Andrew Kenny on Anthea Jeffery’s Countdown to Socialism – Illuminating the ANC’s disastrous path - Biznews

I’m afraid I lack the ability to do justice to this, the most important book I’ve read on South Africa for years. It is COUNTDOWN TO SOCIALISM: The National Democratic Revolution in South Africa since 1994 by Dr Anthea Jeffery. But if you want to understand what is happening to the beloved country under the ANC, I urge you to read it.

Andrew Kenny says that ‘Countdown to Socialism: The National Democratic Revolution in South Africa since 1994’ by Dr Anthea Jeffery is a critically important book that sheds light on the disastrous policies implemented by the ANC in South Africa. From economic decay to rising unemployment, the book uncovers the party’s push towards socialism and its disregard for the well-being of ordinary citizens. Dr Jeffery’s insightful research provides a clear understanding of the country’s current political landscape and the urgent need for change.

Andrew Kenny

I’m afraid I lack the ability to do justice to this, the most important book I’ve read on South Africa for years. It is COUNTDOWN TO SOCIALISM: The National Democratic Revolution in South Africa since 1994 by Dr Anthea Jeffery. But if you want to understand what is happening to the beloved country under the ANC, I urge you to read it.

It is important on two grounds. First, it explains clearly what seems mysterious, why the ANC not only continues to implement policies that have proved disastrous for our country but is actually doubling up on them, making life in South Africa worse and worse.

BEE, Employment Equity, cadre deployment, racial affirmative action, transformation, job-destroying labour laws, threats to private property – all of these laws have been ruinous, increasing poverty, inequality, civil unrest and economic decay, but yet the ANC is now making them even more severe, even more destructive. President Ramaphosa has been particularly active in promoting and implementing more of such horrible laws and policies (such as on Expropriation, National Minimum Wage, Employment Equity Amendment and the NHI.) The minimum wage and employment equity laws have thrown people out of work and increased our catastrophic unemployment, the worst in the world by far, among comparable economies.

So Ramaphosa increases the minimum wage and tightens employment equity, pushing unemployment even higher.

Second, it is a superb reference book, written with clarity. Anthea has a first-rate legal brain (she has a PhD in law from Cambridge) and is a very diligent, reliable and accurate researcher. This book has a wealth of data and information on all aspects of current South African politics and society, including land, mining, education, healthcare, public finance, the economy, the judiciary and race. Some of the data she gives was new to me and horrifying. For example, in the 2021 riots in KZN, 1.5 million rounds of ammunition and two containers of assault rifles (such as the AK47) were stolen.

I shall keep my copy of Anthea’s book on the small bookshelf on my writing desk.

The National Democratic Revolution (NDR) is the gospel of the ANC alliance (the ANC, South African Communist Party and Cosatu. It is more important to them than the Constitution of South Africa (which actually is of little importance to them and might even be resented). The NDR is their unwavering guide to the future they want for South Africa, even if the path may be long and twisting.

Guiding faith
Ramaphosa made this clear when he said, ‘The divisions within the ANC are not divisions about policy or ideology’ but are driven solely ‘by the competition for positions…and the pursuit of access to public resources’. In other words, while individual ANC and SACP members may be looting the state, enriching themselves on a grand scale and even occasionally murdering each other for positions of power and money, their guiding aim is always for the NDR.

The NDR is a plan to turn South Africa into a purely socialist state – with 100% state control and no private property – in which all power will be held and kept in the hands of the ruling party, and in which ‘the motive forces of the revolution’ who will benefit from it are ‘Black people in general and Africans in particular’. (This quote is from one of the ANC’s Strategy and Tactics documents, all of which continually focus on the NDR.)

The NDR is a two-part plan: the first part is to take power, which they have already done through the 1994 election. The second part is to turn South Africa into a full-on socialist state, or communist state. The inspiration for the NDR, which they are quite open about, comes from Vladimir Lenin and Communism in Russia. 

