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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

“Shedding New Light on the Historical Development of the ANC” – The Congress Movement reviewed in The Journal of Southern African Studies

The Congress Movement Volume 1The Congress Movement Volume 2The Congress Movement Volume 3

 
Tom Lodge of the University of Limerick has written a review of The Congress Movement for The Journal of Southern African Studies.

The piece is titled “Shedding New Light on the Historical Development of the ANC” and focuses on all three volumes in Sylvia Neame’s series.

HSRC Press has shared an excerpt from the review with Books LIVE:

Sylvia Neame’s core argument is that South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC) developed historically as a front or, as its own name would suggest, as a congress, not a political party. She draws her distinction between congresses and parties from Thomas Hodgkin’s pioneering book about African nationalism. Hodgkin, writing in the 1950s, maintained that congresses differed from parties in three ways. First, unlike parties they actively seek to represent total populations, to embody the national will. Secondly, they are not usually centralised organisations, but rather looser ‘amalgams’ of local and functional bodies. Thirdly, unlike parties, which are generally organised to compete against other parties in an electoral arena, congresses have an ultimately more ambitious or ‘aggressive’ strategy, directed at systemic change, and they employ a wide range of ‘techniques of popular pressure’. In failing to recognise this distinction, she maintains, earlier treatments of the ANC misrepresent the compulsions that prompted its historical development.

Neame borrows her conceptual distinction between parties and congresses from Hodgkin, but she builds upon his ideas. Neame, for example suggests that congresses ‘arise typically in situations in which the modern classes of the bourgeoisie and the working class have not been able to reach maturity’ (Volume 1, p. 2) and hence have been unable to develop their own narrower organisations. Hodgkin’s argument does, in fact, suggests that congresses break up quite quickly into parties – that in West Africa the formation of more sectional partylike organisations did not await the development of industrial classes. Hodgkin’s distinction is mainly about organisational structure, whereas Neame suggests that, at times, congresses themselves can be quite centralised organisations without losing their distinctive character. What is especially characteristic of congresses, she insists, is that they have a ‘non-class’ orientation, which predisposes them towards consensual politics. In the colonial settings in which they emerge, congresses are, ideologically speaking, movements of a ‘bourgeois-democratic type’. By this she means not that they promote bourgeois class interests (1, p. xxv) but rather that they strive for the rights associated with bourgeois democracy. In their efforts to incorporate a mass following, sometimes these rights may extend beyond individual liberties. In South Africa, she suggests, quite early in its history, the ANC could project at times a ‘kind of non-class-cum-left bourgeois-democratism’ (1, p. xx), and indeed, by the end of her history, this more ‘radical mass’ (1, p. xv) orientation had become its default predisposition – structurally determined, as it were. But even in the 1920s, the ANC leader Zacharius Mahabane’s combination of ‘bourgeois-democratism’ with African nationalism enabled him to grasp ‘the importance of worker organisation, though not in a class but rather in a civil rights sense’ (1, pp. 116–17).

These propositions do indeed prompt a fresh reading of the ANC’s history. Neame’s first volume focuses on developments between 1917 and mid 1926, a period that begins with black workers’ protests on the Witwatersrand in 1917 and ends with the Industrial and Commercial Workers’ Union (ICU) moving its headquarters to Johannesburg, and, in so doing, decisively joining ‘an unfolding African nationalist movement, standing at the side of the ANC’ (1, p. 506).

Not geared to the conquering of state power (1, p. 18), Neame maintains, congresses’ own embodiment of an alliance or a united front predisposes them to a politics of negotiation with the government. Hence from an early stage in its history ‘the “round table” and national convention found a key place in the conceptions put forward by the ANC’ (1, p. xvii). Mahabane’s proposal in 1923 for a constitutional convention, and his bill of rights, put the ANC on a strategic pathway that it adhered to through its history. As she puts it, ‘by 1923, the ANC had found its political location, which it was to maintain effectively from then on’ (1, p. xxi), a location that would generally confine it to performing a particular ‘historical function’ (1, p. 11).

Given this orientation, the ANC leaders, including ICU principals, paid considerable attention to the political opportunities engendered by the ‘national framework’ of the state’s high politics, attempting to seek influence and alliances within this setting. In the 1920s, they did this at a time in which ruling group’s policy preferences remained inchoate: in particular, prime minister Herzog’s uncertainties about the developmental path South Africa should follow shaped the ‘vacillations’ in the strategic thinking by African leaders in the mid 1920s (1, p. 420). Because at this juncture, before 1926, Herzog was prepared to ‘take into account’ (1, p. 379) the views of ‘black Africanders’ (1, p. 265), both ICU and ANC leaders were ready to call on African voters to support the Pact coalition of Afrikaner nationalists and the Labour Party in the 1924 election. The structural looseness of this era was also evident in the behaviour of white labour. In her commentary on the 1922 strike, Neame argues that ‘white workers were not yet incorporated’, and that the ‘relationship between white and black was still largely open ended’. Even after the strike, possibilities remained for ‘the emergence of a united front between white and black’ against ‘big finance’ and mining capital (1, p. 244). A more competitive capitalist development oriented to domestic consumption, favoured at that time by the forces lining up behind Herzog, might have opened up opportunities for black political leverage, Neame suggests. In this setting, the ANC’s promotion of consensual politics was cannier than it is usually depicted.

