30 June 2017

South Africa: ANC Social Transformation Policy - a Critical Analysis

Photo: allafrica.com
Left: Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Right: Former African Union Chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
analysis

The primary cornerstones of social transformation include nation building and social cohesion, sports and recreation, social development, water and sanitation, as well as adequate housing.

Despite the progress that's been made in addressing the socio-economic challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality in South Africa, various studies have warned that the levels of this triplicity remain unsustainably high. Social transformation efforts should contribute to resolving these problems.

From 30 June-5 July 2017, the ANC will review the progress made on policy commitments that were made at the 53rd national conference in 2012. It is also when the party will make resolutions on the direction it will take, going forward. The Social Transformation discussion document is based on developing the social dynamics of South Africa, in order to build a more cohesive and united society.

Nation building and social cohesion are significantly important considering the country's past of racial exclusion and segregation which fed into and entrenched class and gender divisions in South Africa. Social cohesion should, therefore, endeavour to address all these problems simultaneously. However, it is also important to reflect that social cohesion is contingent upon reconciliation.

The ANC's current conceptualisation does not express any comprehension of the fact that true reconciliation can never be fully achieved in the absence of economic equality where wealth redistribution is a necessary cog in the architecture of reconciliation. Evidence of this can be found on page 2 of the Social Transformation document, whereby it states the various ways in which the party will achieve an integrated and coordinated system, without making mention of how it plans to achieve economic equality.

Reconciliation efforts, therefore, continue to be premised on symbolic grounds, rather than substantive ones. Modern manifestations of racism no longer embed themselves purely on the notion of colour, but have significantly interjected its mode of exclusion and oppression based on the intersection of colour and class hierarchies. Consequently, the most appropriate means of combating racism, promote nation building and social cohesion is through the redistribution of wealth that benefits all.

Another silence in the Social Transformation document, is that it makes no mention of how the ANC plans to deal with issues relating to xenophobia. Rather, the ANC only speaks about xenophobia on page 20 of the Peace and Stability policy document, on migration control measures, reflecting the ANC's conceptualisation of the problem of xenophobia as a security problem, rather than as an issue of human rights. One in which xenophobia is viewed as a social construct that needs to be dealt with differently from simply treating it as a peace and security, or policing and risk problem.

But in its own pursuit of a peace and security agenda, the ANC is blind to the reality of its own internal divisions and contradictions, where in its factional contest for power in a context of deep divisions, the violent and sometimes murderous political culture, has seen internal contests turn violent, to an extent that politicians have resorted to killing each other for political positions.

For instance, in the lead up to the 2016 municipal elections, no less than 25 deaths of potential councillors from the ANC were recorded, with branch members and leaders confirming that the deaths were attributable to internal contests. An internal culture of political maturity and political tolerance is likely to have a more marked effect at efforts promoting peace and stability in society.

In addition, the policy document has committed itself to invest more resources towards sports facilities and infrastructure as it is viewed as a unifying activity bringing ordinary South Africans together. In this vein it is worthwhile to ask whether South Africa has not missed an opportunity in persisting with efforts to host the 2022 Olympic Games meant to be held in Durban.

Could the 2022 Olympic Games not have been the perfect opportunity to invest more in sports infrastructure, as stated in the policy document on social transformation? The 2022 Olympic Games might have been the precise platform to charge spectators an extra 5% levy on tickets, as a revenue raising exercise rather than charging a 5% levy to watch local tournaments. This is a curious proposal that may inhibit rather than encourage attendance at sports matches due to the increased cost.

In terms of women's empowerment, the ANC has failed to highlight how it plans to deal with the daily atrocities committed against women in our society. Appalling cases of domestic violence have become more prevalent, violent and prominent over the past two years in South Africa. In light of the high rate of crimes against women, the ANC should consider the establishment of specialised police units and courts specifically dedicated to dealing with cases of domestic violence and rape.

As far as social welfare is concerned, the ANC justifiably prides itself on the fact that it has established the largest social welfare state in sub Saharan Africa. In addition to the extension of basic services, No- fee schools and an extensive grants payment system, it has also built a large number of RDP houses and social housing projects. This has enabled a sense of dependency by citizens as seen in often violent protests for free houses.

While social protections and a caring welfare state is necessary, a balance has to be struck through policies that encourage greater agency, less reliability and dependability upon government. One measure in this regard may be accommodating the "missing middle class", comprised of people who are perceived as being too wealthy to qualify for free RDP housing, but too poor to afford bonded housing. Thus financial sector reforms should include regulating banks to offer prudent products that extend a helping hand to this class of person to afford housing - by reconfiguring the risk profile and qualifying criteria for bank and loan support.

Finally, initiatives like the National Minimum Wage and the National Health Insurance are positive social measures that will support social transformation. However, the inception of these policies must ensure that where state scope is increased in areas that can effect social change, then state strength and state capacity must also be enhanced so that there is efficiency and tangible results. The current dysfunctionality in the State can be proved to be counter-productive to a well-intentioned social transformation initiative.

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