Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The ANC's view on SA's future
This week saw the release of the ANC's latest draft Tactics and Strategy document, a seminal publication outlining how the ANC's views the future of SA, and the party's role in shaping it. It's a fascinating insight into the inner mind of the oft-cagey ruling party, and is well worth a read in its entirety, especially since the last version was published ten years ago in 1997. More than any other speech, statement or document delivered in the past months or years, it is a statement of intent.

Of interest is the ANC's view of the white minority:
Virtually all South Africans pay allegiance to the Constitution. Increasing numbers, including among the whites, entertain a sense of collective belonging to South Africa. It can be argued that most in the white community have come to realise that, indeed, non-racial democracy is in their immediate and long-term interest. This, combined with the social dynamics within the middle strata and acculturation referred to earlier, brings to the fore the question whether merely by dint of being white, this community still can be defined as antagonists of NDR [National Democratic Revolution]!

In terms of practical experiences especially in the private sector, public discourse and voting patterns, it seems that many in the white community still have to realise that the poverty and inequality spawned by apartheid are not in their long-term interest, and that black people are as capable as anyone else to lead and exercise authority in all spheres of life.

But, unlike before, when antagonists across the apartheid divide were locked in mortal combat, engagement around issues of transformation in a democracy forms part of legitimate discourse and electoral politics. Those who continue to resist change within the constitutional framework are opponents in a democratic order. Their political and other organisations are legitimate expressions of a school of thought that should be challenged, but at the same time accepted as part of democratic engagement.

It behoves the liberation movement to persist in clarifying the long-term self-interest that the white community shares in ridding our society of the legacy of apartheid. Indeed, formal political democracy including the new human rights regime would be imperilled if conditions of abject poverty and massive inequality persist.

In this regard, the liberation movement must lead each of the classes and strata within the Black community in narrowing the racial chasm. This applies moreso to the working class which, by reaching out across the racial divide within this class, should be the lightning rod to the emergence of inclusive nationhood. But it also does apply in large measure to the middle strata especially the intelligentsia, and the capitalist class.

I have to agree with the sentiment. I do see that the white community as a whole is more positive than it was, with all the 'Chicken Littles' and 'Zimbabweites' having been proved wrong. In this document, the ANC accepts that most white citizens are supportive of change, but still reserves a space for the need for the working class to make a larger effort to build 'inclusive nationhood'. I think this is also a fair comment.

The policy document goes further in describing the racial overtones of the country. One of the most positive sentences (in my opinion) is this:
Across these circles the intertwining of Black and white interests is taking shape, with the definitions of the past starting to fade. As these circles intertwine and the currents across them flow into one another, so will the objectives of the NDR be reaching maturity. Common interests will increasingly be forged across the racial divide within the various social classes and strata. And so, other defining issues in pursuit of other strategic objectives may become the paramount driving forces for continuing change.

This hints at the white community's role in the future South Africa being one of a true South African, and a true African, as opposed to the limbo we find ourselves placed in at present.

However, there are also ominous expressions:
In essence, the ANC is faced with two options: either to act as a party of the present, an electoral machine blinded by short-term interest, satisfied with current social reality and merely giving stewardship to its sustenance. Or it can become a party of the future, using political power and harnessing the organisational and intellectual resources of society to attain the vision of a national democratic society.

Clearly the policy document is driving toward the latter, which hints at a more electorally aloof ANC, driven by their picture of the future of the country, rather than the electorate's.

Give the entire document a read. It's your country, and this is your ruling party.