The narrative in Volume 1 is mainly directed at unfolding the development of the ICU, which Neame insists should be considered as ‘a wing of the ANC itself’, notwithstanding its organisational autonomy. That was how it was perceived by its own leaders and the ANC’s, with the latter body viewing the ICU’s Clement Kadalie as a kind of ‘departmental head’ (1, p. 440). In fact, though, as she shows, through its early history the ICU was divided in its orientation and, as she later concedes, ‘existed in part outside the framework of nationalism’ (2, p. 12). Originating in the Cape and finding its base among relatively skilled and partially enfranchised black and coloured dockworkers, the ICU’s Cape-based leadership sought to build a ‘radical democratic’ workers’ organisation, resisting the ‘African nationalist thrust’ of Kadalie and Transvaal-based leaders, an ideology that would increasingly resonate with the ICU’s membership on the Rand, a constituency of migrant labourers and domestic workers, ‘“blanket Kaffirs” on the mine and farms’ (1, p. 511). The enlistment of this group as the mass base for African nationalism, she argues, was the ICU’s most important achievement, an achievement underrated by treatments of the ICU that underplay its urban activities, she thinks. It was important, she argues, because, in bringing to the ANC a popular constituency, it helped to counter-balance the influence on its leadership of a conservative right wing that might otherwise have enmeshed the ANC into narrow sectional ‘petit bourgeois’ reformism. Kadalie’s own background, Neame maintains, helped to foster egalitarian predispositions that made him stand out from the offspring of rural proprietors who generally predominated in Congress leadership, and he would retain ‘reservations about African nationalism’, despite the ICU’s ‘gravitation’ towards the ANC (2, p. 12). Neame is able to argue this with considerable authority, drawing upon her interviews conducted nearly 50 years ago with Kadalie’s contemporaries; in particular, she underlines the importance of Presbyterian evangelicalism in nurturing his outlook (1, p. 127). In contrast to historiography that projects the early ANC as an ‘elite or middle class organisation’, Neame maintains, the ANC, through the ICU, really did function as a mass movement for much of the 1920s.

The already stately chronology becomes very gradual indeed in the second volume. This is almost wholly focused on the ICU’s development between 1926 and 1929. Treatment of the ANC is quite cursory by comparison. For example, both organisations held important conferences in 1927. The ANC meeting in July elected J.T. Gumede, freshly returned from Moscow, and for a while appeared poised to shift leftwards. This event is discussed in a short paragraph. By contrast, the ICU’s conference that same year, interesting chiefly because of what it did not do, receives a 17-page analysis. Indeed the first three chapters, nearly half the volume, are about the ICU’s ‘vacillations’ as it is pulled towards ‘reformist’ moderation by the ‘Rand-based liberalism’ (2, p. 7) of the multiracial Joint Council movement and anti-Communist British social democracy. Just why these agencies were able to exercise such compelling influences in the late 1920s was a reflection of the way in which Herzog’s government oscillated between different interest groups. Until 1929, Neame explains, when he decisively shifted his strategic orientation ‘away from the small men of the towns to the farming community’ (2, p. 2), prospects remained for a ‘reform type trajectory’ as ‘even Herzog had not gone over to the camp of reaction’ (2, p. 101).

This setting helps to explain the ICU’s expulsion in 1927 of the 100 or so communists who had joined it, despite the apparently friendly relations the ICU’s leadership maintained with the Communist Party (CP), which indeed printed its newspaper for free. Expelling the communists was partly a reaction to the discontent within the ICU’s Johannesburg following over Kadalie’s venality: the ICU communists were concentrated in Johannesburg. But really, even without such sources of irritation, the ICU/CP break was inevitable. The party, itself undergoing ‘bolshevisation’, wanted the ICU to be something that it could not be: a structured workers’ entity. In resisting such prescriptions, Neame suggests, ICU leaders were more in tune with ‘actual historical conditions’ (2, p. 207), which favoured rather the ‘essential spontaneity of mass movement’ (2, p. 205).

