South Africa circa 2010

22 March 2007 11:59

A package of policy proposals from a majority political party is of public interest because it sets out the vision of how that party will rule. So, what are the ruling African National Congress's (ANC) plans for a future South Africa?

The policy proposals, released this week, reveal a party that has jumped from centre to left. Its economic and social transformation policy options envisage far higher social spending by mooting a wider social safety net for children (by scrapping the cut-off age of 14 years) and a national health scheme to complement the government's plans for a comprehensive social security scheme (the term for a state-funded compulsory pension fund).

The party's left wing, which ensured that it put the basic income grant (BIG) on the agenda at the Stellenbosch conference in 2002, now says that the cumulative effect of planned new spending is higher than a BIG payment of R100 per person per month.

In addition, the ANC that placed its faith in private-sector led growth has been replaced by a party that envisages the state as leading growth. And it makes recommendations for strengthening trade unions, not by altering labour laws but by finding ways of improving the skills base of labour organisations.

The move toward social democracy will be welcomed, but the proposals on how to deal with the problems caused by the ANC in business are disappointing.

Here, a task team convened to set out proposals makes interesting assessments of the impact of business dealings on revolutionary morality but falls short of dealing with the fallout in a comprehensive, world-class manner.

The document called "RDP of the soul" is the most interesting, for it acknowledges that "liberation brought us a packet of problems", including a lack of governing experience, the "dictatorship of capital" and the "Western imperialist empire"; a population explosion; and crime.

What are the hot-button issues contained in the policy proposals? The proposals on the judiciary will reignite concerns among judges. Land, always a touchy issue in South Africa, will continue to be one. The party recommends that land redistribution and expropriation be used to ameliorate the pace of evictions and farm-worker retrenchments.

The party also recommends that all major religious holidays be made public holidays. To ensure that there are at least some working days left in a year, it suggests that we end the practice whereby Mondays become public holidays when national days fall on a Sunday.

BUSINESS ETHICS

A high-level ANC task team has proposed that the party form a structure similar to the central control and auditing commission of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation to stem corruption resulting from unregulated business activity by party members, writes Vicki Robinson.

The team, comprising Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, ANC deputy secretary general Sankie Mthembi-Mahanyele, business magnate Saki Macozoma and Director General in the Presidency Frank Chikane, was appointed last May to provide "political and moral guidelines to the ANC as a whole, particularly the leadership, on the issue of involvement in business".

Its report was presented to the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) at the weekend and has been released for discussion by branches.

Titled Revolutionary Morality: The ANC and Business, the report will shortly be distributed to the party's branches for debate ahead of the ANC's national policy conference in June.

The task team's terms of reference were to provide guidelines on conflicts of interest and "cooling-off periods" for full-time ANC functionaries; review black economic empowerment (BEE) policies in light of ANC members and officials entering business through BEE; the ideological implications of the development of a black capitalist class; the implications of ANC leaders entering business and its impact on the movement; and the question of how ANC functionaries can "prepare for their future and not become dependent on the ANC".

The report also focuses on measures to control corrupt and corrupting party donations.
"Our intentions have been good, but have they been adequate?" it asks. "It is clear from the sound bites of NEC members in various discussions that we have not succeeded in taming the beast of unethical behaviour in our ranks … the name of the organisation is dragged through the mud.

"Cadres learn ways of dragging [out] issues and make use of the country's legal processes to delay, if not frustrate, the movement's own processes … Cadres have made creative use of the concept 'innocent until proven guilty'."

While the report acknowledges that ANC office-bearers and government officials have the right to prepare for their futures beyond the state and party, the ANC had to ensure the movement and its leaders were "subject to moral standards that are consistent with the political objectives of the movement".

It says that a structure similar to the control and auditing commission of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation would enable the ANC to enforce its disciplinary code more effectively than the party's current disciplinary committee, which is hamstrung by resource deficiencies and due process constraints.

Its members would be elected by the NEC and could not serve in any other leadership capacity. The body's main function would be to monitor all ANC structures and ensure the fulfilment of party programmes. It would track the party's financial activities, political donations and the collection of membership fees, and monitor the implementation of congress decision and electoral promises.

EDUCATION

The ANC's draft proposals for tackling the woes of the school system are Education Minister Naledi Pandor's dreams come true, and echo alarm bells Pandor repeatedly sounded last year, writes David Macfarlane.

The document provides bracing assessments of higher education, adult basic education and training and further education and training (FET) colleges. Refreshingly absent is the complacent attribution of all current problems to apartheid. The document identifies post-1994 policies and practices that are not delivering and calls for their urgent revision.

Music to Pandor's ears must be the proposal that government "needs to consider a more centralised control of the funding of national priorities" in schooling. It says provincial funding may be suitable for "normal business" but that special initiatives -- including additional teachers for under-performing schools -- might need their own measures, such as ring-fenced funding and conditional grants.

A central problem it identifies is that despite increased overall allocations to education, provincial spending as a share of provinces' budgets has been falling -- from 45,7% in 2002/03 to 44,7% the following year. A further fall, to 42,8%, is projected in 2008/09.

In her budget speech to the National Council of Provinces in May last year, Pandor pinpointed this slide. She said that in addressing the "poor learning outcomes in the majority of our schools", provinces "cannot escape scrutiny … Lacklustre attention to ensuring adequate numbers of teachers, to devising efficient LTSM [learning and teaching support materials], to achieving quality and success for all, can no longer be tolerated and excused". She returned to similar themes when releasing the matric results in December.

The ANC has clearly swung behind her. The policy document says too many children still lack textbooks, insufficient time is spent on teaching, and resources often do not reach the intended beneficiaries.

It points to fee increases and overcrowding as key problems in higher education, while offering no specific remedies.

