Good-news manifesto bad news for ANC
THE ANC has readied itself for the coming election with an astonishing level of hubris. While the good story it tells in its manifesto is largely true and has always worked in the past to remind voters of the good things the ANC has brought, there are compelling facts and arguments that show the party is overreaching this time, when it asks voters to “go forward together” on the basis of its previous record.
A key reason is that while the story of delivery is largely true — more people in jobs, 3.3-million free houses and 7-million more electricity connections, among other impressive achievements — it is far from completely true. The numbers have been given a far rosier tint than is wise and the ANC should be warned that it will not ring true with the experiences of the poor on the ground.
Nowhere is this truer than on the jobs front, the overriding priority of its last manifesto.
That unreached target of 5-million jobs by 2014 has disappeared without a word and in its place no target for formal employment is set. Instead, 6-million “job opportunities” in the next five years through public employment programmes are promised.
The government’s accounting of public works jobs has been notoriously dubious, but apart from this — and the fact that a large proportion of jobs show a sad lack of imagination and usually amount to picking up litter — these are an important strategy for alleviating poverty and there is no reason 6-million could not be reached.
The manifesto — in the long form — soberly reminds voters of the global financial crisis and its devastating impact on employment. But both the short form and President Jacob Zuma, in his speeches, have chosen to emphasise “that more jobs have been created than before” — a statement that, although true, is nonsense without the broader context, which illustrates that employment creation has been a disaster.
When Mr Zuma took office in May 2009, SA had just reached its highest employment peak, with 13.8-million people in jobs and the economy having enjoyed its longest period of unbroken growth yet. Five years later, employment has only just reached similar levels, with the last Quarterly Labour Force Survey reporting 14-million employed at end-September.
In the interim, Statistics SA has noted, 2.3-million people have joined the working-age population — a clear indicator that the economy, five years later, is less able to absorb labour. It is conceivable, but unlikely, that working people and the poor would not have noticed the increase in hardship that comes with a greater number of dependants in the extended family.
Like the jobs story, the social delivery numbers are also true but do not tell the whole story without their context.
The General Household Survey, which has begun in recent years to track not only service delivery but also the level of satisfaction with services, last year produced some interesting findings.
Firstly, due to continuing migration, a greater proportion of people — 13.2% — live in informal settlements, where dissatisfaction appears highest, especially over sanitation, and where alternatives like the Economic Freedom Front have found the most traction.
Among people living in free government houses, 16% complained about their quality. There was also a substantial proportion of complaints about water quality — only 60% of people said they were satisfied — and electricity and water interruptions.
While these are tangible gripes, there is also a growing sense of grievance among the population over what could be termed “relative deprivation”. The strongest indication of this has been the militant, often violent strikes by the employed, all of whom, taking into account the overall increase in access to basic services, are certainly better off than before 1994.
But as political scientists such as University of Johannesburg professor Steven Friedman have pointed out, a simultaneous rise in both wealth and dissatisfaction is perfectly possible, particularly in a society of high levels of inequality.
“Once the need (for basic services) is satisfied, people measure their circumstances against those they see around them. It does not help to point out to people that they are better off than they used to be,” he said when commenting on the issue last year.
This brings us to the question of a minimum wage policy, the only new ingredient in the ANC manifesto. Apart from the fact that this is only a promise to “investigate” a minimum wage, could such a promise be considered an election winner? The answer is, nobody knows. Since its inclusion in the manifesto comes from a concession to alliance partner Cosatu — which, given its internal turmoil, needs something to present to workers to justify its continued presence in the alliance — there is no indication of the extent to which voters think this is important.
This is because it all depends on what level the minimum would be pitched at. It would need to be at least R3,000, the median wage in the economy according to the General Household Survey. In Cosatu’s own deliberations on the minimum wage last year, it arrived at a range of R4,000-R6,000 a month. These levels are not unreasonable but would be unaffordable to a large number of employers.
The National Development Plan recommended using a poverty line of R418 per person per month in 2009 prices — about R2,000 a month for a family of four. Since the government cannot readily argue that the employed should live only a few steps from poverty, it would be politically difficult to set a minimum wage on the poverty line.
