“For the needy shall not always be forgotten; The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.” These are the words of the Biblical David as penned in one of his poetic writings recorded in the ancient text of Psalms 9:18
I thought of these words as I contemplated a case for a political party – pro-poor agenda when freedom it is claimed has dawned but economic freedom for the masses remains a mirage while the elites are getting wealthier. The past 107 celebrations confirmed the ANC as in the grip of capital. Let us also be clear it was the poor that filled the Moses Mabidha stadium on Saturday, bussed, dressed in t-shirts made possible by the money of the elites. The clever blacks didn’t fill the stadium.
In a season when many anticipate the outcome of the next election, many want to know what will or can happen if the ANC lose? This sounds for some again as far-fetched, not a possibility particularly since some are buoyed by a recent Ipsos survey that shows the ANC is trusted to attain 61%. Having the ANC lost the elections and therefore political power, the latter is really a pact signed in a negotiated – settlement among the elites, – is perhaps the necessary means to a people’s cause for economic emancipation.
Some contend the ANC has thus far only survived because it over time managed to dole the crumbs of freedom in an economic sense to the poor, understood in welfare -state where a plethora of grants defines the canvas of meaningful life for the destitute. It appears to have found relevance in purporting to be a poor-oriented movement when its aorta is the elitist agenda.
In return, the poor thought the ANC was good for it and therefore continued to keep the latter in power, perhaps oblivious in realizing that keeping the ANC in power is inadvertently to continue the incessant delay of true economic freedom for the masses and the long night of denial. We can accept that no other political party in the current body politick represents the pro-poor agenda. When one reason that the ANC must lose it is not remotely to argue that any other party active within the existing spaces be entrusted to lead.
Let us also admit the ANC as led by its confirmed elitist agenda over the last 25 years did some things in an attempt at change, we may argue as to whether these were the correct and fundamental ones. The ANC elites will remonstrate an ANC government has built over 3.8 million RDP homes. Electrified SA from 54% in 1994 to 86% in 2018. They will argue they have built clinics, schools’ hospitals and necessary infrastructure. They will even counter to say it’s because of them that the poor receive the various grants. Yet the biggest claim the ANC will make is that it produced a tiny black elite if we remember its aim was always to develop a strong middle class. This may be all good.
Yet, the poor will counter all this was done without them though it is claimed for them. Where did you consult us because your 25 manifestos, were you telling us what you will do? On another score, you really did this to empower yourself when you simultaneously made it impossible for us to be a part of this economy that warrants radical economic transformation. You did all of this without returning our land. You instead want us to give you and your white elite partners a business-plan as to what we will do with the land we have always owned. You, therefore, have forgotten us as the needy since you became enriched because of us.
The ANC elites will quickly tell the poor we build a road for you, what they won’t tell the poor is we made money as the elites from building the road. They will tell the poor we build you a hospital but they won’t tell you how many of them were creaming it from building the erection of that very hospital.
In an election season, they will come to the poor and apparently ask the poor about their needs, take a ton of selfies and post these on social media in claims of they care. They will hand out sanitary towels, an important necessity, yet they will do it this only in an election season, just not always when the need continue to exist, when all they truly after is to gain the vote to do very little if anything for the next 4,5 years until 6 months before the next elections when they are back on the streets, townships enquiring from their poor in needs analysis what must be done.
Meaning the poor in needs sense is good economically, in fact, more than good for the elites. They thrive off the squalor of the poor. In fact, they need the poor to continue existing because the poor is a scripted economy for their personal and group survival. What then if the ANC loses come May 2019?
Two things may happen and these may also be at an external and internal sphere. At an external level the forces that parasites of an ANC led by black elites who work in conjunction with each other will be upstaged. Here I am speaking about the forces that define white interest.
From 1992, the period of the negotiated settlement which essentially remains a deal between two elite groups from across the proverbial railway line, the ANC existed as a means to an end for the agenda of the elite. The ANC elite group as we all know were outfoxed by much more prepared and seasoned wily apartheid elite group. So outmanoeuvred was the ANC that it guaranteed apartheid beneficiaries a sunset clause led by Joe Slovo of the SACP. From that period the interest for both convenient elite partners was to prioritize their personal well-being and appear to be doing something for the poor. If we have had whites becoming wealthier in the last twenty- five years defined as the post-apartheid era, we must accept it was orchestrated because it at a fundamental sense was made possible because of its salience with the black political elite whom they sponsored and dry cleaned.
The equilibrium of common interest as made possible by the ANC of the last 25 years served the needs, greed and avarice of the elite class. An ANC that no more has political power would not be able to serve that interest at an external level.
