Working together to save our country from ANC - Carl Niehaus

ARETA leader says he is under no illusion that coalition arrangements will be challenging and difficult

The African Radical Economic Transformation Alliance proposal on potential coalition governmen

26 July 2023

1. Background

ARETA’s assessment is that South Africa is trapped in the midst of a prolonged, and increasingly deepening socio- economic, and moral crisis. Having emerged deeply wounded and traumatised from centuries of vicious colonial oppression, and decades of the most terrible racist oppression and exploitation under apartheid (which was a crime against humanity), the long-suffering people of South Africa had high hopes of true and full liberation when our first democratic elections took place on the 27th of April 1994. In our view, coalitions with progressive like-minded parties must be based on recognition of the following realities:

2. Betrayal of the Revolution and Resultant Voter Apathy

In 1994, our country South Africa transitioned from an undemocratic apartheid state into a constitutional democracy governed by a Constitution which holds basic values and principles such as human dignity and equality. South Africa emerged as a Constitutional Democracy after four decades of apartheid, and nearly three centuries of colonialism and this was rightly heralded as a miracle. With 243 sections and seven schedules, the Constitution of South Africa also represents an attempt to constitutionalise all the hopes, fears, and conflicts of its democratic transition.

The Preamble of the Constitution, adopted in 1996, sets out the main goals of our Constitution: To heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights, to lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people, to ensure that every citizen is equally protected by law, to improve the quality of life of all citizens, to free the potential of each person, and to build a united and democratic South Africa able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nations. The success of any Constitutional Democracy thrives on these democratic values and promises a better life for all through the realisation of not only civil and political rights but socio-economic rights as well.

It is true that the ruling party, the ANC initially achieved overwhelming electoral victory which afforded it the opportunity to put in place an efficient and effective system of governance empowered to serve the people. But that opportunity was squandered and betrayed. That betrayal started already many years ago during the long years of the liberation struggle (even during the exile years) and soon manifested itself in multiple ways.

The ANC, the oldest Liberation Movement in Africa, and the vanguard of the struggle and the hopes of our people, was infiltrated by sell out agents of imperialism and White Monopoly Capitalism (WMC), who slowly and insidiously undermined and eroded the original ideals of the liberation struggle. By the time that the 27th of April 1994 elections took place, the betrayal of those ideals had already gone very far with the sell out compromises that were made during the CODESA negotiations, and the deeply flawed and compromised negotiated Constitution that resulted.

The overwhelming majority of South Africans who voted for the first time with such elation, and high hopes, did not realise how deep and far they had already been betrayed. Those who tried to warn us such as Chris Hani, Harry Gwala and Winnie Madikizela-Mandela were viciously attacked, character assassinated, and even murdered (as happened with Chris Hani), by an evil axis of local White Monopoly Capitalists and sell out black Comprador Capitalists, under the control of Western Imperialism, that already had our country tightly in their strangle grip.

Almost right from the beginning of the first ANC governing administration of President Nelson Mandela neoliberal economic policies were embraced, and at an alarming rate increasingly strengthened. Neoliberal economic orthodoxy became ingrained into the governing African National Congress’s way of doing things especially during the two terms of the Thabo Mbeki Administration which culminated in the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy programme.

This betrayal was made worse by the painful fact that South Africans expressed their hopes and love for the ANC, by having voted the ANC into government with an overwhelming two thirds majority. That trust and overwhelming mandate was squandered, and never used for the empowerment and liberation of the majority of black and especially African South Africans.

With a two thirds majority, the unpalatable compromises of CODESA, and the compromising and constraining Clauses in the National Constitution could have been changed, and the land could have been returned without compensation to the indigenous people from whom it had violently been stolen at gunpoint by the white colonists.

When President Jacob Zuma became President of the ANC in 2007 at Polokwane he tried to put a break onto this wholesale sell out process, with a policy programme that was meant to increasingly empower the majority of black, and especially African, South Africans. This was viciously opposed by the very same axis of WMC and black comprador capitalists.