In short, from a vote-winning perspective, the level of the minimum wage is a debate best avoided for now, with the result that it cannot be effectively used to persuade voters of the ANC’s intentions to reduce inequality.
The good-news story of the manifesto reflects what appears to be a genuine hubris among the ANC’s most senior leaders.
The campaign, usually one of widespread interaction with voters, will likely burst that bubble as South Africans do not usually hold back with their opinions.
Julius Sello Malema (born 3 March 1981) is the leader of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a South African political movement, which he founded in July 2013. He is also a former president of the African National Congress Youth League. Malema was a member of the ANC until his expulsion from the party in April 2012. Malema occupies a notably controversial position in South African public and political life; having risen to prominence with his support for African National Congress president, and later President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. He has been described by both Zuma[ and the Premier of Limpopo Province as the “future leader” of South Africa. Less favourable portraits paint him as a “reckless populist” with the potential to destabilise South Africa and to spark racial conflict.
He was convicted of hate speech in March 2010 and again in September 2011. In November 2011 he was found guilty of sowing divisions within the ANC and, in conjunction with his two-year suspended sentence in May 2010, was suspended from the party for five years.] In 2011, he was also convicted of hate speech after singing the song “Dubula iBunu” (Shoot the Boer). On 4 February 2012 the appeal committee of the African National Congress announced that it found no reason to “vary” a decision of the disciplinary committee taken in 2011,] but did find evidence in aggravation of circumstances, leading them to impose the harsher sentence of expulsion from the ANC. On 25 April 2012 Malema lost an appeal to have his expulsion from the ANC overturned, as this exhausted his final appeal, his expulsion took immediate effect. In September 2012 he was charged with fraud and moneylaundering. He appeared before the Polokwane Magistrates Court in November 2012 to face these charges, plus an additional charge of racketeering. The case was postponed to 23 April 2013, and then to 20 June. The State has proposed the trial date be set for 18 –to 29 November 2013
South African President Jacob Zuma has withdrawn his claim for damages against a Zapiro cartoon published in the Sunday Times of South Africa and agreed to pay half of its legal costs. In the cartoon, Zuma, who was acquitted of a rape charge in 2006, was shown loosening his trousers while since expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema, Congress of South African Trade Unions general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande and ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe hold Lady Justice down, saying: “Go for it, boss.”
“President Zuma did the right thing in withdrawing the case. This bodes very well for media freedom,” Dario Milo, who represented the Sunday Times, said. “It is to be hoped that he swiftly withdraws his other 12 live cases against the media. This will send out an important signal that the president respects the right of the media to criticise his conduct.”
The withdrawal ends a four-year saga that began in 2008 when Zuma sued for R4-million in damages to his reputation and R1 million for injury to his dignity. Recently Zuma had reduced his claims against cartoonist Zapiro from R5-million to R100 000 with an apology. The case was set to be heard in the high court today (Monday).
Zuma started proceedings in December 2010 against Avusa, the cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro and former Sunday Times Editor-in-chief Mondli Makhanya in a summons issued in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. With Mangaung (the ANC’s elective conference) around the corner, President Zuma’s legal team seem to be doing all they can to avoid a damaging legal showdown with cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro over his Lady Justice rape cartoon.
The dramatic changes to the claim come two years after various delays on the part of Zuma’s lawyers. “It was due to start on Thursday and that date has been in place since February. But they’ve used the same tactic that they’ve used in other cases, where they sue and then they make all kinds of adjustments and changes – it was clear that they didn’t want to go to court ahead of Mangaung,” Shapiro told the M&G. “But we dug our heels in and said we had to get into court and we’re confident of our case.”
There just hasn’t seemed to be a good time for the president to take on Shapiro, or Zapiro, as his pen name goes. With Zuma being pitted against his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe ahead of the ANC’s elective conference in December, he now faces a similarly sensitive period where he would want to avoid a court appearance and the negative attention it might attract.