BNC#6: Anthea Jeffery – Revealing the history behind SA’s socialist trajectory

BNC#6: Anthea Jeffery – Revealing the history behind SA’s socialist trajectory

During her nightcap session with BizNews founder Alec Hogg at BNC#6 in Hermanus, author Anthea Jeffery, a prominent member of the Institute of Race Relations, discussed her book “Countdown to Socialism” and the implications of socialist policies in South Africa. She delved into the history of the ANC’s involvement in violence and its subsequent implementation of the National Democratic Revolution. Jeffery highlighted the detrimental effects of socialist policies on economic freedom and social justice, emphasizing the need for policy reform based on constitutional principles. Additionally, she discussed international influences on South Africa’s political landscape, including Russian and Chinese involvement.

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Edited transcript of Anthea Jeffery’s nightcap session with Alec Hogg at BNC#6 in Hermanus  ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

00:07 Alec Hogg: Well, I’ve had mixed reviews to my anthems but I think this is a goodie for you because your book, well it should be a South African classic, it’s called Countdown to Socialism. Why did, sorry before, before, shall I give you your what AR says about you? John, I couldn’t hear Anthea, let’s just make sure that the mic’s working first. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Dr. Anthea Jeffery.

00:35 Alec Hogg: A distinguished member of the Institute of Race Relations. As a leading expert in policy analysis, Dr. Jeffery has dedicated her career to advocating for economic freedom, property rights, and the rule of law. Her insightful research and publications have significantly contributed to the national dialogue on democracy, governance, and social justice.

01:02 Alec Hogg: Dr. Jeffries work continues to influence policymaking and public discourse across the nation. Let’s extend a warm welcome to Dr. Anthea Jeffery.

01:16 Anthea Jeffery: Thanks, Dad.

01:20 Alec Hogg: Why did you write Countdown to Socialism? And I say this because it’s explosive stuff in there. If anybody in the Kremlin were reading it, for instance, I think they would be pretty unhappy given their ambitions for South Africa. And we know that they can be pretty nasty in what they do. So what motivated you to write this book and basically tell all?

01:49 Anthea Jeffery: I suppose it really began because I wrote People’s War. And when I joined the Institute in 1990, I was very naive and I didn’t know a lot about politics. And I was astonished to discover more and more evidence that the ANC was involved in violence, that the sort of comfortable notion that we, many of us had, that it was the National Party government and its incartus surrogate that were to blame. That wasn’t true.

02:16 Anthea Jeffery: There was a whole other aspect to the violence which involved the ANC and how they had learned to use a very ruthless form of violence in order to eliminate and weaken their main black rivals. So, having written the book on that, I was very intrigued as to what they then did with the state power which they acquired. And the answer was that they were implementing the National Democratic Revolution. And that had been the whole point of the People’s War.

02:44 Anthea Jeffery: If the ANC had just been one political party out of others, then it wouldn’t have enough hegemony when it came to power to be able to implement the National Democratic Revolution. You needed really to eliminate all contestants for power for a significant period while you carried on with this incremental program aimed at socialism over time. So it was the next part of the story. And I felt very very driven, I guess, to write it up.

03:13 Alec Hogg: Where are you from? What part of the country are you from?

Anthea Jeffery: Johannesburg.

Alec Hogg: And so it plays it in, you didn’t have a burning desire to expose what was going on in the area that you grew up, if you’re from Johannesburg. What pulled you into that kind of politics? Was it just because it was so explicit?

03:41 Anthea Jeffery: I suppose it was that. You know, um. Because when I began working for the Institute, it was 1990, it was a long time ago, but political violence was increasing. And this was at a time when the ANC had been unbanned, when we stood on the cusp of constitutional negotiations for a democratic South Africa. And yet the violence intensified three times from what it had been in the late 1980s. So this was an important issue to investigate.

04:10 Anthea Jeffery: And as I said, from my rather naive assumptions about who must be to blame. I had the opportunity to read enough, to think enough, to have insight ready into some very useful books. In those days, the media used to give you more information. You might have to go to page 10, but you could actually find information about incidents that were out of the way that didn’t get much coverage. As you built up a picture of, it was like building a puzzle. You got a little bit here, a little bit there.

