🔒 Hartford: A coalition’s toughest post-election challenge – the ANC-bloated State

Cyril Ramaphosa delivered an animated speech at Mbombela stadium to kickstart the ANC’s election campaign, emphasising the party’s intent to secure a majority without forming coalitions. Sceptics think the ANC will struggle to achieve this. A victorious coalition, however, faces the monumental task of steering a State entrenched in 30 years of ANC rule, with excessive VIP protection spending and public servant wage imbalances just the start. With over 700 state-owned enterprises and almost 20m dependent on State grants, any post-election government will have to navigate and presumably untangle a complex web of ANC-influenced systems.

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By Dirk Hartford

Cyril Ramaphosa’s unusually animated, backwards-looking speech in Mpumulanga on Saturday launching the ANC’s election campaign is a good place to press pause and look at what the victor in this year’s election will inherit and have to deal with.

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Of course, the victor might be the ANC itself, and Ramaphosa left no doubt of the ANC intention of winning an overall majority and avoiding any kind of coalition with anybody. In which case, expect more of the same post-election.

But if, as many believe, the ANC cannot secure the 201-seat majority it needs to do this, a new dynamic will be in play.

I happen to be one of those who believes the ANC won’t get the requisite majority. Putting my head on the block – I think the ANC will be lucky to get over 45%.

But it’s all guesswork at this stage. Whatever the actual outcome, let’s imagine for now that it’s not business as usual for the ANC after the election, that it does not have the requisite majority and that a coalition will govern.

The first thing we have to be grateful for in the run-up to the elections is that there are so many ex-ANC people (Lekota’s Cope, Malema’s EFF, Zuma’s MK, Holomisa’s UDM, Mckenzie’s PA for starters) watching over the election process that it is going to be much harder to rig it.

If it were the DA alone, it would have been relatively easy for the ANC to rig the election because the DA simply doesn’t have the connection with black people that matter at the coal face of electoral politics – potential whistle-blowers, informers, impimpis or spies. Zuma and the EFF, in particular, have such assets in abundance.

The real problem for any coalition which secures that magic 50.1% will have to face is what to do with a State that has been in the hands of the ANC for 30 years already. Indeed, what is that State?

Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, much loved by ANC/SACP comrades, said the State essentially “consists of special bodies of armed men”. The Ramaphosa regime is an obscene example of this with its ever-expanding VIP protection squads, blue light brigades, et al.

Even as ordinary South Africans, and women in particular, face unprecedented criminal dangers, the ANC government last year allocated for its VIPs an increase of R52 million for Presidential and VIP protection while simultaneously slashing the budget of the NPA, a key weapon in fighting crime against the people.

In addition, the privileges, perks and patronage that the super elite VIPs (Ministers and Deputy Ministers) enjoy are a veritable Pandora’s box of delights – all entirely at the President’s discretion in the coyly named Ministerial Handbook.

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You can be sure that on these perks, the comrades depart sharply from Lenin’s instruction that public representatives should not earn more than the average worker.

These perks include the properties they live in, between them worth at least R900 million; the 11 people each are currently allowed to employ (R2 billion over five years); free generators so they need never know load shedding; the two new cars; the free flights etc.

The minions in Parliament (the MPs) enjoy many of these same privileges but are forced to ‘slum’ it out in parliamentary villages in Cape Town and Pretoria.

This pretty well sums up where the priorities of the ANC government lie.

A new coalition government will need to decide where its priorities lie. With us, the 62 million South Africans; or with themselves as is currently the case. This is not going to be an easy task.

Beyond the “special bodies of armed men” there is the civil state itself – the biggest employer by far in South Africa. Currently, there are at least 1.2 million people on the government’s payroll.

More than 55,000 of these public servants earn over R1 million a year. Almost half of all public servants earn between R350,000 and R600,000 a year. SA’s public service wage bill is 3.5% higher than the average of 38 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Those countries include Australia, Canada, the US, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

SA’s disproportionately higher public service wage bill is not due to an expanding public sector but because compensation levels, always higher than the rate of inflation, have been the key driver over the years. This is why some argue that SA’s public servants are comparatively amongst the highest paid in the world.

All of this has been due to the ANC government’s largesse when it comes to public servants. It is also why the trade union movement is divided mainly between Cosatu, which these days primarily represents public sector workers, and the rest of the union movement representing private sector workers (the dwindling NUM, Saccawu, SACTWU and Satawu are the only exceptions here).

Whether one likes it or not, this situation is essentially a product of the ANC’s redeployment strategy employed since it took power. Any new incumbent is going to have to deal with it.

From the top to the bottom of government, the ANC has the gatekeepers, and its patronage (and yes, of course, corruption) now permeates the entire civil service.

It’s hard to see how any new government will tackle this without the overt support of the ANC post-election.

Another aspect of government that will have to be confronted post-election is the 700 or so state-owned enterprises. Just seven of these (Alexkor, Denel, Eskom, Transnet, SA Express, SAFCOL and SABC) employ over 105,000 people who, too, have known nothing else but ultimately kowtowing to the dictates of ANC comrades.

I haven’t done the maths, but am assured by those crunching this kind of data that there are about 4 million people, including in local government, whose fates are, one way or another, directly tied up with the ANC government.

And that is before we get to the 18 million citizens (up from about 3 million in the Mandela era and 10 million in the Mbeki era) now directly dependent on state grants (old age, child support, disabilities etc)

Not to mention the additional 10 million who still receive the R350 per month Covid relief grant, which appears to have been embedded into the system. Ramaphosa got the loudest cheer from the 40,000-strong crowd at Saturday’s launch when he mentioned this.

Nor even the one million or so students who are directly dependent on NSFAS grants (yes, the same one that comrade Blade Nzimande appears to have been pilfering for his party).

And that’s before we even get to the ANC’s proposed National Health Insurance scheme.

All of these privileges, perks, handouts and grants are a direct consequence of ANC rule and will have to be dealt with by any new incumbent government.

Small wonder that they have already become a political football, with the ANC disingenuously arguing that any change in government will directly affect these negatively.

The SA state is rooted from top to bottom in the ANC’s culture of corruption, patronage, self-interest, greed and entitlement – the raison de’tre of the ANC’s redeployment policy of the last 30 years.

It will be an uphill battle to change this but change it must if we are going to get a government that serves the people before itself.

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