What the future may look like
The ANC Youth League has caused panic with its economic transformation proposals, which it insists will soon be adopted as ANC policy. President Jacob Zuma has consistently said nationalisation is not government policy, but without giving assurances that it will never become state policy.
The outcome of the conference has sent jitters among many because the man championing the radical proposals, Julius Malema, was re-elected unanimously, which shows that a significant body of the ruling party shares his ideas. Among the radical thoughts he espoused were expropriation of land without compensation, nationalisation of banks and mines, and altering the Constitution to effect whatever changes are necessary.
Here we capture Malema’s articulation of his economic vision during his presentation of the political report during the conference last week.
“In re-emphasising the left character and anti-imperialist outlook of the ANC, we have identified our mission and our mission is the attainment of economic freedom in our lifetime. Our congress is sitting under the generational theme of “Youth action for economic freedom in our lifetime”.
This theme is a clarion call to all economic freedom fighters that we might have won the political battle in 1994, but the war for total economic and social emancipation of the oppressed people of South Africa is still on. Political power without economic emancipation is meaningless.
Our call for mines to be nationalised and land to be expropriated without compensation are the most important rallying points to mobilise society behind the visions of the Freedom Charter. More inspiring is the fact that, as the youth league, we have got the ANC, South Africa and the world to begin asking critical questions about mining and the role of the state in this important sector of the economy.
Some people had already convinced themselves that South Africa’s mine ownership by a few conglomerates and multinational companies is a natural phenomenon. We have demonstrated, through sound political and ideological arguments, that mines in South Africa can and should be nationalised.
The nation is talking about the economy because the youth league speaks about the economy. In our call for nationalisation of mines, those who call themselves “vanguards of the working class” developed a conspiracy theory that we are simply saying it because we are bought by black business people. And now that we have raised the bar to speak about expropriation without compensation, the so-called vanguard of the working class say we are reckless.
A question we should ask is: What is reckless about calling for changing property relations to favour the working class and the poor?
The youth league should mobilise workers in mines, factories and on farms and organically develop ideological and political positions that will lead to their total emancipation. The youth league should be the voice of the petrol attendants, waiters, waitresses and tellers in retail chain stores, because they do not have a voice.
We should be the voice of farm workers, garbage carriers, street sweepers, manufacturing workers and the unemployed reserves of workers. South Africa, indeed, belongs to all who live in it—black and white—and this can be more factual when ownership of land, mines, banks and monopoly industries reflects that we all belong here. As things stand, a few white people own 90% of South Africa’s wealth, and that the country belongs to all who live in it looks untrue.
How does South Africa belong to all of us when the majority of our people do not own anything?
The ANC will need 75% of electoral support in the upcoming general elections, because we have to enact key radical transformation policies and legislations that will speak to economic freedom in our lifetime. To expropriate without compensation, we should change the Constitution, so a greater majority is necessary.
We have the capacity to reach more than 75%, like Frelimo in Mozambique and the MPLA in Angola. The ANC has, for the past 17 years, tried to transform the economy through charters and BEE codes of good practice. And if we are all honest, those efforts have failed dismally because those who own the means of production refuse to transfer wealth to the historically disadvantaged.
The ANC has, for the past 17 years, tried to transfer land through the willing buyer-willing seller principle and approach, and we all know that it has also failed dismally. When we attained democracy and freedom in 1994, black people owned only 13% of the land and white people owned 87%, mainly because of the 1913 Land Act and the Bantustan Act [sic] of the apartheid government.
The democratic government planned to redistribute only 30% of the land in the first 20 years of democracy so that, after 20 years of political freedom, black people would own 43% of the land. By 2011, less than 5% of South Africa’s land has been redistributed. The indications are that by 2014 we will still not have exceeded 5% land redistribution. If we continue with this trend and pace of 5% transfer every 20 years, it means we would have redistributed only 25% of land in 100 years.
In other words, in 100 years’ time, the inequalities between black people and white people will still remain and this will automatically lead to continued racism and economic subjugation of blacks by white people, like it happened under apartheid. The struggle for land reform and transfer of land is long overdue and should be speeded up to avoid the conflicts that characterise many post-independence African states, nations and countries.
The only solution available to us now is expropriation without compensation, because we carry an obligation to do so and can do so without violence and war through the political power that we are given by the people of South Africa. The land question has been at the centre of ANC politics since its formation almost 100 years ago.
As early as 1919 the second president of the ANC, who was among the most progressive presidents and leaders of the ANC and played an active role in the formation of the ANC and witnessed the introduction of the Land Act of 1913, president Sefako Makgatho, said: “We ask for no special favours from the government. This is the land of our fathers.”
This was because the Act prevented Africans from buying, renting or using land, except in the reserves. Many communities or families immediately lost their land because of the Act; for millions of other black people it became very difficult to live off the land. The Land Act caused overcrowding, land hunger, poverty and starvation.
Although we welcome the essence of the South African government’s commitment to, and emphasis on, job creation, the youth league should never agree with the introduction of tax rebates for big business. Tax allowances and tax breaks are not much different from the two-tier labour systems, which the ANC rejected and denounced on more than one occasion.
It looks as if, time and again, attempts to subsidise the private sector—capitalists—with the hope that they will create decent sustainable jobs are made in various forms and shapes. Government should explore other incentives to attract labour-absorptive industrial and manufacturing investors, but not through tax breaks and allowances.
The billions of rands announced to help businesses should be redirected to the development of small and medium enterprises in rural areas, particularly small-scale agriculture. Additional to this, the state’s procurement policies should prioritise small-scale agriculture so that the state’s purchasing of food for school feeding schemes, hospitals and prisons empowers this sector.
These billions can also be used for the maintenance of rural and township infrastructure through a highly labour-absorptive model. The youth league should actively oppose wage subsidies and all sorts of models of enticing capitalists, because entrusting the private sector with this urgent need of job creation is potentially dangerous.
The 17 years of democracy in South Africa have proven that, although playing an important role in the growth of the economy, the private sector is not interested in the upliftment of our people through job creation and other developmental interventions. We should sooner accept the reality that the private sector is obsessed with profit maximisation and will forever try to use as few people as possible to make more profits.
The state, therefore, should play a central and leading role in the creation of sustainable employment for our people. These interventions cannot be based on lessons derived from previous state wage subsidies through internships and learnerships, because we do not have a coherent economic development strategy.
There was much excitement about the new growth path and the National Planning Commission, but it looks like these interventions are not getting off the ground. The New Growth Path was not new because it was repeating the same mistakes of Gear and Asgisa, that is, of growth first and the rest shall follow.
Furthermore, the lack of leadership by the celebrated minister responsible for planning is failing the planning commission and process. It is almost three years since a minister of planning was appointed, but there is still no direction and clarity on which direction we are taking as a country.”