This ‘essential spontaneity’ of the organisation’s following is very evident in Chapters 4 and 5 of Volume 2, when the organisation’s efforts to extend its support among farm workers triggered a near insurrectionary revolt among sharecroppers and labour tenants. The ICU’s rural agents tended to view these people as ‘workers not peasants’, misunderstanding their defensive resistance to the changes introduced by government and the farmers themselves. Neame’s argument was that this was not a proto-proletarian revolt but rather a ‘struggle for the land’, which was ‘directed against the consolidation of a modern capitalist segregation system’. In parts of Natal, in those areas adjacent to the Zulu reserves, the threat ‘to the existential basis of the tribe was a key to participation’ (2, p. 359). At the same time, though, it was hardly traditionalist, given the antipathy between the rebels and the senior chiefs (2, p. 348). Neame suggests that Kadalie, in his own egalitarian and communalist conception of ideal land relations, was intuitively closer to understanding its spirit than both the ANC’s sometimes ‘relatively substantial landowners’ (2, p. 396) and communist land nationalisers (2, p. 317).

The movement varied regionally, though, in its following and aspirations, and here Neame relies heavily on Helen Bradford’s work, though she is critical of Bradford’s assignment to the movement of ‘a certain socialist-cum-“class” colouring’ (1, p. 12), a misunderstanding, she insists, of its ‘historical function’ (1, p. 11). To be sure, the ICU’s rural mobilisation was radical, but it was ‘essential[ly] nationalist’, syndicalist maybe, but not really socialist. And in
the absence of any co-ordinated organisational framework, it fragmented quickly into personal fiefdoms, most tellingly in the Natal Midlands, where its networks became incorporated into the land purchase schemes launched by Kadalie’s powerful deputy, A.W. Champion. Kadalie’s visit to Europe in 1927 supplied the opportunity that Champion needed to try to impose upon the ICU his own ‘shopkeeper perspective’ (2, p. 402), a predisposition that put him at odds with the conservative ‘Kholwa’ gentry, who predominated in the provincial ANC, and with the promoters of any ‘radical democratic type of peasant democracy’. Neame’s treatment of Champion is an especially telling instance of her skilful incorporation into her argument of richly rendered biographical analysis of big men. ‘Historical personalities’ merit such attention when the social forces that shape movements are inchoate, she suggests, for in such settings they can exercise decisive influence (1, p. 17). But really, as she acknowledges, the ICU’s tragedy was predetermined by bigger considerations than the behaviour of its leaders, and its main achievement, she believes, was to serve as a historical signpost, its mythologised memory inspiring future mass rebellions of ‘an African nationalist kind’ (2, p. 535).

At that stage, though, any efforts at mass rebellions were being instigated by communists, not nationalists. In contrast to earlier analyses, Neame is less critical of Comintern’s treatment of the South African Communist Party leadership. It was ‘correct’, she thinks, for Moscow’s officials to emphasise the necessity for communists to work within the ANC and for Comintern to order the dissolution of the League of African Rights, which Bunting and his supporters viewed as a substitute for Congress. On the other hand, Comintern also fostered a ‘sectarianism’, which had the effect of alienating the Congress ‘centre’ and strengthening its right wing. The party’s alliance with the ANC’s president, J.T. Gumede, had the effect of ‘disembowelling’ the movement (3, p. 20). Any ‘provocatively radical’ (3, p. 43) efforts to construct a militant united front with the ANC were premature and failed ‘sufficiently to take into account the actual relation of forces’ (3, p. 43) within Congress. From 1930, in a broader political context in which the reduction of liberal space (3, p. 62) helped to weaken the Congress centre, conservative leadership would throw the movement ‘out of balance’ (3, p. 45). Under Seme’s presidency, predisposed to courtship of what Seme called the ‘ruling nobles’ (3, p. 67), the ANC ‘ceased to function as a national political body’ (3, p. 88) – indeed Sylvia Neame struggles through the 1930s to find much evidence of any ANC activity at all. She does discern a surprisingly wide spectrum of Congress politicians (3, p. 60) engaged in land purchases, a disposition that may have been encouraged by the ANC’s ‘strong tendency’ to ‘function within’ the terms of the 1936 land and franchise legislation (3, p. 122). In effect, through this decade the ANC made little progress in ‘establish[ing] its historic claim to leadership of the African people’ (3, p. 128).

Neame’s treatment of Alfred Xuma’s presidency is more favourable. She views the ANC’s adoption of the Atlantic Charter as a welcome return to ‘left wing bourgeois democratism’ (3, p. 164), and she believes that Xuma’s constitutional reforms facilitated the ANC’s later transformation into a popular movement in the 1950s. Xuma’s dislike of mass militancy was shared quite widely within Congress leadership – through the war, Congress centrists still believed that white liberals in politics and industry supplied pressure for reform, and indeed liberal agencies provided the ANC with funding. In a setting in which many communists preferred to ‘bypass the task of African national liberation’ (3, p. 299), Neame suggests that Xuma’s ‘basic anti-communism’ was explicable. She herself is critical of the party in this period, acknowledging that its leadership was ‘caught on the wrong foot’ (3, p. 206) by the mineworkers’ strike. She also supplies an illuminating discussion of the party’s disagreements about how black trade unions should be organised.

