A movement in the African National Congress (ANC) has released a list of points that will be discussed at the ‘people’s assembly’ on Thursday the 9th of February, in anticipation for the State of the Nation Address (SONA). The list of points has been dubbed ‘Radical Economic Transformation Now!’

“Our main objective remains the liberation of blacks in general, and Africans in particular” the ANC said. To accomplish this and what has been termed “radical transformation”, the ANC published their 12-point plan that they will call on the ANC-dominated government to accomplish.

This article will be dealing with each point, evaluating and rebutting it and its backing ideology.

1. Return the land to the people using Constitutional means.

This is a very vague point for the unenlightened.

Who are the people? Which land?

These are actually valid questions, despite them perhaps being from a naïve questioner. For those in support of land reform, the question of who is often ‘those who had their land taken during Apartheid’. The land being that very land that was stolen. This seems like a much more reasonable view.

Robert Nozick, a libertarian philosopher, argued that property taken unjustly should be returned to its rightful owner. The expropriation of private property and forced removals of legal owners during Apartheid is in no doubt an abomination. All attempts to compensate and avenge the victims within reason should be attempted.

But life isn’t that simple. The ownership of much of South Africa’s land is in question. An entire race owning land, as organisations like Black First Land First may want you to believe is reasonable, is illegitimate and crazy. Individuals own land. Businesses own land. Families own land. Entire race groups are just people who were randomly born with different melanin levels. Their pigmentation doesn’t entitle them to a land mass.

Where it is possible, the court should use constitutional means to return land to the rightful owners. What remains to be seen is if the ANC will stick to their promise of using constitutional means and if the Constitution will remain reasonable.

2. Invest money in township and rural communities and ensure we build post-apartheid cities in our rural areas and vibrant businesses in our townships.

A politically vague promise.

Investment takes many forms and money can be used for many things. Will this money be invested in the form of grants or by increasing the quality of state services?

This is by no means a malicious promise on their part, I am just cynical that it will amount to anything. If the ANC could successfully uplift rural settlements and townships, then it would be great. What I fear is a financially unsustainable project that predictably fails due to the incompetence of its planning and implementation.

3. No less than 30% of ALL government spending must go to black businesses and small, medium and micro enterprises.

This is the type of arbitrarily racialist promise that the ANC is famous for. Government spending shouldn’t be going to the private sector except in the cases of tenders, and even that system is flawed. Having enterprises rely on state spending creates an entire class of unsustainable businesses with close ties to politicians, that can then use these ties for corrupt ends.

And even with the generally unreasonable policies and ideology of the ANC, 30% of total government spending is an insane amount, especially to be spent on something that should be receiving 0% of funding.

Even if I was some sort of social democrat and believed in state subsidies of the private sector, it should never be this large of an amount and never only for one race of owner. There is no reasonable political ideology that advanced the arbitrary spending of tax money on enterprises that will not directly benefit the tax payers.

4. Massive roll-out of broadband infrastructure, ensuring connectivity of schools, universities, hospitals, police stations and other public areas.

At least it is a better idea than spending 30% of government expenditure on an arbitrary class of businesses. Too bad there won’t be much money left to enact this project after the land reform, business subsidies and other wacky ideas.

If examining this as an isolated principle, then there is one question to ask to evaluate it from a libertarian perspective: will this improve the state’s ability to protect the citizenry and enforce just law? Better internet for police stations, as long as the internet is strictly used for law enforcement, may be a good idea. A libertarian could hypothetically support it. A libertarian would not support the implementation of this project on the other public areas, however, as these should be in the purview of the private sector.

Rather, the state should deregulate and make private alternatives to state-led broadband possible. It is high time that Telkom lost its monopoly.

5. Implement the Maputo Declaration and ensure 10% of GDP goes to agricultural development.

The Maputo Declaration is simply what the point states – ensuring that 10% of a country’s GPD is used for agricultural development. While not exactly in the purview of the state, food security is important. More effort by the South African government to ensure our agricultural development and food security would be welcome. Deregulation, in many ways, would help this. As it stands, however, if this plan was implemented well, and the money could be found, then it is not the most unreasonable of points.

6. Turn South Africa into a construction site; deliver water, sanitation, roads, electricity and houses.

I sure hope they don’t mean this literally. Construction sites are noisy, unsafe and generally coincide with local crime waves. Otherwise, this point is a generic promise for service delivery. The ANC has made it hundreds of times before. If their track record is anything to go by, they will continue to fail.

7. Diversify ownership in the financial services sector, licence the Post Bank, introduce new players and transform the industry in favour of the people as a whole.

A vague and blatantly ambiguous display of newspeak. My optimistic outlook initially read this as deregulation to better allow new players into the industry, but then I remembered that we’re talking about the ANC. Rather, this point aims to increase the number of black financial bosses along the ANC’s usual arbitrary racialism.

