IOL, 10 November 2013 at 08:57am

Dali Mpofu says the ruling party has lost direction, but Thoko Didiza says the party has simply had to evolve.Unlike the ANC, the EFF embodies the spirit of the Freedom Charter and offers cogent solutions to pressing problems, says Dali Mpofu.

Johannesburg – Many people, particularly in middle-class circles, have been asking why I left the ANC to join the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and in the many radio and television interviews I did, I made my point very clearly. The short answer and one of the key reasons is that the ANC in Mangaung for the first time since the mid-1950s abandoned the Freedom Charter in favour of a wishy-washy programme called the National Development Plan or NDP Vision 2030.

The minimum demands of our people contained in the charter now only find refuge in the programme mapped out by the EFF.

Throughout my participation and membership of the ANC, I was made to believe that the movement’s programme is the attainment of the Freedom Charter’s objectives.

The ANC constitution and declarations which members sign before they join the ANC commit them to pursuit of Freedom Charter objectives.

Advocate Dali Mpofu recently left the ANC to join the Economic Freedom Fighters

Advocate Dali Mpofu recently left the ANC to join the Economic Freedom Fighters

Since 1958, all ANC constitutions have reaffirmed the Freedom Charter as a central political and ideological programme of the ANC.

Since 1991, the ANC has compelled all its members to sign a declaration upon joining the organisation to solemnly declare to “abide by the aims and objectives of the ANC as set out in the constitution and the Freedom Charter”.

What this means is that all current members of the ANC joined the ANC to, among other things, fulfil the principles of the Freedom Charter, not to embrace cheap imitations of it.

I am highlighting the Freedom Charter because it is supposedly the essence of all ANC policies, particularly on economic transformation; but it is evidently not central to all ANC policies, particularly the NDP Vision 2030.

I am highlighting the Freedom Charter because it was exhibit 1 in the treason trial where leaders of the liberation movement were litigated against by the apartheid regime.

I am highlighting the Freedom Charter because all political developments that happened after its adoption by the Congress of the People in 1955 and by the ANC Conference in 1956, including the banning of all revolutionary movements, imprisonment of political activists, and the state-sponsored assassinations and massacres happened because the ANC now had a vision called the Freedom Charter.

Thoko Didiza is deputy chairwoman of the ANC National Elections Team.

Thoko Didiza is deputy chairwoman of the ANC National Elections Team.

It was part of the DNA of the ANC I joined.

Despite many attempts to distort the Freedom Charter, it calls for the land to be shared among those who work it.

The Freedom Charter says: “Restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided among those who work it to banish famine and land hunger.”

The current constitutional framework and political direction of the ANC government has not done anything on the land question, despite the reality that more than 50 percent of South Africans are on the dangerous side of food insecurity.

Section 25 (5) of the constitution compels the state to pass an expropriation act (a process which requires only 50 percent plus one of Parliament) and to take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to foster conditions which enable citizens to gain access to land on an equitable basis.

Twenty years after taking political power, the ANC has not used its political and parliamentary majority to pass an expropriation act. It has existed in the form of a stagnant bill for many years now.

The reason the ANC has not done so is inexplicable except on the basis that it does not see fit to prioritise enabling the landless to gain access to land on an equitable basis, and as shown in the National Development Plan Vision 2030, it has no plans to do so.

The legitimate aspirations of our people now only find refuge in the programme mapped put by the EFF.

Massive land hunger is not only a socio-economic problem of the landless masses, but a political and security issue for all South Africans which, if not addressed adequately, will lead to intensified social conflicts.

It is also foolhardy to declare the cut-off point for land redistribution at 1913, but that is a topic which needs a separate article.

The Freedom Charter also calls for the mineral wealth beneath the soil, banks and monopoly industry to be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole.

This is important because whoever is in ownership of these critical sectors will determine the politics of the day.

In South Africa, these critical economic resources are in the hands of Capital, and Capital calls the shots (literally and figuratively). The state is nothing but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole ruling class.

The ANC is committed to the Freedom Charter only in rhetoric, and there is not a single policy position in the ANC government which aims fully to implement the Freedom Charter.

The many actions of the state and political authorities reflect that the ANC in government is there to secure the interests of the haves, and not of the people. If the ANC held the people’s interests at heart, it would by now have done the following:

* Abolished labour brokers, because it is difficult to enforce workers’ rights as contained in the Labour Relations Act for workers employed through labour brokers, and they are super-exploited.

* Found a different mechanism to expand and improve roads in Gauteng, instead of the universally unpopular user-pay model which will impoverish many sectors of the middle class, who live on shoestring budgets and need modest cars to travel to and from work because public transport is not efficient.

