Guest Column

The people cannot eat manifestos

2019-01-15 08:53
President Cyril Ramaphosa and former president Jacob Zuma celebrating a 107 years of the ANC. (Tshidi Madia, News24)

President Cyril Ramaphosa and former president Jacob Zuma celebrating a 107 years of the ANC. (Tshidi Madia, News24)

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Are statements and manifestos enough to win the confidence and the hearts of the masses of South Africa who continue to suffer from poverty and inequality, asks Mcebo Dlamini.

The African Nation Congress (ANC) is the oldest liberation movement in Africa and throughout its existence has gone through metamorphosis but has been able to remain the largest political party in South Africa. 

In 2019 the ANC turns 107 years old and as per custom it gave its January 8th statement where it outlined what it has done for the people, the challenges it faces and how it intends to overcome them. 

This year the statement coincides with the general national and provincial elections of our democratic country. This year's statement is therefore also a manifesto launch for the elections and sets the tone for how the ANC will proceed going to the elections in May. 

READ: Ramaphosa puts up a fight as the ghost of Zuma lingers

But are statements and manifestos enough to win the confidence and the hearts of the masses of South Africa who continue to suffer from poverty and inequality? 

They are not enough and the people need to see a tangible improvement in their material conditions. Without this tangible change the ANC will continue to see a decline in the hegemony that it enjoys in society. The president, in his presentation of the manifesto, opened by making a concession to the people of South Africa that although the ANC has made certain strides in bettering their conditions it continues to face many challenges. 

He conceded that the majority of people still live in squalor, are still exploited and inequality continues to grow. He conceded that many communities, particularly the townships and rural areas, still don't have access to basic services and economic opportunities. 

These concessions are important but meaningless if there is no program and clear strategy in place to address them. The motif of the manifesto seems to be centred around the opening of new markets and the attracting of investors as a way to grow the economy and make it more inclusive. The manifesto does not put emphasis on ownership and the redistribution of wealth, perhaps because of the fear of chasing away the very investors they seem to be focused on attracting. 

But without ownership of the strategic sectors of the economy by the state and redistribution of wealth the majority will continue to be mired in poverty and inequality will continue to grow. It seems like the president expects the outcomes of socialism without the dismantling of capitalism and private ownership. This is impossible and history is our teacher. The GEAR policy of the government of Thabo Mbeki sought to do a similar thing but the result was an increase in unemployment and the widening of inequality. 

The president did not speak of the land question as the bedrock of economic growth; his mentioning of it was in passing. The question of land expropriation without compensation was mentioned as an obiter and with the qualification that land will be expropriated without compensation where it is "deemed necessary". Nothing was mentioned about the amendment of the Constitution. 

This raises the question of whether or not land expropriation without compensation will ever happen. The ambiguous language in the manifesto obscures what the plan of the ANC is regarding the land question. One might even argue that on this question of land the manifesto does not clearly mirror the resolutions of the Nasrec conference. It is commendable that the government heeded the call by tertiary students for free education. The president announced that the roll-out of free education will begin in 2019 for first- and second-year students. This is a massive victory but it is not complete because those who fought to make this victory possible are still facing the consequences. 

Many are still suspended, expelled and some even imprisoned for fighting for free education. We expected the ANC to grant a blanket amnesty for all who have Fees Must Fall related charges. 

Unemployment is one of the biggest challenges facing South Africans, especially the youth. The manifesto responds to this by promising 275 000 jobs. We hope that this promise is fulfilled because the other problems we face as a country such as crime and drug use are inextricably linked to the question of unemployment. 

South Africa has also been experiencing job losses due to a number of factors. We certainly hope that while government works towards creating new jobs it will devise strategies to ensure that job losses are minimised. The manifesto presented by the ANC eloquently articulates the problems faced by South Africa and to a certain degree offers appropriate solutions. But these solutions are meaningless if they are not accompanied by diligent implementation. 

It is common for political parties to promise the people the world when it is election season but fail to deliver on those promises. The people cannot eat manifestos and the promises they carry. It is therefore critical for the ANC to effect tangible change in the lives of the people. 

The ANC has done a lot for the people and I am confident that it will be able to deliver on the promises it has made to the people. With commitment from its deployees and its branches the African National Congress has potential to usher in true liberation for the people of South Africa.

- Dlamini is a former Wits SRC president and student activist. He writes in his personal capacity.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    anc  |  cyril ramaphosa  |  anc manifesto launch
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