Friday, June 22, 2012

Second Transition?


JUNE 2012

1.      Perhaps depth should be provided to the ongoing discussions on the character and nature of what the ANC discussion document says is the second transition, a perspective document which is meant to be the Strategy & Tactics of the ANC. In trying to summarise what constitutes the organisational, political and ideological tasks of the progressive forces of change in South Africa 18 years since democratic breakthrough, the ANC released a draft document, which dismally failed to do so. Here we deal with this question in great detail and context in order to avoid misinterpretations of what is to be done.

2.      This can only serve as a contribution to the discussion on the Second Transition, which in all fairness was poorly conceptualised and heavily relied on the National Planning Commission documents, as if those are authoritative documents in the ANC led liberation movement. In the ANC Strategy & Tactics, it would be sound and legitimately expected that the National Democratic Revolution is properly conceptualised and contextualised, but what the Second Transition document did was waffle around the NDR and irrelevantly makes a point that the adoption of neo-liberal policies and GEAR in 1996 was a tactical detour, which has since been abandoned in the year 2000. This obviously does not reflect reality, and calls for a thorough and historically accurate perspective on what should constitute the tasks of the liberation movement 100 years after the formation of the ANC.

3.      Let’s begin: The essence of any revolutionary struggle is organisationally articulated through strategy and tactics, comprising the underpinning programmatic and methodological pillars guiding and sustaining revolutionary movements. It is against this background that the African National Congress has since 1912 had a set of tactics and a strategy, documented or otherwise. It was only in 1969 in Morogoro that the ANC Strategy and Tactics was written to fulfill the following tasks:  summarise the strategic objective; identify and set out strategic and tactical methods towards the strategic objective; analyse the balance force; outline and define the motive forces and identify who the enemies of the revolutionary movement are. At formation, the central strategic objective in the ANC has been creation of a non-racial South Africa, which historically evolved to recognise that creation of a non-racial society could not be separated from a concurrent, stagiest resolution the class contradictions and patriarchy—characteristic of South Africa’s Colonialism of a Special Type. This gradually came to be accepted in the liberation movement as attainment of all Freedom Charter objectives.

4.      In the year which the ANC is celebrating 100 years of its existence, its Strategy & Tactics should be reviewed and changed for the simple reason that the ANC has turned 100 years and carry the obligation to in unequivocal terms define the next 100 years. The ANC Strategy & Tactics should acknowledge the fact that the global balance of forces are shifting reflected in the recurrent collapse of global capitalism and attempts to re-colonise the African continent, and undermine its countries’ sovereignty as witnessed in the political developments in Libya and Ivory Coast. The ANC Strategy & Tactics that will be adopted by the ANC 53rd National Conference should proclaim and adopt economic freedom in our lifetime as the strategic mission of the ANC, and this does not constitute a diversion from the original transition towards a Freedom Charter envisaged society.

5.      The tactics towards attainment of the Freedom Charter Strategic objective should indeed be revised because of the changed global dynamics, and real directionlessness around the Freedom Charter. The question is whether this review of the Strategy & Tactics should be called the Second Transition?

Do we need a second transition? To Where?

6.      The question of whether we need a second transition arises because the document which is supposed to be the Strategy & Tactics says we need a consensus for the next 50 years which we will call second transition. This conceptualization and approach is ideologically, politically and organisationally misplaced because since the adoption of the Freedom Charter, what the ANC sought to achieve are the aims of the Freedom Charter. The ANC exists to mobilise all the people of South Africa to realize the aims and objectives of the Freedom Charter and this aim constitutes the transition that is underway.

7.      Before we think of a second transition, we should ask whether the original transition, whose destination is the Freedom Charter has been travelled successfully. Does South Africa belong to all who live in it black and white? Are people governing? Do all national groups have equal rights? Are people sharing in the country’s wealth? Is the land shared amongst those who work it? Are all people equal before the law? Do all people enjoy equal human rights? Is there work and security? Are doors of learning and culture opened? Do we have Houses, Security and Comfort? Is there peace and friendship?

8.      These are questions we should ask and honestly answer before we ponder on a second transition, because we have not yet completed the original transition, whose total attainment will be a positive and affirmative response to these questions. How on earth would we all agree to travel a journey to a destination and towards there, we sit around and ponder taking a second journey before we arrive to the one we originally wanted to reach? This question begs indulgence because at its heart is the question of whether the progressive forces of change are still together in this journey towards attainment of all Freedom Charter objectives.

