Ramaphosa and the policies of the Washington Consensus

ANC presidential hopefuls Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/ANA

Overshadowed by what is currently happening in Zimbabwe, Deputy-President Cyril Ramaphosa’s manifesto was hardly news for a day and then we moved on to the next story. Who still remembers the “New Deal”?

Maybe it is one of those blunders he has committed again like the one he did announcing his top six. Everyone who knows ANC conference politics, even those of us who have not directly had a hand in it, knows that you do not name your top six before the time. Trading for positions will happen until the last minute in conference. Ramaphosa, by showing his hand, showed, the question has he got it wrong? Time will tell. 

His PR machine went into overdrive of course. Suddenly, the stunt was a way to get Lindiwe Sisulu back to the negotiating table. It drove Zweli Mkhize, long considered a third way candidate, in the direction of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. A few days later, Ramaphosa had to back track. He had committed the cardinal sin of advocating blatantly a slate; slate politics long being one of the curses in ANC.

One can emphatically state though that Ramaphosa’s caucus was neither impressed by the move nor by the names mentioned. As Ramaphosa’s choice for Deputy-President, Naledi Pandor, like Ramaphosa, brings no votes to the table. Senzo Mchunu, for the Secretary General slot, and Gwede Mantashe, for the National Chairperson position, will bring some votes from their provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, respectively, but certainly not a block of votes. As media reports and the court action suggest, the ANC in both KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape remain deeply divided.

The slots for Treasurer-General and Deputy-Secretary General were given both to Gauteng province, probably the only province that is solidly behind Ramaphosa in his top six positions. Paul Mashitile, for the TG position, wields much influence in his province where he is chairperson, but Thoko Didiza, the person proposed for DSG, could hardly convince branches in Tshwane to accept her as their mayoral candidate in the 2016 Local Government Elections.

The Ramaphosa caucus is therefore offering nothing to North-West, Free State and Mpumalanga in the top six. While the three form the original ‘Premier League’, they were initially not proponents of NDZ rather they had formed the bloc in order to wield considerable influence on the outcome of conference. It was the Women’s, Veterans’ and Youth Leagues that had pushed for NDZ yet the Ramaphosa announcement of his top six sealed the fate of the Premier League and the king-maker DD Mabuza.

Ramaphosa shifted from ANC practice again when he announced his ‘new deal’. The NDZ camp has not only clearly coined its electoral message of ‘radical economic transformation’ but it worked hard enough to ensure that the message was part of the ANC lexicon already, being introduced at Mangaung, and then accepted into policies at the National Policy conference earlier in the year. Even the likes of Joel Netshintzhe tried to ensure that it, together with its antithesis White monopoly capital, was not afforded space in ANC dogma but they failed.

Ramaphosa is therefore desperate to articulate a message. His campaign has been lagging behind in setting the agenda and if anything has been responsive to the message set out by NDZ. Earlier in the year, Ramaphosa, together with fellow presidential contender Jeff Radebe, was speaking about ‘radical socio-economic transformation’. Now its the ‘new deal’.

Media outlets made sure to associate the ‘new deal’ with White monopoly capital and indeed they are closely linked. The New Deal was launched by Franklin Roosevelt, in the United States, in response to the Great Depression of 1933. While the program entailed a number of policies over the period 1933 to 1938, it was aimed at revitalizing the role of farmers, the youth, the unemployed and the elderly. Importantly, the New Deal also introduced constraints to the banking and monetary systems. Based on American liberalism, the New Deal centered on the three ‘R’s’: relief, recovery and reform. 

Ramaphosa’s New Deal is only a decade late with the global economic crisis, one far greater than the Great Depression, having taken place in 2008/9. One is unsure whether it will be based on American liberalism, given that its name comes from the American program, and whether the South African Communist Party or the Congress of South African Trade Unions had any say in formulating the 10 point plan. Ramaphosa’s deal speaks nothing of reforming the banking system which could do with some serious restructuring. 

Instead of putting the poor, unemployed and youth at the heart of his New Deal, as the Americans had done with theirs, Ramaphosa prioritizes business and continues to hammer on a policy that has not worked in South Africa for the last two decades: economic growth.

For sure, decent jobs is his number one issue but restructuring the economy to create these decent jobs is nowhere to be found. Economists such as Sampie Terrebalnche have explained that unless our country’s economy is radically restructured, decent jobs for Blacks will never be created. Our economy, based on the Apartheid economy, was simply never designed to provide decent jobs to Black people. That Ramaphosa will not understand this simple logic remains mind boggling but then again he, as a Black man, has made his billions.

Priorities two, three, and four are all the same in Ramaphosa’s New Deal. They emphasize and prioritize growth. Number five speaks to Black ownership of the economy, as he has benefitted, rather than a restructuring of the economy altogether. Unlike current ANC policy, Ramaphosa goes back to the talk of ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ rather than Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment. We wonder why.

While President Zuma is being chastised for thinking up a Fees-Must-Fall plan, South African students would take cold comfort in knowing that their Deputy-President puts education at number six while focussing mainly on basic education and dismissing ‘free post-school education for the poor’ as ‘reckless’. 

Infrastructure investment, the number one to get Europe and the US out of depression after the Second World War, as well as that which ensured a resuscitation to the global economy after the crash of 2008 comes in only at number eight for Ramaphosa while manufacturing, China’s main driver for economic growth, and state owned-enterprises comes in at number seven and nine. Ramaphosa simply has his priorities wrong. 

Cyril Ramaphosa will get his new deal wrong and mix up his priorities because he simply kowtows to the whims of White monopoly capital. He has to stick to their priorities which is a macroeconomic policy which has as its fundamental their growth, as their growth has been prioritized the last two decades. 

He has to appease his backers by including a bullet point on corruption and state capture as if these are synonymous with a Black government. It was never an issue and it is not an issue for radical economic transformation. But then again, that’s not what Ramaphosa and his ilk want, they simply want to give us more of the old and expect us to be satisfied. 

Wesley Seale teaches Politics at Rhodes University and is a PhD Candidate at Beijing University in China