The ANC’s geopolitics and the National Democratic Revolution – Paul Hoffman

In recent years, significant attention has been devoted to the influential role played by the African National Congress (ANC) and its alliance partners, the SA Communist Party and COSATU, in South African politics since the country’s independence in 1994. Their national democratic revolution ideology aims to establish hegemonic control over all facets of power in South Africa, with the ANC’s deployed cadres occupying key positions in government, the public administration, and state-owned enterprises. Notably, even the selection of judges is influenced by the ANC’s cadre deployment committees, undermining the principles of independence and impartiality in the judiciary.

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The position of SA in the geopolitics of the ANC’s national democratic revolution

By Paul Hoffman*

Much has been written in recent years on the role of the guiding ideological light of the ANC and its alliance partners, the SA Communist Party and COSATU, in the internal politics and governance of SA since independence in 1994. In what follows it will be assumed that the reader is aware that the broad sweep of the goal of that revolution is to secure hegemonic control of all the levers of power in SA. The weapon of choice for this revolutionary endeavour is the noxious and illegal practice of using the services of deployed cadres of the ANC to fill every position of authority, influence and control in government, the public administration and the state owned enterprises. 

One of the more startling features of the evidence of the president at the Zondo Commission was that even the selection of judges to fill vacancies in the courts is a topic of decision-making (dressed up as “recommendations”) by the cadre deployment committees of the ANC. So much for independence and impartiality, both necessary, and constitutionally entrenched, features of our judiciary.

A thorough and recent unpacking of the NDR has been effected by Anthea Jeffery in her new seminal book  “Countdown to Socialism”: a chilling account of the perfidy of the tripartite alliance. The NDR is not often openly discussed by the deployed cadres. They operate as a sort of “secret society” while paying lip service to good human resource management practices and ignoring the supremacy of the rule of law, the doctrine of the separation of powers and the constitutional requirements of checks and balances on the exercise of power as they pursue their revolutionary agenda. The main practical differences between constitutionalism and revolution in SA have been discussed previously and need not be repeated for present purposes. See: https://accountabilitynow.org.za/?s=25+year+after+apartheid

The focus of attention in this note is the place of the ANC’s revolutionary exploits on the world’s political stage and their impact on the trajectory of SA. 

Since World War II international political forces at play have included the establishment of the UN; the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the Geneva Convention of 1949 and the Rome Statute of 1998 which birthed the ICC, among others. The UN has both a General Assembly and a Security Council as well as a host of agencies. It frowns upon warlike activities and seeks to ensure world peace through its various organizations. Its structures have become ever more dated and its functioning in geo-politics ever more irrelevant in recent years.

The immediate post-war period was marked by the so-called “cold war” between communist authoritarian one-party states and the “free world” of constitutional democrats, most of them capitalistically inclined. West Germany under the leadership of Konrad Adenauer fell into the latter group while East Germany was closely aligned to the now defunct USSR.  A so-called “non-aligned movement”, which was actually more anti-west than non-aligned, was formed in 1961, in the wake of the Korean War, to counter the bi-polarity of the cold war but became ever more superfluous with the ending of the cold war when the USSR abandoned communism and unbundled itself after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. SA joined the non-aligned movement in 1994. Both Mandela and Mbeki served as its chair. BRICS, a five nation alliance, is more the geo-political focus of SA since it joined BRIC in 2010. The BRICS nations encompass about 27% of the world’s land surface and 42% of the global population. Brazil, Russia, India, and China are among the world’s ten largest countries by population, area, and GDP, and the latter three are considered to be current superpowers, or potential emerging superpowers. It is possible that BRICS will expand in 2024, taking on board as many as four new members.

