Anthea Jeffery’s Countdown to Socialism:
Plotting the ANC’s Catastrophic NDR Course

by Dave Steward, Chairman of the FW de Klerk Foundation


The ship of state is dead in the water. The engines cannot provide energy to keep the lights on; the machinery is broken; the officers and crew regularly help themselves to the ship’s provisions. On the bridge, Captain Ramaphosa keeps watch, complaining about the difficulty of his job, and assuring everybody, with diminishing conviction, that all is well.

However, instead of repairing the engines and restoring discipline; instead of steering toward the world’s great trade routes, the captain is remorselessly holding his course toward the rocks. It is at this critical time that he has decided, incomprehensibly, to double down on initiatives that could wreck the ship once and for all.

They include the Expropriation Bill and the Land Courts Bill; the Employment Equity Amendment Act and its draconian regulations; racial water quotas for farmers; and the unaffordable and unworkable National Health Insurance Bill.


The answers to this question may be found in Anthea Jeffery’s meticulous study of the ANC/SACP’s National Democratic Revolution (NDR) in her recently published book, Countdown to Socialism.

Dr Jeffery clinically exposes the ideology that lies at the heart of the dysfunctionality and crises that beset South Africa. She identifies the NDR’s roots in Lenin’s idea of the two-stage revolution involving a national liberation phase and a socialist phase. In South Africa’s case, the first “political” phase – which focused on the capturing of the levers of State power – was completed by 2012. The second “economic” phase is intended to achieve “radical economic transformation” (RET), which will require “a fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy”.

Dr Jeffery points to the SACP’s typification of imperialism in South Africa as “Colonialism of a Special Type” (COST), in which colonialist oppressors and the oppressed black working class occupy the same country. In terms of COST, any difference in racial outcomes must be ascribed solely to past repression. The foundational belief that all white wealth is undeserved provides moral justification for the NDR’s core goal of eliminating “the legacy of Apartheid super-exploitation and inequality, and the redistribution of wealth and income to benefit society as a whole…”

Dr Jeffery also explains the ANC’s views on the importance of the balance of forces in determining the speed at which the NDR can be implemented. She points to its acceptance of the “black working class as the main motive force in the process of change”, thus endowing the SACP with a vanguard role in determining the direction and pace of the NDR.

She provides a detailed analysis of how the NDR – facilitated by cadre deployment and aimed at demographic representivity – has affected virtually every aspect of society and of the economy – including the judiciary, democratic institutions, the “battle of ideas”, education, health care, water, mining and land.

It emerges from Dr Jeffery’s analysis that President Ramaphosa has embarked on his present catastrophic course because he is faithfully implementing the NDR. The following factors might also be playing a role:


  • The ANC may have decided that the balance of forces is now favourable for radical action. It may have concluded that the centre of geostrategic gravity has shifted away from the West – and might thus be prepared to discount the reaction of international capitalists and neoliberals to its planned assault on property rights and free market principles. 
  • The ANC might also be encouraged by the ascendancy of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the United States, Britain and the EU. After all, it just wants to do in South Africa what CRT prescribes for race relations everywhere.
  • Apart from this, the newly emerged elite may regard the redistribution of wealth and employment controlled by the private sector as a wonderful opportunity for further enrichment. Having already stripped the State and SOEs of low-lying fruit, they may be turning their gaze toward the lush green fields and orchards of the private sector.
  • Hardline communists – who reject the current free market economic system – may agree with Lenin that “worse is better”. They might believe that the implosion of the current system might create the crisis from which a communist society might spring. 


Whether or not the NDR will lead to socialism – the prequel to communism in the SACP’s lexicon – will depend on who will steer the ship on the voyage ahead. Will it be the ANC? Or will it be the SACP – which was instructed by the Soviet Union in 1928 to develop “systematically the leadership of the workers and the Communist Party” in the ANC?

In a 2015 speech, President Zuma spelled out the roles of the two Alliance partners: 

“The ANC, the leader of the Alliance, is a multiclass national liberation movement advancing the NDR, the primary objective of which is the establishment of the National Democratic Society (NDS), which is united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous”. The SACP, on the other hand, was “the vanguard party of the working class with the objective of advancing a socialist revolution to create socialism with the dictatorship of the proletariat…” Nevertheless, the objectives of the SACP and the ANC were “facing in the same direction”. “That’s why we are walking this path together as partners on the same route…at a particular point to establish our NDR”.

President Zuma added that the ANC would disembark into the National Democratic Society while the SACP proceeded down the track toward communism. Significantly, he left the door open to the ANC’s also moving down the track to communism: “If the ANC’s position (the NDS) becomes untenable, then maybe we will pack our bags and follow after them – who knows?”

The NDR lies at the root of the strategies of both the ANC and the SACP. It is remarkable how few otherwise well-informed South Africans have any idea of its origins, its objectives and its implications. Many brush it aside as meaningless jargon – or dismiss it as the ranting of the ANC’s far-left faction.

The ANC certainly takes the NDR seriously. It is systematically implementing all its core elements. All the steps that the NDR prescribed have been taken – especially those relating to the seizure of the levers of State power and the launching of radical economic transformation. 

The NDR also endows the ANC with revolutionary legitimacy – over and above ordinary parties – because it is a ‘national liberation movement’ with an uncompleted revolutionary mission. It provides justification for personal enrichment – and it presents a mythology that explains South African history; why things are as they are; and what the future ideally should hold.

There is no reason to doubt that the NDR is, in fact, the ANC’s DNA.

For all these reasons, anyone who is seriously interested in current events in South Africa should read Anthea Jeffery’s book. It is not a light or happy book, but it is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what is happening in South Africa today and what the ANC plans for our future.