NP outperformed the ANC on every given service delivery, hands down – John Kane Berman

If we take off our ideological lenses for just the time it takes to read this, we’d realise that on a rational, data-based comparison, the NP outdid the ANC on every given service delivery metric, especially education. Mixed with cadre deployment (read stay in power), with dismal education outcomes (read stay in power) and the figures below are, frankly, terrifying. Compiled by former IRR CEO, John Kane-Berman, a veteran media figure and political observer, this piece shatters the oft-proffered argument that the Nats were as incestuous as the ANC. When the DG of Treasury says, “The things that define a failing state are beginning to show,” take that from whence it comes. To what lengths will the ruling party eventually go to ensure its public servants stick to the fantasy-based party line that the National Democratic Revolution is delivering a better life for all? By copying Zimbabwe and punishing its civil servants for looking to better themselves elsewhere? Story courtesy of the Daily Friend. – Chris Bateman

The Nats valued education but the ANC fears it

By John Kane-Berman*

Writing last week on PoliticsWeb, the historian Hermann Giliomee disputed claims that there were major similarities between the cadre deployment policies of the present South African government and the promotion of members of the Afrikaner Broederbond by the previous one after it defeated the United Party (UP) in the general election in 1948.

John Kane-Berman. Image: The Daily Friend

One of his key points was that under the National Party (NP) government, “civil servants, whether belonging to the Broederbond or not, still had to work their way up through the ranks, acquire the necessary expertise and experience to do the work, and compete with each other for promotion”.

Professor Giliomee, a former president of the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR), also argued that the replacement of UP-aligned civil servants “occurred gradually without any abrupt loss of expertise in the civil service”.


By contrast, the current minister of public service and administration, Ayanda Dlodlo, told parliament in November last year that 26% of senior managers in the public service did not have the “requisite qualifications” for the posts they occupied; although that was an improvement on an earlier figure of 35%.

At municipal level, the minister of water and sanitation, Senzo Mchunu, said earlier this month that “at least” a third of the 144 municipalities that were also water services authorities were dysfunctional. “More than 50% have no, or very limited, technical staff.” The reliability of services had been declining, so that only 67.8% of household had access to a “reliable water supply service”.

All these figures should shock everyone but they don’t, of course, for the simple reason that we all know that this is how the country runs under rule by the African National Congress (ANC). No wonder the director general at the National Treasury, Dondo Mogajane, said recently that “the things that define a failing state are beginning to show, where we don’t care about the poor and improving their lives”.

Speaking in October 2020 to the Cape Town Press Club, FW de Klerk said that Afrikaner nationalists had been “passionately committed to the resurrection of the Afrikaner nation”. As people across the globe watched the handover of power to the ANC in 1994, there was no doubt a widespread assumption that it would implement policies to resurrect the black African nation. Instead, it has implemented policies that have done immense damage to its own people.

Racial preferencing policies

Some black people have benefited from various racial preferencing policies, not least public officials and Cyril Ramaphosa himself. But South Africa’s scandalously high unemployment figures tell us the story about what has happened to millions of others. It was Mr Ramaphosa himself who said after his victory at the ANC’s elective conference in December 2017 that “corruption must be fought with the same intensity and purpose that we fight poverty, unemployment, and inequality”. This explains more than he might have wished.

Back to Messrs Giliomee and De Klerk. A key part of the renaissance of the Afrikaners was education. It was, of course, segregated and seriously discriminatory in fiscal terms. But it worked. The education system produced the skills that the state required. Afrikaners knew how important it was. They still do, which is why they are fighting ANC attempts to destroy Afrikaans schools.

Black parents today, as they did when the NP was still in power, equally recognise the importance of education. Many continue to make huge sacrifices.

A recent report compiled by Nic Spaull, an associate professor at the University of Stellenbosch, stated that 78% of Grade 4 pupils could not read for meaning in any language. The figures were for 2016, and were an improvement on earlier figures, but the report said that on the current trajectory, “we will only reach 95% of Grade 4s reading for meaning in 80 years’ time”.

The report further showed that although Iran and South Africa had the same GDP per head, 65% of Grade 4s in Iran could read but only 22% in South Africa.

Another report, the 2019 Trends in International Maths and Science Study, showed that only 37% of Grade 5s had a basic understanding of maths and 28% a basic understanding of science. Among 58 countries assessed, South Africa ranked third last.

Drop outs

The school drop out remains high. Of the 1.12 million pupils in Grade1 in 2010, only 63% wrote the National Senior Certificate exam in 2021, and only 23% got passes good enough to entitle them to undertake degree study at university.

As for university study, in 2019, according to my IRR colleague Anthea Jeffery, the undergraduate completion rate for computer and information sciences was 12%; for maths and statistics, 13%; for physical sciences, 17%; and for engineering, 21%.

These figures suggest the ANC, now in power for almost 28 years, does not care about education, upon which it spends some 7% of GDP, which is high by international standards. However, maybe it is concerned…

A survey conducted for the Centre for Risk Analysis (CRA) in 2020 showed that support for the ANC dropped when education levels rose. Slightly more than two-thirds of people with only primary schooling supported the ANC, but slightly less than a third of those with a university degree.

In other words, from an electoral perspective, the ANC benefits from poor education. The purpose of cadre deployment is political control, not an efficient public service. It therefore does not matter if jobs are filled by unqualified people. Also, the pursuit of demographic proportionality in public sector appointments trumps all other considerations. Along with attacks on property rights and redistribution of wealth, these are key components of the national democratic revolution, of whose importance Mr Ramaphosa reminds chosen audiences from time to time.

An efficient public sector would require not only a much better education system, but also abandoning both cadre deployment and black nationalist appointment policies. Fixing schooling would require not only abandoning these policies, but also decentralising control and confronting a reactionary and entrenched trade union.

The ANC is not ready for any of these reforms.

  • John Kane-Berman, a graduate of Wits and Oxford (where he was a Rhodes Scholar), is a former CEO of the IRR. Prior to that he spent ten years in journalism, where he was senior assistant editor of the Financial Mail and South African correspondent for numerous foreign papers. He is the author of several books on South African politics, and has also published his memoirs.
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