* Found more cogent mechanisms to attract industrial investors into the economy to employ the youth, and avoid tax incentives for existing companies which, as will be proved soon, will retrench unsubsidised workers in favour of those subsidised by the state.

* Been consistent on the question of tackling corruption, because while some of the actions and expenses of the state and its leaders may not be legalistically wrong, they are ethically unjustifiable in a South Africa with so much poverty.

Any corruption is abhorrent, but public sector corruption is theft from the people as a whole.

Now, the EFF is the only political formation which brings to the table cogent, understandable and practical alternatives to the status quo.

Of course, mainstream media and sections of society are hard at work to trivialise the political and economic plan of the EFF because of narrow class and, unfortunately, racial prejudices.

Hence the vitriolic cartoons and racial caricatures betraying the general and understandable pandemonium and panic among the noisy classes about the emergence of the EFF.

The EFF’s commitment and dedication to land expropriation without compensation is not something which this new economic emancipation movement says should happen outside the confines of our constitution.

The EFF’s reasons for land expropriation as provided for in its founding manifesto are to me perfectly sound, particularly the stated intention to guarantee food security and avoidance of imports of food which South Africans can produce. Nor is the policy aimed at “grabbing” land from anyone outside the confines of the law.

There is too much state-owned and other land eligible for redistribution before one can focus exclusively on privately owned land, which cannot be exempt.

South Africa must conduct a land audit, which is long overdue.

The EFF’s commitment to provision of free quality education until undergraduate level is also a persuasive alternative, in particular its intention to create a scholarship that will send a minimum of 10 000 students to the best universities across the world to gain skills, education and expertise.

These are noble objectives and plans, which are elementary to any successful nation.

The country is well endowed with natural resources to fund these programmes for the next 100 years.

When these resources get depleted, as they surely will one day, the industrialisation of the country should be at levels where depending on primary commodities would have been severely reduced.

The EFF’s commitment to massively expand the post-secondary education and training quantitative and qualitative capacity is a noble objective, because as things stand, South African post-secondary education and training institutions cannot absorb, for instance the 700 000 students writing their Senior National Certificate exams this year.

The EFF’s commitment to building state capacity to perform and fulfil its own functions (avoiding tenders), and the commitment to protected industrial development are a sign that the EFF is a 21st-century emancipation movement which understands that political power without economic emancipation is meaningless.

The tender system must be abolished because it is an inherent invitation for the entrenchment of corrupt tendencies as “the new normal”.

As a way forward, the EFF should be a rallying point of all progressive professionals, academic and other experts who want to change South Africa for the better. Implementation of the NDP Vision 2030 will not bring about any significant change, but will retain the vestiges of apartheid inequalities, poverty and unemployment.

In 1969, the ANC’s first national consultative conference adopted a strategy which said: “In our country – more than in any other part of the oppressed world – it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy.

“To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation.”

In 2013, it is only the EFF which understands this notion, and our pursuit of economic freedom in our lifetime is the only sustainable solution.

Since the two documents are clearly incompatible and are premised in a diametrically opposed ideological department point, the adopting of the NDP in Mangaung marked the clearest confirmation of the abandonment of the minimum demands contained in the Freedom Charter and the permanent disappearance of any residual hopes of a left-wing trajectory for South Africa under the rule of the ANC.

As a person who remains a proponent of that trajectory or agenda, I did not leave the ANC, the ANC left me.

I was left stranded by being stripped of the ticket in the journey towards economic freedom, the Freedom Charter.

If we in the EFF are wrong in steadfastly holding these beliefs and views, then let the citizenry and the electorate pronounce so by not casting a single vote in our favour.

Then, I guarantee, we will fold up and stop annoying people from their false and short-lived comfort zones. Then, the complex historical economic disparities threatening the very epicentre of our country can be safely entrusted to the supposedly omnipotent “invisible hand” of Adam Smith and its concomitant “trickle-down effect”.

In that eventuality and without wishing to spoil the celebratory party which will surely accompany our blushing departure from the political scene, we hope we would be allowed one warning and parting shot: “Be afraid, be very afraid…”

* Dali Mpofu is an advocate and was an ANC member for 33 years.

The ANC cannot be the same party that it was a century ago, Dali. Your defection is simply part of democracy, says Thoko Didiza.

Johannesburg – Much has been written in the national media in recent weeks about defections from the ANC, particularly that of Advocate Dali Mpofu, overstating the effect they are likely to have on the governing party and suggesting that it has somehow altered the tenets upon which it was founded. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

The ANC is not the party it was when it was founded a century ago – how could it be?

The party has had to evolve from being a struggle movement that opposed, and eventually deposed, apartheid, to the majority party in Africa’s largest and most dynamic economy. However, the principles upon which the party was founded remain unchanged and the ANC as an organisation remains more than merely the sum of its parts.