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The struggle in South Africa is the most important battle of the century for Black people – Assata Shakur

AssataAssata Shakur is a founding member of the Black Liberation Army, a former Black Panther, the godmother of Tupac Shakur, and the first ever woman to make the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list.

In 2013, Shakur was tried and convicted for the murder of a white state trooper in 1973. Her case became emblematic of race relations and police brutality.

Some label her a ruthless killer, others cite her as the victim of a systematic campaign to suppress black nationalist organisations.

Shakur’s biography, Assata: The FBI’s most wanted woman, was first published in 1987, and released in a new edition last year, with a South African introduction by William Gumede.

Read an excerpt:

Freedom. I couldn’t believe that it had really happened, that the nightmare was over, that finally the dream had come true. I was elated. Ecstatic. But i was completely disoriented. Everything was the same, yet everything was different. All of my reactions were super-intense. I submerged myself in patterns and textures, sucking in smells and sounds as if each day was my last. I felt like a voyeur. I forced myself not to stare at the people whose conversations i strained to overhear.

Suddenly, i was flooded with the horrors of prison and every disgusting experience that somehow i had been able to minimize while inside. I had developed the ability to be patient, calculating, and completely self-controlled. For the most part, i had been incapable of crying. I felt rigid, as though chunks of steel and concrete had worked themselves into my body. I was cold. I strained to touch my softness. I was afraid that prison had made me ugly.

My comrades helped a lot. They were so beautiful, natural, and healthy. I loved them for their kindness to me. It had been years since i had communicated with anyone intensely, and i talked to them almost compulsively. They were like medicine, helping me to ease back into myself again.

But i had changed, and in so many ways. I was no longer the wide-eyed, romantic young revolutionary who believed the revolution was just around the corner. I still appreciated energetic idealism, but i had long ago become convinced that revolution was a science. Generalities were no longer enough for me. Like my comrades, I believed that a higher level of political sophistication was necessary and that unity in the Black community had to become a priority. We could never afford to forget the lessons we had learned from COINTELPRO. As far as i was concerned, building a sense of national consciousness was one of the most important tasks that lay
ahead of us. I couldn’t see how we could seriously struggle without having a strong sense of collectivity, without being responsible for each other and to each other.

It was also clear to me that without a truly internationalist component nationalism was reactionary. There was nothing revolutionary about nationalism by itself – Hitler and Mussolini were nationalists. Any community seriously concerned with its own freedom has to be concerned about other peoples’ freedom as well. The victory of oppressed people anywhere in the world is a victory for Black people. Each time one of imperialism’s tentacles is cut off we are closer to liberation. The struggle in South Africa is the most important battle of the century for Black people. The defeat of apartheid in South Africa will bring Africans all over the planet closer to liberation. Imperialism is an international system of exploitation, and, we, as revolutionaries, need to be internationalists to defeat it.

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Two-day State of the Nation debate begins today, Eastern Cape on the agenda

State of the Nation: South Africa 2012–2013State of the Nation: South Africa 1994-2014State of the Nation 2016Members of Parliament from both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces will this week participate in a two-day debate on President Jacob Zuma’s 2016 State of the Nation Address delivered last week.

The debate will be held in the National Assembly Chamber on Tuesday and Wednesday‚ followed by the President’s reply on Thursday.

Event Details

  • Date: Tuesday, 16 February and Wednesday, 17 February 2016
  • Venue: National Assembly Chamber

“The needs of the Eastern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay” will feature early on in today’s debate, according to the Democratic Alliance’s mayoral candidate for the metro‚ Athol Trollip.

Trollip said he will raise these – and the African National Congress’ “ongoing neglect of this beautiful part of South Africa” – when he takes the podium in the National Assembly.

Trollip on Tuesday morning announced that he has got a good slot and “will be the second speaker for the DA‚ after federal leader‚ Mmusi Maimane”.

“In last Thursday’s State of the Nation Address‚ President (Jacob) Zuma provided no hope to the 8.3-million jobless South Africans‚ and neglected to account for his government’s failure to create jobs and grow the economy.”

“In all of Trollip’s interactions with thousands of residents of the Eastern Cape‚ and particularly Nelson Mandela Bay‚ the call is clear: Jobs are desperately needed‚ crime must be combatted and services must be delivered‚” a statement said.

“Yet President Zuma said nothing that will give our people any hope of jobs‚ safety and services.”

