ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa toasts with former president Jacob Zuma and secretary general Ace Magashule during the ANC 107th anniversary celebrations at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. Picture: Rajesh JANTILAL/AFP
ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa toasts with former president Jacob Zuma and secretary general Ace Magashule during the ANC 107th anniversary celebrations at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. Picture: Rajesh JANTILAL/AFP

The ANC’s election manifesto launch over the weekend — unofficially opening the campaigning season for the May elections — was more a show of force than the delivery of a concrete plan to get SA running optimally.

The 66-page document contains a stark admission by the party and its president, Cyril Ramaphosa: "We accept that mistakes have been made and, in some critical areas, progress has stalled."

If one looks back at the five years since the party’s last manifesto, in 2014, it is clear that progress not only stalled in the intervening years, but that the priorities of the government under then president Jacob Zuma shifted almost entirely from delivery to a self-serving project of accumulation by elites.

Thereafter, governance was characterised by an intense battle between those driving state capture and those resisting it — a struggle that became more pronounced when Ramaphosa took over as caretaker president in February 2018.

It is within this context that the ANC has launched its opening salvo for the 2019 elections. To that extent, the manifesto is a reflection of the times: a nod to the populism pushed by parties such as the EFF; an accommodation of the factionalism in the ruling party itself; a push, in part, for political expediency.

But it also builds on the work Ramaphosa began when he took the party reins in December 2017. If he is able to use his likely incumbency over the next five years to deliver on his promises, SA could move forward from the five years that were lost to a parasitic project of elite enrichment.

But the ANC’s record on delivery against promises has not been particularly good. So it’s also worth considering the 2019 manifesto in the context of its 2014 one.

Economy and jobs

The 2019 manifesto promises to double the annual rate of employment creation to 275,000 — which was among the outcomes of Ramaphosa’s 2018 jobs summit.

Back in 2014 it promised 6-million "work opportunities" and 250,000 jobs — a promise that preceded an economic decline that culminated in the highest unemployment levels SA has yet seen.

The ANC has promised to increase worker ownership of the economy, address monopolies and excessive economic concentration, and open up the economy to small and medium-sized enterprises. (Though it plans to cut state procurement to small businesses and co-operatives to 30%, from 75% in 2014.)

The manifesto has incorporated Ramaphosa’s investment drive, which looks to increase investment to R1.2-trillion over the next year to grow the economy and create jobs. It also includes an industrial plan and moves to craft a "digital revolution".

Contentiously — and confusingly — the party says it will align the mandate of the SA Reserve Bank with its "second phase of the transition" — the push for "economic freedom". The inclusion of this in the manifesto was the subject of intense debate in the national executive committee; it was argued that the clause has no place in an election manifesto.

We accept that mistakes have been made and, in some critical areas, progress has stalled
Cyril Ramaphosa

The reference to the Bank was included, in the end, to appease the populist Zuma backers who continue to hold sway over the leadership structure.

It was a clumsy addition. The party had to move swiftly to assure the public it has no intention of interfering with the independence of the Bank, with ANC head of economic transformation Enoch Godongwana saying it simply refers to better co-ordination of monetary and fiscal policy.

Another contentious nod to the Zuma faction is the party’s intention to "investigate the introduction of prescribed assets on financial institutions’ funds to unlock resources for investments in social and economic development".

This inclusion of a resolution taken at the December 2017 elective conference would require pension funds to invest a portion of their funds in state projects — moving business away from its "neoliberal" way of thinking to help turn the economy around, say ANC insiders.

On the whole, compared with the 2014 manifesto, 2019’s is thin on detail. And there are some notable exclusions this time around, such as nuclear energy — a key Zuma interest.

Land

The issue of land reform took the spotlight in 2017, when the ANC at its Nasrec conference resolved to support the expropriation of land without compensation, and consider amending the constitution to that effect.

Along with the EFF, the party last year passed a motion in parliament supporting land expropriation without compensation. This started the process of public hearings into whether section 25 of the constitution should be changed. In December, parliament voted in favour of a report recommending that section 25 be amended.