While some successes to improve the lives of black South Africans were achieved, the overall objectives of the empowerment and Radical Economic Transformation of the lives the majority of poor and exploited South Africans, were frustrated and eventually derailed. This was the main reason why President Zuma was eventually forced out of office in 2018.

The new administration under Cyril Ramaphosa represented a full return to the original well-planned sell out project: a betrayal of the liberation struggle and destruction of the high hopes of our people. The neoliberal economic project became strengthened and implemented without any restraint.

As a consequence the official ANC economic policy programme of Radical Economic Transformation (RET) that was adopted at the 54th National Conference of the ANC, was never implemented. Instead a neoliberal project to dismember, destroy and privatise State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) was enforced, with devastating consequences for economic growth and job creation, and the total abandoning of any pro-poor policies for the empowerment of the majority of black South Africans

This was accompanied by the hollowing out, and near destruction of the State Institutions, including our law enforcement agencies and the legal system (courts), that have become captured tools of abuse for factional political objectives in the hands of the governing axis of WMC and black Compradore Capitalists.

All of this destruction was, and continues to be accompanied, by a vicious Stratcom-like propaganda campaign through the establishment of the Commission of Enquiry into State Capture, and the perpetuation of the myth, and blatant lie, that ‘State Capture’ only took place during the nine year of the Jacob Zuma Administration, deliberately obscuring the glaring fact that true State Capture dates back literally centuries to the era of colonialism, and in doing so protecting the true WMC and international Imperialist State Capturers.

The prevailing narrative of tainting black, especially African, South Africans with a universal tar brush of corruption, while allowing WMC to go unchallenged and scot-free, became the biggest perpetuated lie that destroyed all truth in our beloved country. In the wake of this lie, with our current Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo (who was also the Chair of the State Capture Commission), as its foremost snake oil salesman, and Inquisition-like enforcer, the Ramaphosa administration proceeded apace with the dismembering, destruction and ultimate privatisation of our State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s). All of this occurs in the context of the implementation of a now totally unbridled neoliberal economic policy programme, that evidently does not emanate from our national interest, but is driven by Western Imperialist ideologues and interests.

The disastrous consequences of all of this are glaringly evident in the economic collapse of our country. The destruction and loss of critical SOE’s such as SAA, DENEL, SASOL, ARMSCOR, PETROSA, and the destruction of our rail network etc. The list of destruction and looting is too long to exhaustively elaborate on in this document. Suffice to say that we are now truly teetering on the edge of the precipice, with ESKOM having been deliberately mismanaged to the point where we are told Stage Six Load Shedding is now the indefinite and foreseeable norm.

The realities we must face in the crucial 2024 national elections is that there are now new and unprecedented challenges such as voter apathy and palpable disillusionment by our people with the state of affairs, including brazen and institutionalised corruption. Disillusionment which leads to voter apathy, abstaining from voting during elections and “conscientious” refusal to cast votes during crucial elections such as the recent local government elections. It is clear that that our country is in deep trouble when our people appear to give up the most potent weapon in their hands, the right to vote, which has the potential of changing their lives and in building a competent people-centred developmental state for generations to come. The project of building such a people-centred developmental state will not succeed if our people are reduced to apathetic spectators, who willingly surrender their democratic right to vote. ARETA’s approach to coalition with like-minded progressive forces is informed by this reality.

Clearly, we need leaders who can inspire our people into becoming conscious agents of change for the construction of a winning and humane society, acting in unity and uniting in action.

Despite promises by the state, ANC-led government, to improve the lived realities of our people through advancing a transformative constitution, this egalitarian society founded on values of human dignity, equality, and freedom for all, remains elusive. Whilst a constitutional supremacy guarantees civil and political rights, the democratic project remains a dream deferred, since our people are marginalised and reduced to mere spectators in a crucial game they should actually be the main players in. Voter apathy and indifference will do very little to address structural inequality and economic apartheid.

