Bokamoso | The ANC is leading South Africa off the Democratic Path

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I­ –
I took the one less travelled by.
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

In our quest for a society based on freedom, fairness and opportunity, South Africans now face a stark choice between two very different ideological paths.

The first path leads us away from nonracial constitutional democracy and a market-driven economy towards state-led development in a racially polarised single-party state. It is the path that I believe the ANC is leading us down. The second path uses the Constitution as its guiding star. It is the path that we in the DA would have South Africa follow.

This is the choice that South Africans need to make in the 2016 Local Elections and in the 2019 National Elections. This is the choice that will make all the difference.

Political legitimacy and economic success are inseparably linked – hence the term “political economy”. Essentially, experience around the world shows that you can either achieve political legitimacy through economic success, as is the case in East Asia, or you can achieve economic success through political legitimacy, as is the case in many countries in the West.

The ANC’s chosen path is laid out in its discussion document published ahead of its National General Council (NGC) this weekend, the party’s mid-term conference to review policy. In this document, the ANC makes it clear that it intends to use China and Russia as role models in shaping South Africa’s future.

These countries lack the basic components of democracy. Their citizens do not enjoy the full spectrum of civil liberties and political rights. Yes, China’s single party approach has managed to grow the Chinese economy fantastically in the past few decades. But it is precisely this growth that gives the Chinese Communist Party its continued mandate.

Let us not for one instant imagine that the ANC and our economy could succeed with that approach. It is simply not a viable option. The ANC hopelessly lacks the leadership and institutional capacity to pull it off, as is evidenced in our slow growth, high unemployment, rising inequality and poor education. Its leaders also lack the political will, as is evidenced by rising corruption and creeping patronage.

By their own admission in Chapter 1 of the NGC discussion document, “with regard to such issues as state capacity and effectiveness, ethical conduct, dignity and gravitas, the ANC is losing the moral high-ground”.

In the document, we find evidence that the ANC is turning away from the constitutional democracy that Mandela envisioned in 1994. This move is being undertaken to shore up the political power needed by a developmental state – one which directs the economy.

Freedom of expression and freedom of the press and other media are rights enshrined in our Constitution. They are essential cornerstones of democracy. And yet Chapter 6 of the document makes it clear the ANC intends to increase its influence over the media.

Chapter 5 states an intention to review the Provinces in order to “strengthen the democratic state and its developmental mandate”. While it is not specifically stated, I think it is reasonable to assume that this is motivated by a desire to regain the Western Cape through gerrymandering rather than at the polls.

Add to this the ANC’s stated strategy of cadre deployment into our independent institutions, discussed at length in my Bokamoso of 4 Sept 2015, and it is hard not to conclude that the ANC is veering off the democratic path.

Or certainly democracy as it is generally defined. Democracy as defined by the ANC is “total domination by the majority party”.

In 1994, President Mandela embraced inclusivity and respect for the institutions of democracy, believing this would lead to a healthy economy in which all South Africans can participate.

Similarly, the DA believes that political legitimacy, achieved through accountable, transparent, law-abiding government, is the prerequisite for the kind of economic growth that will lift all South Africans out of poverty.

In stark contrast, the NGC document promotes a state-led development path, which it calls the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). The NDR aims to take a short-cut to social transformation through a raft of interventionist programmes that are difficult to square with the values enshrined in our Constitution.

The NDR essentially aspires to, and requires, a one-party state with firm control not only over the economy, but over all the levers of power in society, including the judiciary and the Chapter 9 institutions that are meant to check and balance executive power.

It is incompatible with the ANC’s National Development Plan (NDP) drawn up by Trevor Manuel and his National Planning Commission in 2010 and widely accepted by all parties, including the DA, as a pragmatic roadmap for South Africa’s future. The NGC discussion document still pays lip service to the NDP as a broad vision. This internal ideological discord leads to a lack of policy cohesion or coherence which ultimately translates into policy paralysis, which spells economic disaster.

The DA has a 5-point plan for job-creating economic growth that requires South Africa to stay on the path of constitutional democracy in a market economy. This path leads to Vision 2029, our picture of what South Africa would look like after 10 years of DA government. It is based on the values of freedom, fairness and opportunity enshrined in our Constitution. I urge you to watch the DA’s Vision 2029 video and I would like to share this 5-point plan for tackling poverty and inequality with you now, very briefly.

Firstly, the DA would invest in the critical energy, transport and communications infrastructure required for growth. The primary concern in this regard is the need to solve the energy crisis by breaking the Eskom monopoly and opening the market up to independent power suppliers. The solution to our electricity woes does not lie in an unaffordable nuclear deal with Russia that does nothing to solve the crisis in the short term.

Secondly, we would improve the quality of basic education by introducing compulsory competency testing for teachers and school principals, and regular skills assessments for learners. At a tertiary level the DA would increase the available funding to ensure that all qualifying students can afford higher education or training.

Thirdly, the DA would aggressively promote incentives for job creation, such as the implementation of a real youth wage subsidy to encourage companies to employ new entrants to the jobs market, since of the greatest challenges of first time job seekers is their lack of experience.

Fourthly, we would repeal those sections of the Labour Relations Act that give unions disproportionate power over businesses. Essentially, workers must be given more choice and employers more flexibility. The DA supports a fair labour market that balances workers’ rights with the need to increase job opportunities.

Finally, the DA would promote a culture of entrepreneurship by making it easier to establish new businesses. Small and micro enterprises can be the driving force behind job creation, but not as long as they are mired in red tape and bureaucracy.

Unlike the NDR, this approach will boost confidence in the economy and thus stimulate the investment we so badly need. It will enable an economy in which more people participate. And it is this participation, this inclusion in the economy, which will transform our society.

These policies of providing quality infrastructure and a skilled labour force are only possible when there is public money to be spent on them and competent professionals to implement them. Which requires clean government and a professional, meritocratic, non-partisan civil service. Which in turn requires a vibrant, constitutional, multi-party democracy.

It is my wish that Vision 2029 can restore hope to a country that badly needs it right now, and that it can inspire South Africans to choose the right path now, because having left the democratic, market economy path, it may be very difficult to get back onto it. I am convinced that choosing the DA’s path now will have positive repercussions far into the future, to 2029 and beyond.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads onto way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
Robert Frost

Mmusi Maimane
DA Leader

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