OPINION | ANC’s 2019 manifesto: banging same drum?

PREMIUM

The ANC manifesto has come to be known for its glitzy golden promises.As appealing as the document may be to the poorest South Africans, I’m in a state of doubt. Is it just more of the same?
President Cyril Ramaphosa promised to tackle some of the more difficult conundrums facing the country, namely corruption, unemployment and the ailing economy.
Unpacking 2019’s manifesto, the 68-page document seems to be banging the same drum as that of former president Jacob Zuma.
On reading it, I found myself asking if the ANC has had any success in tackling key issues faced by the people of SA and, if not, what difference will another five years make if the party’s 2019 manifesto does not offer some radical departure from its previous one?
Ramaphosa, whose name has become synonymous with unity and change, has arguably the toughest job ahead if the ANC manages to cling to power.
Let’s look at the biggest hurdles it will have to overcome: The nation is grappling with a stubborn unemployment figure of 27%, with the bulk of this figure made up of youth. Stats SA announced three months ago that youth unemployment had increased to 52.8%.
On Tuesday, credit rating agency Moody’s announced a continued negative outlook for sub-Saharan Africa, adding SA’s “real GDP growth will accelerate to 1.3% in 2019”.
Although this is up from an estimated 0.5% in 2018, it is not very much of an improvement.
Corruption remains the ANC’s biggest demon as the Zondo commission into state capture continues to expose the organisation’s own complicated relationship with the Gupta family. Addressing the hundreds of thousands in attendance at the ANC’s recent 107th anniversary celebrations, Ramaphosa covered all the bases.
And while some may argue that the newest ANC manifesto has all the ingredients needed to cure the party’s chronic illnesses, under a microscope these pledges bear a striking resemblance to those of Zuma, who once addressed party supporters at Mbombela stadium in Nelspruit.
In 2014, Zuma detailed the implementation of a multipronged approach to tackle youth unemployment; this included creating at least six million jobs in five years. Needless to say, the plan failed. Numbers don’t lie, comrades.
“Job creation will be a priority of infrastructure programmes.
“More than 250,000 jobs will be sustained through the construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure and manufacture of local components.
“We will place more focus on catalytic projects in energy, transport, ICT and water,” Zuma said.
Appealing to voter demands, Zuma also pledged a worthy commitment to education and health.
He promised to expand education and training by making Grade R compulsory, as well as to implement the National Health Insurance (NHI) programme through the creation of a publicly funded and publicly administered NHI fund.
A report published by the Centre for Risk Analysis at the Institute of Race Relations in 2018 shows the government has made some significant strides in education.
For instance, preschool enrolment has risen by 270.4% since 2000 and higher education participation rates rose to 18.6% in 2015 from 15.4% in 2002.
But it was back to the drawing board for the health department when parliament shut the door on the ambitious NHI bill to allow time for further work on it.
Fast-forward to 2019 and the new manifesto details a plan to build investment by R1.2trillion over the next four years, creating a publicly led infrastructure fund to build more roads, schools, health facilities, water and sanitation infrastructure, transport networks, ICT systems and energy generation and distribution capacity.
Ramaphosa has already yielded some results in this aspect.
Just weeks after he was sworn in as No1, he formed his dream team of the country’s most respected captains of industry in Trevor Manuel, who was the first finance minister to bridge the gap between workers and management, as well as Mcebisi Jonas and Trudi Makhaya, to name a few.
This led to the announcement of R290bn in investments in less than a year in power.
In his response to the challenge of unemployment, particularly among the youth, the ANC has undertaken to create an extra 275,000 jobs annually.
It says it can do this by boosting local demand for goods, investing more in mining, manufacturing and agriculture and expanding export markets.
Much like Zuma, Ramaphosa speaks of tough measures to tackle corruption.
Expectedly, the party criticised itself for veering off-course.
However, in the same breath, Ramaphosa patted himself on the back for showing the capacity to self-correct.
“We have taken bold steps to confront corruption and state capture and restore the credibility of public institutions.
“Through commissions of inquiry into state capture, the South African Revenue Service [SARS] and the Public Investment Corporation [PIC], we confronted some of the key challenges to good governance and the rule of law.”
A senior research specialist in democracy, governance, and service delivery at the Human Science Research Council, Professor Joleen Steyn Kotze, said a hard lesson the ANC learnt from the 2016 local election was that voters are no longer willing to buy promises.
“They want to see actual change.
“That is going to be the biggest challenge for the ANC – to try and convince the sceptical voter that yes, we have a realistic plan and yes, we will be able to implement it.
“The tricky issue the ANC will have is how Ramaphosa will ensure the accountability of those implicated in state capture while trying to make sure the party remains united.”
The ANC is left with an urgent mission to show that it has indeed “self-corrected” in its national candidates’ list process.
This weekend, the NEC will meet to adopt the final list.
Ramaphosa will have to walk a tightrope – unifying the party, coupled with a show of real commitment towards a corruption-free ANC.
Whether the ANC has done enough to rid itself of corruption remains to be seen...

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