On the large drop-out rate and the time many students take to complete programmes, it says there "is an urgent need to focus on academic development". It is silent, though, on specific funding to enable this.

On Abet, the finding is unequivocal: the current approach is not working. The main proposal is to separate literacy training into formal Abet for those who want to study further and general literacy for "those who simply want to read, write and be numerate". And as a final flourish, FET colleges -- Pandor's pet project for addressing the country's skills shortages -- could become a national function, "given the stretched capacity of provinces".

The question is: Will any of this reach the real world?

LAND

An ANC discussion document has backed the more active approach towards land acquisition currently being planned by the department of land affairs, writes Yolandi Groenewald.

The release of the document coincides with a presentation by Director General Glen Thomas to Parliament's portfolio committee, in which he said that the Provision of Certain Land for Settlement Act would be amended to give government the right of first refusal when land or property is sold.

"Opportunities for acquiring land are lost because the state is not proactively participating in buying up land," he said. "The amendment will force all sellers to first offer their land to the state."

A secret land department document was leaked to the media last September, proposing that government would become the sole buyer of high-quality commercial farms in South Africa with the right to refuse market*related prices. In this approach -- named a "negotiated compulsory purchase" -- farmers not willing to sell to government would be prohibited from selling their farms to anyone else.

The leaked document also discussed the increased use of expropriation, the use of "progressive land tax laws", development of "land ceilings" (a cap on the amount of land owned by a single farmer) and a possible "one farmer, one farm" policy. Thomas told Parliament about the proposed policies and his department's willingness to implement them.

The ANC policy document echoes the leaked proposals by stating that an important challenge in acquiring land is to integrate and finalise recommendations on the land tax and land ownership ceiling.

The ANC asserts that farm evictions and the rights of farm-dwellers should be better managed. This has been a burning issue over the past year, leading to a fallout between Land Affairs Minister Lulu Xingwana and farmers' union AgriSA.

"The tenure security of farm-dwellers and workers living on white commercial farmers' land is either non-existent or legally insecure because it is derived though a third party -- the white commercial farmers and companies involved in agri-business," the document says.

The document proposes that white commercial farmland be redistributed to farm-dwellers and workers through the redistribution programme. "If white commercial farmland is redistributed to the farm-dwellers and workers, tenure insecurity and the possibility of evictions will be eliminated."

Earlier this month Xingwana told the National Assembly that new legislation was being drafted to provide tenure security through redistribution. New laws governing the management of evictions are to be included in the department's 2008/09 legislative programme.

The document also suggests that foreign ownership of land should be restricted. The department is drawing up a policy after a panel of experts last year recommended some control over foreign ownership.

JUDGES

Though President Thabo Mbeki last year bounced back draft legislation, which the judiciary complained would affect its independence, the impetus for the idea has not died. In a proposal called "Transformation of the judicial system" it is clear that the ANC in government wants greater leverage over justice, writes Ferial Haffajee.

The document asks: "Should the judiciary have any role in the policy*-making, budgeting and general administration of courts?" On reading the document, the ruling party's answer is clear: only a very limited role.

"Policy and budgeting for courts and all matters relating to the administration of the justice system are the responsibility of the member of Cabinet responsible for the administration of justice," says the policy document.

It continues: "The Constitution does not envisage that the judiciary will operate in complete isolation from the other branches of government. In fact, it envisages a system where all branches of government work in collaboration with each other. At the same time, the Constitution firmly entrenches the principle of the separation of powers among all branches of government."

Last year former chief justice Arthur Chaskalson said: "It is important, particularly in a constitutional state, that the executive should not control how a court functions. It can have a say, but not control."

In 2005, the government tabled draft laws to amend the Constitution to make changes to the operation of the judiciary as well as other areas, like judicial conduct.

ECONOMIC TRANSFORMATION

An ANC policy discussion document on the future shape of the government has called for a shake-up and possible reduction in the number of ministries, writes Vicki Robinson.

The document also proposes a stronger role for "central organs of the state", suggesting that the roles of provincial and local government should be reassessed.

"As part of the debate about the appropriate governance model for provincial and local government, issues around the ability of the state to lead economic development must come to the fore … the ability of the centre to determine the direction of transformation … [is] key," it says.

The future success of developmental objectives would depend in part on "the structure of the state organisation at national level", the document says.

It notes that "the macro-structure of ministries and departments … has not been fundamentally altered during the era of liberation. The question needs to be posed as to whether these portfolios are structured in the best way to deliver the results we need."

The subject was last formally discussed more than two years ago when President Thabo Mbeki asked the Forum of South African Directors General (Fosad) to assess the effectiveness of the government.

The final report, presented to the Cabinet in June 2005, was never made public, but its reported recommendations were not as sweeping as expected.

Among the issues Fosad considered was whether South Africa should maintain the provincial tier of government and the number and type of ministries. It was also expected that the report would propose a further centralisation of executive power, along American lines.

But the final report made much softer suggestions, which would not result in any constitutional upheaval.

The latest ANC policy document, on economic transformation, was presented to the ANC's national executive committee meeting last weekend. It will soon be distributed to the ANC branches for discussion ahead of the party's policy conference in June.

Many ANC leaders would welcome the abolition, or curtailment, of provincial government, as they feel it was thrust on the party during constitutional negotiations. However, calls for further centralisation are likely to meet stiff opposition in party ranks.

Mbeki's term of office has been marked by substantial increases in the president's power over national policy and implementation. This has riled many party members, who complain that centralisation has polarised the ANC and undermined its tradition of consultative leadership.

The discussion document is designed to generate debate about central challenges facing the party. Once consensus has been reached on these issues they will be translated into policy proposals for adoption or rejection when the party meets in June.
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