Review of Strategy and Tactics:

9.      The basis of a renewed discussion of the ANC Strategy and Tactics should appreciate what the first documented S&T of the ANC said in 1969, that, In our country - more than in any other part of the oppressed world - it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation.” ANC, Morogoro, 1969. 

10.  This in effect underpins the character of the National Democratic Revolution, which is the struggle the ANC led liberation movement is waging. Despite the aesthetic, conceptual and dogmatic debate, which the concept of NDR is subjected to, it certainly is intended towards the resolution of class exploitation, national oppression and patriarchy. This, the NDR intends to realise through a conscious construction of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa, which should necessarily emancipate the black majority and Africans in particular from economic and political bondage. Apartheid capitalism matured to a stage where the racial order and exploitation in South Africa reached a reciprocal and/or mutual union, where the other survived because of the other one and conversely. 

11.  The Freedom Charter is thence accepted as the clearest and most correct articulation of the strategic vision of the National Liberation Struggle and National Democratic Revolution. Whilst subjected to a variety of interpretations, the Freedom Charter’s vision to build a democratic (The people shall govern) and non-racial (South Africa belongs to all who live in it—black and white) South Africa remains uncontested. Despite these, the Charter set out the clearest objective on the reclamation of the country’s wealth and strategic sectors of the economy to the ownership of people as a whole (the mineral wealth beneath the soil, monopoly industry and banks shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole), whilst not entirely abolishing private capital, (All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions).

12.  The ANC matured in the revolutionary struggles to understand and accept the reality that no struggle for national liberation can be class neutral. The maturity of the revolutionary alliance came to an objective recognition that the intention of revolutionary democratic forces can never be about construction of some National Democratic Society of inherently contradicting classes whose antagonistic interests would be managed by a democratic movement and government, somehow not dissimilar from the biblical heaven, where lambs and calves will supposedly graze alongside lions and hyenas. A thorough study of hitherto existing society and interrogation of history reveals that such can never be the case, as irreconcilable contradictions are inherent in any class society.

13.  For the ANC to ignore these correct notions in history and now attempt to disjoint the struggle for total national liberation is not only negligent, but betrayal of the ideological pillars that kept the movement together during trying times. If the ANC’s original conception of liberation is that which entails “a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole”, then what we need is not a second transition, but we need the original transition to a Freedom Charter envisaged society.

14.  Never in history did the ANC backtrack from its intention to fully and totally achieve the Freedom Charter, and attempts to replace the freedom charter have recurrently been rejected and despised by all progressive forces. To signify the vitality of the Freedom Charter in the African National Congress, the 1958 Constitution of the ANC declared that the Charter as one of the ANC’s aims and objectives. Under aims and objects, the 1958 ANC Constitution commits the ANC, “to strive for the attainment of universal adult suffrage and the creation of a united democratic South Africa on the principles outlined in the Freedom Charter[1]”.

15.  The ANC Constitution adopted in the 1991 National Conference reaffirms the same principle in saying that the aims and objectives of the ANC shall be “To end apartheid in all its forms and transform South Africa as rapidly as possible into a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic country based on the principles of the Freedom Charter[2]”.  Since 1991, the ANC compels all its members to sign a declaration upon joining the organisation to solemnly declare to “abide by the aims and objectives of the ANC as set out in the Constitution and the Freedom Charter[3]”. What this means is that all members of the ANC currently joined the ANC to amongst other things, fulfil the principles of the Freedom Charter. The 1994, 1997, 2002 and 2007 Constitution re-affirms the principles of the Freedom Charter as aims and objectives of the ANC and obliges all members to abide by it’s the Charter upon joining the African National Congress.

16.  The vitality of the Freedom Charter in the Congress Movement cannot be overemphasised because it occupies a special space in the Congress movement. The Freedom Charter is the lifeblood of the Congress Movement and any attempt to replace it as a strategic vision has potential to turn the Congress alliance into a myopic formation. It is not only the replacement of the Freedom Charter which will impact on the ideological character of the Congress movement, but also attempts and actions that seek to give it a liberal interpretation.