The way in which the National Development Plan for SA views BRICS is instructive. In part, it reads:

South Africa’s role within BRICS should be informed as much by geo-political movements in the world, the Global South and in Africa, with reference, in particular, to the rise of new economic and political powers in Africa, with which we should establish strategic partnerships. Within BRICS, and in Africa, South Africa’s relations with China and India are particularly important. China is fast becoming the most active and important foreign actor in Africa. While the European Union and the United States may well continue to be significant economic partners for African states for at least the next decade,[ i.e. until 2022], the Commission believes South Africa can play an important role in facilitating exchange between Africa and Asia – especially since China and India’s main interest is the continent’s minerals. South Africa has considerable mineral resources, skill in mining and capacity for related research, as well as a highly-developed financial system that could play an important role in facilitating Asian trade and investment on the continent on a mutually beneficial basis. It is important that policymaking remains in touch with South Africa’s domestic capabilities and regional objectives. On this basis, and given the pressing needs for food security in the region, international bargaining must include securing investment, diversification and continued progressive development in agriculture and agro-processing.

The high levels of kleptocracy and corruption in SA have bedevilled the securing of new investments, so much so that both diversification and all other “progressive developments” have been stalled. We languish on the FAFT greylist in the company of countries like Haiti and the South Sudan. Our failure to counter serious corruption is at the heart of the greylisting. It will continue until our criminal justice system is capacitated to counter serious corruption effectively and efficiently. There is no evidence that the denizens of the NDR are in any way in possession of the necessary political will to effect the radical reform required to get SA off the greylist.

The corrosive effect of the high incidence of serious corruption in SA has dented its ability to deliver on the objectives of the NDP, especially as regards the weaning of Africa off western influences and their replacement with Chinese and Indian links. SA remains a beneficiary of AGOA, the USA’s preferential trade arrangement, and its main trading partners are still in the west. Russia barely interacts with SA, but is big on donating funds to the ANC.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fallout of the war there has impacted on the plans set out in the NDP.  While Brazil and India have no difficulty voting against Russia when UN resolutions call for the condemnation of the invasion, so richly deserved, SA remains one of the few countries to abstain on UN resolutions in pursuit of an agenda claimed to be non-aligned, but actually, at least passively, is supportive of Russia. While there is a chance of the Ukrainian war going global, the ANC should be looking to the interests of SA in the current conflict rather than supporting the rogue and authoritarian excesses of the Russians.

It is almost as if past allegiances, when the USSR (both Russia and Ukraine) supported the struggle of the ANC, have become baked into the DNA of the ANC and it is incapable of nimbly moving on in the manner required by fealty to the rule of law, the Bill of Rights and constitutionalism. Instead an unprovoked invasion by an authoritarian regime that has all the hallmarks of oligarchy and kleptocracy is condoned and excused so that the flow of Russian funding for the ANC does not stop. A donation of R15 million declared by the ANC was from United Manganese of Kalahari (UMK), a company in which the ANC’s investment arm – Chancellor House – is a shareholder. 

The UMK has links to a sanctioned Russian oligarch.

The R15 million from UMK was paid to the Johannesburg Expo Centre, the venue which hosted the ANC’s national conference in December 2022.

While the western powers are heavily invested in SA, they do not make donations to the ANC. The response of the ANC to the war between Hamas and Israel is likely to alienate the west. 

It is vital that the national interest should not be confused with the interest the ANC has to keep itself afloat in the sea of corrupt activities in which it operates. Chancellor House was a 25% shareholder in Hitachi Power Africa, a deal, worth billions to the ANC, which got Hitachi heavily fined in the USA under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It is impossible to hold free and fair elections in SA while the ANC is the only contestant which raises funds in the way in which Chancellor House did so in the Hitachi deal. 

All too often the interests of the ANC are elided with those of the nation. This is not surprising when the aim is to secure hegemony. That aim is deeply and darkly unconstitutional. Civil society and engaged citizens need to be aware that the ANC is not SA and SA is not the ANC. Free and fair elections depend upon the separation of party and state.

*Paul Hoffman SC is a director of Accountability Now.

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