By CHRIS MBEKELA
In order to take the country forward, the old liberation struggle posture should be transcended and be replaced with new paradigms. As South Africans, we cannot be locked in the past forever. We have the responsibility to explore workable solutions to deeply entrenched colonial and apartheid legacies. Seasoned thinkers in all spheres of our society are required to urgently assist in the reconfiguration of the South African landscape.
No single political entity has the ability to undo the gigantic past legacies, with the resolution of South Africa’s challenges requiring maximum participation of all key stakeholders irrespective of their inclinations. Trade unions, the private sector, organs of civil society, the ANC, opposition parties, religious/faith establishments, and knowledge sectors should redefine their roles within the status quo, and adopt a forward looking perspective.
Within this broad framework, parties also have space to pursue their mandatory obligations informed by their constituencies. A coherent centre under the leadership of a thoughtful leadership may manage competing interests within an overarching vision as enshrined in the constitution. This is not a utopia; the elevation of seasoned thinkers to key decision making structures may take South Africa to high levels of prosperity while nostalgia has the potential to stagnate progression and innovative thinking. Nostalgia is also used to justify the unjustifiable at the expense of South African citizens in general.
The pre-1994 dispensation should be given its proper perspective in order to be understood in context. The forebears and generations after them played their part in the liberation processes. Their role is unquestionable and inscribed in the chronicles of history. The present generation at the helm through their deeds may have reversed gains acquired through hard won struggles. Exacerbating the situation are the jaw dropping revelations made through email leaks allegedly implicating individuals occupying influential positions of power.
The previous era was an integral part of an evolving society. The outcome of liberation processes was a hallmark in the history of SA and resulted in a democratic dispensation that has changed the appearance of the formal political structure of South Africa. However, the inner part of the formal political structure underpinned by colonial value system is still intact. The untouched inner layers of the structure facilitated the absorption of the newcomers (elected political bureaucrats) by the system and contributed to an obsession with symbolic changes while ignoring the significance of transforming old order institutions.
The untouched sphere of influence informs policy conceptualisation, development and implementation within a constitutional space, largely for compliance purposes. This also informs the manner in which decisions are made. As such, political transformation is still a challenge yet to be adequately addressed. One of the liberation struggle imperatives was to diversify the appearance of society in every aspect and address Eurocentric methods of doing things.
The mixed economy the ANC espouses relates to state intervention in the economy within a capitalist structured economy; yet the ruling party is confined to simple capitalism. Any view contrary to this submission is misleading and tantamount to the distortion of the historical mission of the ANC. This is based on facts and not advancing any ideological perspective against other ideological alternatives.
In many instances, the failure to transform the political structure leads to populism and the misrepresentation of policy frameworks for political expedience. This misrepresentation is a deliberate act to raise the expectations of the uninformed for electioneering purposes. These things may also be done as an attempt to secure political positions for personal livelihood. Political anxiety may have compelled some of the politicians to make statements which they know fall outside the policy framework.
Organisational dynamics have also caused bitter ideological tensions within the three-legged theoretically political framework. While Cosatu and the SACP purport to be pursuing a socialist or communist agenda, the ANC subscribes to a broad-based ideological orientation. These divergent ideological differences have been a source of a perpetual tension that requires mature leadership.
Taking into account the present state of affairs, chances are slim that these tensions will be managed. Many indeed are irreversible.
Compounding the situation is the tension between purist demagogues and pragmatists. Some within the SACP and Cosatu thought that the radical economic transformation the ANC espouses referred to a second phase of the “two stage revolution”.
The latter is quite problematic in that it draws an artificial boundary between politics and the economy. Politics and the economy are inseparable; yet libertarians and neo-liberal theory have a tendency of separating the economic base from the political structure. The “two stage revolution” concept may have been used as a tactic, but it has distorted the nature of the South African question. This fallacy perpetuates the existing socio-economic gap between the elite irrespective of race or gender and has contributed immensely to furthering inequitable access to education and training. The unresolved question of equitable access to education relevant to the modern space has long term political and socio-economic ramifications.
Riding on the back of the ANC to socialist mythology has unfairly raised the expectations of certain individuals and certain leaders who lack don’t really understand socialism. Meanwhile, for the ANC to continue to cling to power, it must ensure among other things, proper governance, elect credible leaders and decisively deal with recent mistakes. Since the stakes are so high, this could be wishful thinking. The outcomes of the ANC elective conference to be held in December 2017 could open South Africa to realignment and to tactical alliances outside the mainstream. Electoral politics is a complex game that requires strategists.
One is tempted to ask the question, do we have political parties with the ability to take the country forward and ensure that the emergence of right wing politics is minimised?
- Christian Mxoliswa Mbekela is a strategic work consultant specialising in HR, EE and risk management. A former SAYCO NEC member, he was part of the team that re-established the ANC Youth League. He is currently doing a PhD in the Sociology Department at Rhodes University. www.cmmmindpower.co.za