatriots! Now, in 2020, it is only the most credulous (and the most fervent and privileged ANC supporters) that still think that this new dawn is anything but a false one and that Ramaphosa is not a milquetoast lame duck. Economic growth for two of 2019’s four quarters exhibited a negative trend and the fourth quarter’s data (which will doubtless not be rosy) is yet to be announced. This is the result of, inter alia but also primarily, Eskom’s doleful state, corruption and toxic policies.

The unemployment rate, according to the expanded definition, is hovering around 40% and if the narrow definition is employed, it is around 30%. Only a handful of municipalities, mainly in the Western Cape which is not governed by the ANC, obtain clean audits. Corruption, mismanagement and irregularities abound in virtually every state department and public enterprise today. The World Bank and a growing trickle of economists already predict that the economy will grow by less than 1% in 2020.

It is then no surprise that the ANC’s National Executive Committee’s January 8th Statement, also delivered by Ramaphosa to a disappointingly small crowd in Kimberley, is riddled with contradictions and misdiagnoses as he and his party attempted to explain away their dismal failures and empty promises. Besides waxing lyrically about the struggle and the pre-1994 past, the statement contains scores of outright lies, self-deception, hero-worship, half-truths, blame-shifting, some acknowledgement of wrongdoing on the part of the ruling party and clashing assertions.

On the one hand, they crow about how resolute and robust South Africa’s institutions are after a quarter century of ANC rule. On the other, an acknowledgement that these very institutions and especially state-owned enterprises are beset with gargantuan difficulties. Expropriation without compensation will “return” the land (to whom, we are not exactly sure) and unleash economic growth and agricultural potential whilst promoting nation-building. The ANC ostensibly stand with oppressed people everywhere, but they refuse to denounce some of their staunchest allies for their repression whilst condemning Donald Trump and America. Ramaphosa implores civil society and every other roleplayer in the country to assist in improving it, and yet ignores the rightful cultural, economic and social aspirations of minorities and proposes that government and the ANC still take the lead – despite their constant failure.

And then, the most hackneyed words in their statement are “will” and “must”. A word loses its potency if it is employed too often, especially if it bears little relation to current realities. They will combat corruption, thewill renew themselves, they will strengthen strengthen governance, they must build a capable state, the interminable list goes on.

The use of these words is a far cry from the president’s lofty announcement in February 2018 that the new dawn has arrived and that he as the messianic spearhead of this moment will lead us into a promised land.

There is virtually nothing tangible in this statement to suggest that much progress has been made since then. At a roundtable discussion on National Health Insurance (NHI) in December, Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize made similar promises to me about the future when speaking about turning the ailing public health sector around. And my questions and concerns centred on what has already been done to improve it and what is currently being done.

The main reason for this tendency to selectively appraise the past and constantly refer to the future is that the ANC has not changed course in the intervening period and continues to meddle where it shouldn’t. Shibboleths such as “radical economic transformation” was again used in this statement. Goals were expressed without the appropriate means identified to attain them, or properly recognising that reality and these objectives are poles apart. In short, it is dirigiste and outdated balderdash cloaked in noble intentions. Politics and policies at every level of government have failed spectacularly.

The ANC has yet again made every conceivable promise to turn this around, except for providing clean but minimal and efficient governance (which we pay for) and getting off our backs. Communities and individuals must realise that in order to thrive in this country they should ignore all this hollow rhetoric and a woeful track record of governance and focus on what they can do for themselves – especially locally – in 2020.

Dr. Brink is Strategic Advisor at AfriForum