17.  The Freedom Charter is the original transition to a democratic society envisaged by the forefathers of the African National Congress. There is completely no need to feebly conceptualise a second transition because a substantial component of the original transition, which is the Freedom Charter has not been achieved. The strategic objective, essence, nature and character of the transition we are involved is articulated and finds expression in the Freedom Charter. What needs to be done on 5 year intervals is interrogation and robust engagement of the tactics we take towards total attainment of Freedom Charter objectives which forever remains the ANC strategic mission.

What are the immediate tasks towards the strategic mission?

  1. The political programme of the ANC in this current conjecture is summed up as that of attainment of “ECONOMIC FREEDOM IN OUR LIFETIME”. This simply means that all the clauses of the Freedom Charter should urgently be given practical meaning and implemented in our lifetime. The people sharing in the country’s wealth should not just be a clarion call, but should be turned into a concrete programme, which includes Nationalisation of Mines, banks and monopoly industries. Perspectives in that regard are developed.

  1. This generation of the ANC leaders carries a responsibility to defend the freedom charter and ensure that all its aims and objectives are realised and implemented. Efforts to undermine the meaning of the freedom charter should be isolated from the ANC, and should not even be supported for leadership responsibilities from within the organisation. This is a matter the ANC should not be ashamed of because reality is that the ANC requires determined and ideologically clear adherents and proponents of the Freedom Charter to take us forward. Those who continue to account to imperialist forces should be isolated from the organisation because they have potential to undermine our future.

  1. What members should appreciate is that all the issues we are raising on economic freedom in our lifetime are elementary to the success of the revolution and continued support for the ANC. This programme constitutes our future and we should do everything to defend the principles because this generation will inherit the ANC which cannot blame past injustices for massive inequalities and suffering of our people. Our generation will have to take full responsibility on why young people do not have jobs and why there are no proper houses for all our people.

  1. So in summary, attainment of economic freedom in our lifetime means that we should do everything we can to make sure that the ANC government utilises the mandate of the people to realise all the economic clauses of the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter is the strategic mission. The meaning of economic freedom in our lifetime means the attainment of all freedom charter objectives as urgent as possible. This is vital because the Freedom Charter is historically and currently the common programme of the entire National Liberation Movement and mobiliser of the people of South Africa on what should be the future. The vitality of the Freedom Charter in the Congress Movement cannot be overemphasised because it occupies a special space in the political development of South Africa. The Freedom Charter is the lifeblood of the Congress Movement and any attempt to replace it as a strategic vision has potential to turn the Congress alliance into a myopic formation. It is not only the replacement of the Freedom Charter which will impact on the ideological character of the Congress movement, but also attempts and actions that seek to give it a liberal interpretation.

  1. The Freedom Charter is the foundation of South Africa’s Constitution. The non-racial values espoused in South Africa’s Constitution are rooted in the Freedom Charter’s clarion call that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white. The bill of rights echoes the values espoused in the freedom charter and all Constitution’s commitment to build sustainable livelihoods and decent life for all the people is derived from the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter continues to be the beacon of hope for the people of South Africa and cannot be replaced for anything else.

  1. The vitality and centrality of the Freedom Charter in the National Liberation Movement cannot be undermined, nor neglected for whatever reason. The freedom charter’s clause on economic transformation begins with a clarion call that “the people shall share in the country’s wealth”. This notion is not vague and is properly explained in the clauses that follow, which categorically state;
                                                              i.      The national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people; the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the well-being of the people; all people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions[4].”

24.  The most correct interpretation of this clause is the one given by President Nelson Mandela in 1956, that, “It is true that in demanding the nationalisation of the banks, the gold mines and the land the Charter strikes a fatal blow at the financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude. But such a step is absolutely imperative and necessary because the realisation of the Charter is inconceivable, in fact impossible, unless and until these monopolies are first smashed up and the national wealth of the country turned over to the people. The breaking up and democratisation of these monopolies will open up fresh fields for the development of a prosperous Non-European bourgeois class”.

25.  The interpretation of the Freedom Charter by President Nelson Mandela is correct because it illustrates that whilst the freedom charter calls for nationalisation, it does not call for holus bolus (generalised) nationalisation, where everything is under the control and ownership of the State. The Freedom Charter, as stated in many perspectives of the ANC and entire National Liberation Movement is a programme which should necessarily lead to nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy, i.e. Mines, banks and monopoly industries. When these are under the control and ownership of the people as a whole, then all other private individuals shall have the rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions.

