Now that the African National Congress’s 54 National Conference has come to its end, the South African Federation of Trade Unions sees no reason to change its prediction that this event would deliver nothing to the working class and the poor.
It ended with the adoption of policy proposals from commissions and a closing address by its new leader, Cyril Ramaphosa. The commission reports show a clear demand from the delegates for major changes of policy, but those policies they have agreed upon are little different from the radical-sounding programmes adopted at Polokwane in 2007 and Mangaung in 2012, which promised much but delivered nothing.
As Ramaphosa himself said in his closing address, “Our people will judge this Conference not only by what we have done here over these five days, but – perhaps more importantly – by what we do next. The people of South Africa want action. They do not want words.”
Why however should we expect him to implement these policies, after so many previous ANC policies have remained as words?
SAFTU urges its members and the working class in general to test how far these ‘new’ ANC policies will achieve against the benchmark of the objectives which the federation has set out as the minimum requirement to begin to escape from our deep crisis. These are:
- The abandonment of the apartheid growth path that is reproducing the triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality;
- Ending neoliberal policies like GEAR and the National Development Plan, together with the austerity spending cuts in recent budgets, and President Zuma’s instruction to Minister Gigaba that he cut must spending by R25 billion and raise taxes by R15 billion;
- The nationalisation of the mines, monopoly industries and the banks under democratic worker control, in line with Cause 4 of the Freedom Charter;
- A state that will use the power arising from nationalisation to beneficiate our mineral resources in order to build secondary industries and to re-industrialise South Africa;
- Expropriate stolen land without compensation and agricultural reforms to deliver food security and end the poverty in both rural and urban areas;
- The scrapping of the insulting R20 an hour minimum wage, R18 for farm workers, R15 for domestic workers and R11 for Expanded Public Workers Programme (EPWP) workers, all of which must be raised to a national living wage on which workers can lead a full life, plus a comprehensive social security system and a basic income grant;
- Measures to address inequality, including more progressive taxation and monetary policy measure;
- A total ban on labour brokers and an end to the outsourcing and commodification of basic services, scrapping the EPWP and the reintegration of public service workers as government employees and the integration of Community Healthcare staff into government as permanently employed workers with the same salaries and benefits as other public service workers;
- An accessible, affordable and safe public transport system and an end to e-tolls;
- An end to two-tier education delivery, with free, compulsory and decolonised high-quality public education system from pre-school to tertiary levels and the immediate introduction of a free national healthcare system;
- On corruption, action, not beautiful words, with Zuma and all of his cronies removed from office and charged and the immediate implementation of the remedial action requested by the former Public Protector in her State of Capture Report
- Practical steps to halt the illicit outflow of capital from the county and illicit company profits transfers.
Before we analyse the current promises, we first look at what the Polokwane or 52nd National Conference of the resolutions had to say about the same issues. These resolutions were reaffirmed in the 53rdNational Conference held in Mangaung.
In our view the ANC has not only spectacularly failed to take forward these resolutions but has in some areas implemented policies diametrically opposed to these. There is currently a jobs loss blood bath arising from even accelerated de-industrialisation. The numbers of people living in poverty have increased to 55% of the population and we have become the most unequal society in the world. It in this context that we must now look at more promises from the ANC.
These resolutions adopted in Polokwane said:
- To pursue a programme of economic transformation based on the following pillars:
2.1 Making the creation of decent work opportunities the primary focus of economic policies. This central objective should be reflected in the terms of reference of development finance institutions, bodies such as the Competition Commission, the terms of public procurement and public incentives, the sequencing of industrial and trade policy reforms and our sustainable macro-economic policy stance.
2.2 Accelerating shared economic growth by:
- Acting decisively to address the most significant obstacles that limit the pace of economic growth and intervening in favour of a more equitable growth path.
- Continuing to roll out a state-led infrastructure investment programme, and promoting strategic investments in productive activities with the aim of diversifying the economy and building towards an overall investment to GDP ratio of 25%.
2.3 Transforming the structures of production and ownership, including through:
- Active and well-resourced industrial and trade policy aimed at creating decent work through expansion of labour absorbing sectors, diversifying our industrial and services base, pursuing an active beneficiation strategy, building sustainable export industries, and expanding production for domestic and regional consumption. In general, industrial policy should lead our overall approach to sector development, whilst trade policy should play a supporting role and be sensitive to employment outcomes.