Source: TMG Digital

Related news:

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  • State of the Nation 2016: Who is in Charge? Mandates, Accountability and Contestations in South Africa edited by Daniel Plaatjies, Charles Hongoro, Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Muxe Nkondo, Francis Nyamnjoh
    EAN: 9780796925138
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!
  • State of the Nation: South Africa 1994-2014: A twenty-year review of freedom and democracy by Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Muxe Nkondo, Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, Moses Sithole, Francis Nyamnjoh
    Book homepage
    EAN: 9780796924612
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!
  • State of the Nation: South Africa 2012–2013: Addressing Inequality and Poverty edited by Jonathan D Jansen, Francis Nyamnjoh, Udesh Pillay, Gerard Hagg
    EAN: 9780796924223
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

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Presidency tweets last year’s ’9 point plan’ ahead of the State of the Nation Address

State of the NationState of the Nation: South Africa 2012–2013State of the Nation: South Africa 1994-2014State of the Nation 2016

 

Critics who said they will give Thursday night’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) a miss because they’ve “heard it all before” would probably use the Presidency’s Twitter account as proof that they were right.

Shortly before noon‚ the official Twitter account of the Presidency, @PresidencyZA, let them hear it all again – in all of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

It tweeted details of the speech and attached a flyer containing the bullet points of “Government’s 9 point plan to grow the economy & create jobs” in each of the tongues‚ rounded off with the “#SONA2016” hashtag.

President Jacob Zuma announced the “nine-point plan to boost economic growth and create much-needed jobs” during the 2015 edition of his State of the National Address.

The nine points are:

1. Resolving the energy challenge
2. Revitalising agriculture and the agro-processing value chain
3. Advancing beneficiation or adding value to the mineral wealth
4. More effective implementation of a higher impact Industrial Action Policy Action Plan (IPAP)
5. Encouraging private-sector investment
6. Moderating workplace conflict
7. Unlocking the potential of SMMEs‚ cooperatives‚ townships and rural enterprises
8. State reform and boosting the role of state-owned companies‚ information and communications technology infrastructure or broadband roll-out‚ water‚ sanitation and transport infrastructure
9. Operation Phakisa‚ which is aimed at growing the ocean economy and other sectors

While political commentators have said this would be Zuma’s hardest Sona yet‚ the Presidency on Wednesday tweeted a photo with the caption: “President Zuma has high tea with some of his special guests who are invited to the SoNA taking place 2moro #SONA2016”.

Source: TMG Digital

 
Related stories:

Book details

  • State of the Nation: South Africa 2012–2013: Addressing Inequality and Poverty edited by Jonathan D Jansen, Francis Nyamnjoh, Udesh Pillay, Gerard Hagg
    EAN: 9780796924223
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!
  • State of the Nation: South Africa 1994-2014: A twenty-year review of freedom and democracy by Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Muxe Nkondo, Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, Moses Sithole, Francis Nyamnjoh
    Book homepage
    EAN: 9780796924612
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!
  • State of the Nation 2016: Who is in Charge? Mandates, Accountability and Contestations in South Africa edited by Daniel Plaatjies, Charles Hongoro, Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Muxe Nkondo, Francis Nyamnjoh
    EAN: 9780796925138
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

‘Street trading is a reality that all African cities face’ – Claire Benit-Gbaffou of CUBES

Popular Politics in SA CitiesGreg Nicolson of the Daily Maverick interviewed Claire Benit-Gbaffou recently about the informal street trading charter.

The Charter For a Street-Trading Friendly African City was launched by the Save the Hawkers campaign at the Africities Summit at the end of November.

Benit-Gbaffou is a professor in the Wits’ Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies (CUBES) and the author of Popular Politics in SA Cities: Unpacking Community Participation, published recently by HSRC Press.

In 2013, Johannesburg initiated Operation Clean Sweep, during which police evicted 7 000 street traders. It was this action that prompted Save the Hawkers to launch the informal street trading charter.

“Street trading is a reality that all African cities face, but very few take seriously,” Benit-Gbaffou says.

Read the interview:

Why was it necessary to draft such a charter?

The main objective of the charter is to demonstrate, through quite practical and simple steps (based on international ‘best practices’ as well as lessons from Johannesburg street traders practices and experiences in particular), that inclusive street trading management is actually possible. Many officials tend to dismiss any attempt to accommodate and integrate street trading in inner-cities on the basis that street trading management is ‘intractable’. That was the motivation behind Operation Clean Sweep – ‘it is unmanageable’, let us ‘clean sweep’ – but also behind policies conducted since the late 1990s: ‘let us clean the streets and put all traders into markets’, which we know from global experience cannot work for all traders. So, the charter is bringing together what we could learn from mistakes, from street traders’ own initiatives, from other municipalities’ initiatives, on what are concrete steps that would make street trading management possible, inclusive, sustainable.

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Challenging State of the Nation for President Zuma

Commentary by Peter Attard Montalto‚ Emerging Markets Economist at Nomura

State of the Nation 2016State of the Nation: South Africa 1994-2014State of the Nation: South Africa 2012–2013The State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Jacob Zuma on 11 February is actually more important in our view than the Budget on 24 February. We watch closely – as will rating agencies – to see the broader scope of policies on issues affecting growth and the investment environment.

