The Unfinished Revolution: Why 2024 Matters

By Zahid Jadwat

Within a year from now, the course of South African history will take a decisive turn. The
The prospect of coalition governance at a national level means that the stakes in 2024 are high.
general election is high, Just how high is something every South African needs to grasp?
South Africa has had uninterrupted ‘free’ and ‘fair’ elections since 1994, when the apartheid
regime was ousted. Yet the mere occurrence of credible elections has not guaranteed the
consolidation of democracy in the past 29 years. While the country may have a free press,
Freedom of expression is widely enjoyed and encouraged, and there are a number of
Chapter 9: Institutions supposedly serving to check the power of government, democratic
Gains remain fragile.

Respect for the rule of law from government officials is scarce. Racial tensions are stoked for
political ends. Public participation in elections is extremely low. The economic conditions
continue to tumble, with the living standards of South Africans in a continued state of
deterioration. Although they exist, institutions to check the power of government are weak.
Consider, for example, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s criticism of Parliament’s inability to
prevent state capture.

The 2024 general election is a critical moment. It might just determine whether the county is
to turn towards further deterioration or towards a robust democracy that would consummate
the 1994 election. There is a strong chance that the ruling African National Congress (ANC)
might not make the cut to continue governing the country after the election, but the
The possibility of its continued control remains. In any credible event, this could either happen or
through a coalition with the radical Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), or the party might just
scrape through. The alternative would be a coalition with the present opposition. In the worst
case, the party might cling to power by outright rejecting the election outcome.

Consider the former option. An ANC-EFF coalition at the national level could be achieved.
assuming the ANC garners at least 45% of the vote. The EFF would then complement this to
make up more than a simple majority that would allow them to co-govern from Pretoria, as
They have been doing this at the municipal level in places like Johannesburg. The Marxist-Leninist
The red berets, led by CIC Julius Malema, would undoubtedly opt into such an arrangement only.
if certain preconditions are met. As kingmakers in coalitions, brief experience teaches us
They demand a lot. A deputy president and several ministers from the EFF are on the cards.
Suppose the ANC were to retain control by scraping through or, worse yet, reject the election.
outcome South Africa would then go down the same road as many other post-independence
African countries since the mid-20th century. Shell-shocked by their miserable performance
In the election, the chiefs at Luthuli House may double down on efforts to consolidate their
grip on the country’s coffers. A range of policies and laws might be implemented in an effort to
to sustain the regime. I am wary that such a suggestion might at first be scoffed at, but the
possibility remains. It becomes all the more conceivable when one considers the readily
overlooked irregularities that tainted the ‘miracle’ 1994 transition.
Believe it or not, the ANC has long been on a mission to consolidate its power in South Africa.
Africa, with the ultimate objective being the creation of a socialist government in Pretoria.

The roots of this effort date way back to the initial Soviet interest in South Africa, when the
The Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) and its later successor, the South African
The Communist Party (SACP) began infiltrating its ranks. The idea was to use the ANC to drive
the National Democratic Revolution (NDR)—the two-staged, most “direct route” to socialism.
This involved the elimination of any credible rival in a post-apartheid South Africa (Azapo,
Inkatha and the likes) before 1994, in a deadly war that cost thousands of lives and is at best
deflected or, at worst, overlooked. With the political aspect of the NDR having been achieved in 1994, the second phase
(restructuring the economy) has been incrementally implemented ever since.

The Constitution was undermined from the get-go when it was negotiated in 1993 that an interim
text would precede a final text to be drawn up after the 1994 election. Significantly, the ANC
and its communist alliance was able to take charge of the process after bagging a
convenient 62% majority in Parliament. This meant they were able to get a lot more out of
the Constitution than they would have been able to during the negotiation period. If they
weren’t able to be out and proud about their socialist aspirations for a post-apartheid South
Africa during negotiations, they could be after an interim Constitution guaranteed them
power through a power-sharing agreement. More drastic, yet subtle, changes favoring the
The NDR could be woven into the final Constitution later on. Incremental steps.

The ANC in government has subsequently also taken strides to centralize power in a
national government, helping it achieve NDR aims. It has stubbornly resisted devolution.
of powers like policing and public transport to provincial governments, who are better-placed
to understand the needs and dynamics of local communities. The electoral system facilitates
scarce accountability as the public does not directly elect the head of state; Parliament does
So far, an ANC majority in those chambers has done little to prevent corruption and other
abuses of power.

Furthermore, and more recently, the party has even shown keen interest in rewriting the
Constitution to permit land expropriation without compensation. It has pushed for drastic
laws, such as the Expropriation Bill and the National Health Insurance Bill, both of which are
in the concluding stages The number of people dependent on social grants has grown by leaps and bounds.
and bounds since 1994, enabling President Cyril Ramaphosa to triumphantly declare at
Narec 2.0 says that “almost 46% of South Africans… receive social grants”. All of these bring
them closer to achieving a socialist state.

This is precisely what makes the 2024 election an important and decisive moment in our
country’s history. The continuation of ANC rule in whatever mode would lend a lifeline extension to the NDR.
project, marching the nation ever closer to a socialist reality. More people will become
dependent on the state for social security as corporations rush out of the country. Draconian
Laws will be passed, becoming more extractive over the years. On the other hand, an
A victory by the opposition, even if it’s through a coalition, would send a rude awakening to the
ANC. It would reassure South Africans that democracy has not been weakened enough to
ensure interminable ANC rule.

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