The real New National Party emerges

2012-05-05 13:48

A few months ago, I logged in on my Facebook profile and was startled (for a while) to find that most of my Facebook friends had changed their profile picture to a picture of the old South African flag with parts of the ANC logo.

I kept reading the comments to see what inspired the photo; whoever created the photo did so in reaction to the Protection of State Information Bill. Of course many people have expressed their outrage on the bill arguing that it is taking South Africa back to the ‘dark ages’ of Apartheid.

Well I also changed my Facebook profile picture and twitter avatar but many thought I had created the photo when I actually downloaded it on Facebook; Facebook does allow downloads after all.

Then months later the ANC published its policy discussion document, made for interesting reading but what they suggest and argue for regarding the changes to the constitution, as my political studies lecturer pointed out is not necessary to strengthen democracy or the delivery of basic service to the people but to serve the interests of the party.

The discussion document notes successes made by the ANC in government and attributes the failures on either the constitution when it states that "Constitutions are living documents and reflect the stage of development of a given society. There may therefore well be elements of our constitution that require review because they may be an impediment to social and economic transformation” then Zuma later made statements about reviewing the powers of the constitutional court (Msomi, 2012).

Or the blame goes to the legacy of colonialism, Apartheid or the white owned businesses that are not into this transformation thing. All good and well but just how long are we going to keep blaming the past for everything that is wrong in the country? Will the cadres in government ever take responsibility for their actions or lack thereof?

The interests of the party the lecturer referred to first the review of the powers of the constitutional court and decisions taken by the court. If you consult your history books you will find that the Apartheid government did the same exact thing when it removed the coloured voters from the common voters roll.

The Strijdom administration was not going to change its policies to meet the constitutional requirements and opted to change the law to meet its needs. Similarly the ANC has found it difficult to change its leaders in government who are largely perceived to be corrupt and incompetent in all three spheres of government, even the ANC discussion document notes rising corruption.

That coupled with an opposition that has established a record of clean governance, that spends public funds serving the public as it ought to be makes the ANC nervous. Just think about it, if the DA can demonstrate to South Africans that it can deliver and deliver better than the provinces that are governed by the ANC; it would only make sense for the people to start voting DA which is already happening with the DA gaining support in ANC strongholds (Think Nelson Mandela Bay election results).

So reviewing the powers of the constitutional court as Zuma stated is not necessary to help it better serve the public or to see if it is indeed fulfilling its constitutional mandate but to see how the party can transform the court to meet the needs of the party; especially when you consider the decisions taken by the constitutional court involving government.

Just recently the Gauteng High court ruled against the government regarding the e-toll case. Just as the National Party changed the law to suit its needs when courts were ruling against the government, the ANC does the same thing. The only difference between the two is that the NP was clear and open about its intentions but with the ANC it is not the case as Jeff Radebe later suggested that Zuma was not talking about reviewing the powers of the court but decisions taken by the court so Zuma made a mistake by telling us that it to review the powers of the highest court in the land or Radebe was just putting a spin on the real intentions of this review. And such statements are axactly what creates uncertainty about the future of this country.

The discussion document illustrates this when the party fails to take responsibility for its failures in government and chooses to blame it all on the past and white owned businesses. Zuma and many others have admitted that the gap between rich and poor is widening and the discussion document also makes reference to the lack of transformation in the mining sector when it comes to management positions and ownership.

So BEE and affirmative action is not working as they were meant to bridge this gap on ownership and management? Didn’t Zuma’s nephew just run a mining company to bankruptcy with a Mandela grandson? Perhaps before the President makes comments about blacks not owning mines should first look at the colour of his nephew’s skin.

Of course BEE did not work for all but worked for a few politically connected individuals as Blade Nzimande stated on a documentary titled Behind the Rainbow. Then there was a question raised on twitter asking what happened to all the budgets of the past 18 years that were meant to transform our lives? A very fair question considering that the discussion document is crafted in such a way that implies that for the past 18 years we have only been transforming from the apartheid regime to a democracy by simply voting and establishing institutions.

Were all those funds used to democratise South Africa not deliver a better life for all as envisaged on the RDP or GEAR? Or were most of the funds of the past 17 years budgets lost through the rising corruption noted on the document? Of course the ANC will argue that there are improvements on the lives of the poor such as the 15 million receiving grants or the 2 million+ RDP houses built, maybe the improved access to education (never mind the quality of that education or lack thereof).

If then the ANC takes credit for such improvements then it only makes sense that they accept responsibility for part of the failures when it comes to transforming South Africa and not blame everything on colonialism, apartheid or white owned businesses that are not conforming to the transformation process that must happen.

No doubt the legacy of apartheid will be felt for generations to come especially if the ANC does not learn the good things that the apartheid regime taught us all. As horrible as apartheid was, the masters of apartheid were the greatest administrators of our time. Just think about it, if the National Party decided on a particular policy; it would surely become law regardless of who says what.

And no dear, I am not suggesting that the ANC should not listen to people when they raise concerns over a particular policy. The apartheid administration used force to implement its policies but was very effective in other areas as well. Think about how it dealt with the sanctions that were imposed on South Africa by creating a lot of the home-grown products. Did not rely on anyone for refined oil because there was now SASOL to do so.

When the National Party wanted to empower poor Afrikaans speaking whites, it did so. If the National Party wanted to remove coloureds from the common voters roll, it did so even if the courts were against this. That is a skill the ANC must master, not how terrible it was but how to effectively transform lives which is what the apartheid regime did.