After possible protests and disruption from opposition parties‚ we expect a broadly left-leaning speech in terms of policy specifics outside “National Treasury areas” but then a concerted and conservative segment on fiscal consolidation‚ possible hints at tax increases‚ parastatal management and investments.

We expect no major surprise policies or any major growth-boosting policies to reassure rating agencies – despite rhetoric about doing everything to secure the rating.

Markets still don’t fully grasp that rating agencies (and especially S&P) look set to downgrade South Africa in the medium run to sub-investment grade‚ not because of the budget per se but because of the lack of growth prospects and investment-friendly environment‚ which in turn throws up medium-run budget risks. For this reason we have always said that it is not fiscal policy that will be to blame for the sovereign reaching junk status but the government and the rest of policy – especially microeconomic policy.

After the political shock of three Finance Ministers in two weeks in December‚ opening Pandora’s box‚ a key question has arisen as to the political power of the new (old) Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. For this reason we see President Zuma’s SONA next week as more important than the budget later this month.

The SONA can be thought of in three sections: first, non-economic policy that is less important to markets (defence‚ foreign policy‚ environmental issues)‚ second, National Treasury competency policy (fiscal‚ funding of various initiatives‚ parastatals to a degree‚ financial policy) and then wider economic or fiscal-impacting policy (industrial policy‚ labour policies‚ health care/NHI‚ education/fees‚ land reform‚ BEE issues).

The key question is how much influence can the political changes of December and Gordhan’s move back to the National Treasury have on this latter group of policy issues. We are highly sceptical on this point. We believe that Gordhan is having considerable influence on parastatals and issues like modalities of funding for education‚ but not on core issues like labour market reforms (an area he doesn’t believe needs altering anyway) or being able to prevent a high level national minimum wage. Put simply‚ we don’t believe he is having a great effect on growth-boosting policy areas and the political scope of National Treasury actions remains narrow.

However‚ we do believe that on (re-)taking the job he did extract some conditionality on fiscal and parastatals which will come out in the SONA – again hence its importance.

As such we expect the SONA (as indeed the whole of February) to suffer from a strong amount of cognitive dissonance. This should have two key parts‚ some left-leaning policy moves designed to help garner support into the local elections and to 2019 beyond; and then a core conservative “National Treasury” message on fiscal and parastatals as well as long-term investment and private funding of areas like education.

The SONA is also important because it should contain a number of strong hints about the budget to come‚ possibly including on the revenue side (though we don’t think it will be specific enough as to say yes or no on‚ say‚ VAT hikes).

We see cognitive dissonance because we see the SONA saying government is doing everything to boost growth and avoid entering sub-investment grade‚ but at the same time talking about accelerated land reform‚ minimum wage and more direct government involvement in the economy. We should remember we have already had an appetiser to this SONA with President Zuma’s 8 January ANC anniversary address and interviews.

Market expectations have been greatly inflated by the government since the start of the year and we think it will be difficult to meet them. Locals appear more willing to look for whatever positives they can‚ but foreign investors may well be more sceptical.

Our expectations of the SONA:

  • We expect both EFF and DA to launch protest action within the chamber against President Zuma just as he is called to give the SONA. This occurred at the SONA last year and resulted in first the EFF being escorted from the chamber by armed‚ plain-clothed security guards and then the DA leaving in protest. Protest action will likely revolve around opposition parties’ no-confidence in Zuma and the issue of Nkandla (even though the President is now open to some form of repayment). This may well delay proceedings though it seems new rules on how members of parliament can be ejected may reduce the length of any disruption. We doubt very much that the parliamentary authorities would again try to block mobile phone signals after the uproar and embarrassment that action caused last year.
  • When the speech does start it will likely have two central‚ conflicting‚ themes.
  • The first is what President Zuma has spoken about increasingly in recent months – correcting “300 years of inequality”. We expect rebalance and redress to feature strongly‚ while land reform‚ BEE changes and quotas will feature. Access to higher education and the minimum wage also falls within this area.
  • The second theme is the tough economic backdrop‚ averting sub-investment grade‚ fiscal conservatism and boosting growth. We think it will be particularly hard to find substance in this section of the speech‚ though it will most likely pre-commit to spending freezes in real terms‚ likely promising to prioritise investment spending over current spending (but we don’t think the budget will actually show that) and talk about stabilising debt levels. We expect only marginal focus on any of South Africa’s economic issues being largely home-grown‚ instead concentrating on a weak global backdrop and volatile capital flows with the Fed hiking rates. As such‚ we see an “admission of guilt” (personal or for government) as highly unlikely‚ and expect no mention at all of the events of December. However‚ it will be interesting to see how the President responds to these issues if they are put specifically to him in questions next week in parliament. We watch for any subtle attacks on markets or rating agencies for what happened in December (as the President did in recent TV interviews).

