Governance Watch

South Africa’s silent socialist revolution – Part 2

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Besides deployment of communists in key government positions, some core policy and legislative programmes indicate the implementation of South African Communist Party’s (SACP) socialist transformation aims.

Last week we analysed the deployment of SACP functionaries. In Part 2 we take a closer look at policy and legislative programmes.

Radical transformation, NDR and NDP

Since the ANC’s 1969 Morongoro conference the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) has formed the core of both its own and the SACP’s central strategy and tactics. It has been adjusted at various conferences since then to address current challenges and influenced almost all ANC policy development since then.

SACP, cadres deployed in key positions throughout the ANC, have a played a leading role in all major ANC strategy and policy decisions since the 1950s. The only exception was the period in which Thabo Mbeki was ANC and South African president.

Mbeki had sought distance from the SACP and to consolidate the political middle ground around his Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) macroeconomic policy – a market-friendly policy with which Mbeki replaced the more socialist Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

Calling it the “class project of 1996”, the SACP regarded GEAR as “treason”, actively campaigning for Mbeki’s removal and the abandonment of GEAR – achieving both.

It had a close ally in COSATU of which key leaders are all senior SACP members, despite less than 6% of all ordinary union members being communists.

Tellingly COSATU president Sidumo Dlamini in 2011 stated: “… we encourage our members to fill the front ranks of the SACP and we subject ourselves to the discipline of communists.”

In 2012 the SACP and COSATU persuaded the ANC to put on hold the liberal economic chapter of the National Development Plan (NDP), pending revision, which seems to have disappeared into thin air.

The communists in the ruling alliance attach a much more radical interpretation to the NDP’s economic clauses than the more moderate ANC members in government. Oversight of the implementation of the NDP by all ministers is in the hands of the minister in the presidency, Jeff Radebe a senior Communist. He also acts as President Zuma’s de facto prime minister.

The SACP also played a central role in drafting the policy of “radical economic transformation” as the so-called second phase of South Africa’s transition in terms of the NDR.

At the ANC’s June 2012 policy conference a resolution was adopted which stated: “This second phase of the transition should be characterised by more radical policies and decisive action to effect thorough-going and continued democratic transformation, as well as the renewal of the ANC, the Alliance and the broad democratic forces.”

It became official ANC policy at its national conference in December 2012 under the term “radical economic transformation,” since then often used interchangeably with the NDP.

President Zuma, delivering the ANC’s 2014 annual January 8 statement, said “radical economic transformation will be our central focus” going forward. Shortly afterwards ‘radical economic transformation’ was given preference over the NDP in the ANC’s election manifesto.

At a post-elections lekgotla ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe (a former SACP national chairman and still an SACP central committee and Politburo member) said the party would continue implementing the NDP.

In the same breath, however, he said the election victory had mandated the ANC to vigorously implement “radical economic transformation”.

The only time this year the NDP featured significantly was during departmental budget votes in parliament and when minister Radebe introduced the Medium Term Strategic Framework 2014-2019.

Role of parliament

Legislation in parliament has to give practical effect to SACP/ANC NDR and ‘radical economic transformation’ policy programmes. Little wonder then that even parliament – already controlled by an ANC majority of over 60% - seems to be subjected to further “nationalisation” attempts by the ANC/SACP.

Here too, as pointed out in Part 1, communists occupy key positions under the guise of being ANC members.

The SACP, which claims 150,000 members, has never contested a parliamentary election because, by own admittance, “there is not a single example of a communist party, on its own, winning national elections within a capitalist society”. However, it is quite open about its goals to achieve “state power” as the “central question of any revolution, including the South African NDR”.

Recent developments in Parliament tended to confirm a trend to reduce the institution to a rubber-stamping party extension. Much legislation has been bulldozed through parliament, including laws which arguably promote SACP positions and the party’s programme.

Implementing NDR socialism

A central goal of the NDR – frequently repeated in both ANC and SACP documents – is the transformation of property relations in South Africa and the redistribution of wealth. This forms part of ‘radical economic transformation’ and has found expression in a number of policy initiatives, draft legislation (ongoing) and legislation (passed) since 2012. Among these are:

Employment Equity Amendment Act;
Women Empowerment & Gender Equality Bill;
Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act;
Mineral & Petroleum Resources Development Amendment Bill;
Promotion & Protection of Investment Bill;
Restitution of Land Rights Amendment Bill;
Regulation of Land Holdings Bill;
Property Valuation Bill;
Expropriation Bill;
Private Security Regulation Amendment Bill;
South Africa’s cancellation of the bilateral investment treaties with the EU;
Land redistribution policy proposals that farmers should give 50% of their farms to their workers with the state acting as trustee – a socialist cooperative farming model in disguise; and
Attempts to limit intellectual property rights specifically to obtain compulsory licences in health care that will allow mass production at low cost of HIV anti-retroviral and other medicines;

There has been a concerted attack not only on property rights in general, but also specifically on business rights. Attempts to increase state involvement in the mining sector continue, while mineral rights have already been nationalised in line with the Freedom Charter, the ANC’s guiding document drawn up by communists in the 1950s.

On the policy front the NDP has to contend with two other key government policy plans, namely the Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) and the New Growth Path (NGP). The ministers of the two departments that produced these are both senior communists as are a number of their officials who were involved in the drafting.

Another key element of implementing socialism by stealth directly out of the SACP textbook is the seizure of control of all organs of state and levers of power through cadre deployment, something the ANC has been doing on a very large scale. The line between party and state has been almost eradicated, and government and the public service has become bloated, with substantially more than half of all the members of COSATU unions now coming from the public sector.

One of the last relatively independent or neutral organs of state, the criminal justice system, has also increasingly been the focus of cadre deployment attempts. In addition there have been proposals and attempts in a number of instances to replace judicial courts as regulatory arbitrators with departmental tribunals run by cadre officials.

Attempts to centralise control over all organs of state are ongoing in respect of the provinces and a proposed single national public service. So, too, are attempts to control the flow of information through transforming the SABC from public to state broadcaster; increasing ANC-friendly stakes in the media; proposing stricter regulatory control over the media; introducing censorship laws like the Protection of State Information Bill; and more.

All of these developments together are the hallmark of a state undergoing socialist transformation.

by Stef Terblanche

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