After four years, ANC wants control

Wally Mbhele

The African National Congress has conceded that it is not yet “fully in charge” of crucial organs of state and has begun an internal debate on how to gain full control of the government after next year’s election.

In an extraordinary document assessing the party’s first four years in governance, the ANC raises questions of whether it has been fully open with the people about the problems it faced and the challenges that lie ahead.

In the document produced in the current issue of the ANC booklet, Umrabulo, the author says if the assessment that the ANC has not as yet attained all levers of power is correct, it should follow that those who serve the interests of the old order will resist change both from within and outside the government.

The document states: “In these four years of democratic government, what have we done to train and deploy personnel in strategic areas within the state – positions in the security forces and the bureaucracy such as pilots, air controllers, immigration officials, finance management and information technology?

“Transformation of the state entails, first and foremost, extending the power of the national liberation movement over all levers of power: the army, the police, the bureaucracy, intelligence structures, the judiciary, parastatals and agencies such as regulatory bodies, the public broadcaster, the central bank and so on.”

The national liberation movement is the broad alliance of the ANC, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

The ANC’s debate on the “state, property relations and social transformation” has been prepared ahead of the planned summit between the ruling party and its alliance partners.

The debate arises as four years of political compromises – which secured state jobs for apartheid functionaries – are coming to an end after next year’s general election.

If accepted, the paper would spell an end of the so-called “sunset clauses” – a package of constitutional compromises proposed by former senior ANC negotiator, the late Joe Slovo.

The sunset clauses were the ANC’s fundamental compromise during constitutional negotiations with the National Party.

While the ANC enticed the NP into surrendering power to a democratically elected government in 1994, the ANC also guaranteed the NP a share of power in a government of national unity.

The agreement included an ANC pledge to secure jobs for white civil servants for at least a period of five years. This was a key victory for the NP.

Since then, the pace of state transformation has become a hotly contested terrain within the ANC alliance structures. The state appeared to be hampered and resisted by a civil service perceived to be still serving the interests of the old order – and taking comfort from the security of their jobs guaranteed by the compromises of the sunset clauses

The current ANC discussion document, although it does not say it verbatim, seeks to reverse that. The document seeks to charm both Cosatu and the SACP, which have been at the forefront of the fight for social, economic and state transformation, often in conflict with ANC policies.

At the same time, ANC sources say, the document will also in effect be the party political platform for the 1999 election, hopefully winning the support of Cosatu and the SACP.

“Systematic preventative and contingency measures should be worked out to deal with counter-revolution,” proposes the ANC document. It suggests that some of these measures should be aimed at “thwarting attempts aimed at creating a parallel state in the form of private security companies, parallel intelligence agencies and so on”.

In characterising the South African state in the current phase, the document notes that the rules governing the new society derive from a democratic Constitution.

The document states: “However, while these principles find formal expression in the Constitution … the instruments of state such as the army, police and judiciary remain largely in the hands of forces that were (and some still are) opposed to social transformation.

“The implication of this is that the South African state still has to reflect – in its composition, practical realisation of doctrines and broadly of the capacity to carry out its multi-faceted functions – the social classes and strata that pursue social transformation.

“In other words, much transformation of the state itself is still required for it to become a true representative of the classes and strata that have brought about the democratic change.”

To attain its objectives, the document argues, the “previous government became the seedbed of corruption and criminal activity both within the country and abroad. Apartheid subverted all sensible social rules and mores – it was the headquarters of the South African crime against humanity.

“The liberation movement cannot therefore lay hands on the apartheid state machinery and hope to use it to realise its aims. It has to be destroyed in a process of fundamental transformation. The new state should be by definition, the antithesis of the apartheid state. The democratic movement should therefore have a coherent and systematic strategy to change this state of affairs.”

Political power, according to the ANC, is not attained for its own sake, “but to pursue given political and socio- economic objectives. As such, the state is not a neutral, non-partisan entity, but it is an instrument that is used to pursue the interest of a class or a group of classes.

“Secondly, the battles around political power are in the final analysis about socio- economic resources and their allocation. Thus, at the core of any revolution is the issue of property relations: how classes or groups relate to capital in particular and resources in general.”

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