 
We watch for any specific promises on:

  • National Minimum Wage (NMW) timelines for legislation.
  • Progress and timelines regarding legalisation on mining‚ expropriations and new land reform processes‚ as well as any further reforms proposed to BEE and quota systems to advance historic redress.
  • Higher education funding should take up a serious chunk of the speech and we expect some further “giveaways” on fees‚ possibly extending the freeze for more years though we think government is unlikely to propose any zero-fee policy at this time. Reform of the student finance body to create a PPP (public private partnership) with private money to fund it and run it may be announced and would be welcome.
  • We think privatisations will not be mentioned but reform of parastatal management to bring in private sector talent could well be. However‚ we are sceptical on this point given the politicisation of boards.
  • Very long-term infrastructure spending on water may be a focus.
  • The President may well shift into “sales mode” on NHI given VAT hikes to come possibly in the budget‚ which is only really politically acceptable against NHI.

 
Overall‚ it is difficult for markets to interpret the SONA given its complex and wide-reaching content‚ contrasting themes and timing‚ after market hours. Watch through a ratings and growth lens – that is how the ratings agencies will be analysing it.

Source: TMG Digital/TMG Parliamentary Bureau
 

* * * * *

 

The 2016 State of the Nation speech at parliament is expected to begin at approximately 7pm on Thursday February 11 and will be televised.

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  • State of the Nation 2016: Who is in Charge? Mandates, Accountability and Contestations in South Africa edited by Daniel Plaatjies, Charles Hongoro, Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Muxe Nkondo, Francis Nyamnjoh
    EAN: 9780796925138
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  • State of the Nation: South Africa 1994-2014: A twenty-year review of freedom and democracy by Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Muxe Nkondo, Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, Moses Sithole, Francis Nyamnjoh
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    EAN: 9780796924612
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  • State of the Nation: South Africa 2012–2013: Addressing Inequality and Poverty edited by Jonathan D Jansen, Francis Nyamnjoh, Udesh Pillay, Gerard Hagg
    EAN: 9780796924223
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Save the date – it’s almost time for the 2016 State of the Nation Address

State of the NationState of the Nation: South Africa 2012–2013State of the Nation: South Africa 1994-2014State of the Nation 2016

 
It’s almost time for the 2016 State of the Nation Address (SONA).

Read previous SONA speeches by visiting the South African Government website:

The State of the Nation Address, at the annual opening of Parliament, is an address to the nation by the President of the Republic of South Africa. The President addresses a joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament, the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). It focuses on the current political and socio-economic state of the nation.

 
Last year’s SONA created quite a hype, and led us into quite an eventful year. Be be sure to tune in on Thursday, 11 February, at 7 PM to hear what the President has to say this year and keep up with the conversation.

According to the parliamentary programme, the annual debate on the President’s SONA will take place from 16 – 17 February, with his reply to be heard on 18 February, so mark those dates on your calendar too!

Various broadcasters will be streaming the SONA and related events live, including:

 

Book details

  • State of the Nation: South Africa 2012–2013: Addressing Inequality and Poverty edited by Jonathan D Jansen, Francis Nyamnjoh, Udesh Pillay, Gerard Hagg
    EAN: 9780796924223
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!
  • State of the Nation: South Africa 1994-2014: A twenty-year review of freedom and democracy by Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Muxe Nkondo, Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, Moses Sithole, Francis Nyamnjoh
    Book homepage
    EAN: 9780796924612
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!
  • State of the Nation 2016: Who is in Charge? Mandates, Accountability and Contestations in South Africa edited by Daniel Plaatjies, Charles Hongoro, Margaret Chitiga-Mabugu, Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Muxe Nkondo, Francis Nyamnjoh
    EAN: 9780796925138
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

» read article

Cosatu calls for comprehensive investigation into South African maize price manipulation

COSATU's Contested LegacyIn a statement published on their website, Cosatu has demanded that maize price manipulators be jailed.

Cosatu provincial secretary in the Western Cape Tony Ehrenreich says that traders are using the ongoing drought, reportedly the worst in over a century, to manipulate maize prices and unjustly raise prices. A call has been made for a comprehensive investigation and for “the trading of maize to be made public” so pricing can be monitored.

Read the full press release:

COSATU demands that maize price manipulators be jailed

COSATU is concerned that traders are using the drought to manipulate maize price increases. The cost and supply of maize is very different to that being presented by the media. The media reports that maize prices are rising with amounts that only affect a small quantum of maize sold. The amount of maize sold is within the amount that is available in South Africa in spite of the drought. It would seem that traders are manipulating the price of maize, where it is being bought and sold. This has a huge impact on poor communities who are dependent on maize as a basic food item. This increase has a knock on effect on other prices as it is an important input into meat production etc.