- Broad-based BEE aimed at broadening and deracialising the ownership and control of productive assets by black people, women and youth, promoting new black enterprises which are engaged in the production of goods and services, building the skills required by the economy and advancing employment equity in every area of work and economic endeavour.
- Anti-monopoly and anti-concentration policy aimed at creating competitive markets, broadening ownership and participation by our people, addressing monopoly pricing and other forms of rent-seeking and anti-competitive behaviour and overcoming barriers to entry that inhibit the growth of small enterprises, including strategies to increase competition by promoting the emergence of new players in both South Africa and the SADC region.
- Many of our monopolies are based on the nation’s natural resources and we must find ways and means to intervene, including through state custody of these resources on behalf of the people and regulation to ensure competitive pricing of inputs for our downstream manufacturing sector. Furthermore, the small size and relative isolation of our economy leads to monopolies in certain sectors which could be overcome by increasing regional economic integration with Southern Africa and the continent as a whole.
- Policies that promote and sustain small business, micro-enterprises, small scale agriculture and cooperative forms of ownership by providing financial and non-financial resources and building institutions that can effectively access and develop these sectors.
2.4 A comprehensive and clear rural development strategy, which builds the potential for rural sustainable livelihoods, particularly for African women, as part of an overarching vision of rural development. Strong interventions in the private land market combined with better use of state land for social and economic objectives, must transform the patterns of land ownership and agrarian production, with a view to restructuring and deracialising the agricultural sector.
2.5 Overcoming spatial patterns of economic marginalisation and fragmentation and reversing the geography of apartheid in both urban and rural areas.
2.6 Expanding the opportunities for sustainable livelihoods and supporting the growth of second economy activities in urban centres through better access to the centres of economic growth and through financial and institutional support for cooperatives and micro-enterprise.
2.7 Directly absorbing the unemployed through:
- Labour intensive production methods and procurement policies.
- A significant expansion of the public works programmes linked to the expansion of economic infrastructure and meeting social needs with home-based care and early childhood development on a massive scale.
- A much larger national youth service and ensuring the linkage of industrial strategy with key youth development programmes in the form of an integrated Youth Development Strategy.
- Programmes that target the employment of women.
2.8 Expanding the social wage by:
- Ensuring universal and subsidised access to basic services, health care, affordable transport and access to government information.
- Free and compulsory education and ongoing campaigns for adult literacy.
- Maintaining and where appropriate expanding the provision of social grants and finding ways and means of alleviating the burden of low income earners.
2.9 Investing in priority skills and education, including through:
- Improving our performance in maths, science and technology.
- Significantly expanding the resources devoted to our capacity as a people for knowledge production and expanding the resources devoted to innovation and research, including through an innovation management framework which includes the promotion and development of indigenous knowledge.
- Improving our entrepreneurial, business and financial skills, and building our public and project management capacities.
- Reviving the role state-owned enterprises in skills development and training, and building partnerships between the state, parastatals, the union movement and the private sector in the quest to improve skills.
- Placing Further Education and Training colleges at the centre of a popular drive to transfer skills to our people including by providing these institutions with more resources, and scaling-up dedicated bursary schemes to popularise and subsidise attendance at FET institutions.
2.10 The use of natural resources of which the state is the custodian on behalf of the people, including our minerals, water, marine resources in a manner that promotes the sustainability and development of local communities and also realises the economic and social needs of the whole nation. In this regard, we must continue to strengthen the implementation of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA), which seeks to realise some of these goals. Our programme must also deepen the linkages of the mineral sector to the national economy through beneficiation of these resources and creating supplier and service industries around the minerals sector.
2.11 Ensuring a security of supply of energy resources, and pursing an energy mix that includes clean and renewable sources to meet the demands of our fast growing economy without compromising our commitment to sustainable development.
2.12 Integration of the South African economy on a fair and equitable basis with the economies in the Southern African region and building stronger economic linkages across the continent of Africa as a whole as a basis for increasing our market size through deepened economic integration.
2.13 Participating in world trade, pursuing strategic partnerships with countries of the south and agitating for a fairer world trade system. In particular, this means ensuring policy space to find new opportunities for employment should not be compromised. The position adopted by South Africa in global trade reform talks must continue to emphasise the need to retain policy space on tariffs and industry protection for developing countries and avoid obligations to significantly liberalise our manufacturing or services sector.
2.14 Macro-economic policies that support and sustain growth, job creation and poverty eradication on a sustainable basis.