It is incorrect to think that the struggle for the emancipation of black South Africans ended in 1994 when the black majority was granted the right to vote. Democracy and a competent developmental state require constant vigilance and active participation of our people in exercising their right to vote in regular elections. The dawn of a new struggle for the economic emancipation, and the realisation of socio[1]economic rights for all our people cannot be separated from the regular exercise of the fundamental right to vote.

ARETA seeks partners who will be active participants in educating our people about their power which proceeds not from the barrel of a gun but from exercising the most potent weapon in their hands, that is exercising the right to vote.

Of course voting in this transformational project cannot be perceived as a mere ritualistic exercise to elect certain persons and parties into positions of power and thereafter continue with business as usual. True and committed leadership is required because the knowledge that our Constitution is a symbolic bridge between our dreadful apartheid past and our future can only be truly transformative if there is an effective and accountable government that is committed to addressing structural inequalities, arising out of the underlying systems of oppression, inherited from the apartheid state, which continues to thwart the economic emancipation of historically marginalised groups.

3. Institutional and Constitutional Bias in Favour of Incumbent, Well-established Political Parties Funded by White Monopoly Capital

ARETA is a newly registered political party which intends to robustly contest the 2024 general elections. Amongst the factors that will determine the nature of its coalition partners would be what will best serve our objective of forging unity among all progressive forces of the left to achieve the implementation of Radical Economic Transformation (RET).

To this end, ARETA has developed a minimum programme of demands, that is the Ten Point Plan To Save Our Country. This Ten Point Plan is not final, nor exhaustive, it is an open working document with which we reach out to every South African to engage with us, and provide us with their responses and views.

Ultimately we want through their continuing engagement with the Ten Point Plan for South Africans to take ownership of it, and to make this plan their very own.

ARETA is under no illusion that coalition arrangements with other political parties will be challenging and difficult. Historically, the country’s dominant party legacy has prevented the forging of a competitive party system. The culture of over-indulgence of the ruling ANC is reinforced not merely by the presence in government of a long-serving former liberation movement, but it is also anchored in our constitutional system as explained here.

The political rights of our citizens are enshrined in Section 19 of the Constitution.

This section confers political rights exclusively on the citizens of this country. It reads:

“(1) Every citizen is free to make political choices, which includes the right:

(a) to form a political party;

(b) to participate in the activities of, or recruit members for, a political party;


(c) to campaign for a political party or cause.

(2) Every citizen has the right to free, fair and regular elections for any legislative body established in terms of the Constitution.

(3) Every adult citizen has the right:

(a) to vote in elections for any legislative body established in terms of the.

Constitution, and to do so in secret; and

(b) to stand for public office and, if elected, to hold office.”

The scope and content of the rights entrenched by this section is very clear. In our system of democracy political parties occupy the centre stage and play a vital part in facilitating the exercise of political rights. This fact is affirmed by Section 1 of the Constitution which proclaims that, “[u]niversal adult suffrage, a national common voters roll, regular elections and a multi-party system of democratic government, to ensure accountability, responsiveness and openness”, are some of the values on which our state is founded.

Importantly, elections are contested by political parties. It is these parties which determine lists of candidates who get elected to legislative bodies. (Part 3 of the Electoral Act 73 of 1998 (Electoral Act)). Even the number of seats in the National Assembly, and provincial legislatures, are determined “[b]y taking into account available scientifically based data and representations by interested parties”. (Id at Schedule 3 item 1(1).)

It cannot be gainsaid that success for political parties in elections lies in the policies they adopt and put forward as a plan for addressing challenges and problems facing communities.

In order to enhance multi-party democracy, the Constitution has enjoined Parliament to enact national legislation that provides for funding of political parties represented in national and provincial legislatures. Public resources are directed at political parties for the very reason that they are the veritable vehicles the Constitution has chosen for facilitating and entrenching democracy. The disadvantage of this system is that newly emerging parties will not initially get funding until they are “represented in national and provincial legislatures.”