At an internal level, the control of the elites of the people’s cause as entrusted to the ANC in the vote would haemorrhage and suffer defeat. The poor in the ANC will rightly identify these as the new mlungus and remove them from their plush power vestibules from branch to presidential level. It would be the clearest internal revolt not driven by a person but by the common interest of a pro-poor agenda. Those who made their money as is the case with most of the ANC leaders from Mandela and their spouses and children will not be trusted to lead the ANC.
It would mean the death of a claimed political aristocracy in the ANC where certain family names are paraded as those who have contributed more than others, hence they are entitled to benefit and have their names define street names etc and key places. This pro-poor ANC will free the ANC from the iconic statuses of its leadership in asking how did the poor benefit from these icons?
It could begin the redrafting of the history as recorded in the last 25 years from a narrative of ANC praise to ANC question. It equally could provide an organic opportunity for the ANC to be recalibrated from the elitist agenda it had since inception in doublespeak claimed a pro-poor agenda. Now they will be able to elect leadership that exudes the pro-poor agenda.
For some, this would be the real emergence of the people’s interest. What we have today is an economically well- sponsored black political elite who are in bed with their counterparts defined in colonial and apartheid white economic elite who scores at every turn while it emptily refers to the poor in an atrocious patronizing sense as ” our people”. While they also claim the high towers of morality when they have yet to explain the morality of the amassed wealth.
The ANC losing will afford a different to what we have seen hitherto emerge, perhaps the real ANC for the reality of the new anomalies. The natural law premise of nothing remaining stagnant is perhaps what should be applied to the ANC.
Though its history dictates an elitist agenda the people’s confidence to elect it consistently confirmed it is not the elite that keeps the ANC in power, but it’s poor. It’s 54th Conference will go down as the emergence of the fundamental direction change of the ANC, its resolutions regardless to how discomforting for the black elite confirms the ANC must be led by a pro-poor agenda. The complexity is it again elected an elitist leadership because that’s what it proffered and extended as only options for the members to choose.
Hence, it can be anticipated that the internal revolt of a pro-poor agenda will continue jostling with this leadership who in typical sense waters down every one of the agreed resolutions. They will call it factionalism when it’s the contest of the elitist versus the pro-poor agenda. We must not be surprised that post-May 2019 with a significant drop even defeat an urgent NGC is convened to get rid of the elite leadership in which a pro-poor agenda leadership may arise.
The ANC losing is in all probability good for the pro-poor agenda because it will place it at the centre of what defines a future ANC. It is logical to argue if the poor keep the ANC in power why are the ANC led by the elites – the wealthy?
If the poor keep the ANC relevant why are its leadership not defined by that same pro-poor agenda? Since the poor keep the ANC in power is the ANC, not a party where the poor must rule? Maybe the real ANC as reconfigured with the poor as its epicentre, fulcrum and the focal point is what losing a national ballot may produce.
What is unsustainable is this lie of an ANC that cares for the poor while its leadership in every form had the poor as their economy – a means to an end – in which they feel they do the poor a favour with a grant system that keeps the poor in desperate if not woeful economic state. The poor will set the agenda of reclaiming its land first, and equally, so it’s wealth, that an 8% population white interest hitherto aided by a buffer zone of black elites who share within that space.
Regardless to how some will protest, at an existential and material level, the poor remain poor, have remained poor and disenfranchised thus denied in the opportunity to eke out a living informed by self-reliance where access to opportunity is equal for all.
The poor finds itself having to contest with the dominant historic white interest that has over the last 25 years been entrenched through patronage in an unholy alliance with ANC black elites. It finds itself having to contest with their entrusted leaderships who defines a black elite that shares a common economic interest with its white counterparts. Therefore, the poor remains ostracized. We have seen the expectations of the poor perishing under its own leadership over the period of 25 years.
The emergence of new parties insignificant as it may appear may be part of the recalibration of the voting index. It can be comfortably surmised that each of these to varying degrees no different to how COPE and the EFF took slices of percentages from the ANC, will take votes from the ANC. It becomes a strategy to move the ANC to less than the psychological 50% barrier forcing the ANC to enter into coalitions with a variety of parties that may have a common aim of a pro-poor agenda as its fundamental prerogative.
A loss for the ANC will be good for the pro-poor agenda. What is needed is not just a break with an apartheid past but a more recent past immanent in the ANC rulership. We need an ANC that is wrestled from the elites an ANC where the poor rules and their agenda stands. We dare remind the ANC elites and its apartheid beneficiary sponsors, …the needy shall not always be forgotten; the expectation of the poor shall not perish forever…”
Clyde Ramalaine is a political commentator and writer.