- To enhance the capacity of the African National Congress to monitor and evaluate the implementation of economic policy, including through:
- Establishing dedicated capacity, with the requisite resources, to monitor policy implementation and conduct ongoing assessment and engagement around economic policy issues, at national, provincial and regional level.
- A national programme of economic literacy for ANC members.
- To take the lead in mobilising and uniting all South Africans around our common vision of economic transformation.
Now we are talking about a conference that has take place 10 years after these promises were made and 23 years into the democratic breakthrough. Had these resolutions been implemented, South Africa would have been a better place. We wouldn’t be having an unemployment rate of more than 36% which is six times more than the world average.
The fundamental question is why anyone would trust the ANC to implement what it calls Radical Economic Transformation? The biggest challenge the ANC is facing is the credibility gap. Almost all of the leadership elected in Nasrec have been in the leadership since 1994.
SAFTU fully supports the Radical Economic Transformation.
We are happy that the conference fully embraced the need for the Radical Economic Transformation. We would be the first to celebrate if such policies were to be implemented. But the workers will remember that the idea of a Radical Economic Transformation is not new, it was first muted in the Policy conference of 2012 and endorsed in the ANC 53rdNational Conference. Five years down the line the ANC convinces itself that it is moving forward. In our view this yet another example that the ANC has stagnated and has reached its sell-by date.
It is impossible to separate all the new demands such as for a Radical Economic Transformation, because the implementation of all of the later ones will depend on the ANC’s ability to resolve the underlying economic crisis, which will require all the above economic policies, which SAFTU insists are the only way to solve our deep economic crisis.
Yet this is the area where SAFTU has least confidence that we shall see anything different. The new President Ramaphosa assured Conference, that “we are resolved to pursue with greater determination a radical path of socio-economic transformation, premised on growth, job creation and equitable distribution of income, wealth and assets”.
Yet this is the same man who is the chief architect and driver of the National Development Plan and all the other Treasury-driven policies that have slavishly followed the dictates of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and credit ratings agencies, which have led to the very opposite outcomes – slow growth, job losses and inequality that has become the widest in the world.
Now he is calling for “faster and more meaningful implementation of the National Development Plan”, which can only mean more of the same anti-workers, pro-business policies.
For the next 20 years Ramaphosa built a big investment holding company, Shanduka, with interests in sectors ranging from mining to fast foods. He is said to have served on the boards of as many as 100 companies. He established a reputation as a serial dealmaker and negotiator and he forged deep links within the private business world.
He also was rightly reviled for his collision, as a director of Lonmim, in the police action which led to the murder of 34 mine-workers.
His latest ‘solution’ is for a ‘social compact’ between government, business and labour, which has already led to those three sectors agreeing to a poverty minimum age of R20 an hour. He wants workers to collaborate in the imposition of policies that will lead to more job losses, lower real wages and worse social services.
A leader with such a background is not going to take the radical steps that SAFTU is demanding, steps which will be bitterly opposed by all his fellow-capitalists, the same class forces who have sabotaged reforms demanded by earlier ANC conferences. They have failed to find the money required for all the plans for comprehensive social security, national health insurance, better public transport and improved service delivery. On the contrary all these have either been delayed or abandoned.
The same will be true for President’ Zuma’s sudden conversion to free tertiary education for the poor. His successor, under pressure from the ratings agencies will be looking for ways to cut public spending, and money for free eduction can will come from even bigger cuts in the budgets for healthcare, social grants and all then other programs which the ANC delegates voted for.
On land we heard the same sort of empty talk as we have for years from ANC leaders. “We will accelerate our programme of land reform and rural development,” he said, “as part of our programme of radical socio economic transformation. This Conference has resolved that the expropriation of land without compensation should be among the mechanisms available to government to give effect to land reform and redistribution”.
If this promise was to be implemented SAFTU would be the first to celebrate. But, sorry, the ANC has no credibility on this too. The track record of the government on this area is just pathetic.
The ANC’s election manifesto promised that the government will:
•Intensify the land reform programmed to ensure that more land is in the hands of the rural poor and will provide them with technical skills and financial resources to productively use the land to create sustainable livelihoods and decent work in rural areas.
•Review the appropriateness of the existing land redistribution programme, introduce measures aimed at speeding up the pace of land reform and redistribution and promote land ownership by South Africans.
•Expand agrarian reform programme, which will focus on the systematic promotion of agricultural co-operatives throughout the value chain, including agro-processing in the agricultural areas. Government will develop support measures to ensure more access to markets and finance by small farmers, including fencing and irrigation systems.
