….Addressing the capacity crowd on Saturday, President Ramaphosa, who has spent most of his tenure putting out internal political fires, preached the concept of strength in unity.
The South African ruling African National Congress (ANC) officially launched its 2019 manifesto to a stadium full of supporters in Durban on Saturday.
The event, which coincided with the ANC’s 107th anniversary celebrations, saw thousands of fervent supporters, clad in party regalia, flock to the Moses Mabhida Stadium. Led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the much-anticipated manifesto launch marked a watershed moment for the embattled organisation.
Since former president Jacob Zuma’s departure under duress, almost a year ago, the ANC has struggled under the weight of fierce factional infighting, with divisions based along loyalist lines.
Political assassinations, claims of a presidential overthrow plot, dissidence among high ranking officials and a general divisive malaise, threatened to tear the ruling party asunder.
Addressing the capacity crowd on Saturday, President Ramaphosa, who has spent most of his tenure putting out internal political fires, preached the concept of strength in unity.
With question marks hanging heavy over the president’s ability to reconcile and reunite the ruling party – compounded by a perceived weak handedness in dealing with transgressions – Ramaphosa, fierce in rhetoric, riled up the crowd, largely silencing detractors.
The ANC’s 2019 manifesto launch comes at a crucial moment for various reasons – none so important as the impending general election which is, according to voter polls, going to reveal a further drop in support for the ruling party.
Here are five points which sum up Saturday’s event, employed by Ramaphosa to renew faith in the ANC.
Ramaphosa praises ANC achievements
Ramaphosa opened his address by listing some of the ANC’s achievements, focusing on socioeconomic progress made by the party which ascended to power at the dawn of democracy in 1994.
The ANC has come under fire, from the public and opposition parties alike, for not doing enough for the country – for failing to redress social ills emanating from the past, as well as allowing state owned enterprises, infrastructure and institutions to collapse under its watch. Ramaphosa, acutely aware of criticism, highlighted the party’s victories of social justice, saying:
“Millions of poor South Africans have benefited from the provision of free houses, the restitution of land and the provision of electricity, water and sanitation.
We have transformed the future of millions of young people by massively expanding enrolment in schools, universities, colleges and early childhood development.
Our economy has tripled in size since 1994 and over 7 million more South Africans have jobs.”
RAMAPHOSA ON CORRUPTION AND ANC SHORTCOMINGS
The President noted that the ANC could do better – a noble admission of fault; daring, considering the contentious issue of state corruption.
With former president Zuma in attendance – in high spirits, despite recent legal woes regarding corruption – Ramaphosa maintained that the fight against impropriety and malfeasance would continue. The president’s message spoke to the heart of issues which have sullied the party’s reputation:
“We must acknowledge that state capture and corruption have weakened several of our public institutions, undermined effective governance and contributed to the poor performance of our economy.
We must also acknowledge that factionalism and patronage has diminished the ability of the ANC to lead the process of transformation and fulfil its mandate to the people.
As the ANC, we admit our shortcomings, we accept the criticism of the people and we are hard at work to correct our mistakes.”
Looking ahead to the 2019 general election
The ANC manifesto, beyond its ideological relevance, is undoubtedly the greatest singular election campaign effort aimed at canvassing votes by reinstalling faith. With the country’s sixth general election mooted to take place in May, Ramaphosa made a powerful plea to the proletariat.
The latest voter surveys propose that the ANC may fail to attain 60% of the national vote – a result which would serve as a fierce psychological blow to the ruling party, considering its once high held two-thirds majority. Ramaphosa, aware of the importance of this years’ election, said:
“The 2019 elections provide an opportunity to restore our democratic institutions and to return our country to a path of transformation, growth and development.
Through our 2019 Election Manifesto, the African National Congress is making a call on all South Africans, black and white, young and old, urban and rural. Let’s grow South Africa together.”
PROMISES OF JOBS AND FURTHERING FREE EDUCATION
Naturally, the notice of importance was followed by promises of action. While the ANC 2019 manifesto prioritises several socioeconomic reforms, the creation of jobs and furthering of public access to free education formed the pillars of progressive policy proposed by President Ramaphosa.
Unfortunately for Ramaphosa, 2018 was particularly treacherous, with the unemployment rate rising and the country’s economy entering a technical recession.
South Africa’s unemployment, especially concerning the youth, has reached endemic proportions. Ramaphosa promised that, through investments and job creation drives, the ANC will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, saying:
“We have a plan to raise R1.2 trillion in new investments. Working with all social partners, we will intensify our efforts to restore investor, business and consumer confidence and ensure policy consistency and certainty.
We will implement the agreements reached at the Presidential Jobs Summit last year by boosting local demand for goods, investing more in sectors like mining, manufacturing and agriculture, and expanding export markets. It is estimated that this could contribute around 275,000 additional jobs each year, nearly doubling the annual rate of employment creation.”
The contentious issue of free tertiary education, first endorsed by Zuma during the dying moments of his dubious tenure, is still a hot topic. While the promise of free education has threatened to cripple the national fiscus, as well as embattling the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Ramaphosa reiterated the ANC’s support for no-fees, saying:
“Fee-free education for students from poor and working class backgrounds will be expanded this year to cover both first and second year students, and will be progressively rolled out further over the next few years.”
Land expropriation without compensation
Undoubtedly the fiercest socioeconomic and socio-political flashpoint of 2018 – which only promises to intensify in 2019 – the issue of land expropriation without compensation was, once again, endorsed by Ramaphosa during his address.
The president reaffirmed the ANC’s commitment to redress, by redistributing land to the disenfranchised masses. Ramaphosa repeated that land reform was the key to unlock the shackles of generational poverty, and would be accelerated in 2019, saying:
“From its formation, the African National Congress has fought to undo a grave historical injustice and give effect to the injunction in the Freedom Charter that the land shall be shared among those who work it.
In this Manifesto, we outline the elements of a plan to accelerate land reform, making use of a range of complementary measures, including, where appropriate, expropriation without compensation.”
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