Our democracy is founded on a multi-party system of government. (Section 1(d) of the Constitution). Unlike the past electoral system that was based on geographic voting constituencies, the present electoral system for electing members of the national assembly and of the provincial legislatures must “result, in general, in proportional representation”.(Sections 46(1)(d) and 105(1)(d) of the Constitution.)

This means a person who intends to vote in national or provincial elections must vote for a political party registered for the purpose of contesting the elections, and not for a candidate. It is the registered party that nominates candidates for the election on regional and national party lists. The Constitution itself obliges every citizen to exercise the franchise through a political party.

Against this background, and cognisant of the inherent bias against new and emerging political parties, the ARETA National Working Board (NWB) has started a process of engagement with various national, provincial and locally based opposition political parties of the left, as well as civil society organisations and religious formations, in order to work for unity among all the progressive forces, in order to form a united front to save our country from the terrible disaster that has befallen all of us under the ANC of Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Ten Point Plan is the foundation on which ARETA intends to forge a minimum programme of united action that can bring together all the forces of the progressive left in our country. We are not dogmatic in our approach and we do not seek to use ideological purity as a litmus test. We are far more interested in establishing what the essential building stones are for the national liberation project. Our minimum program for a viable working relationship with other parties remains the ARETA Ten Point Plan To Save Our Country:

1. Expropriation of land without compensation

2. Reverse privatisation of SOE’s

3. Nationalise the South African Reserve Bank (SARB)

4. Implement National Health Plan and State Pharmaceutical company

5. End load shedding and nationalise all coal resources

6. National Service, skills training and Public Works programmes

7. Minimum living wage

8. Intensified border policing and deportation of illegal foreigners

9. Harsher sentences and referendum on death penalty

10. Drastic reduction of fuel prices with cheaper oil from BRICS

4. Analysis of Coalitions and Recommendations

Conventional wisdom has it that the Elections due in 2024 will put to the test the extent of the declining dominance of the governing African National Congress (ANC) as a former liberation movement and a ruling party. Some political pundits have pointed out to some polls suggesting that the ANC could fail to secure the 50% of the vote required to form a government. If that happens and no other party meets the threshold, there might have to be a coalition instead. While there is no magic formula for coalitions to work, the experience of other countries suggests that the following factors are conducive to working coalitions.

Firstly, we have experienced new tidal waves of mass protests for service delivery, against illegal immigration, for racial justice which have upended conventional politics throughout the past two years with far-ranging political consequences. The situation is fraught with extraordinary uncertainty — simultaneously creating the conditions for a resurgent left, as well as an even stronger and more emboldened right-wing capitalism supported by agents of white monopoly capital. We are living through an epoch-defining moment for the Left. Depending on how we respond, the coming years may offer unprecedented opportunities for the growth of radical democratic-socialist politics, or else lead to the left’s increasing isolation and irrelevance. ARETA agrees that coalitions work where there are minimal ideological differences between parties. It is often more challenging to build stable and durable coalitions when the parties involved cover a wider ideological range. We have offered the Ten Point minimum programme of demands as a way to find common ground with other progressive forces of the left.

Secondly, we are aware of the daunting task of building strong coalitions in our country that has had the ANC as the dominant party that has been in power for a long time. Even within the ANC there are progressive elements who would support a radical transformation agenda but party politics and loyalty stand in their way.

ARETA is fully cognisant that where there is a dominant party and a funding model that favours that party, there is a high likelihood of weak and fragmented opposition parties.

We need to inculcate a culture that include an inclination for deliberation and mediation. Added to these is patriotism and willingness to prioritise collective interest.

