After Mandela, Will the ANC Deliver?


South Africa’s second election on a full non-racial franchise has resulted in an overwhelming victory for the ANC slate, led by Thabo Mbeki, achieving an even bigger victory than Mandela’s in 1994.

The ANC, with 66.4 per cent of the vote, fell short of its target of a two-thirds majority. That would have allowed it to change the constitution, which Mbeki has stated that he had no intention of doing.

The minority opposition parties fared very badly. The former ruling National Party, the begetter of apartheid, got only 7 percent of the votes. Four years ago it received 20.7 percent. The majority of white voters deserted it, voting instead for the racially tainted right-wing Democratic Party. This party fought on the slogan “Fight Back,” which its supporters interpreted as “Fight Blacks.”

The main beef of the whites is the affirmative action legislation, forgetting that affirmative action has been endemic in South Africa for more than 300 years-in favor of whites, of course.

A white farmer who was found guilty of killing a Black child was sentenced to a fine. The judge who sentenced him was not appointed to the judiciary because he was the best person for the job. He benefited from affirmative action because he was white.

Today, nearly 10 years after the ending of apartheid, there is only one Black senior judge.

Undoubtedly the election result is a vote of confidence in the ANC, but it is more than that. There is also great disappointment that all the hopes engendered by the end of apartheid have not been realized.

As Winnie Mandela put it in one of her campaign speeches: “The people did not fight against apartheid just to be able to go to the polls once every four years. They want to see a redistribution of wealth, which is still overwhelmingly in the hands of the whites.”

Thabo Mbeki mildly echoes the same sentiments. Wealthier whites, he said, can afford to make a greater financial sacrifice. But how does he hope to achieve this when, in the same speech, he said his government would continue the “market led economy”?

He also says nothing about renouncing the crippling international debt inherited from the apartheid regime.

Both Mandela and Mbeki promised that they have no intention of reversing the government’s protection of property rights on the grounds it would undermine international confidence in the South African government.

Unionized workers protest ANC-backed plans to privatize state-owned industries

Women will certainly be watching to see if Mbeki means what he said about continuing “to strive for their enlightenment and emancipation.” A recent survey shows that in the still dominant private sector of the economy, women have gained little. Preliminary results of a Commission for Gender Equality Report show that less than one in four jobs in the private sector are held by women. Black empowerment companies have done very little to improve the lot of women in the work place.

The study showed firmly entrenched racist and cultural stereotypes, such as “Black women cannot be depended upon as they are always having babies,” and “men are the heads of households and therefore should be in higher positions.”

There are other challenges for the Mbeki-led administration, including, among other things, the problem of rural poverty. In the small towns and hinterland of the Western Cape, and in other parts of the country, little seems to have changed, especially for farmworkers.

South African wines in supermarkets in Britain and the United States are competitively priced. But the unseen element is that farmworkers’ wages range between R35 [$5.50] and R60 [$10] per week.

There is great frustration about housing and unemployment. White farmers carry on as if nothing has changed. They do not really implement the labor laws. There are still some who think they can hit and intimidate people.

The ANC has received this overwhelming vote. Now the people expect them to fulfill their promises. They do not want to wait another four years for jobs, decent housing, piped water, and electricity. They want an end to economic apartheid.

If the ANC’s pro-capitalist policies continue to leave the majority of the majority no better off, the space for a political alternative may begin to open up again.

Reprinted from Socialist Outlook, the newspaper of Fourth International supporters in Britain.

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