FW DE KLERK TALKS ABOUT 1994, 2012 AND 2020
In a speech to business people in Johannesburg, FW de Klerk discussed where we have come from since 1994; where we are in 2012 and where we may be in 2020.
He said that 1994 was our proudest moment. It arose from a solemn national accord that was negotiated by parties representing majorities from all our communities. However, there was a growing tendency for the ANC to claim sole credit for the establishment of our new society and to downgrade important elements of our national accord as temporary compromises.
1994 – and the subsequent 1996 Constitution – encompassed all the basic rights that South Africa needed to maintain a free and prosperous society.
South Africa had achieved many successes since 1994 – many of them as a result of government action. They included 18 years of economic growth and significant social progress. There had been moments – like the 2010 Soccer World Cup – “when we have lived up to Archbishop Tutu’s characterization of us as the Rainbow Nation of God”.
“Nor would it be fair to blame all our present problems solely on the government. The reality is that it has had to contend with enormous socio-economic backlogs inherited from the past”.
By the same token, it was also unfair to blame all the problems of the present on the past.
De Klerk believed that, after 18 years in government, the ANC was primarily responsible for the current crisis. According to the National Planning Commission our critical problems included high unemployment; poor education; poor public service delivery; corruption; and the fact that South Africa is still a divided society.
De Klerk believed that the underlying cause of these problems was the Alliance’s adherence to “unconstitutional and fundamentally inappropriate” ideologies. The ANC’s National Democratic Revolution was directed against the majority of white South Africans and was aimed at redistributing property and jobs so that they reflected the demographics of the country at all levels in the private and public sectors. “This would involve an enormous process of social engineering in which people’s prospects would once again be determined by race, rather than by individual merit and circumstances.”
The NDR was also the source of radical policy proposals that the ANC’s Policy Conference had adopted in June and that would be presented to the National Conference in December. They included:
- the establishment of a “developmental state”;
- “state ownership, including more strategic use of existing state-owned companies, as well as strategic nationalization…”;
- greater state involvement in mining, falling short of outright nationalization;
- government utilization of insurance and pension fund assets for state developmental projects;
- a reassessment of the provincial system;
- accelerated and radical land reform;
- the down-grading of private property rights to freehold “with limited extent”; and
- a prohibition of foreign land ownership.
The other ideology underlying the present crisis was the Marxism-Leninism of the SACP and Cosatu. It was one of the main causes of unemployment and of our failure to attract the foreign investment.
South Africa had the worst labour relations in the world; the second worst hiring and firing practices and the fourth worst flexibility of wage determination.
Cosatu had steadfastly opposed proposals to open labour markets to the unemployed – including proposals at the ANC’s 2005 National General Council for a two-tier labour system and more recent proposals for a youth employment subsidy.
On top of all this had come the Marikana massacre, the subsequent violent wildcat strikes and hopelessly unrealistic wage demands.
As a result, foreign direct investment had fallen by 43.6% in the past year – the largest decline among all developing economies. Moody’s had downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating because of concern over policy uncertainty ahead of the Mangaung Conference and “the South African authorities’ reduced capacity to handle the current political and economic situation…”
This was where South Africa found itself in 2012.
A rising tide of corruption, ineptitude, cadre deployment and inappropriate ideology had inundated much of the state sector and was threatening economic growth and jobs.
Nevertheless, substantial areas of high ground continued to stand above the deluge, including the Treasury, the Judiciary, the Public Protector, the Western Cape and Cape Town. “They also include great swathes of the private sector, our banks, our farmers, our mines and service industries that continue to perform with excellence.”
These were, however, the very institutions that would be targeted by the ANC’s proposals for an all-encompassing developmental state.
De Klerk said that he didn’t want to attach percentages to the ‘high road’, ‘downhill road’ and ‘precipice’ scenarios. However, he did want to share his views regarding the factors that would lead to them.
One of the routes to the high road lay through the implementation of the sensible and balanced policies set out in the National Development Plan.
Another lay in the ability of opposition parties to form a broad electoral front. “I have long supported such a development and enthusiastically welcome the initiative that Helen Zille has launched in this regard.”
A third route to the high road might arise from a split between the increasingly fractious factions that make up the ANC Alliance.
Maintenance of our present downward road would require the ANC to revert to the “First Phase” policies that it had implemented during the past 18 years. However, it would also have to restore investor confidence and establish some degree of order in the labour market.
Finally, if the ANC implemented the radical policies proposed at its policy conference it would be heading for the precipice.
De Klerk said that there were neverthless several reasons why South Africans should not be despondent.
- Firstly there was the Constitution, which placed real constraints on government power.
- Secondly, any government action that deviated too significantly from international norms of democratic and economic governance would be severely punished by markets and international opinion.
- Thirdly, no modern state could successfully govern against the will of substantial minorities.
- Fourthly, those who supported pragmatic constitutional and economic approaches had an enormous advantage on ‘the battlefield of ideas’.
- Finally, support for the Constitution was no longer a black/white thing. Black politicians, journalists, businessmen and religious leaders were in the vanguard of those who support the Constitution.
De Klerk said he was confident that we would achieve the high road provided we could work together as South Africans to achieve the vision in our Constitution.
Issued by the FW de Klerk Foundation