ANC policy swings undermine credibility

Contradictory policies and radical statements make it difficult to decide on the direction in which the ANC is leading the country and what it means for land reform. Is this a sign of an incoherent government or one with a carefully constructed game plan? Lindi van Rooyen reports.

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Asked to comment on the ANC’s policies, Leon Louw, executive director of the Free Market Foundation, said that it was difficult to do so “because you never know which is the latest policy in play or if it is even worth anything.” He said most of the ANC’s policies weren’t worth the paper they were written on.

He referenced the National Democratic Revolution (NDR), which has been touted by some as the policy the ANC will take forward, and the National Development Plan (NDP) which also has a large support base. “These two policies are contradictory. While the NDP says South Africa must grow to alleviate poverty, the NDR says that growth must be sacrificed to bring about a revolution.”

The NDR has been the subject of much debate with fears that its implementation will signal the end of democracy and private landownership in SA. Dr Piet Croucamp, political analyst at the University of Johannesburg, said that there was no evidence that the NDR would become policy and that too much was being made of it.

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“There is no blueprint for the NDR and not even the ANC knows what it entails,” said Croucamp. But Frans Cronje, deputy CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relations, said, “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he does not exist. There is no other way to explain the ANC’s behaviour other than through the NDR. Suddenly the radical statements and illogical policies being implemented make sense.”

Cronje said that part of the trick of implementing the NDR was to forge ahead with policies, and then to back off when things got heated. “This is why you hear the government telling farmers from time to time that they have nothing to fear and that their land will not be taken away.”

According to Cronje, after backing off, the ANC advanced again and South Africans became incrementally worse off than before. “You can’t just declare your intention to undermine the Constitution; you have to do the undermining bit by bit.”
Prof Mohammed Karaan, dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences at Stellenbosch University, said that the NDR was a ploy to shift attention from the ANC’s non-performance.

“The idea of a revolution is being put forward to excite the people. The policy itself is void of any substance. It is just political speak. There will be a lot more populist rhetoric leading up to the ANC’s national conference in December.” Karaan said that populist rhetoric was also behind the purported second transition put forward at the ANC’s policy conference. Croucamp said that the second transition was a meaningless catch phrase used by the ANC during the conference.

With regards to the impact this kind of talk could have on land reform, Croucamp said government had not settled on a final plan because few people in government knew what was going on in terms of land reform. “There is no land audit. This is why land reform isn’t moving forward.”

He said that until a credible, independent institution such as KPMG did a land audit, figures could not be taken seriously. “It will not help if organised agriculture does the audit because the government will not take it seriously. And you don’t want the government to do it because you can’t trust it. It has reports stating that black-owned farms are owned by white farmers.”
Discussing the NDR at a conference on ANC policy, former president FW de Klerk said that policy debates in the ruling alliance could not be ignored.

“ANC policy is at a crossroads: either development as is stipulated in the NDP, or deterioration under the NDR. Until the ANC has realigned its policies, the future of all South Africans hangs in the balance.” He urged South Africans to become actively involved in their own future. “Don’t blow off steam in front of your TV watching news in the confines of your home. Get involved in the national debate.”