Rejection of the “second transition” concept is justifiable: iLIVE
The concept of the second transition was rightly rejected by the ANC’s Policy Conference, because the concept was sending us to spaces of imagination about what should have been the first transition’s pact.
We were once more called upon to imagine what a first transition should have been like and what its end result was intended to be. We at least have a clue in our quest for imagination and that is the first transition was purely a political transition from 1994 to date, as had been asserted by the ANC’s discussion document. In our imaginative world, we must cast away the temptation to reflect on GEAR, Asgisa and the newly crafted New Growth Path, because all of these economy-related policy positions were an accident, as they occurred within a transition phase that was purely political in form and perspective. We must also not be too forward in talking about past successes of a constant period of economic growth rates that were averaging 4.5% a year. The reflection on a past period of budget surpluses, which was critical in cushioning South Africa during the 2008 global recession, must be discarded.
The concerns about ‘tenderpreneurs’ who are disorientating economic gains for the black community, mainly, must be put aside. Lastly, unemployment is not a crisis because the first transition was never intended to deal with unemployment; therefore, only during the failures of the second transition can we begin to say unemployment is a crisis. Inequalities in the country are not a crisis because the first transition was never about leveling the economy playing field; it was simply about political stability, nothing more nothing less. Maybe poverty is a crisis because there was never pronouncement that people must be hungry and this hunger was going to be arrested by political stability devoid of economic advancement. Let us then imagine what a first transition should have delivered.
If we move from the premise that the first transition was about democratising the state, then let us examine how vibrant a democracy South Africa has become since 1994. Another key feature of the first transition according to the ANC’s second transition discussion document, was the construction of social infrastructure in the form of schools, clinics, provision of water and electricity etc. Even Jacob Zuma in his opening speech at the policy conference placed great emphasis on the fact that water and electricity had been made available to almost six million households since 1994. Of course this is based on numbers of what has been delivered as opposed to actually what was constructed successfully, completed and is still in good use even today. I am sure that the households in the village of Balasi in Flagstaff, Eastern Cape, are also amongst those that have access to running water, as the delivery of such a project was ticked in the government’s ‘to-do list’. However, the reality is that, the water scheme in that village has been out of use for almost a decade now.
If ever there was a successful first transition, which we must now move away from, it means that people have quicker and easier access to government. It means that the institutions of government are fully functioning and delivering to people’s needs adequately. This is what should be happening but has not been achieved. If this were the case, the life of the young Sikhumbuzo Mhlongo from Pinetown, outside Durban, who committed suicide over not receiving his ID, would not have been lost. If the first transition was ever successful, it means that when people are dissatisfied and take to the streets in protest, they would not burn down property such as schools, libraries, municipal offices etc, because they would be intimately understanding the value of all these structures at their disposal. People would not reduce themselves into doers of thuggish behaviours simply because they want to catch the attention of the government. If ever the first transition were successful, then government would be rooted within and amongst its citizens without being accused of being distant and aloof.
If ever the second transition was successful, people would not be growingly feeling disfranchised from the criminal-justice system of the country to a point whereby they feel without choice but to take the law into their own hands. The growing acts of ‘necklacing’ people, who commit crimes (even petty crimes) within communities of Khayelitsha and some parts of Port Elizabeth, are indicative of the extent to which people have lost confidence in the state. Surely, this cannot be an expression of a successful first transition, when the institutions of a democratic state are being deliberately overlooked through these acts of vigilantism. If ever there were a successful first transition, the institution of the police would not be – today – seen as an extension of a playground for the leadership battles within the ANC. There would today be a distinct separation of powers between the state and the ruling party if the first transition were successful.
A successful first transition would be judged on having a judiciary system (especially at the magistrate and high court levels) that is not perceived to be harsher and more punishing of crimes committed by black people in comparison to their white counterparts. One example given by Rev. Frank Chikane in one forum was to ask why Glen Agliotti’s plea bargain that secured Jackie Selebi’s conviction ensured that he (Agliotti) walks free from his crimes, meanwhile Zola Tongo’s plea bargain in the Anni Dewani case still earned him 18 years imprisonment. What about the get out of jail free plea-bargain by Jacobus “Bees” Roux who bludgeoned a black policeman into a pulp of death? It took R750 000 for him to settle his crime, the family’s loss of a breadwinner must have contributed to accepting this unjust form of justice.
If the first transition has been successful, it means that the country has become less sensitive about the past and we have successfully dealt with the legacy of apartheid and can no longer blame our misfortunes on it. However, we continuously learn that the country remains with deep-seated scars of racial intolerance and pains. A successful first transition would have given birth to a vibrant parliament, one that is not merely a rubber stamp for the pronouncements of the ruling party. Instead, parliament is reduced to a kindergarten of overgrown babies who take pride in jeering and howling at each other, without playing the critical role of holding the executive to account. If we were to boast of a successful first transition, it would mean that there are functional municipalities, who thrive on excellence. If the reports of the Auditor-General are anything to go by, then we are far from achieving that.
The diagnosis I make is that, even the imaginary first transition is suffering from chronic ailments of incompetence, vile corruption, mismanagement and the directionless and visionless political leadership present. Therefore, the ‘pass mark’ being given to the first transition is probably similar to that 30% that learners can now acquire and boast of having passed matric. In essence, a struggling institutionalisation process of democracy is now being lauded as having been most successful. This is a continuation of mediocrity praise singing and dishonesty.