5. Critical Preconditions

We need to appreciate that the governing ANC is a wounded animal, with deep and warring divisions within its own ranks, frightful of loosing power, and the consequences thereof. The old saying that one must be extremely careful of the last kick of a dying animal because it could be a most dangerous and deadly kick, that can also kill you, is very apt under these circumstances. Therefore ARETA would like to warn we should not trust, nor encourage, the upcoming ‘National Dialogue on Coalition Governments'. It is extraordinary that this National Dialogue is called by the Deputy President of the country, but that the decision to do so is based on a decision that was taken by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC. It is therefore evident that the objectives of this so-called ‘National Dialogue on Coalition Governments’, are intended to favour the ANC, and meant to address the party’s fear of losing the power of an overall majority, and is ultimately intended to avoid such an outcome.

It is the view of ARETA that for such a ‘National Dialogue on Coalition Governments’ to be called with the intention to forge consensus on a framework that should govern coalitions, on the basis of a decision by the governing political party (the ANC), is actually un-Constitutional and illegal. ARETA finds it even more disturbing that on the back of such an un-Constitutional, illegal, and illegitimate process, there is the intention for a ‘Declaration’ on how to govern coalitions to be signed. We are of the firm opinion that such an illegitimate ‘Declaration’ will only serve the interests of the ANC, and the kind of coalition(s) that it intends to enter into. ARETA is of the opinion that the whole process, and intention, of the so-called ‘National Dialogue’ is fatally flawed, and that the only rational approach would be to collapse the gathering, and certainly NOT to sign any ‘Declaration’.

ARETA furthermore notes that this so-called 'National Dialogue' is apparently only for political parties that have presentation in parliament. This means that newly established political parties such as ARETA, that have not yet participated in any elections, are not invited. This in itself undermines the legitimacy of the whole process.

It is most presumptuous of the governing party to exclude newly formed parties, as if they know our strength, or lack thereof. There is absolutely no way that this can be determined. They certainly cannot presume that the newly formed parties will not meet the threshold during the elections to be presented in the various national and provincial legislatures and local governments. Therefore our non-participation in itself already devoid this whole process of any legitimacy.

It is the strongly held view of ARETA that all progressive political parties that have been invited to this farcical 'National Dialogue' should, as a bare minimum, insist that all newly formed political parties should also be invited to the ‘National Dialogue on Coalition Government’. Without invitations being extended to the newly formed political parties, whose strength cannot yet be determined, because we have obviously not yet been able to participate in elections, all progressive political parties should as a matter of principle refuse to attend the ‘National Dialogue’.

This is also in the best interest of those political parties that have been invited, because they cannot be seen to participate in the blatant disregard and marginalisation of fellow political parties, that may very well become important partners for them in future coalitions. This is an issue of critical importance for ARETA, and as far as we are concerned it is non-negotiable.

Furthermore, while we engage about the principles that a progressive coalition should be built on, and how this should be done, it will be utter folly not to first and foremost consider the make-up and functioning of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

The issues of transparency of service providers that the IEC uses is of paramount importance. ARETA is of the principled opinion that civil society, and all parties - new and older - whether within or outside Parliament have a strong vested interest in this critical matter. It will indeed be a travesty of justice if ANY front companies of the ruling party have ANY role to play in the electoral process.

ARETA is of the firm opinion that we simply cannot compromise on this issue, because it has the potential to jeopardise the WHOLE electoral process. This matter is fundamental: We cannot spend time to engage about how we would put together a progressive left political coalition team to play the proverbial electoral match, when we do not first ensure that we will actually be playing on a level playing field, and that the referee will be truly objective and will not turn out to be an additional player for the incumbent governing party.

FIRST THINGS FIRST. This is absolutely essential: Without being certain that the electoral process will be free and fair, with an unbiased IEC, NOTHING ELSE can be discussed and negotiated - especially not with the governing party. To have a ‘National Dialogue on Coalition Government’ with the ANC governing party, before we are assured of a level playing field, and an unbiased referee, will be like putting the cart before the horses, and we will certainly rue such folly.

Presented by,

Carl Niehaus, President of the African Radical Economic Transformation Alliance, 23 July 2023