26.  In essence, this entails that under the Freedom Charter envisaged society, the State, which justly claims authority because it is based on the will of the people, should be in ownership and control of Strategic sectors of the economy and allow its citizens to enter into other trades and professions. The State should own the Mines, Banks and Monopoly Industries and allow for the development of industrial and manufacturing entrepreneurs who will create job opportunities for majority of the people. Because it will be in control of these strategic sectors of the economy, the State will also carry a responsibility of providing industrial and manufacturing entrepreneurs with easier access to raw materials; provide industrial development finance and other additional services such as efficient and durable transport, communications and energy infrastructure and systems, whilst maintaining and protecting the rule of law.

27.  The entire political programme should be understood within the characterisation of the ANC as “the strategic centre of power, the leader of the Alliance, a disciplined force of the left, and a mass movement with an internationalist and an anti-imperialist outlook”. The anti-imperialist outlook of the ANC should be understood in clear context because ‘Through the Eye of a Needle” says the ANC is a champion of progressive internationalism and carries an obligation to “to work with progressive forces throughout the world to promote and defend our transformation, advance Africa’s renaissance and build a new world order”.

28.  The ANC’s original transition programme is the Freedom Charter and its aims have not been totally achieved. There have instead been detours and obfuscation of the route towards the Freedom Charter society, and in the process the character and nature of our transition lost. The ANC does not need a second transition, we need to intensify and build momentum on the original transition which is aimed at achieving Freedom Charter objectives.

[1] ANC Constitution, January 1958.
[2] ANC Constitution, 1991
[3] ANC Constitution, 1991, 1994, 1197, 2002, 2007.
[4] Freedom Charter

Monday, June 04, 2012

Wage Subsidy or Not?



The recently released Labour Force Survey by Statistics South Africa (Stats-SA) illustrates that the unemployment crisis in South Africa is deepening, with no foreseeable hope to address this crisis with sustainable mechanisms and interventions. This crisis will never be addressed as long as government leaders continue to turn a blind eye on what workers and the youth say should be alternate sustainable solution to the crisis of unemployment and poverty in South Africa. The crisis of persistently high levels of unemployment seems to be the crisis of clear ideological and political leadership of the ANC government. The recent confrontation of the liberal Democratic Alliance and COSATU was not just about who could throw stones the furthest, but a reflection of the contending class forces in society.

Patently choosing the side of the ruling class, the South African government under the ideological leadership of President Zuma will ultimately introduce and implement the wage subsidy option, with the false hope that such will reduce unemployment. This again is the directionlessness we have identified, and which will lead to a deeper crisis for South Africa’s youth and workers. Time and again, big businesses in South Africa complain about the cost of labour and whine over the fact that unions exist to rightfully protect workers from brutal exploitation by those who own and control the means of production.

Attempts to introduce wage subsidy is a way of reducing the cost of labour for business, and this has been attempted in the past, with guaranteed devastating outcomes and dismal failure. Wage subsidy means that private corporations will accommodate job-seekers in their corporations and the State will pay those job-seekers for the duration they are in those corporations. When the Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs) were introduced, the South African government subsidised many internships and learnerships in the public and private sector. Most private sector corporations and at times the public sector and civil society replaced paid for employees with subsidised workers, because it was cheaper for them to do so or created office space for them to serve as messengers and tea-girls and boys. Very little or no effort was put in place to address the issues of skills transfer and real apprenticeship, which should have been definitive of all subsidized youth employment.

The current wage subsidy as promised does not have clear mechanisms on how replacement of paid labour with wage subsidised workers will be avoided, because the phenomenon of corporations retrenching workers in favour of wage subsidized will be a reality. This will be a reality because in South Africa, most private corporations complain and whine about the cost of labour, which they say is very high, and should be reduced through trimming unions and allowing some labourers to be exploited with no rights. Attempts to introduce cheaper labour have never won political support in South Africa, particularly in the ANC and the progressive Trade Union movement, under the stewardship of COSATU. The ANC rejected this notion at its 2nd National General Council in 2005 held at the University of Pretoria. Ironically, those who rejected the two-tier labour system and cheapening of labour for private corporations did so in support of alternate leadership represented by then Deputy President Zuma. Only if we knew that the same neo-liberal approach to the unemployment question will define what ultimately the Polokwane victors became.

