The NDR: FW de Klerk's reply to Cyril Ramaphosa

Former president says concept is strictly incompatible with both non-racialism and the constitution


I welcome Cyril Ramaphosa's response to my speech of 31 January, which dealt, among other topics, with the ANC's approach to transformation - as embodied in its National Democratic Revolution (NDR) (see here).

 Mr Ramaphosa was unhappy that I questioned the NDR's constitutionality and claimed that "In both word and deed, the ANC has placed the Constitution at the centre of its vision for a new South Africa." However, the NDR, and not the Constitution, is at the centre of the ANC's vision - and it is profoundly unconstitutional.  

It calls for 'democratic forces' (i.e. the ANC) to control the "levers of state power" including "the public service, the security forces, the judiciary, and the public broadcaster."  The Constitution requires these institutions - and especially the judiciary - to be impartial.  

The NDR's core practice of cadre deployment has been declared unconstitutional by our courts.

The NDR prioritisation of "black people in general, and Africans in particular and its assertion of "African hegemony in the context of a multi-cultural and non-racial society" breach the fundamental values of equality and non-racialism.  

The ANC sees itself, not as a political party, but as a "hegemonic" national liberation movement with a historic mission "to lead South African society as a whole". It gives 30% of its parliamentary seats to the SACP, whose long-term goal is the establishment of a communist dictatorship. Its ally, COSATU, views the NDR as the only path to the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. All this is irreconcilable with the constitutional requirement for multi-party democracy that is accountable, responsive and open.

The NDR dispenses with the foundational value of non-racialism by (in effect, permanently) stripping white South Africans of constitutional protection against unfair racial discrimination. In so-doing it also dilutes their right to equality and human dignity and forfeits South Africa's claim to being a non-racial democracy.

Most seriously, the NDR's central goal is a comprehensive state campaign to harm the legitimate interests of citizens on the basis of their race by eliminating what it calls "apartheid property relations" (whatever they may be). "This requires the de-racialisation of ownership and control of wealth, including land; equity and affirmative action in the provision of skills and access to positions of management..."  "De-racialisation", in the NDR's simplistic analysis, means that, ultimately, whites should own 9% of the wealth and land because they comprise 9% of the population - regardless of the legitimacy of their ownership rights, their skills and their contribution to the economy and to society.

I agree with Ramaphosa on the need for section 9(2) measures to promote equality. However, Ramaphosa completely ignores section 9(3) and 9(5), which prohibit unfair racial discrimination by the state and which declare that discrimination is unfair unless it is established that it is fair.

Is it fair to deny Coloured prison warders in the Western Cape promotion because they have exceeded their 8.8% national quota?

Is it right that competent officials and police officers should repeatedly be denied promotion simply because they are white?

Should privileged blacks enjoy automatic preference over less privileged whites when it comes to affirmative action? There are more than nine million black South Africans with higher educational qualifications than 30% of whites and two million blacks who earn more than 1.5 million whites. The ANC views whites as an undifferentiated racial agglomeration even though their GINI coefficient of .5 puts them at the same level of inequality as many Latin American societies.

Government measures to promote equality have clearly failed. South Africa is more unequal than it was in 1994. Affirmative action and BBBEE have benefited the emerging black middle class and elite but they have done very little for the bottom 85% of the population. In fact, the appointment of unqualified cadres to key posts has been one of the main causes for service delivery failures and for perpetuating inequality.  

I gave full credit to the government for the provision of housing, electricity and water and social grants. However, government should have done much more to empower the poor by providing decent education and jobs and by ensuring sustained economic growth - the very priorities identified by Mr Ramaphosa's own National Planning Commission. That is by far the best route to rapid black economic advancement and to sustainable representivity.

Mr Ramaphosa's view that inequality can best be achieved by diminishing the role of whites in the economy is profoundly mistaken. White South Africans, for many reasons, represent a diminishing - but still disproportionate - percentage of South Africa's best-qualified and most experienced managers, farmers, scientists, professionals and entrepreneurs. Does the ANC really want to prevent them from making their indispensible contribution to our economy by limiting them to a 9% role in key sectors?

The NDR is an all-embracing state ideology. It has its millenarian vision (the National Democratic Society); its plausible logic (demographic representivity) and its targeted bogeymen (white beneficiaries of 'apartheid-colonialism'). Apartheid was also an ideology. But where 'separate development' forced human beings into homelands, the NDR is intent on confining them in demographic pens in virtually every aspect of their lives - in the their jobs, in their professions, in universities and schools and in the media. It is the most comprehensive programme of racial domination that one can imagine.

In my speech I called for transformation that would help us achieve the vision of equality, human dignity and non-racialism in our Constitution. I pointed to the need for genuine transformation of our education system; our labour market; our economy and our justice system - in effect, the kind of transformation advocated by the National Development Plan.  

Does Mr Ramaphosa really think that the NDP can succeed unless all South Africans - black and white - work together? Will such co-operation be possible if, as President Zuma recently threatened, the ANC launches a "new radical phase" in the implementation of "socio-economic transformation policies" aimed against white South Africans?

We did not agree to the NDR during the constitutional negotiations; it is irreconcilable with the Constitution; we, who are its intended victims, have not been consulted; and we do not accept it. So I repeat: the time has come for serious talks between the Government and all those who are targeted by its version of transformation.

A version of this article first appeared in Business Day.

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