ANC offering little new, analysts agree

Cape Town – Action spoke louder than speeches in stadiums and the ANC would have to act to prove its commitment to making a difference in governance and in the interest of the country, political analysts said on Sunday.

Commenting on the weekend’s ANC national executive committee (NEC) January 8 statement, delivered by President Jacob Zuma in the DA-governed Cape Town, there was agreement, little – if anything – new had been said.

“If they (the ANC) want to make an impact, they are not going to do that by making speeches in stadiums. They will do so only through action,” said Professor Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy.

There was “nothing new” in the January 8 statement.

Instead, it would have been refreshing if the ANC had acknowledged challenges, but instead it was: “We blame apartheid and say we did a lot more than what you think,” said Friedman.

Going off script, Zuma on Saturday blamed apartheid for South Africa’s power outages – “We must not feel guilty. It is not our problem of today. It’s the problem of apartheid… we are resolving” – and while the ANC for the first time in South Africa’s history addressed corruption “it’s very funny that the very organisation that is leading the campaign is being branded the most corrupt”.

Professor Susan Booysen, of the Wits University Graduate School of Public and Development Management, described these statements as “strange takes among the president’s strange takes on 2014/15”. And the apartheid blame comments came “despite all of the evidence (dating back to the Thabo Mbeki presidency) that government did not do its planning… It is the tasks of a government to plan”.

Describing it as possibly one of Zuma’s best delivered speeches, Booysen said while its structure along the 1955 Freedom Charter demands meant it was technically well crafted, there was little new.

Political commentator, Ebrahim Fakir, echoed sentiments there was little new in the statement. However, he added that perhaps the State of the Nation address would provide some details, particularly around the ANC commitment on land redistribution and expropriation.

Applause greeted Zuma’s remarks on land, including the jettison of the “willing seller, willing buyer” for the constitutionally-permitted expropriation in the public interest, but it had featured in the ANC January 8 statement for the past couple of years.

However, while Public Works had undertaken to table a new, constitutionally-compliant expropriation bill before Parliament before last year, this did not happen.

Statements on ensuring miners and mining communities received benefits from operations date back to the governmental task team formed in the wake of the August 2012 Marikana killings, when police killed 34 mine workers, though it is unclear what concrete progress had been made.

References to the possible introduction of a national minimum wage were described as gestures to constituencies like ANC alliance partner, Cosatu, and date back to the May 2014 election manifesto.

Successes in the fight against HIV/Aids have featured in past years’ January 8 statements and State of the Nation addresses and the introduction of free medical care to children under six and pregnant women was one of the first steps announced by then president Nelson Mandela after South Africa’s first democratic government was formed.

On Sunday the EFF described the ANC statement was “nothing but an attempt to divert attention from the genuinely radical economic freedom programme and struggle of the EFF”.

The DA criticised Zuma for blaming load shedding on apartheid. “The fact is the electricity crisis and the threat of the economic shut-down it brings is of the ANC’s own making…,” said DA parliamentary leader, Mmusi Maimane.