Every five years the African National Congress (ANC) conducts a strategic review of its policies across a range of broad thematic areas. As the governing party of South Africa, it is essential that our policies remain relevant and responsive to the needs of the nation and prevalent local as well as global circumstances and conditions.
As the ANC limbers up for its 5th National Policy Conference in June, as well as the 54th National Conference slated for December, the organization has released a set of discussion documents.
These nine discussion documents are always released publically and within good time in order to facilitate an effective participatory process involving not just from our branches, but the public at large – in line with the ANC’s longstanding commitment to participatory democracy.
Amongst them is the ANC’s Strategy and Tactics document, that broadly outlines, analyses and charts a future course for the movement within what we call the Balance of Forces, both domestically and globally. It is testimony to the vibrancy of the movement’s intellectual tradition that the Strategy and Tactics, first adopted at the Morogoro Conference in Tanzania in 1969, are regularly reviewed and updated by our movement in response to prevailing conditions.
Assessment of the balance of forces helps us to clarify opportunities and constraints in the process of discharging our responsibilities towards deepening social transformation.
The Strategy and Tactics document analyzes the global and domestic Balance of Forces, and how this facilitates or hinders the attainment of the ANC’s ultimate objectives.
Arising from this are the medium- and long-term tasks facing both the organisation and society at large.
All the other documents are rooted in the ANC’s Strategy and Tactics – for it is in essence presents the theoretical perspective of the organization.
The Strategy and Tactics opens with a historical overview of our society; underlining the point that the 1996 Constitution, whilst containing transitional clauses, was on the whole an expression of untrammelled majority rule, with profound socio-economic provisions.
In this sense, the ideals the Constitution articulates are not a compromise; but wholly consistent with the objective of creating a society underpinned by a profound humanism.
That said, it has become worrying common that a number of sectors within our society, especially in the political arena, have turned our courts into the terrain for contesting political squabbles and settling scores, when such could possibly have been better managed through more relevant channels. From quarrels with satirical puppets, to the lyrics of controversial songs, to the seemingly endless legal challenges to Constitutionally-valid administrative actions of the Executive.
This low-intensity ‘law-fare’ has steadily been ratcheted up over the years, and are sucking up the judiciary into the maelstrom of day-to-day societal management.
Repeated attempts of this kind, involving significant resources (even from non-governmental organization’s who traditionally have limited sources of funding and income) leads one to question whether there is an attempt by the privileged elements of society to undermine the ANC’s popular electoral mandate through the courts.
Another chapter outlines the ANC’s vision for a National Democratic Society founded on unity, non-racism, non-sexism, democracy and prosperity. A subsequent chapter of the Strategy and Tactics deals with the motive forces of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), and further outlines that the fact they stand to benefit from the process of revolutionary change does not necessarily impel them to act in a corrective measure. Here the point is reinforced that Black workers – employed and unemployed, urban and rural – remain the main motive force of the process of change.
The chapter on Political Leadership and the Process of Change deals with our organisational challenges and what the movement has to do to remain relevant.
The analysis of the global Balance of Forces in the Strategy and Tactics is instructive for all who seek to understand modern political dynamics, as well as the influence that global capitalism continues to wield in society, despite the slow rise of progressive forces.
At the centre of humanity’s challenges is economic inequality. It is well known that more wealth is owned by the richest one-percent than the rest of humanity; and ‘eight men now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world’ (Oxfam: 2017).
In many developed countries, large swathes of the population have in the recent period actually experienced stagnant incomes and a declining quality of life.
No where is this more acutely manifested than in South Africa. As the Strategy and Tactics notes, we “represent the most acute manifestation of most of the social fault-lines that define humanity’s current challenges: race, class, gender and geographic location. Income inequality and inequitable distribution of assets are at their most intense. Poverty and unparalleled opulence live cheek by jowl. “
What is clearly demonstrated in the assertions made by the document is a deep seated relationship between political oppression and the apartheid capitalist system that, if decisive action is not taken to deal with economic subjugation and exclusion, the essence of apartheid will remain, with a few black men and women incorporated into the courtyard of privilege.
The old fault-lines will persist, and social stability will be threatened.
Unfortunately, but perhaps predictably, the crisis of capitalism also finds expression in the collapse of ethics, or greater public exposure of such deplorable practices.
From ‘cooking of the books’, wilful violation of financial regulations, vehicle defeat devices to circumvent environmental regulations, to massive and undeserved packages to many executives and, in some instances, actual looting of the fiscus – all these developments have undermined the legitimacy of many polities in the eyes of the majority of citizens.
The ANC’s policies are informed by the need for the revival of local and African economies; driven by a new corps of continental leaders with peoples’ interests at heart. This sets the stage for improving the quality of life of our people.
The ANC seeks to harness the Africa Rising narrative. By some estimates, by the turn of the century, seven of the fastest growing economies in the world were located in Africa.
Africa’s trade with the rest of the world has grown massively; foreign debt has declined; and labour productivity has improved. Critically, these advances have found expression in such social indicators as improved income, lower rates of unemployment, reduction in poverty, higher rates of enrolment in primary education, and lower rates of under-five mortality.
As articulated in Agenda 2063, the continent seeks to attain prosperity based on sustainable development, democracy and citizen activism, good and ethical governance, as well as multifaceted integration and peace.
The fate of South Africa is inextricably linked to the continent’s future, and the progress the continent has made in the past twenty years has been to South Africa’s advantage.
Despite the daunting challenges that our country continues to face, we have done well. The Strategy and Tactics captures the point very clearly.
At the core of the ANC’s tasks in the current period is the renewal of the organisation for it to exercise societal leadership in a changing environment, and the speeding up of programme of fundamental transformation.
It is the task of all the cadres to unpack the themes outlined in the discussion documents. The release of these documents presents us with an opportunity to take stock of our methods of struggle and their effectiveness or lack thereof. It also beckons that we look deeply into the new conditions as a result of our new position in the country, continentally and globally.
We call upon branches and broader members of society to read and engage with the documents.
By Nathi Mthethwa, Minister of Arts and Culture and a Member of the NEC, NWC and Chairperson of Political Education Sub-committee of the NEC.