Before last week’s bad news that the official unemployment rate had hit a record high of 29%, this country was on several fronts already in very serious trouble. This news, which translated into a staggering 6.7 million people, will exacerbate the situation, especially since the real rate is probably much higher.
It must, however, be pointed out that this jobless tragedy is causally multifaceted and cannot be simply attributed to the ANC government.
Following the adoption of neo- liberal economic policies introduced by the ANC, unemployment figures have shot up since the late 1990s.
The reason for this spike was largely due to the fact that the ANC succumbed to global pressures to commercialise and privatise many public services.
However, how the ANC responds now to the latest jobless figures is important. In this regard, there is going to be a much greater clamouring by many in the ANC, its alliance partners and civil society for the nationalisation of the SA Reserve Bank (Sarb), which was an ANC conference resolution in 2017.
The purpose would mainly be to expand its mandate to include dealing with unemployment and job creation.
If some in the ANC government, such as Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Sarb governor Lesetja Kganyago, are allowed to continue to block this, despite the adoption of this policy by the party, there are stormier times ahead.
If such resistance at high levels is not successfully challenged, the ANC is going to suffer a bigger loss of support in the 2021 local government elections.
This is so for the simple reason that we live in a society in which greater value is placed on private profits than on the well-being of workers and citizens.
That is precisely why companies are allowed at one fell swoop to retrench thousands of workers at a time despite the serious jobless crisis.
In light of the scary jobless figures, the battle coming within the ANC is going to be about implementation of the 2017 Reserve Bank resolution.
But is it as simple as that? Not according to what ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte has said – that even if this resolution is implemented, the bank mandate would not change.
How is that possible? How can the ownership of the bank change without changing its mandate? If that is the accepted and correct interpretation, why did the ANC adopt the resolution?
Suggesting that the nationalisation of the bank is irrelevant to its mandate is bizarre. Motivation for this resolution was to nationalise the bank and thereby make the saving of jobs and job creation key priorities in the face of an unemployment crisis.
To say, after the ANC adopted this policy, it is irrelevant to the mandate of the bank is more than bizarre: it would be a travesty of the ANC’s constitution and enough to provoke a revolt by delegates to that conference to protest against this violation and distortion of that policy mandate.
But the meaning of its “independence” might shift if ownership changes, which could also require a constitutional amendment, otherwise ownership is reduced to a mere formality, which it cannot be.
Besides, to emasculate that policy will only add grist to the mill of those who have already accused the ANC of having opportunistically abused the land expropriation issue and made a political football out of it, especially in relation to other parties, such as the EFF, for first raising it sharply.
Perhaps these and other burning issues need to seriously awaken the branches of the ANC to finally take the bull by the horns and rein in its top leadership, in their interests.
The lack of power and control by ordinary ANC members is the root of the problem. Money and resources have for too long been the new locus of power in the ANC, and also the root cause of the factionalism filth killing it.
Harvey is a political writer and commentator