SPEECH: THE NEW SA AT 20: THE NEED FOR REAL TRANSFORMATION

fwdk-conference-31 janI would like to welcome all of you to this the fifth annual conference of the FW de Klerk Foundation. Our conference this year takes place a few days before the 24th anniversary of the commencement of our transformation process on 2 February 1990 and in the 20th anniversary year of the new society that emerged from that process.

When we were considering an appropriate title for the conference we decided to focus on 'the need for real transformation'. We chose this title for the following reasons:

We agree with the National Development Plan’s identification of the main transformational challenges: 

We shall be dealing with these questions in greater detail in the four modules of our conference later today.    

We also invited a senior representative of the ANC to address us on the ANC’s vision of transformation - since we believe that it will be crucial to our discussion today. Unfortunately, he was not able to accept our invitation.

Because it is so central to the debate I would like to share with you our understanding of the ANC’s views of transformation. I wish to stress that this is not our own interpretation - but is based squarely on a fair analysis of the ANC’s strategy and tactics documents.

The ANC sees itself, not as an ordinary political party, but as a national liberation movement with an uncompleted revolutionary mandate. It sees "the continuing legacy of colonialism and white minority rule" as the "defining reality of our society".

According to the ANC this legacy still impacts upon "the ways in which black people in general, and Africans in particular, are differently affected by everything, ranging from unemployment, to literacy, to life expectancy levels". The ANC accordingly "focuses its energy upon mobilising around the aspirations and transformation objectives of this historically oppressed majority".

Unlike its negotiating partners, the ANC did not view the constitutional negotiations as the means to achieving a final national constitutional accord. Instead it saw them as a means to achieving a beachhead of state power - which would then enable it to shift the balance of forces further to its own advantage. In the process it admits that it had to make constitutional compromises that it regarded as temporary expedients necessitated by the then prevailing balance of forces.

The ANC’s first priority after the 1994 transition was to shift the balance of forces in its favour by seizing control of the levers of state power. Its targets, in its own words, were "the legislatures, the executives, the public service, the security forces, the judiciary, parastatals, the public broadcaster, and so on". It gained control of these institutions by deploying ANC cadres to leading positions. 

The central goal of the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution - even after 1994 - continued to be the elimination of apartheid social and economic relations. This would be achieved through the "de-racialisation of ownership and control of wealth, including land; and equity and affirmative action in the provision of skills and access to positions of management".

The ANC’s transformation programme will culminate in the establishment of a "National Democratic Society" in which

At the same time, the ANC insists that it is committed to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution, including

However, it says that these commitments must be seen "within the context of correcting the historical injustices of apartheid" that is, within the framework of its goal of establishing a "national democratic society."

It is against this background that the ANC’s debate in 2012 regarding the commencement of the second phase of the transition takes on special significance.

In his closing remarks to the 2012 Policy Conference President Zuma implied that the triple crisis of unemployment, inequality and poverty had been caused - not by ANC policies - but by white males and the continuing impact of "apartheid colonialism". He warned that "unless we decisively deal with racialised and gendered inequality, poverty and unemployment, our collective democratic and constitutional achievements would be put at grave risk".

The President also believed that the balance of forces had shifted sufficiently - in South Africa and internationally - for the ANC to abandon compromises it made during the political transition.

The reality is that the ANC’s approach to transformation now dominates many core aspects of government policy and of our national discourse. It lies at the heart of the debate over land reform; black economic empowerment; and affirmative action.

However, the ANC’s views on transformation are not all that bad, if compared with those of its alliance partners.   

COSATU and the SACP see the ANC’s goal of the National Democratic Society only as a staging post on the line of march to the establishment of a full-blown communist state.

What then are the views of most of the non-ANC parties on transformation? What did they think they were signing on for when the 1996 constitution was accepted? Without wanting to pre-empt Francois Venter’s presentation I would like to share with you a few of my own interpretations of what the Constitution says about transformation.

Although the word "transformation" does not appear in the constitution there can be no doubt that it is a transformational document. It is permeated with the requirement to move society from where it found itself in 1996 to the vision set out in its founding values.

These values include

Real transformation should be measured by our success in establishing a society built on these values. How are we doing?

We have made progress with the achievement of human dignity. However imperfect our society still is, all South Africans now enjoy much greater human dignity than they did in the past. This is because they are equal before the law; they enjoy the protection of a bill of rights; they have access to independent courts and can participate in a genuine democratic system. 

At the same time, the human dignity of tens of millions of South Africans is seriously undermined by the failure of our society to assure many of the rights to which they are entitled.

For example, real transformation would require a professional and caring police service and justice system that would be able to effectively protect the lives, persons and property of all South Africans. Despite some successes, we still have among the highest murder and rape rates in the world. We need a transformed police and justice system.

The ANC Government has achieved some important transformational successes since 1994. 

All these successes are examples of real transformation.  

At the same time there have been significant failures. In particular, we have failed to provide all but a small percentage of our children with decent education. We have unsustainable unemployment that far exceeds the official figure of 24.7%. According to STATSSA only 14 million of the 34 million people between the ages of 16 and 65 are in formal or informal employment.

Our modules on education and unemployment will be dealing in greater detail with these transformation failures.

Perhaps our greatest transformation failure is that we are a more unequal society than we were in 1994. Our GINI coefficient of 0.7 makes us one of the most unequal societies in the world. Not only has inequality increased throughout society, it has also increased within each of our population groups.

Clearly, the government’s policies to promote equality have failed. This is possibly because the main beneficiaries of affirmative action and black economic empowerment have been the emerging black middle class and elite - and not the vast majority of truly disadvantaged South Africans.

Real transformation would have required the implementation of remedial policies to empower the genuinely disadvantaged masses through the provision of decent education, jobs and effective social and municipal services.

Non-racialism is one of the principal values on which our new society has been built. We have made great steps in peacefully integrating our society and in changing the racial mindsets of South Africans - particularly among our youth. At the same time, the ideology of demographic representivity is once again creating a situation where South Africans are judged on the colour of their skin and not on the content of their character. South Africa is once again becoming one of the most racially prescriptive societies in the world. 

Real transformation would require us to move steadily toward a society in which race is no longer an issue or a source of division.

Our Constitution proclaims the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law. Once again, we have made great progress in transforming our society from the situation before 1994 where parliament was supreme. Today the constitution and the law are supreme. Our courts have been substantially transformed and have frequently shown courage and independence in striking down legislation and government action that is unconstitutional.

However, here also there are some alarm signals:

Real transformation would require effective action to ensure that everyone - including the most senior politicians - is equally liable to be investigated, prosecuted and judged by truly professional and independent institutions.

Finally, we have undoubtedly made important progress in establishing a functioning multiparty democracy. We will soon be holding our fifth national elections. Nevertheless, there is a strong sense that Parliament is not playing the role envisaged for it in the constitution. Oversight of the executive is ineffective because, in terms of our proportional system, MPs are accountable to their political bosses and not to the electorate.

Real transformation would require the implementation of the kind of reforms proposed by the late Frederik van Zyl Slabbert. He suggested a hybrid system, providing for geographic constituencies as well as a proportional list.

The Constitution also requires a government that is accountable, responsive and open. The recently adopted Protection of State Information Act is the antithesis of this requirement. Real transformation would require the inclusion of an effective public interest clause.

From all this the following points emerge:

The time has come for serious talks between Government and all those who are targeted by its version of transformation - including our minorities, our farmers, the media, civil society organizations; and small and large businesses. Collectively, we need to talk to Government 

Cape Town, 31 January 2014