So why is it so difficult for the ANC to transform South Africa to what the many government budgets sought to do? Probably because of the people the ANC deploys in government do not act in accordance with the law and would rather have the law conform to their needs i.e. secrecy bill being used as a tool to hide corruption in government. That is what it boils down to; the people who are tasked with the responsibility of transforming South Africa forget that the minute they step into public office, they only know this responsibility during the election campaigns.

The other issue the ANC discussion document makes reference to is the skills shortage. This of course can be addressed by quality education for all but this department although there has been a steady increase in the funding, it happens to be one of the worst managed department. The low passing mark of between 30 and 40% simply means that we are getting children through the schooling program but not schooling them.

If you know 30% information about India then you cannot claim to know India because there is 70% of information about India that you cannot recall. Consider that in Zimbabwe, economically poorer than South Africa has 60% pass requirement mark on a subject. Perhaps this is why Oxford University would consider an application for an undergraduate from Zimbabwe and suggests that a South African complete the first year of University in South Africa then use those results to apply for an undergraduate course but with a simple Bachelors pass in matric, “it is highly unlikely that a candidate would be admitted to Oxford University”.

This does not just happen in Britain but South African universities are also using two results to admit a person with the Senior Certificate with a bachelors pass, it’s the matric results and for most university undergraduate courses the National Benchmark Test. Even the Arts faculty requires students to write this test indicating that the universities have lost all faith in the Basic Education Department’s ability to produce university students that can actually read and write.

So the ANC government continues to work towards the realisation of Hendrik Verwoerd’s aspirations of a South Africa with the large population of black people being poorly educated as Verwoerd once said “Native education should be controlled in such a way that it should be in accord with the policy of the state.... If the native in South Africa today in any kind of school in existence is being taught to expect that he will live his adult life under a policy of equal rights, he is making a big mistake..... There is no place for him in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour"

Verwoerd makes it very clear that Bantu education was to ensure that certain jobs are reserved for blacks and some would be for whites. This was done through the university admissions policy where a certain number of blacks could be admitted for a particular course.

Then at primary and high school if you were black, you would write all your tests in English when English is not your home language; if you are white then you write English or Afrikaans. This the most critical part for the black students because although they are tested in English throughout their school life, a large number of them still cannot read and write properly in English and some find it hard to even understand the instructions.

A boy I used to help with his home works never once missed class and you would expect him to at least get a clear understanding of his work but sadly he couldn’t understand a single instruction word on the assignment so I took him through the assignment in IsiXhosa, suddenly he could explain everything and use real life examples to illustrate his understanding of the work.

The silly part is that he went through grade 1 to grade 7 doing all his work in English, the question to ask is how a child gets to high school when they cannot read and write in the language used to assess him and is the language of instruction in all tertiary institutions. The very sad part is that he is not the only one, there are many others who just like him pass a grade even though they cannot even read and write. Then you wonder why only 1 in every 4 matric pupil will qualify for entry into a university, now out of that 25% how many of them can actually read and write in English?

Some wonder why children fail matric when you need only 30% on 3 subjects and 40% on another 3, you can fail the 7th subject as long as it is not Maths or a language then you get your matric certificate. Easy write? For those who meet the minimum entry requirements at university, if admitted to a university; they must forget about passing with only 30% and work for a minimum of 50% in a language they do not understand. How then can we expect the children to compete with the European community Verwoerd referred to?

The ANC admitting that the gap between the rich and poor has gotten even bigger since 1994 proves without doubt that all those annual budgets, the wonderful new programs of action we keep hearing about that are meant to transform the lives of the poor for the better such as RDP, GEAR, the policies such as Affirmative Action, BEE, EE have actually failed to fulfil their purpose.

Considering the low passing mark that most students find difficult to obtain, the difference between the language of instruction/assessment and home language, the department of education not utilising its available resources to achieve the best possible results i.e. provinces returning funds to treasury when schools not all schools have textbooks; it can be concluded that the department is setting black children up for failure hence the argument is that the ANC is doing all it can to ensure that the legacy of Verwoerd lives on so that it can perhaps keep blaming colonialism, apartheid and white owned businesses that do not want to transform industries.

But can we really blame a dead Verwoerd for the provinces not spending all their capital budgets to improve the lives of the poor? Should we perhaps blame John Voster for the Nyandeni municipality not collecting refuse or providing adequate sanitation for all its residents? Should we blame the dead architects of apartheid for government failing to fulfil its constitutional obligations? Should we blame them for the rising corruption that is noted on the ANC’s discussion document? How on earth can we blame a dead Botha for the corrupt Limpopo administration?

We just simply cannot use the past to excuse the corruption we see in government today and the many failures. There are real things we can blame apartheid for such as inequality but then again has the ANC improved this? No, so have they been sleeping for the past 18 years? Many argue that we cannot compare the many years of oppression to the 18 years of democracy but we can. By simply looking at how much money has been spent by government trying to bridge the gap between rich and poor, the policies that we have and to see if they are making a difference.

You just cannot put a pot on the fire and come back minutes later to find that the pot is as cold as it was when you put it there. Surely there must be a difference or something is wrong with the fire, especially if the pot got even colder. Similarly the ANC cannot expect us to simply vote and not question whether or not the government we have is fulfilling its mandate which is to improve the lives of the people. Of course there is that old statistic of the 2 million+ RDP homes, the number of people with access to clean water and the 15 million receiving grants *yawns*

Reference: Msomi, S. (2012). Battle of the constitution: Changes on ANC wish list. Retrieved 29th April, 2012, from http://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2012/03/04/battle-of-the-constitution-changes-on-anc-wish-list

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