Marxist jargon such as ‘Marxist-Leninism’, ‘Comrade’, ‘proletariat’, ‘cadre’, ‘comprador’ is on the lips of the ANC leaders and its allies (and the EFF leaders) all the time. Why do they want communism? It has proved a catastrophe in every country that has ever tried it, killing tens of millions of people, causing famines, ruining economies, bringing mass poverty, brutally oppressing the working classes and sending millions of ordinary people fleeing.

In her book launch, Anthea quoted the title of Kristian Niemietz’s book, Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies. This is true. Around the world there is a whole class of people, including university academics, media staff and politicians, who keep believing in socialism and hating capitalism no matter how disastrously socialism fails and how wonderfully capitalism succeeds. The ANC hero-worships failed socialist dictators such as Lenin and Castro, and greatly admires failed socialist states such as Cuba and Venezuela. It clapped and cheered Robert Mugabe when he seized the private farms and caused economic collapse in Zimbabwe, which is probably the main reason it wants to do the same thing here through Expropriation Without Compensation (EWC).

ANC thinks this way too
It cannot be emphasised too strongly that the ANC wants socialism far more than it wants prosperity for everyone. It would rather see a miserable, impoverished country under socialism and ANC state control than a happy, wealthy country under capitalism and democracy, with another party in power. Lenin and Stalin felt the same. When Lenin first tried socialist agriculture with state-owned collective farms, the result was famine, starvation and even cannibalism. So he retreated a bit into market farming with private farms. Food became plentiful and the famine ended. But in 1929, when Stalin had increased the power of the socialist state to terrorise people, he re-introduced collectivization, but on a huge scale, and this resulted in a much bigger famine where about 10 million people starved to death. Stalin thought this was well worth it ‘to achieve socialism’. The ANC thinks this way too.

The ANC began in 1912 as an honorable group of black Christian gentlemen of liberal persuasion, asking for nothing more than full human rights. It was horribly abused by successive white governments. The 1976 Soweto uprising showed it had lost most support in the black townships. It changed drastically. By about 1980 it had become a violent, intolerant party, seeking power not freedom, with no controlling ideology except Marxism, which came from the South African Communist Party. In another book, ‘People’s War’, published in 2009, Anthea explained the brutal tactics the ANC used then to smash all black rivals and spread terror in the townships on its path to power. Here she says, ‘The SACP is the dominant partner in the ruling tripartite alliance and has long wielded an enormous influence behind the scenes. After 1994, it succeeded in deploying tens of thousands of its cadres into senior positions within the government, as the party stated in its 2012 programme, The South African Road to Socialism.’ The communist party said proudly, ‘Since 1994…tens of thousands of South African communists have taken up the challenges of governance, as cabinet ministers, members of legislatures, provincial executives, mayors, and councillors.’

These are the ‘deployed cadres’ that Ramaphosa is so proud of and so determined to keep appointing. In 2018, the ANC’s then secretary-general, Ace Magashule, opening a new political school, said, ‘This leadership school will be like a factory of production of a young generation of cadres vested in the ideological and theoretical understanding of the strategic objectives of our revolution.’

‘Strategic objectives’
Since 1994, the ANC has kicked out experienced, qualified white engineers, technicians, hospital managers and civil servants, and replaced them with loyal cadres, without experience or qualifications, but with the correct ‘understanding of the strategic objectives of our revolution.’ This explains the collapse of our railways, roads, harbours, electricity supply, state hospitals, water works, sewage works and municipalities under the ANC and the SACP. This explains the miserable services the working-class masses receive from the ANC government. As far as the ANC is concerned, it has been a huge success, a great advance in the National Democratic Revolution. So what if poor working-class people haven’t got good public transport, suffer for want of care in state hospitals, have no safe drinking water and die of cholera? The only thing that matters is the NDR.