As in any political party that survives and grows over multiple generations the ANC has seen numerous members join and leave it, but the fundamentals that govern the party are unaltered.

It is precisely this heritage that continues to attract a new generation of politically-minded young people concerned about the future of their country and their peers.

To suggest that defections signal the ANC has somehow lost its way or abandoned the foundations upon which it was built are disingenuous at best and sensationalist at worst.

There is inevitable sadness that accompanies the departure from the party of a comrade of Mpofu’s calibre, but his defection speaks volumes about the nature of the ANC and its desire to defend the rights enshrined in South Africa’s constitution – a constitution the ANC fought tirelessly to create and one which remains a model of openness, progressiveness, inclusion and tolerance on the continent.

Mpofu has played a valuable role in a wide range of positions in the ANC. However, the ANC is first and foremost a free and open party that believes all South Africans have the right to join or leave the organisation as they see fit.

Mpofu has just as much right as any other ANC member or, indeed, any South African, to shift his political allegiance. This is one of the benefits of living in a robust democracy such as ours where debate and freedom of thought, expression, speech and association are encouraged and protected.

Today the ANC has more than 1.2 million audited members and is growing daily.

While every member is valued, suggesting that a handful of defections represents a threat to the party’s stability is hyperbolic and irresponsible.

It may also serve those predicting the ANC’s demise to look at previous defections and their outcomes. Cope, which some saw as a home for disgruntled ANC members, has very publicly torn itself apart with infighting as individuals jockey for position, and has failed to live up to any of the sweeping assurances delivered during its birth.

Numerous other political parties have come and gone in the almost 20 years since the ANC came to power, but none has been able to meaningfully threaten its hegemony.

That’s because no other party has the history, depth of leadership or culture of service that is so deeply entrenched in the ANC.

Moreover, no other party speaks to or defends the rights of ordinary South Africans with the ANC’s vigour, which is why it remains the people’s party and why it will continue to develop and evolve to meet the needs of South Africa’s citizens long after even its current leaders have retired.

The media has been quick to talk about the defections from the ANC, but less inclined to recognise or publicise the defections from other parties to it.

In August hundreds of members of the IFP in Nongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, joined the ANC.

Nongoma has traditionally been an IFP stronghold, making their departure all the more significant.

One of the ANC’s greatest attributes is its heritage, a history that continues to shape its current policies and define its politics.

No other party has so rich a history to turn to for guidance in times of turmoil or strife. Personalities certainly play a role, but they are interchangeable in a way the fundamentals that shape the ANC’s actions are not.

When voters take to the polls next year those that vote for the ANC know that they are voting for the party that best represents and defends their interests.

In the almost 20 years that the ANC has been privileged to govern South Africa, there are millions of South Africans whose quality of life has been improved through housing, sanitation, access to electricity and education among others.

These would include the 6.5 million more families who today have access to sanitation that they did not have in 1994.

More than 750 000 African children have access to university education compared to only 150 000 in 1994. The more than 3 million families who have been provided with free housing and the more than 16 million South Africans who today have access to social grants can tell our story of success.

All these safety nets we have created with the understanding that our focus must be on growing the economy so that all South Africans become economically active and self-sustaining.

We are aware that challenges still remain, both within society and the party.

The ANC has weathered countless storms over the 100 years since its inception, and this minor tempest of defections – though the media tries to paint it as something more – will be no different.

The values of the ANC remain those of the majority of South Africa’s citizens.

The aspirations and assertions of the Freedom Charter have remained unchanged through countless changes in the leadership of the party, some disputes and other sorts of turmoil that any governing party encounters.

Our struggle for a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society is the vision that binds members of the ANC together.

In the course of its implementation, members may differ on the course of action to be taken, and it is precisely for this reason that forums are created for engagement on the strategies and tactics the organisation should adopt at a particular time.

Such is the nature of democracy that certain views may enjoy the support of the majority and others may not. It is in the nature of true democrats, however, to appreciate this fundamental principle as the beauty and burden of democracy.

True democrats allow and accept the will of the majority, theirs is not to seek defection and solace outside of the process they voluntarily subjected themselves to – a greater cause that will benefit all South Africans, black and white.

The ANC takes great pride in our internal, vibrant and robust democratic practices and policies.

It would be a very weak and poorly structured party that crumbled or lost its way with the loss of a few members.

Individuals may come and go – in a healthy democracy arguably they ought to – but the party endures, steadfastly advancing the interests of its members while simultaneously seeking to create a better country for all South Africans.

* Thoko Didiza is deputy chairwoman of the ANC National Elections Team.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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