Msimang: You’re dead wrong Dr Jeffery – ANC never bought into commie NDR

Deputy president of the ANC Veteran’s League, Dr Mavuso Msimang, has been a member of the movement for more than 60 years, having joined its armed wing umkhonto we sizwe in the 1960s. The science graduate, who also earned an MBA in the US, returned from exile to SA in 1993 where he has since played a leading role in the tourism and anti-corruption sectors. In this interview, he tackles IRR Policy Research head Anthea Jeffery’s well-publicised interpretation of ANC policy. He says she got it badly wrong by concluding the SA Communist Party-created National Democratic Revolution document is the ANC’s blueprint. – Alec Hogg

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:07 – Introductions
  • 00:58 – Mavuso Msimang on how Anthea Jeffereys got things a little bit wrong in the way that she’s described the NDR
  • 06:02 – On Anthea Jeffereys thesis about squashing the opposition being part of the NDR
  • 10:16 – On the term ‘Comrade’ and it’s context with regards to the NDR
  • 11:29 – What is the National Democratic Revolution’s relevance within the ANC of today
  • 17:47 – Communism and Religion in SA
  • 24:45 – Conclusions

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Edited transcript of the interview with Dr Mavuso Msimang, deputy president of the ANC Veterans League

Alec Hogg: It’s a pleasure to speak again with Dr. Mavuso Msimang, especially following our informal discussion on Anthea Jeffery’s book ‘Countdown to Socialism’, which offers strong opinions on the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). Dr. Msimang, a committed ANC member and Deputy President of the ANC Veterans League, will likely offer a contrasting perspective. Dr. Msimang, do you think Anthea Jeffrey has misrepresented the NDR?

Mavuso Msimang: I was initially excited to hear someone discussing the NDR, thinking it was a concept understood by many. However, as the interview progressed, my excitement waned. In my understanding, rooted in Marxist social development theory, society progresses from primitive states through feudalism and capitalism, aiming eventually for socialism and ultimately communism. Between capitalism and socialism lies the NDR, a transitionary phase involving a mixed economy. However, this is where confusion may set in. The ANC’s mission has always been to fight for the political freedom and human rights of black people in South Africa. It’s not directly connected to the NDR. Although the ANC’s Freedom Charter does exhibit socialist leanings, it does not state that the ANC’s ultimate goal is to establish a communist state. I wish Anthea had referred to the Freedom Charter, which might have offered a more nuanced understanding. In summary, the NDR is not inherently part of the ANC’s framework, even though we collaborate with the Communist Party and Cosatu, who may subscribe to socialist or communist ideologies.

Read more: ANC Vet League president Zikalala: Coalition with DA – sure. With EFF – absolutely no way.

Alec Hogg: Anthea’s book could potentially confuse readers as she discusses the NDR in two contexts: the people’s war and pre-1994 election violence, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. She argues that part of the NDR was to suppress the opposition to ensure ANC dominance, given that the ANC had far fewer members compared to the IFP at the time. What are your thoughts on this interpretation?

Mavuso Msimang: I think Anthea Jeffrey has got it quite wrong, which is disappointing considering she’s an established author. To attribute the concept of the NDR to the violence that occurred in what is now called KwaZulu-Natal is quite bizarre. The violence there was not solely an ANC-IFP issue; it was part of a broader struggle for freedom. There were conditions Chief Buthelezi wanted fulfilled for his Inkatha Freedom Party to join the new South Africa. The violence was more about territorial control than ideology. I’m perplexed about how she links this to the NDR, which was never the focus of that struggle.

Alec Hogg: That period was indeed painful for everyone involved. Anthea may be leveraging the popularity of the term ‘comrade’ within the ANC to suggest a communist influence. Doesn’t this strengthen her argument?

Mavuso Msimang: No, it doesn’t. The term ‘comrade’ is common in liberation movements and not unique to communism. Once you’re in the struggle, titles like ‘Mr.’ and ‘Sir’ are set aside in favour of the more egalitarian ‘comrade’. This is common wherever people take up arms for a cause. The bond created is beyond what you would find in a club or a casual association. Anthea should be aware of this nuance.

Read more: Heystek: NDR and your savings – what planet do SA fund managers live on?

Alec Hogg: So, what is the current relevance of the National Democratic Revolution within today’s ANC?

Mavuso Msimang: I honestly don’t think that the ANC is committed to socialism. The Freedom Charter, which is the ANC’s founding document, does have some socialist elements, but it also talks about the importance of free enterprise. And in recent years, the ANC has been more focused on promoting economic growth than on creating a socialist society.

There are some people in the ANC who are more sympathetic to socialism, but they are not the majority. And even those who are sympathetic to socialism do not necessarily believe that it is the best way to achieve economic development for South Africa.

I think the ANC is more likely to follow the example of the Scandinavian countries, which are capitalist economies with strong social safety nets. These countries have been able to achieve a high degree of economic equality and social welfare without abandoning capitalism.

I believe that the ANC is committed to creating a more just and equitable society, but I don’t think that they are committed to socialism. They are more likely to pursue a mixed economy that combines elements of capitalism and socialism.

I think the ANC has always been a bit ambivalent about capitalism. On the one hand, they recognize that it is a powerful engine of economic growth. On the other hand, they are concerned about the inequality and exploitation that can result from capitalism.

In exile, the ANC was closely aligned with the South African Communist Party (SACP). The SACP is a Marxist-Leninist party that believes in a socialist revolution. However, the ANC leadership was always clear that they were not a communist party. They believed that the best way to achieve social justice was through a mixed economy, with a strong role for the state in regulating the market.

After 1994, the ANC has moved away from some of its socialist rhetoric. However, there are still many ANC members who are sympathetic to socialism. And the ANC government has implemented some policies that could be seen as socialist, such as the nationalization of certain industries.

I think the ANC is still trying to figure out what kind of economic system it wants. They are torn between the need for economic growth and the need to address inequality. I think they are likely to continue to experiment with different policies in the years to come.

I agree with you that the NDR is a confusing concept. It is not clear what it means, or how it would be implemented. Some people believe that it is a code for a communist revolution. Others believe that it is simply a way of describing the ANC’s commitment to social justice.

I think the NDR is more likely to be interpreted as a communist revolution by people who are already opposed to the ANC. However, I think the ANC leadership is not interested in a communist revolution. They are more interested in building a mixed economy that can provide economic opportunity for all South Africans.

I think the ANC should be more clear about what the NDR means. They should also be more careful about the language they use. The use of terms like “national democratic revolution” can be alienating to people who are not familiar with Marxist terminology.

I think the ANC would be better off focusing on policies that can improve the lives of ordinary South Africans. They should focus on creating jobs, providing education and healthcare, and reducing poverty. If they can do that, they will be able to build a more just and equitable society, regardless of what they call it.

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