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Whither South Africa?

Whither South Africa?

How to build a counter power to the unravelling hegemony of the ANC

Amandla! Ulutsha Newsletter Issue 4| Editorial | 7 December 2017

ANC December Conference 

The South African economic crisis has morphed into a political crisis, the political crisis is further exacerbating the economic crisis, and everyone’s compass is pointing at the ANC’s conference in December for answers on how to get out of this vicious circle. But what will come out of the ANC conference? Whatever the outcome, will it help us to get out of the crisis?

ANC Conference and the Political Crisis

The ANC December Conference is fast approaching. Leading up to the conference has been a rollercoaster ride, and no one knows how it will end. The internal battles are rife within the ANC and the electoral race is extremely tight, making it impossible for anyone to predict the outcome of the December 2017 Conference. Will Zuma get what he wants and see Nkosazana successfully pip Cyril to the race? Or will Ramaphosa usurp the Zuma faction? Outside of the ANC, the Alliance is unravelling too. The SACP and COSATU have been publicly criticising corruption in the ANC and the government for most of this year, but this is related to a factional battle, rather than COSATU and SACP really taking a stand.

For the SACP it would seem that there is hope, following them contesting a by-election in Free State’s Metsimaholo District the past week (29/11). This is the first time the Party stood in elections independently of the ANC. Even though the SACP failed to win a single of the 21 wards it contested, it is hopefully a sign of things to come. It would be a step in the right direction if the SACP can show the courage needed to officially break from the Alliance, push a radical economic programme onto the agenda and mobilise against an impending austerity budget!

One of the things to be wary of heading to the ANC December conference is vote rigging and manipulations of the elections. Following allegations of voting discrepancies at the district level, concerns about whether the elections will be legitimate or not have been raised. For example, the SACP claimed that over 1000 people submitted to vote were in fact deceased or moved out of the area in the Metsimaholo by-elections.

Regardless of what happens in December, neither Ramaphosa’s ‘New Deal’ nor Dlamini-Zuma’s ‘Radical Economic Transformation’ will be any different from what we have seen until now. Big business is gunning for a Ramaphosa victory, arguing that this would bring a major improvement in SA’s economic outlook: Ramaphosa is capital’s preferred candidate because he would be more compliant to their demands. Dlamini-Zuma, on the other hand, has not given much expression to what her plans would be – except that she wants to implement ANC’s policies. On an ANN7 interview she stated that she considers ANC policies to be “important” and that it just needs to be effectively implemented, which is making capital uncertain about the former AU chairperson.

Economic Crisis & Gear 2.0

Whilst the political situation unfolds, the economic crisis deepens and the credit rating agencies watch with keen eyes. We are heading towards a major economic crisis. This all spells an attack on the poor in the form of harsh austerity measures to be announced on Budget Day next year. With further credit rating downgrades and capital outflows, South Africa could possibly default on the public debt, resulting in a loss of our economic sovereignty. The ANC and the government is leading us down this road.

S&P Global Ratings has just cut SA local-currency rating to junk status. Moody’s could do the same, depending on how the 2018 Budget Speech goes. Last Monday, the President signalled an austerity budget for 2018: According to him, we would need to increase revenue by at least R15bn and cut government expenditure by R25bn to recover a shortfall of R40bn.

In 1996, government implemented a home-grown structural adjusted programme in the form of the macroeconomic policy – Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear). The government said that it was necessary to implement Gear in order to reduce its debt. Coincidentally, and ironically a debt that it owed to itself. We have come full circle, and next year February the finance minister will implement Gear 2.0.

It seems likely that the increased tax revenue will derive from increased Value Added Taxes (VAT)  –  which, rather than increasing corporate taxes and implementing a wealth tax, hits the poor harder. And even worse: What will have to be cut from the spending? Given all the things we need to finance, including a national health insurance and fee-free education, government interestingly intends to use R122 billion annually of public money to finance black capitalists who want a greater share of the financial sector.

What is to be done

One thing is for certain, the ANC cannot get us out of these crises. From them will see business as usual; dependence on foreign investment and a fixation with extracting minerals and fossil fuels. All the while, credit rating agencies like Moody’s are going to put a stranglehold on working class and poor South Africans. For these reasons, even though the ANC is still a political force, its hegemony is beginning to unravel, and we need to look beyond it. What can we do?

In the short term, we need to mobilise and come together on a post-ideological basis. We need to form the broadest front in order to push forward our demands on a consensus-based approach. We need to call for an end to corruption, for democracy and say no to an austerity budget. Following the December 2017 ANC Conference, Budget Day 2018 is the second most important day in defining the future of the South African landscape, leading to the 2019 Elections and beyond.

History repeats itself first as tragedy, second as farce. COSATU and the SACP are repeating the same mistake they made in 2007 by putting their weight behind a candidate in the race for the ANC. It is critical that both these historical worker and left organisations develop an independent left project outside of the Alliance.

In the medium-to-long run, we need to reclaim our people’s sovereignty, and we need to reclaim our economic sovereignty. We can start by demanding our provision with housing, food and jobs, and by reclaiming our right back to health care and to education. To realise these demands, we need to build the political organisation for our economic emancipation.

Recently the General Secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), Zwelinzima Vavi, spoke on the Workers on Wednesday show and stated the urgency for workers to march to Parliament in February and March next year. They need to do this, and COSATU needs to do the same, on the same day with students and civil society. And if the SACP and EFF are serious about economic freedom, they will be there, too.

In Greece the people spoke: They said “Oxi” (No) to austerity. It is time for us to do the same, to unitedly demand the end of austerity, to call for a people’s budget for real alternatives.

The alternatives

There are alternatives to the planet killing mineral-energy finance complex that exacerbates rampant inequality, unemployment and poverty in South Africa. Establishing a decentralised socially-owned renewable energy industry will be crucial in instituting a just transition to a low carbon, wage-led development path.  

Regardless of who or which faction wins the ANC Conference, we can be certain that they will oversee a harsh neoliberal programme of budget cuts (austerity) and business friendly policies for investors. We may even face privatisation of state owned companies and higher VAT. This will further aggravate the over 40% unemployment crisis we face and push SA into deeper poverty and inequality.

All of this will become clear on Budget Day, 21 February 2018.

Once again workers and the poor will be made to bear the brunt for the Zupta’s looting of ESKOM, Transnet, PRASA, etc. But also for the money laundering and profit shifting strategies of big business, which has seen hundreds of billions of Rands transferred to tax and secrecy havens.

There is considerable political and ideological divisions that mark SA’s popular movements. On 21 February these differences need to be put aside in favour of united mass action for

  1. decent work and climate jobs,
  2. free decolonised education,
  3. land, food, housing and the right to the city,
  4. safe and affordable public transport.

United in the struggle for real radical economic transformation!

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