COSATU calls for an investigation into the pricing of maize as this is clearly being manipulated by traders who are buying and selling amongst themselves. There can be no other reason that justifies an increase of R150 per ton when all other factors driving cost remain the same except local purchases of 70 000 tons. Cosatu wants the trading of maize to be made public so we can follow the pricing and see who is driving price increases through purchases. These purchases should be publicly available. Cosatu calls on the Competition Commission to investigate the pricing model of the maize and the prices on the SAFEX and the JSE. We also want a comprehensive investigation done into the demand and supply of maize in South Africa, in light of the drought. We believe the Government should intervene into the supply and pricing of maize given its central role in food security and hunger alleviation.

COSATU want the investigation concluded as a matter of urgency and the perpetrators to be jailed for undermining South Africans’ food security through price manipulation.

With questions please call Tony on 082 7733 194

Source: COSATU

Read more about the trade union federation in COSATU’s Contested Legacy: South African trade unions in the second decade of democracy, edited by Sakhela Buhlungu and Malehoko Tshoaedi.

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Cosatu Calls for an End to Skewed Power Relations within the Tripartite Alliance

COSATU's Contested LegacyThe Tripartite Alliance was formed in early 1990 when political parties were unbanned, and consists of the South African Communist Party (SACP), the African National Congress (ANC) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Cosatu recently expressed its dismay at the skewed power relations between the different parties, calling for a reconfiguration within the tripartite alliance, which is currently dominated by the ANC.

Times LIVE reports that Cosatu general-secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali wants all alliance partners to be treated equally when it comes to decision-making powers. “We want an alliance that will collectively develop policy in line with our vision as located in the Freedom Charter,” he said.

To find out more about the history of Cosatu, read COSATU’s Contested Legacy: South African trade unions in the second decade of democracy edited by Sakhela Buhlungu and Malehoko Tshoaedi.

Read the article:

“We want an alliance that will collectively develop policy in line with our vision as located in the Freedom Charter. We want an alliance which will collectively monitor the implementation of policy and decides on deployment and which can also call ministers to account,” Cosatu general-secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali told reporters in Johannesburg on Monday.

His call, which formed part of the outcomes of Cosatu’s 12th national congress held last week, also wanted all alliance partners to be treated equally.

This is not the first time Cosatu has made such a call.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said the refiguring of the alliance would happen with the help of the workers on the ground.

Also read:

 

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Life Begins at 30: Cosatu Celebrates Three Decades of Defending Workers’ Rights, and the Chance for Renewal

COSATU's Contested LegacyCosatu, the largest trade union federation in South Africa, is turning 30 years old today.

Fresh out of its 12th National Congress, Cosatu sees this red-letter event an opportunity for a “new beginning for our 30-year-old giant federation of workers”.

Karl Gernetzky has written an article on the significant issues Cosatu intends to work on going forward. The balance of power within the tripartite alliance and privatisation feature prominently among the federation’s concerns.

Read the article:

The federation would not be involved in early debates over African National Congress (ANC) leadership succession, but was still adamant a “reconfiguration” of the tripartite alliance was necessary, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said at a briefing in Johannesburg.

Cosatu’s newly elected Cosatu office bearers briefed the media on Monday regarding preparations for its 30th anniversary celebration in Durban on Saturday. The federation has also finalised the declaration from its four-day national congress, which concluded on Thursday.

In a statement about the National Congress, which wrapped up last week, Cosatu commented on this important anniversary:

The federation of Elijah Bharayi, Chris Dlamini and John Gomomo is turning 30 years old tomorrow, the 1st of December 2015. This is a big milestone for the South African workers and the entire working class. We shall be celebrating this historical anniversary of the federation in Durban, at the weekend, where we will hold a rally on the 5th of December at Curries Fountain Stadium.

We will use this occasion to trace our footsteps back to the early days of this federation. We shall reflect on the vital historical moments and learn from the glorious victories that were secured by workers over the last thirty years. We will remember the role of the federation, working with the Mass Democratic Movement, under the leadership of the United Democratic Front (UDF), where it waged relentless struggles in the fight against the apartheid regime.

We will reflect on the baptismal of fire that confronted the federation during the period of its birth in 1985, where an unprecedented 1.3-million working hours were lost to strike action. In response to this birth of a giant federation, the apartheid government applied a state of emergency between July 1985 and March 1986, in many parts of the country.

These battles resulted in the withdrawal of the requirement to carry passbooks on the 23rd of July 1986, by the apartheid regime, and the formal removal from the statute books the pass laws on the 13th November1986.

During those early years, COSATU had already shown its fighting capacity. In 1988, millions of workers stayed away from work to demand the reversal of the changes in the Labour Relations Act, despite the consistent threat of dismissals by employers. In 1990, the regime agreed to COSATU’s proposed amendments to the LRA.

We will be revisiting these battles and victories not because, we idealise the past but because we honour it ,as we imagine the future. We have a lot of history to learn from as we chart the new path that will keep this federation standing for another 30 years.

Read more about the trade union federation in COSATU’s Contested Legacy: South African trade unions in the second decade of democracy edited by Sakhela Buhlungu and Malehoko

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