Anthea Jeffery on the Multiparty Charter: Uniting for growth, challenging socialist legacy

The Multiparty Charter, a groundbreaking alliance of political forces including the Democratic Alliance, Inkatha Freedom Party, Action SA, and more, has ushered in a pivotal moment for South Africa. This coalition, underpinned by a shared commitment to fostering growth and employment within an open market economy, offers a fresh approach to governance. Supported by the Fraser Institute’s data showcasing the economic success of such policies globally, the Charter counters the socialist agenda that has hindered progress. As the nation stands on the cusp of change, the Multiparty Charter presents a genuine electoral alternative, challenging ANC’s dominance and paving the way to dismantle years of flawed economic strategies.

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Socialism and the NDR – or growth and jobs in an open market democracy?

By Anthea Jeffery*

The Multiparty Charter embraced last week by the Democratic Alliance, the Inkatha Freedom Party, Action SA, the Freedom Front Plus and three other political parties plans to put its primary emphasis on stimulating growth and expanding employment in an open market economy.

This is a vital development, for it reflects a formula for prosperity that has consistently proved its value for more than 40 years in over 100 countries across the globe. 

The Fraser Institute’s most recent report on the Economic Freedom of the World once again confirms the success of this formula. Its report shows that the ‘most free’ countries – those where governments intervene little and allow free markets to function – had average per-capita GDP of some $48 500 in 2020. This was more than seven times higher than the $6 500 average in the ‘least free’ nations, many of which are socialist states.

In addition, the average annual income of the poorest 10% in the freest countries was $14 200, as opposed to $1 700 in the least free nations. Moreover, the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty (on $1.90 a day) was 2% in the freest countries, but 31% in the least free ones.

Despite a vast body of evidence confirming how growth and jobs help the poor, the ANC and its dominant ally, the South African Communist Party (SACP), have little real interest in either. Instead, their overriding objective is to cripple the free market economy en route to a socialist ‘nirvana’.

Having discounted the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the SACP/ANC alliance still clings to socialism as its key objective. In addition, it still sees the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) – a Soviet strategy developed in the 1950s to take countries from capitalism to socialism by incremental steps – as providing the ‘most direct route’ to its socialist goal.

Since the political transition in 1994, the ANC has been using its ‘state power’ to implement the NDR in at least 17 different spheres. Major advances have been made, which helps explain why growth has stalled, joblessness is at crisis levels, corruption is spiralling and governance is unravelling. 

NDR interventions have already made millions of people unemployable and the mining sector largely ‘uninvestable’. Now they aim at land expropriation without compensation (EWC) and the effective nationalisation of private healthcare. Thereafter, the ANC seeks a state monopoly over pensions, education, transport, and employment, among other things. Its ‘successes’ here will give a small political elite extraordinary power, enormous wealth, and unprecedented control over the core needs of almost all South Africans.

The NDR is the key to understanding ANC rule over almost 30 years, yet most people know little about it. This is largely because many commentators in the mainstream media persist in ignoring the NDR or pooh-poohing its importance. Others in the broader ANC alliance help discount it too. 

In recent weeks, for example, political analyst and former Cosatu unionist Ebrahim Harvey has denied the NDR’s existence, claiming that it ended with the political transition in 1994. ANC Veterans League president Snuki Zikalala has added that the NDR aims primarily at ‘providing quality services to our people’. 

In similar vein, Chrispin Phiri, spokesman for the justice and correctional services ministry, has asserted that the NDR aims mainly at ‘freedom from discrimination’ and the achievement of ‘substantive equality’, along with ‘fair distribution’ and ‘the economic liberation of…the marginalised’.  All these descriptions are false and calculated to mislead.

Phiri has also claimed that the NDR is fully in line with the Constitution. This too is false, if only because it ignores the Zondo commission’s finding that cadre deployment – one of the NDR’s most pervasive interventions – contradicts various clauses in the Constitution. 

The ANC’s determination to conceal its socialist objectives goes back much further too. In 1979, for instance, the ANC resolved to embark on a ruthless people’s war aimed primarily at destroying its black rivals and so winning the power needed to implement the NDR. It also decided that its ultimate socialist objectives had to be obscured. 

These decisions were reflected in the ANC’s blueprint for people’s war, called The Green Book: Lessons from Vietnam. According to this document, the seizure of power via the people’s war was the first step in a two-stage revolution and would be followed by a transition to socialism. However, The Green Book cautioned against ‘any direct or indirect commitment at this stage…to a socialist order’, as this would narrow the support the ANC could otherwise attract.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) – whose founding 40 years ago has been much trumpeted by the ANC this week – had the same goals and used the same concealment strategy.  Unbeknown to most South Africans, the UDF also espoused a two-stage theory of revolution in which the first phase would focus on ‘the national liberation of the most oppressed group, the black people’ – and the second on ‘the complete economic emancipation of the oppressed’. 

According to an internal document compiled by Arnold Stofile, a member of the front’s national executive committee, the UDF’s ultimate objective was to destroy ‘the exploiting monster that is capitalism’. This aim was kept hidden, however, as disclosure was sure to diminish the UDF’s support.

That the UDF concurred with the ANC on all these points is not surprising. As author Jeremy Seekings was later to write in a history of the front, decision-making within the UDF was primarily vested in a national executive committee with 25 members. According to Seekings, ‘every member of this national executive committee, with one possible exception, was a formal or informal member of the ANC political underground’.

The ANC’s socialist fixation – long concealed by the organisation and still downplayed by its loyalists – has brought South Africa close to economic ruin after some 30 years of NDR implementation. 

If the NDR continues, marked by the introduction of EWC and the steady expansion of the state’s monopoly powers, the country could soon follow in the footsteps of Venezuela. Here, some two decades of ‘21st century socialism’ have brought rampant unemployment, pervasive poverty, widespread hunger, hyperinflation, and a 70% contraction in GDP to a country that used to be the richest in Latin America.

Fortunately, however, the emergence of the Multiparty Charter with its commitment to growth, employment, and an open market economy at last provides the country with the prospect of a real electoral contest in 2024 and a vital opportunity to end the NDR.

The voting numbers confirm the ANC’s vulnerability. In the 2019 election, some 10 million people voted for the ANC, while more than 18 million eligible voters chose rather to stay away from the polls. Some of those who stayed away may have thought this option adequately punished the ANC for its incompetence and corruption. Others might have feared that voting was a fruitless exercise without a credible alternative to ANC dominance. 

The emergence of the Multiparty Charter changes these assessments. No wonder the ANC is already seeking to downplay and stigmatise the new coalition, with President Cyril Ramaphosa calling it ‘a sideshow’ and Gauteng premier Lesufi Panyaza dismissing it as ‘a gang of losers’.

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*Dr Anthea Jeffery holds law degrees from Wits, Cambridge and London universities, and is the Head of Policy Research at the IRR.

This article was first published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission

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