The perspective contained in the ANC Youth League 24th National Congress resolutions on economic transformation on State led and labour absorptive industrialisation holds more weight than anything else. This is correctly linked to the fact that the State should own and control strategic sectors of the economy such as Mines, land, banks and monopoly industries. In the resolutions, the ANC YL argues, “the nationalised mineral wealth will effectively constitute a very firm basis for beneficiation of these products in both heavy and light industrial process in South Africa, which could be left to industrial and manufacturing entrepreneurs, co-operatives and Small and Medium enterprises, so as to develop productive forces of the South African economy, which is still reliant on production of primary commodities”.

Another valid point raised concerning industrialisation is the whole notion of import substitution industrialisation, which should be an immediate policy option for the South African government. Import substitution can be effected and realised through many means such as procurement policies, tariffs and buy-local campaigns, but these should be located within a clear strategy to build domestic capacity to manufacture goods and services. Import substitution is not an alien economic practice in the world, particularly in developing economies. Import substitution has in the East Asian Tigers, India and Latin American countries significantly boosted industrialisation and creation of local employment.

The resources allocated for wage subsidy can and should be alternatively used for youth targeted developmental and entrepreneurial projects and programmes. This obviously entails that more capacity should be given to the National Youth Development Agency and a culture of adhering to the National Youth Policy directives be cultivated across all government departments and spheres. Youth should be positioned to be in charge of local economies, and all spaces opened for development and growth. These views are obviously not an all-solution to all problems and all people should contribute to the solutions on how to address youth unemployment. The wage subsidy is not a solution.

The ANC led government should sooner acknowledge that the causes of South Africa’s unemployment is not the cost of labour, it is a result of joblessness. Elementary to the reasons why many young people are not employed is the reality that the South African economy, its growth and development are jobless. A supposition that young people do not have jobs because they are risky to employ is not true. A supposition that young people do not have jobs because they are incapable of doing work is also not entirely true. The major reasons why young people are not employed is because the economy of South Africa is unable to absolve the entirety of its workforce.

This is so because the number of vacancies in both the private and public sector that exist because of lack of skills, knowledge and expertise do not exceed 200 000 in South Africa, whilst the unemployed population is above 5 million. A supposition that unemployment is a result skills shortage altogether misses the point, because it supposes that if the 5 million people who are currently unemployed can be equipped with skills and experience urgently, they will find jobs. There are many countries with an over-supply of skills and no job opportunities for the skilled people to work, and Zimbabwe falls within that category.

Statistics South Africa says “in the official definition, the unemployed are those people within the economically active population who: did not work during the seven days prior to the interview; want to work and are available to start work within two weeks of the interview; and have taken active steps to look for work or to start some form of self-employment in the four weeks prior to the interview” if this is the definition and understanding of unemployment, then a perspective on job creation should move from a premise that all unemployed people are capable of performing wage-labour. The question is where these jobs should be created.

A closer attention to the ANC Youth League 24th National Congress resolutions, which have now been submitted to the ANC leadership, provides clearer and more durable solutions to the question of unemployment. Obviously, the phobia of the youth of the ANC will lead to these options being rejected, because those in power see it fit to associate with the capitalist class and their political representatives whose aim is to make more profits through subsidised workers, who will be employed by them and paid by the State. To address unemployment, the State should own and control strategic sectors of the economy and through that, drive massive labour-absorptive industrialisation, which is less-skill intensive because as a matter of fact, more than 90% of the unemployed are not highly skilled, but can receive intermediary training for sustainable employment in the industrial, mining, agricultural, creative, and community based work opportunities.

Wage subsidy will lead to shedding of permanent jobs for many people who are currently employed because private corporations will opt for subsidised workers, instead of those with no subsidy. No amount and extent of regulation and monitoring will effectively combat this because universally, the business of doing business is to make more profit and the lesser the costs in doing business, the better. Lack of ideological clarity on the part of the leadership will cost South Africa again because President Zuma will expectedly believe what the DA and his neo-liberal economic cluster advises him and further damage the integrity of the ANC government in the face of millions of South Africans. We are not surprised.

FLOYD SHIVAMBU—ANC Youth League 24th National Congress Spokesperson and head of Policy, Political education and research: