The character of the National Democratic Revolution post-1994
The 50th national conference of the African National Congress (ANC), held in Mafikeng in December 1997, grappled with the question of the character of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) in the period after the democratic breakthrough marked by the general elections of 1994 and the adoption of the final Constitution in 1996.
The Strategy and Tactics document as adopted in Mafikengi reaffirms the position held by the ANC since at least the 1969 Morogoro conference, that the “strategic objective of the NDR is the creation of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society”. This entails “the liberation of Africans in particular, and black people in general, from political and economic bondage. It means uplifting the quality of life of all South Africans, especially the poor, the majority of whom are African and female.”
The document holds that a fundamental condition for liberation is democracy, as well as a culture of human rights. Citizens should be “guaranteed the right to elect a government of their choice, freedom of expression, freedom from discrimination, and other rights entrenched in the Constitution”. The underlying principle of this is active involvement of the people in all governance processes in the true spirit of the Freedom Charter – the people shall govern.
The 1997 Strategy and Tactics document places high on the national agenda the question of gender: “Much more than any other sector, colonial oppression and a universal patriarchal culture, including socially constructed ‘gender roles’, conspired to degrade women and treat them as sub-human. These gender roles permeate all spheres of life, beginning with the family, and are entrenched by stereotypes, dominant ideas, cultures, beliefs, traditions and laws.”
The Mafikeng conference also elevated issues of the youth and people with disabilities, who “have borne the brunt of apartheid’s hierarchy of denial, and affording them the requisite conditions for their advancement demands a united national effort”.
The Mafikeng conference also raised the issue of corruption. The Strategy and Tactics document notes that “because it was illegal and illegitimate, the apartheid state’s practices eroded the moral fibre of South African society. The state relied more and more on criminal actions to shore up its fortunes, and in the process it pulled the rest of society into a maelstrom of corruption and crime. As such, apartheid political and economic relations were not only a break on the development of the economy, they were also an albatross on the moral sensibilities of society.”
The ANC in Mafikeng (1997) advanced a profound argument that addressing these matters – national oppression of Africans in particular, and black people in general; gender-based oppression; discrimination against the youth and people with disabilities; and moral degeneration and corruption – is not merely a concern for this or the other “sector” of society; rather “it is in actual fact a matter of principle, an expression of our humane values, without which liberation would be neither genuine nor legitimate”.
Social and economic transformation
The 51st national conferenceii, held in Stellenbosch in 2002, did not specifically deal with the national question. Rather, it went into specific details on the issues of social and economic transformation, among other things. The Stellenbosch conference specifically reaffirmed the ANC’s 50th national conference passing of a comprehensive resolution on economic transformation, which was subsequently endorsed by the National General Council in Port Elizabeth in 2000iii.
The resolutions of the Stellenbosch conference note, “The ANC in government has sought, and continues to seek, to confront the challenges of poverty and underdevelopment, and to ensure a better life for all through a comprehensive people-centred and people-driven programme of social transformation.”
The Stellenbosch conference specifically reaffirmed the ANC's Strategy and Tactics document adopted at the 50th national conference in Mafikeng in 1997 as remaining “valid and relevant to the current international situation”, as well as the international policy, which “conforms with the principles of our national policies based on good governance, peace and stability, human rights and creating a better life for all, by creating a better world”.iv
The 51st ANC national conference resolution on popular participation in the African Union and the New Economic Plan for African Development recognises the genesis of the revival of Africa from the 50th national conference, a programme whose focus was on bringing about peace, stability and security, eradication of poverty, development, human resources, the economic revival of Africa, democracy, good governance and human rights.
The significance of the Stellenbosch conference was the elevation of the issues of the “significant development in the advancement of Africa's cause” and the creation of the “possibility of fundamental change in Africa's political and economic landscape”.v
On the national question, the Strategy and Tactics document of the Mafikeng conference notes, “The challenges that face these forces in this phase is to ensure that the elements of power they have captured are utilised rapidly to transform the state, while at the same time placing it at the centre of the transformation of South Africa’s political, economic and societal relations.”vi
The Strategy and Tactics document of the Mafikeng conference pronounces that ours is a society that “is neither a clone of an idealistic capitalist order which is hostage to rampant so-called market forces (particularly in an economy dominated by a few conglomerates), nor an egalitarian utopia of mechanical social parity. Indeed, within the context of a mixed economy, in which market forces have an important role to play, the state has the critical task of ensuring economic growth and development, of meeting people’s social needs and of providing the requisite environment for political stability and the safety and security of citizens.”
