/ 13 February 2024

Opposition accuses ANC of living in the past

South African President Ramaphosa Delivers 2024 State Of The Nation Address.
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers the 2024 State of the Nation Address at Cape Town City Hall on February 08, 2024 in Cape Town. (Photo by Jeffrey Abrahams/Gallo Images via Getty Images)

Sticking to the campaign script President Cyril Ramaphosa set out in his State of the Nation address last week, ANC leaders on Tuesday used the debate on the speech to hammer home the democratic gains of the past 30 years.

ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina and party chairman, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe, said the elections were a matter of defending hard-won rights and freedoms, the latter suggesting that the administration was still “swimming” against the historical tide of apartheid privilege and exclusion.

Majodina said progress made to reverse that legacy was inspiring and critics were clinging to past privilege.

“This government has done all [it] could do. The choice we face in this year’s election is to reaffirm what we said we are going to do in 1994 — implementation of a national progress of transformation that will result to qualitatively changing the lives of the majority of our people who are black, in general, and women in particular, because they are in the majority,” she said.

“For the better, and not to side with those who benefited from the historical legacy of the privilege, who seek to block the transformation at every turn, as they cling to preserve their wealth, their properties, as well as their position, at the expense of the majority.”

Opposition leaders were having none of it, pointing to corruption, unemployment, economic stagnation and the energy crisis.

Inkatha Freedom Party president Velenkosini Hlabisa said the warning sounded by his late predecessor Mangosuthu Buthelezi about the demise of Nelson Mandela’s vision of a nation free of suppression, hunger, ignorance and fear, was bearing out as the country headed to national elections. 

“Three decades later, that vision has disappeared. As Prince Buthelezi told us: “If the promise of South Africa is truly still alive, it is thanks to the resilience of our people. But how far is this government willing to test our resilience? They are playing a dangerous game,” Hlabisa said.

“I am afraid, honourable president, that one year after this sober warning, our people’s resilience is gone. Every day, in every corner of our country, our people live with the instinctive understanding that what is being done to them by this government is wrong.”

Mantashe responded by saying that the opposition was pleading from a position of ignorance because it lacked the ANC’s 30 years of experience in government.

“There are two sources of knowledge: experience and studying the subject. No, if you don’t do both, anything you say is an imagination. I can assure you that … you don’t know what you are talking about.” 

Similarly, Majodina argued that those who disagreed were suffering from “political dementia”. 

Last Thursday, Ramaphosa called state capture arguably the biggest scourge post-apartheid South Africa had faced and attempted to revive the promise of renewal that characterised his early days in office.

“We will not stop until every person responsible for corruption is held to account. We will not stop until all stolen money has been recovered,” he said. “We will not stop until corruption is history.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen said the president had flouted this promise by shielding ANC leaders implicated in corruption, including Deputy President Paul Mashatile, despite what he termed “Zuma-level allegations of corruption and capture”.

Referring to Ramaphosa’s rhetorical narrative of a child born in 1994 — the president called her Tintswalo — who had experienced education, housing and other possibilities previously not only denied but barely imaginable, Steenhuisen said the country’s so-called “born-free” citizens had long since been disillusioned by a life of hardship.

Record levels of unemployment and crime counted among the reasons why this generation had lost hope, he continued.

“In 2021, Tintswalo joined the growing group of South Africans who refused to vote.

“She was simply too angry, after the Ramaphosa administration broke all the lofty promises it had made of a new dawn, including by protecting the president’s comrades implicated in state capture.

“Things went from bad to worse. In 2022, her father became one of the 75 people who are murdered in South Africa every day.”

For those born post-1994, this year’s national elections were not a case of protecting the hard-won freedoms trumpeted by the president, he said, but to secure a better future for their own children.

“You see, Mr President, like millions of other South Africans, Tintswalo cannot afford to live in the past. She must survive in the reality of what South Africa is in 2024, not in the memory of what South Africa was in 1994.”

In a direct attack on Ramaphosa, he said this week’s constitutional court order, which effectively compels the ANC to hand over the record of every decision made by the ANC’S cadre deployment committee since January 2013, would show that the president, at best, did nothing to stop appointments that furthered the state capture project under former president Jacob Zuma.

The constitutional court denied the ruling party leave to appeal a high court ruling in February last year that it submit these records. It leaves the ANC five days, from Monday, to do so or risk being found in contempt of court.

“The DA expects the ANC to abide by this ruling to expose its dirty cadre secrets and how Mr Ramaphosa’s committee laid the foundation for state capture and the subsequent collapse of service delivery,” he said.

Mantashe countered that the ANC would hand over the records but would not relinquish the contentious policy.

Confusing constitutional imperatives and affirmative action with cadre deployment, he said, was the reason there were black judges on the bench and black heads of department in government.

“We will continue to appoint capable people.”