Back in 2014, the ANC had a rather different view on land reform — there was no talk of expropriation without compensation.

In that election manifesto, the party said it would continue to improve security of tenure and administration of people living in communal areas, with emphasis on the security of women’s tenure.

It also promised to accelerate the settlement of remaining land claims submitted before the cut-off date of 1998 and reopen the period for lodging claims for restitution, running until end-June this year.

By April 2015, 55,000 new land claims had been lodged with the Commission on Restitution of Land Rights. Almost a year later, that number was 143,720.

However, the pace of reform has been frustratingly slow.

It has fallen from a peak of 500 kilohectares (kha) a year in 2007/2008 to a projected 90kha a year. As the FM previously reported, it would take 43 years to settle all outstanding claims at this rate.

Corruption

Though the ANC supports an amendment to section 25 of the constitution, it has a different stance to that of the EFF.

While the EFF wants all land nationalised, the ANC’s manifesto says it will support the amendment of section 25 of the constitution to "clearly define the conditions under which expropriation of land without compensation can take place".

SA’s decade under Zuma was synonymous with state capture and corruption, with the country’s state-owned enterprises looted and state institutions compromised.

Ironically, in its 2014 manifesto, the ANC said public servants and public representatives would be prohibited from doing business with the state, and that further measures would be developed to identify and prosecute corrupt actions by public servants and others. It also said all corrupt officials would be made individually liable for all losses incurred as a result of their corrupt actions.

This has not happened.

What it means

It remains to be seen if the ANC will keep the promises it makes in its latest election manifesto

On the contrary, Zuma himself is facing corruption charges in court and has fought vehemently for the state to fund his defence — something the Pretoria high court shot down last year when it ruled that he should pay his own legal fees and pay back the money spent on his defence.

The ANC in 2014 also said it would boost the capacity of corruption-fighting agencies — another irony, given how crime-fighting institutions such as the Hawks and the National Prosecuting Authority were subsequently compromised.

In its 2019 manifesto the ANC promises to "put an end to state capture, restore the integrity of public institutions and tackle corruption, while ensuring that government has the capacity, resources and people to serve citizens effectively".

The party — itself implicated at the ongoing state capture inquiry — has now promised to strengthen implementation of legislation preventing public servants from conducting business with the state, develop systems to ensure there is a more open and transparent tender system and strengthen anticorruption institutions.

"We are also determined to show no tolerance in the fight against corruption and misconduct within the ANC.

"We have taken steps to send to parliament and legislatures the best of our public representatives who have made individual and collective pledges to serve our people with respect, integrity and humility," the manifesto says.

These are promises the party has made before — and time will tell if it delivers on them.

With the ANC in the process of compiling its representative lists for seats in the national and provincial legislatures, it remains to be seen whether those who served under Zuma and were implicated in state capture will make the cut.

Health and education

In 2014, the ANC said a publicly funded and publicly administered national health insurance (NHI) fund would be established through legislation.

Five years on, no such fund exists.

In December the cabinet rejected the NHI bill and sent it back to the health department for further work. The bill has been beset by controversy, with conflict arising between officials in the Treasury and the presidency.

According to Business Day, a leaked National Treasury letter laid this bare, showing how a presidential adviser had reversed aspects of the bill previously agreed to by the ministers of finance and health. Still, presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko said the bill would be finalised this year.

In its 2019 manifesto, the ANC has reiterated that it will create the fund. It also promises to "implement the next phase of the NHI programme" over the next five years through legislation.

Again, it will have to be seen whether the fund will be up and running in five years, and whether the bill will make it to parliament.

Education, too, is a quagmire for the state after Zuma took the populist position of promising free higher education at the end of 2017, committing Ramaphosa and the ANC to a programme the government could ill afford. The 2019 manifesto keeps the party on the same track, promising "free higher education for the poor and the missing middle".