•Ensure a much stronger link between land and agrarian reform programmes and water resource allocation and ensure that the best quality of water resources reach all our people, especially the poor.
•Ensure that all schools and health facilities have access to basic infrastructure such as water and electricity by 2014.
•Introduce the provision of proper sanitation systems in the rural areas.
•Strengthen partnership between government and the institution of traditional leadership to focus on rural development and fighting poverty.
•Work together with the farming community to improve the living conditions of farm dwellers, including the provision of subsidized houses and other basic services.
•Provide support for organised labour to organise and unionise farm workers and increase the capacity of the Department of Labour to enforce labour legislation.
Yet the government itself concedes that only around 10% of commercial farmland has been redistributed or restored to black South Africans in the 23 years since formal apartheid ended. The government admitted in 2012 that it had found that almost 100 percent of farms handed to land claimants since 1994 were lying fallow, and that the 2014 target would not be met. This utter failure explains why there is such anger at the ANC government’s pitiful record in implementing its own manifesto promises.
Yet again we heard nothing about the practical implementation which identified which land is to be expropriated and to whom it will be distributed. There was no assurance that it will just be handed to local chiefs, rather than poor communities.
The other major reason why we are not going to see progress is the factionalism within the ANC which has been crippling the movement and is now reflected on the NEC and even among the top six office bearers.
Those who supported Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma against Ramaphosa were in a faction calling for a fight against ‘white monopoly capital’ and for ‘radical economic transformation’. This may have sounded closer to the views of the rank-and-file delegates but was just empty rhetoric to fool the voters into thinking that shared the same concerns.
All these new office-bearers have been in leading positions in national and provincial government and yet have done no more than the Ramaphosa faction to actually implement any radical policies or attack monopoly capital.
Their slogans have just been a rhetorical cover to hide their real role n the ANC which has been, and still is, to use their positions to enrich themselves and their families by corruptly looting public resources through manipulating contracts and tenders. Two of the new office-bearers, David Mabuza and Ace Magashula, have been accused in numerous documents as being involved the looting and other alleged serious offenses.
They have had to pretend go along with the overwhelming view of the conference delegates that the Commission of Inquiry into the State of Capture allegations is immediately set up, but will have no alternative but to do everything possible to prevent this happening, if they want to stay out of jail.
Ramaphosa insisted that “conference has resolved that corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment and inequality”. We now wait to see how serious this pledge is going to be.
His first big test will be the appointment of a new National Director of Public Prosecutions, which a court has ordered him to do within 30 days. His choice will indicate how serious he is about putting an end to corruption.
The new NDPP will find boxes of files of evidence (if their have not all been shredded) of corruption and other crimes, many of them involving the very people with whom the ANC President is now sharing power, which his predecessor has been sitting on for years.
The most important these files is the one documenting 783 charges of corruption against his predecessor, Jacob Zuma. Will Ramaphosa appoint someone with the guts to proceed with this case, given the massive political fall-out which is sure to follow, not just involving Zuma but all his cronies?
Ramaphosa will also have to speak our against any further vexatious court actions to appeal against judges’ rulings in order to delay prosecutions, ensure that the Commission of Inquiry is not only established but that is given all the terms of reference, powers and resources it needs.
But one of the biggest challenge Ramaphose will face is how to ensure that the fight against corruption does not focus only on those in then public sector. There was a strong feeling among delegates that the growing number of those in the private sector – who are being accused of collusion with public and state-owned enterprises officials – must also be brought to book.
Ramaphosa indeed made reference to the need to “investigate without fear or favour the so-called ‘accounting irregularities’ that cause turmoil in the markets and wipe billions off the investments of ordinary South Africans”.
This could force him to speak out against his own fellow business people and start to unravel the structural corruption of the whole capitalist system which has made him a billionaire. That will be one of his biggest challenges.
The only even bigger one is how he deals with his predecessor. In the last few minutes of his closing address, Ramaphosa thanked “President Jacob Zuma for the 10 years he has spent as the President of our movement and for a lifetime of service to the people of this country. It was during your tenure Nxamalala, and thanks to your vision, that the National Planning Commission was established and produced the country’s first National Development Plan”.
How will he reconcile that gushing tribute with the necessity, if he is at all serious, to make sure that this corrupt fraudster – who has pillaged the country’s resources, bankrupted our state-owned enterprises and turned independent state legal structures, which should be guardians of the constitution into protectors of his criminal network – ends up in jail where he belongs?