Fighting for dignity and freedom in our lifetime

From two stages to a continuum and ready to govern

Pallo Jordan, in a discussion paperi in preparation for the ANC’s 50th national conference in August 1997, argued that “virtually all the liberation movements that attained success after 1947, including our own, have been forced to make compromises at the point of victory. National liberation has rarely come in the form that the movement sought. Consequently, the terrain on which the successful movement has to manoeuvre after victory is not necessarily all of its own choosing or making.”

He proceeded to argue that “anniversaries are important as marking a climax, the crucial nodal point in time – the people finally assuming power. But, while we might focus on a single day, a single event, or happenings, revolutions are not a moment – they are processes. They are processes in which there are nodal moments – like 27 April 1994 – but they are a continuum. Our own national democratic revolution is no different.”

The declaration of the 48th national conferenceii of the African National Congress (ANC) in Durban in July 1991, reiterated “… adherence to the principles of a united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa as enshrined in the Freedom Charter. These include the guarantee of the fundamental human rights of all South Africans, reinforced by an entrenched Bill of Rights, a multiparty system of government, a representative and independent judiciary, and regular elections.

“However, these rights will be meaningless without the fundamental restructuring of the economy to serve the interests of the people and far-reaching reforms in the areas of land distribution, housing, education, health, welfare and so on … The main goal of the struggle is the liberation of our people from the system of national oppression. The ANC remains a national liberation movement committed to the transfer of power to the people as a whole … Our mission, hand-in-hand with other democratic forces, is to rid South Africa of the scourge of apartheid in all its manifestations.”

The ANC conference held in Morogoro, Tanzania, in 1969 adopted a formulation that characterised the strategic contradiction in South Africa as “colonialism of a special type”, in which the colonial power and the colonised people shared the same territory. The characteristic feature of this contradiction was the conquest and domination of the African majority, who were the most exploited and oppressed.

The principal features of this contradiction, the “scourge of apartheid and all its manifestations”iii, were exclusion from meaningful political representation and expression; discriminatory laws; breakdown of family and community structures; poverty and underdevelopment; low levels of literacy, numeracy and skills among the oppressed communities; lack of access to clean water, electricity and other amenities; lack of access to quality health and social services; low levels of incomes; lack of job opportunities; and a lack of housing, security of tenure and land, among other issues.

“The main goal of the struggle is the liberation of our people from the system of national oppression,” said the 1991 declaration.iv This required the correction/reversal/uprooting of the abovementioned conditions. “In the view of our movement, the content of freedom and democracy would be the radical transformation of South African society so as to create an expanding floor of economic and social rights for the oppressed majority,”v argued Jordan.

Policy guidelines

The declaration of the ANC’s 48th national conference covered various issues, including peace, as the country was engulfed by apartheid government-sponsored violence. Thus the closing slogan: “LET PEACE, FREEDOM AND JUSTICE PREVAIL!”

But most importantly for the purposes of this discussion, as evidenced in the above extracts, it reaffirmed the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) as adopted in the 1969 Morogoro conference.

The 48th national conference’s Resolutionvi on Strategy and Tactics noted that “the fundamental elements of apartheid colonialism remain in place” and that “the repeal of some apartheid laws has left the basic political, social, gender and economic relations of oppression and exploitation intact”. The Resolution on Strategy and Tactics pronounced that “the struggle for the elimination of apartheid colonialism should intensify until a democratic constitution and government are in place”.

The 48th national conference also adopted the ANC policy guidelines for a democratic South Africa, published in 1992 in a document titled “Ready to Govern”vii. The document covers a wide range of issues and topics: a democratic constitution for South Africa; a new system of local government; economic policy; the land; the environment; housing; health; social welfare; education, training and scientific development; the development of human resources; science and technology; establishing a democratic media; arts and culture; sport and recreation; peace and security; youth; and international relations.

Consistent with the early years of the ANC policy and the NDR perspective as adopted in Morogoro, the ANC in 1991 considered its urgent tasks not to be limited to just the political sphere –  rather, policy guidelines for a democratic South Africa were wide ranging, inclusive also of the social and economic spheres of the South African political economy.

According to the “Ready to Govern” document, the basic objectives of ANC policy 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.

The “Ready to Govern” document was very clear on what was to be done. It stated that these policy objectives “are not mutually exclusive goals”. It said that “the future of our country depends on the harmonious and simultaneous realisation of all four”.

On the face of it, this appears to be a rejection or abandonment of the “two-stage theory” underpinning the NDR.

The document proceeded to advance an argument that “developing the economy will provide the basis for overcoming the divisions of the past without creating new ones”, and that “the achievement of a genuine sense of national unity depends on all of us working together to overcome the inequalities created by apartheid”.

The ANC Policy Guidelines for a Democratic South Africa were presented as a clear response to the problems facing the country as a result of its history of apartheid. “This response must be aimed both at establishing a new and democratic political dispensation that replaces the racist and undemocratic apartheid constitution and addresses the legacy of apartheid in the broader socio-economic sphere … The document is structured so as to highlight the strong relationship between the creation of political democracy and social and economic transformation.”(“Ready to Govern”, 1992)


i “The National Question Post-1994”, Z Pallo Jordan, August 1997 – A discussion paper in preparation for the ANC’s 50th national conference, transcribed by Ayanda Madyibi

ii Declaration of the 48th national conference of the African National Congress: Durban, 6 July 1991

iii Declaration of the 48th national conference of the African National Congress: Durban, 6 July 1991

iv Declaration of the 48th national conference of the African National Congress: Durban, 6 July 1991

v “The National Question Post-1994”, Z Pallo Jordan, August 1997 – A discussion paper in preparation for the ANC’s 50th national conference, transcribed by Ayanda Madyibi

vi Final Resolution on Strategy and Tactics of the African National Congress: July 1991

vii Ready to Govern: ANC policy guidelines for a democratic South Africa, adopted at the ANC National Conference, published in 1992
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