Issued by Dave Steward, FW de Klerk Foundation Chairman, and published on BizNews on 04/09/2023


In a recent interview with Alec Hogg of BizNews, Dr. Mavuso Msimang, the Deputy President of the ANC’s Veteran’s League, took issue with Anthea Jeffery’s epic analysis of the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution. He said that “in summary, the NDR is not inherently part of the ANC’s framework”. The ANC was not committed to socialism and was “more likely to follow the example of the Scandinavian countries, which are capitalist economies with strong social safety nets.”

It would appear that Dr Msimang was asleep during successive ANC National Conferences that repeatedly endorsed the NDR as the guiding ideology of the Alliance. Clearly, he hasn’t read the organisation’s latest Strategy & Tactics documents that feature the NDR unambiguously as the ANC’s core programme. 

As with every major ANC ideological development since – and including – the Freedom Charter – (with the notable exception of the GEAR policy in 1996) the NDR was devised by the SACP. Nevertheless, Dr Msimang is correct when he says that socialism (the prequel to communism in the SACP lexicon) is not necessarily the ANC’s final NDR objective. Its goal is the “National Democratic Society” which will have “a mixed economy, with state, co-operative and other forms of social ownership, and private capital.” 

The ANC’s NDR goal is “the liberation of Africans in particular and Blacks in general from political and socio-economic bondage.” This requires the “eradication of apartheid production relations” through the implementation of the NDR’s second phase (Radical Economic Transformation) which is defined as “fundamental change in the structure, systems, institutions and patterns of ownership, management and control of the economy in favour of all South Africans, especially the poor…”

This is the reason why the ANC is so deeply committed to expropriation without compensation, BBBEE and draconian race targets under the Employment Equity Act. According to the S&T documents “the need for such affirmative action will decline in the same measure as all centres of power and influence and other critical spheres of social endeavour become broadly representative of the country’s demographics” – (i.e. under majority domination). 

So there you have it, the ANC’s vision is all about race and demographic representivity – while that of the SACP is about the elimination of class and private property. 

The difference between the ANC and SACP conceptions of the NDR was spelled out, most eloquently, by President Zuma in a 2015 speech: 

“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. We must thank Anthea Jeffery for casting much-needed light on the arcane ideological machinations that lie at the root of our national politics – and that explain many of the aberrations that have brought South Africa to its present sorry state.

And as for Dr Msimang’s bland reassurances, I do not think for a moment that so experienced and astute a cadre as him would have any illusions about the central role of the NDR in the ANC’s worldview. The ANC realises that its proposed programme of racial wealth redistribution will inevitably cause apprehension among its intended victims because “property relations are at the core of all social systems.” It believes that “the tensions that the decisive application to this objective will generate will require dexterity in tact and firmness in principle.” Is Dr Msimang’s response to the apprehensions expressed in Anthea Jeffery’s book not, perhaps, a masterful example of “dexterity in tact?”

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