ANC’s NGC vision a far-fetched reality: IFP

Reading Time: 9 minutes

SABC Digital News has offered an opportunity to all opposition political parties represented in Parliament an opportunity to comment on the African National Congress (ANC) National General Council (NGC) 2015 policy discussion documents. Herewith the input received from the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP).

It would be impossible to adequately respond to the full policy document of the ANC’s National General Council in 1000 words. I therefore encourage anyone with an interest in the policies that guide our country, to visit the IFP’s website (http://www.ifp.org.za/our-policies/) and take the time to read our own policy documents that provide answers to the present challenges in South Africa.
In this opinion piece, I will touch briefly on certain aspects of the ANC’s NGC documents, which lead to the general conclusion that the vision of the ruling party is still far ahead of the reality of what it is capable of achieving, in part because what is good for South Africa does not always coincide with what is good for the ANC. Unfortunately, the latter trumps.

In addressing what it calls “the balance of forces”, the NGC document suggests that only racists and enemies of transformation raise the issues of corruption, incompetence and mismanagement in governance. These evils are euphemistically called “unsavoury developments in government structures”. The consequence is to shut down the space to address corruption, which is counter-productive to removing it.

The IFP has been vocal on the issue of corruption, for it demands a price that our country is not able to pay. Every citizen is affected by it as it sets back service delivery, development, economic growth, the achievement of equality, and social cohesion. We will not stop talking about corruption, because we do not consider it inevitable or unavoidable. It can be stopped.

I cannot be accused of raising the issue of corruption as an excuse to question the capability of black people to govern. I led a black administration in KwaZulu for 19 years and we governed efficiently. We delivered, despite a miniscule budget, and ours was the only administration to return money to the national coffers in 1994, due to proper financial management. In all that time, never once was a single allegation of corruption ever levelled at my administration.

Corruption plays a central role in perpetuating inequality. In discussing the unequal distribution of wealth and income, the NGC document predictably refers to apartheid, but surprisingly calls for organisational renewal within the ANC to move away from selfish materialism. How else, it asks, can the ANC be an authentic champion of the second phase of transition? I’m afraid the elephant in the room will remain. Nkandla is a constant reminder of the chasm between the lifestyle of ordinary South Africans and the ruling party elite.

It seems far-fetched to talk about providing free, high definition, multi-channel television services to all, even in rural communities, when one thinks back to the long unresolved chaos at the SABC and recalls that the IFP has been advocating cheaper broadband for years. Here again the vision is far ahead of reality and experience offers little hope that the two will meet without sustained pressure from the opposition and the citizens of our country.

The experience of ordinary South Africans speaks louder than the “good story” of ANC documents. The conclusion in the NGC document that good progress has been made in improving education and healthcare is somehow meaningless when the majority of South Africans experience long waiting periods for urgent treatment, and inadequate supplies of medicines, including cancer treatments and anti-retrovirals.

Having listened to the constant lament of our people, the IFP began visiting hospitals unannounced in KwaZulu Natal to investigate their state of operation. We were confronted with understaffed, dirty and struggling facilities. The ANC responded by threatening that we must let them know when we are going to inspect. Clearly much still needs to be done to fulfil the vision of the Freedom Charter in respect of universally accessible and quality healthcare.

In addressing the obstacles to the speedy implementation of National Health Insurance, the NGC document fails to take cognisance of the IFP’s point that the system will be unable to sustain the future demand for conventional cancer treatments and will collapse under the pressure of this one disease. We must therefore allow innovation in cancer treatment, as proposed by the Medical Innovation Bill tabled by the IFP. The Bill is still before the parliamentary portfolio committee on health, and we would wish to see it expedited.

On the issue of education, the ANC’s slogan, “Teachers are in class, on time, teaching”, is in juxtaposition to its slogan of the past, “Liberation Now, Education Later” which deprioritised education for many years. Tragically, the legacy of this continued into a democratic South Africa. Even now, despite labelling education an “apex priority”, the ANC is unwilling to take that extra step to declare teaching an essential service. For fear of upsetting their alliance partners and losing SADTU votes, they allow teacher strikes that incapacitate learning and compromise the education of our children.

When I administered the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, our schools were the only ones in which teachers were in class, on time, teaching. The reason for this is that we prioritised education in word and deed, when it was dangerous to oppose the ANC’s call to abandon education for the sake of politics.

Words and labels are significant. Thus when the Minister of Energy calls the electricity crisis, which has cost our economy millions of Rand, “a positive challenge”, there is little resonance in a policy document saying that this crisis will be prioritised. There are actions that need to be taken which are far more important than saving face, particularly when it comes to our economy.

In addressing economic transformation, the NGC document focuses on outside factors beyond the ANC’s control, such as the global economic crisis, rather than accepting responsibility for its slow and insufficient response to the crisis, and its poor policy decisions that have negatively affected our economy. One thinks for instance of the decision taken by the Department of Home Affairs to impose new immigration requirements that effectively cut tourism, at a cost of millions. The tourism industry warned that this would happen, but Government knew better.

These kinds of decisions affect foreign investment, for they create a climate of uncertainty and suggest that we are closed for business. The ANC’s approach to international relations often suggests double standards. The NGC document calls for a critical review of the International Criminal Court and the Rome Statute, to which we are signatory. Yet when it came to complying with the Statute, we failed, to the great embarrassment of our country.

Similarly, South Africa wishes to maintain official diplomatic ties with the State of Israel, yet the ANC openly campaigns for sanctions and disinvestment against Israel. During the campaign of the ANC’s mission-in-exile for sanctions against South Africa, the IFP disagreed, realising that sanctions would hurt the poorest of the poor the most. Now the ANC opposes sanctions against Zimbabwe for the very same reason. It often seems our international policy is based on little more than who the ANC owes favours to for funding and resourcing its armed struggle.

The NGC document calls for meaningful reform of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, but it fails to look closer to home. For years the IFP has called for a review of how the South African Reserve Bank operates, and for the reform of the monetary system. But again, it is a matter of the ANC not wanting to upset anyone with power. The NGC document also seeks to make state-owned enterprises more efficient, when the only way to do that is to privatise them. In other words, have the State loosen its grip.

The need to decentralise power has always been a policy position of the IFP. Indeed, since negotiations the IFP has advocated federalism for South Africa, which is the best way of getting the power of governance closer to the people. Questioning the role of provinces should take into account that we cannot afford greater centralisation of power. Constitutionally, provinces have the power to legislate far beyond what they have actually done. The IFP believes provinces should be strengthened and should flex their muscles, to create healthy competition in finding solutions.

The fact that many municipalities are floundering has less to do with the need to centralise power, and more to do with cadre deployment and a skills deficit that sees financial mismanagement, at an enormous cost. It is interesting to see a reference to the role of traditional leadership in the section on local governance. We have been pressing government for this discussion for more than two decades. The role, powers and functions of traditional leaders need to be clearly defined to avoid a clash with, or duplication of, municipal powers and functions. Enough lip service has been paid to protecting the institution of traditional leadership. We need now to empower the institution to provide its established role of creating social cohesion, active citizenship, security and justice.
Without touching on the issues of agriculture, manufacturing, rural development, land reform or social transformation, all of which are dealt with in the IFP’s policy documents, mention must be made of one other issue. By focussing on enforcement of a strong immigration policy, the NGC document seems to suggest that crime is something that comes into South Africa from outside. I am reminded of my statement in Parliament several years ago that everyone I know has been a victim of crime. The President responded that he knows no one who has been a victim of crime. Perhaps that sums up the difference between the ANC’s vision, and reality.

– By OPINION: Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi