For 30 years South African business has been scaring itself that the ANC will change tack on major policies and veer seriously Left. Every year, on the eve of set pieces such as the ANC’s January 8 statement, the state of the nation address, the national budget or even the medium-term budget policy statement, knots have formed in stomachs and analysts have peered into the ANC’s soul to seek omens of leftward drift (or, sometimes, just signs of life).

Yet nothing revolutionary happened in policy terms. In the first 15 years of democracy, the Mandela and Mbeki administrations stared down trade unions, slashed the bloated public service, fixed government finances, ramped up social spending, fixed the fiscus and rolled out infrastructure. The party’s “resolutions” at policy and elective conferences (to nationalise or expropriate without compensation) remained slogans for election rallies and to make its activists feel that they were part of a “revolutionary” party. No huge ...

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