Anthea takes us through ‘Demographic Representivity’ (the notion that the proportions of races in every level of employment should be the same as those in the population at large.) The wretched ‘Employment Equity Act was passed in 1998, under President Mandela, showing that the NDR is nothing new, and indeed was ANC ideology before 1994. (It is quite wrong to suggest that the NDR rot only started with President Zuma. It was intrinsic to the ANC long before him and remains after him.) Employers are required to classify their employees as ‘African’, ‘Coloured’, ‘Indian’ and ‘white’ but are given no definition of these terms.

Since fewer than 8% of South Africans are white, companies must strive to have fewer than 8% of whites at every level of employment. She explains in detail how the ANC has been shutting down private water rights, beginning in 1998 in the National Water Act. A recent court ruling, strongly supported by the ANC, takes away some water rights from white farmers and leaves them without a secure water supply. The farm then loses all value, so the banks will not deal with it. The farmer may as well sell his farm (before it gets expropriated) if anyone wants to buy it without assured water. BEE contractors (those chosen for their correct racial proportions and their correct political connections rather than good services and low costs) charge high prices for shoddy services. In the case of water supply, this led to the deaths of 21 people when the contract for R295 million for repairing the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment plant went to Edwin Sodi, an ‘ANC benefactor’ and BEE contractor. He pocketed the money, made no attempt to repair the failing water works, and bought himself even more luxuries (he owns mansions and fancy cars such as a Ferrari).  21 people died of cholera from infected water.

Greatest national asset
On South Africa’s greatest national asset, her enormous mineral wealth, Anthea explains in detail how the NDR has crippled the mining industry, and turned us from being one of the world’s most attractive destinations for mining investment into one of the least attractive. In 2017 the SACP said that South Africa’s mineral wealth ‘belongs to all’. What it meant was that it belongs to a tiny elitist band of rich comrades and cadres.

The 2002 Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) of 2002 vested all mineral resources in the ‘custodianship’ of the state. No compensation was to be paid to mining companies stripped of their mineral resources. The granting of mining rights became vague and ambiguous. Mining companies became obliged to hand over first 15%, then 26% of the value of their companies to BEE partners who often contributed nothing to the companies and often sold their shares and pocketed an enormous profit, which meant the companies had to find another BEE partner. Electricity blackouts and the failures of Transnet, which runs the ore trains, added to mining woes in South Africa. NDR policies were responsible for both. South Africa, with the world’s greatest mineral treasure, now attracts less than 1% of the world’s spending on mining exploration. Five other African countries attract more.

The NDR policies on affirmative action, employment equity and support for the ruinous SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU), upon which the ANC depends for political support, has wrecked public education for working-class black children. South African children now have among the lowest rates for literacy, the worst outcomes for maths and science, anywhere on Earth. The only decent schools that remain are fully private schools or partly privately funded schools (Model-C schools). These are now under attack from Diversity and Transformation warriors who charge the best schools a fortune for stirring up racial hatred and demoralising white children and teachers. (They don’t go near the poor schools that stunt the education of poor black children.) I don’t know whether they are a conscious part of the NDR, but they serve it well.

Ruined by NDR policies
A lawyer, Anthea explains how NDR is taking over our courts, including the Constitutional Court, which is still allowed to make good rulings provided they are not in conflict with the NDR. When they do, such as in the case of Agri SA on the MPRDA, and of Renate Barnard (who, having the wrong skin colour, didn’t get promoted in the police despite having the best qualifications).  Concourt goes with the NDR. Our public healthcare has largely been ruined by NDR policies, and the National Health Insurance (NHI) project threatens to make the ruin complete.

Anthea doesn’t quite say this, but it seems to me that the promotion of such policies as BEE, where the connected comrades expect companies to give them 31% of their ownership, leads naturally to the construction mafia, where gangsters with guns threaten to kill construction managers unless they hand over another 31% to their business forums. This usually happens when construction companies or municipalities begin construction of schools, hospitals and low-cost housing in poor areas. The construction mafia seem to me a violent extension of the NDR; the lack of action against them by the ANC police seems to confirm this suspicion. However, Anthea certainly does give shocking details about the scale of violent crime and lawlessness in the country now.