This is a reaffirmation of the Ready to Governvii basic objectives of ANC policy, published in 1992, which were fourfold:
- To strive for the achievement of the right of all South Africans, as a whole, to political and economic self-determination in a united South Africa;
- To overcome the legacy of inequality and injustice created by colonialism and apartheid, in a swift, progressive and principled way;
- To develop a sustainable economy and state infrastructure that will progressively improve the quality of life of all South Africans; and,
- To encourage the flourishing of the feeling that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, to promote a common loyalty to and pride in the country, and to create a universal sense of freedom and security within its borders.
More specifically, the Ready to Govern document was very clear on what is to be done. It states that these policy objectives “are not mutually exclusive goals”, and that “the future of our country depends on the harmonious and simultaneous realisation of all four”.
The 51st national conference (Stellenbosch) observed that the ANC has the appropriate policies to achieve the above, whose relevance to the task of social transformation remains, but scaling up effective implementation remains a major challenge.
As mentioned earlier, the Stellenbosch conference specifically reaffirmed the ANC's 50th national conference passing of a comprehensive resolution on economic transformation, which was subsequently endorsed by the National General Council in Port Elizabeth in 2000. However, this conference proposed “additions and refinements in various areas.”viii Notable among these are:
- Substantial growth in small and micro enterprises, based in large part on land reform, as well as improved access to finance, infrastructure and marketing;
- The diversification of the economy to enhance local value both to meet the basic needs of all our people and to increase export revenues;
- Integration into the global economy in ways that create jobs and provide opportunities, especially for black people, women and the poor;
- Macro-economic stability at a level that supports economic growth and development;
- A sharper regional and continental focus;
- More equitable ownership of productive assets, as well as access to skills and infrastructure in order to empower Africans in particular, black people in general, women, youth and the poor;
- Maintenance of macro-economic stability;
- Support for income-generating activities, including through improved income transfers and services to alleviate poverty, in ways that will improve family incomes and livelihoods;
- Strong efforts to mobilise private capital around new productive projects and infrastructure;
- Raising the level and efficiency of public sector investment;
- Support for the Proudly South African campaign.
It is worth considering that while the Stellenbosch conference marked a level of contemporary prudence in relation to global economic trends, it also considered issues of environmental sustainability and conservation; the high proportion of low quality employment in our society; the recognition of income transfer from family members and state pension; and the need to encourage our people to engage in sustainable self-initiated income-earning opportunities. The 51st national conference went further to promote “a major extension of community-based public works programmes to create employment, support the informal sector, develop skills, and expand social infrastructure, public housing and critical services to poor communities”.
Notwithstanding the pragmatic response of the 51st national conference to the global capitalist hegemony – with such considerations as macro-economic stability and labour-market reforms – the journey from the 48th Durban national conference, through Mafikeng to the 51st Stellenbosch conference represents an uninterrupted process of struggle – informed by policy objectives that are not mutually exclusive, and on the realisation of which the future of South Africa depends.
Mafikeng (1997) stands out for its reaffirmed perspective of the national oppression of Africans in particular, and black people in general; the elevation of the issues of gender-based oppression, and discrimination against the youth and people with disabilities; and the placing of moral degeneration and corruption on the national agenda.
Stellenbosch (2002) will be remembered for the contemporary application of the understanding of issues of poverty and underdevelopment, the launching of a programme for the advancement of Africa's cause, and its noting of the creation of the possibility of fundamental change in Africa's political and economic landscape. It is also worth noting that the 51st conference emphasised the extension of community-based public works programmes to create employment, support the informal sector, develop skills, and expand social infrastructure, public housing and critical services to poor communities.
As per the Mafikeng Strategy and Tactics document, this is not merely a concern for this or the other “sector” of society; rather “it is in actual fact a matter of principle, an expression of our humane values, without which liberation would be neither genuine nor legitimate”.