The licensing of the Post Bank refers to allowing the Post Office to run its own state-supported bank. All this could accomplish is having a new worst bank in SA.

Don’t let the final passage delude you. This point has nothing to do with helping ‘the people as a whole’. It will only enable government cronies more pathways to corruption.

8. Finalise the National Minimum Wage to give income security to all our people.

The Parliament Buildings in Cape Town. Credit: GCIS

The minimum wage doesn’t help the people who need it most – the unemployed. This new minimum wage will further strangle any attempts to grow our flagging economy and let new people into the workforce. Coupled with other stringent labour regulations, the minimum wage represents an emotionally driven ploy to further strip away sovereignty from the employer and possible employee. Wages should be negotiated between the employer, recruit and perhaps a union. The state mandating a minimum wage only strips away a person’s right to work for what they are willing.

This point will do the opposite of ensuring income security to “all our people”. Rather, it will further ensure that leaving the unemployment trench will be even harder and that growing a small business will become even more unlikely.

9. Increase the requirement for black ownership in mines, ensure that a significant amount is in the hands of the workers and advance local beneficiation.

Arbitrary racialisation. A complete ignorance of the mining sector. Socialist claptrap about workers having a right to the enterprise. Some vague newspeak. ANC at its finest. Let’s deal with these multiple proposals in point form.

  • Force a business to change its ownership and at best, you are just violating essential private property rights, and at worst (and more likely) you will send signals that encourages disinvestment in the economy and stunted growth. Mining companies will abide these demands only so long as it takes for them to leave the country. They are already doing so, and South Africa will suffer for it.
  • Workers have no right to the enterprise. A worker, when applying, evaluates what they are willing to work for in exchange for their labour. That payment, bonus, benefits and any sort of prior agreed compensation, is all they are entitled to. If a mine agrees to give shares or increased wages to its workers, then fine, but the state has absolutely no right to infringe on a business and its relations with its workers. Forceful expropriation to turn mines into anarcho-syndicalist communes is unethical and will lead to bad consequences.
  • Local beneficiation is some weird demand that the ore refinement process should be processed on-site. Odd as claim as any. Simple answer is let the mine companies do what they want.

It may be just beating a dead horse, however. Mining is dying, if not already dead. The commodity glut and labour relations has made it an unviable industry. Many mining magnates are probably not fearing these as they had already lost all hope for their industry.

10. Implement free higher education for the poor and produce no fewer than 5000 PhDs per annum by 2030, and urgently generate more artisans.

So we’re going to generate more artisans by funding higher education? I don’t think the ANC knows what an artisan is, or they thought that 12-points sounded better than 13-points. The Rational Standard has made a business of dealing with arguments for free higher education, and I will list some of the most prominent of our articles below.

In summary: we can’t afford free higher education. Even if we could, it would not have beneficial consequences, rather devaluing already floundering degrees. If we are to spend our already humungous education budget on something, it should be on primary education, where the true downtrodden need the most help. People who qualify for tertiary education are already privileged. They don’t need more help.

The quota for PhD graduates is a typical case of the ANC trying to impress voters with numbers. They could easily fulfil this by giving people a PhD. But we know intuitively that that would be a bad idea. The number means nothing. What should matter is the quality of the degrees that our universities produce.

The artisan demand is probably linked to a desire for more trade colleges. While not that bad, it is still a waste of funds that could be used to uplift primary education, or actually fulfil the requirements of a state – security. All in all, a bad point.

11. Review SA’s trade policies to prioritise national interest and support and promote local business.

Seems the ANC are taking a cue from Trump and advancing some form of trade protectionism. I doubt it’s sincere. It would damage their precious relationship with China. I also doubt their competence in promoting local business, as the ANC does not have a good liberal economic policy, the only ideology that could aid the upliftment of our economy.

At best, the ANC may recognise free trade and liberalisation to be the saving grace for the country. I doubt it. More likely, we may get selective protectionism where the ANC’s foreign friends are allowed carte blanch to destroy our economy, while the trade partners South Africa needs are snubbed.

12. Mercilessly deal with corruption, fighting both the tigers and the flies.

Seriously?

Conclusion

The question remains how closely Zuma will follow his party’s demands in the SONA. Zuma is no doubt a self-interested realist. Insiders predict that Zuma will double down on his quest for power this year. Will he see these racialist and socialist points as beneficial to his agenda? Perhaps. Anything socialist, especially coupled with racial economic policies, can easily improve one’s abilities to be corrupt and to attain and maintain a disproportionate amount of power.

Hopefully, Zuma’s self-interest will block the worst parts of this list. An effort to secure his own position may be the only thing (besides general incompetence) that saves us from further authoritarianism and terrible policy in South Africa.

Nicholas is a co-founder and Managing Editor at the Rational Standard. He is a Council Member of the Institute for Race Relations as well as a Regional Coordinator for African Students For Liberty. Nicholas is also a science fiction author, writing the Warpmancer Series.