NKENKE KEKANA: A response to distortions of ANC policy by so-called RET forces
It is not a new phenomenon in the ANC for individuals to work within the structures while seeking to undermine policies of the organisation for narrow political interests. Like the Marxist Workers Tendency (MWT) before, the radical economic transformation (RET) is an opportunist tendency that seeks to detract from and distort ANC economic policy. While MWT were Trotskyists, it is not clear what RET stands for apart from their preaching and using revolutionary sounding words that often lack ideological clarity.
It is not just semantics - there is a difference between radical socioeconomic transformation and radical economic transformation.
Economic transformation without factoring in socioeconomic issues like culture, education, unemployment, corruption and discrimination is reactionary and only seeks to narrow transformation to a simple question of economics.
The ANC is not only concerned about changing the structure of the South African economy. It is not just about production, distribution, consumption of goods and services, without considering the socioeconomic factors and the impact of that change on society.
The ANC is not about replacing white capitalists with black capitalists. The ANC is a disciplined force of the left, with a bias towards the poor and the working class. The alliance with a socialist South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions is based on a shared vision of attaining a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.
The radical transformation of the South African economy must benefit the people as a whole and specifically address the triple challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment. Political emancipation must be translated into the economic wellbeing of our people as a whole.
The following are some extracts from the 2017 ANC conference resolution on economic transformation:
“The ANC’s adoption in Mangaung of the national development plan (NDP) as our guiding programme for accelerated and radical socio-economic transformation in South Africa, with the aim of achieving shared prosperity for all the people.”
“The conference considered and endorsed a number of recommendations from the national policy conference and provincial general councils, and agreed to the following resolution on radical socio-economic transformation.”
“Current factors such as persistent low levels of economic growth, rising national debt, some weaknesses of state owned companies, low levels of business and consumer confidence, low investment levels, credit rating downgrades, policy inconsistencies and public and private sector corruption have limited the ANC-led government’s ability to drive socio-economic transformation and address South Africa’s triple challenge of inequality, poverty and unemployment.”
“Within the context of radical socio-economic transformation, the ANC’s strategic relationship with private capital is one of cooperation and contestation. This requires, among others, that the state must actively seek partnerships with the private sector and provide leadership to guide the country towards its developmental goals.”
The key objective of ANC economic policy is better captured in the 1994 reconstruction and development programme document: “No political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty, without land, without tangible prospects for a better life. Attacking poverty and deprivation must therefore be the first priority of a democratic government.”
Furthermore, the NDP states that the South African economy has been characterised by failures to deal with poverty, inequality and unemployment, and continued racial imbalances during last two decades. Debate on economic policy should therefore focus on this.
The use of the word “socioeconomic” is not just cognitive semantics and the discipline of language. It has a deeper historic meaning in ANC policy thinking. Radical socioeconomic transformation is the policy orientation of the liberation movement, not radical economic transformation.
The RET tendency also seeks to hijack ANC leaders to further their narrow distorted views, using contentious personality differences within the movement. The following extract from a speech by former President Jacob Zuma sums up the ANC elaboration of economic transformation.
“The programme of radical socio-economic transformation will thus be the main focus of government in the year 2018, and it will inform the delivery of our programmes.” The RET forces must not be given space to use ANC leaders to create confusion within the ranks of members.
As President Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We should be focusing more on what unites. And as we focus on what unites us, yes, when mistakes are made, we must not just sit back and say 'well, ke comrade wa rona' [it's our comrade] we are not going to say anything' ... There must be constructive criticism. We must be able to put our comrades around the table and say 'here and here, you are making mistakes'.”
Like the Marxist Workers Tendency before it, the RET forces are making mistakes that seek to narrow our focus on economism and not radical transformation of the economy. The RET attack on white business personalities and dragging the ANC and its leaders into the mix is a deliberate and well-orchestrated campaign of deception and diversion. They use fake news and misleading media stories exploiting contradictions in society to further their aims. They use the “people” and the “enemy” without recognising, as Chairman Mao (correctly handling of contradictions among the people), said that the concept “varies in content” and “in different periods of history in a given country”.
The RET forces undermines the strategic objectives of building a united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South African society. The RET is a dangerous reformist tendency, sugar-coated in revolutionary jargon seeking to destroy the ANC from within. These wedge drivers must be uprooted and defeated without any hesitation.
Nkenke Kekana is an ANC national executive committee member. You can follow him on Twitter: @NkenkeKekana.