We now have the world’s second-highest murder rate – after Venezuela, which the ANC admires. 359 people died in the KZN riots of 2021, and many people, including, notably, insurers, are now suggesting they might have been just a dress rehearsal for worse riots to come. The ANC was useless in combating the rioting. Now trucks are set aflame along the highways of KZN, and truck drivers are murdered, and the ANC does nothing. South Africa lives in fear.

Don’t want land
I have only one criticism of Anthea’s book and it might be called an unworthy criticism. Anthea acknowledges that the NDR policies of the ANC are being forced upon ordinary black working people who don’t want them at all. The ANC knows this. On land reform, for example, which is central to the NDR, the ANC knows perfectly well that ordinary black people don’t want land: they want jobs and housing in an urban area. Of the 74,000 successful black land claimants, only 5,900 opted for the land; the rest opted for the cash. Poll after poll shows that most black people don’t want BEE or affirmative action or employment equity; they just want jobs, money, housing and services. Anthea articulates all of this in her usual lucid style. But what she doesn’t mention – or only briefly mentions – is that none of the leaders of the ANC, SACP, EFF or Cosatu want these policies either – for themselves.

Maybe Anthea is just being objective and ‘playing the ball not the man’ but she only briefly touches on the massive dishonesty of the ANC elite in their own personal behaviour. They say they believe in employment equity but none of them would dream of sending their own children to schools that meet the employment equity targets of 92% black teachers; they deliberately choose schools where most of the teachers are white. Do you think socialists such as Blade Nzimande or Julius Malema are going to use public transport? Don’t make me laugh! They choose Mercedes, BMWs and Range Rovers. Do you see Dr Phaahla and Dr Dlamini-Zuma taking their places in a days’ long queue for treatment in a state hospital? Pull the other one! They want private hospitals or special treatment without queuing in one of the few good state hospitals. If NHI happens they’ll go overseas for treatment, like Robert Mugabe. And as for supporting the working classes …!

‘Good for thee but not for me’
Like the socialist elite everywhere, our ANC and SACP leaders show in their personal behaviour that they despise the black working classes, and want nothing to do with them, and want to live as far from them as possible and never want their children to go to the same schools as them. When a politician’s personal behaviour is so at odds with his recommended behaviour for others, I think we are entitled to point it out, in fact must point it out. When ‘good for thee but not for me’ becomes so blatant, it must be called out. (In her presentation at the book launch, Anthea did show a slide of an enormous palace belonging to the ANC’s revolutionary hero, Comrade Robert Mugabe.)

Anthea analyses the chances of the ANC, with or without coalition partners, losing power after the 2024 election. She points out that the ANC, in line with NDR, has so packed the state bureaucracy, the public services, local government, the judiciary, the state-owned enterprises and all the other ‘levers of power’ with its own cadres and comrades who are reliant on it for jobs and salaries that it might still run the state, even it was voted out. Any new government would have to be well aware of this and prepared for a tough fight against the ANC’s immense patronage network. Replacing useless cadres loyal only to the ANC with dedicated, qualified, competent patriots who want to serve the people will be a hard job. But it must be done if South Africa is to be rescued.

The last chapter of the book is entitled ‘A Real Chance for Change’. She says that although our economy has been ‘badly damaged and weakened’, there is still enough vigour to oust the ANC and start economic reconstruction. She says that after 40 years of apartheid injustice and 30 years of NDR damage, ‘South Africa’s voters hold the future of the country in their hands, and that future – despite many potent obstacles to change – is potentially brighter than at any time in the past 70 years.’

I hope she is right. We have no hope unless she is.

Andrew Kenny is a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal.

This article was first published on the Daily Friend.