04:40 Anthea Jeffery: All the emphasis of the media was on certain events that fitted the third force theory, but there were all these other events which didn’t. And I became intrigued by it and I wanted to see more and more of the puzzle. And in the end I felt I did have a clear picture of it, which I wrote up. And then the next phase was the National Democratic Revolution, the use of state power in order to propel us down the path to socialism. So this is all a play? Absolutely. Yes.

05:10 Anthea Jeffery: Have this control that its Soviet partners, it was for many years, wanted the ANC to have this control so that it could do what the Soviet Union was pressing many other newly independent colonies to do, to move from the capitalist systems which they had inherited from the colonial power to a socialist system.

05:38 Anthea Jeffery: It was a theory that went all the way back to 1905 with Lenin’s view of the first and then the second stage of a revolution. But in the 1950s, the Soviet Union had put a lot of effort into refining it. What in practice could you do to move from the capitalist stage to the socialist state? And the answer was that you needed a lot of anti-capitalist transformation and that there were various issues which you could use for that purpose.

06:08 Anthea Jeffery: That in South Africa, because of the history of apartheid, because of the land injustice, you could move more quickly to tackling property rights and undermining property rights. But the other great kind of umbrella in which you could cause a great deal of damage was the notion of demographic representivity. The idea that everybody would just fan art into business, into society, into the ownership of every asset, into every school, university, etc. in accordance with their share of the population.

06:37 Anthea Jeffery: And if that wasn’t happening, then the only explanation could be continued race discrimination. And that’s a nonsense, of course. And I was interested to read a book by Yuri Bezhmanov, who was a defector from the KGB in the 1980s. We just laugh. He wrote a book called Love Letter to America, in which he was trying to explain the kind of strategies that are used against Soviet Union as opposed then enemies.

07:05 Anthea Jeffery: And demographic representivity was one of the key ones. Because he said, of course not everybody’s the same. And we all know that, and we stop and think about it, but it’s a kind of easy idea to seed that there’s a norm of demographic representivity, that if there’s an aberration from it, this requires state intervention to correct it. It’s the justification here for all the employment equity and BEE rules, which have caused so much damage.

07:36 Anthea Jeffery: And ironically, the South African Communist Party is well aware of how absurd the outcomes have been because they say we can see that inequality has increased and it’s increased primarily within the black population because there’s a small proportion that benefit from employment equity and BE and all the rest.

08:05 Anthea Jeffery: You have a very rapid turnover in the bureaucracy, so state power becomes less effective. There’s a degree of incompetence, a loss of institutional memory, and so the service delivery to people who depend on it crucially goes down. In the procurement sphere, you have an astonishing degree of wasted money, and they’ve known about it for a long time.

08:34 Anthea Jeffery: Very well-fledged people at the top, and for the great majority, there is worse poverty than if we didn’t have it. But it is so useful, too, at tying the private sector up in knots and fueling and greasing the ANC’s patronage machine that they’re only too keen to keep it. So that was another of the great issues that have been used to drive the NDR forward.

09:04 Alec Hogg: In every sphere. I’ve had a fairly long career. And I remember around the time of 94, 95, 96, just from a perhaps a naive perspective, quizzing business leaders, business executives on BEE. I remember getting a response from the CEO of a big bank when I said, but surely these share options that you’re giving away to this BEE group.

09:35 Alec Hogg: very small group that you’ve handpicked are costing shareholders. And this CEO at the time said, well, we don’t write it off against our income statements, so no, we’re, of course, it was a nonsense in 1998 when, uh, APSA had that huge deal with Tokesehwali, which was just so obvious.

10:04 Alec Hogg: They defended it on the basis that, but we need more people in the tent in the, in other words, create new black capitalists. How did they get taken? So, because when I read your book, it’s quite clear that there was a, and then you see the court documents or the documents that the court forced the ANC to hand over on located deployment. And it’s so damn obvious now that these guys were taken for fools and these are supposed to be very smart business leaders. Yeah.

10:34 Anthea Jeffery: I think perhaps I could say in their defense that…

20:38 Anthea Jeffery: You must expect an upsurge in mass action because that’s terribly destabilizing. So, we got things like the bath strike. You must expect an upsurge in violence. So, we got now a fivefold increase in the death. And you must expect an upsurge in propaganda, which blamed it all on your enemy, and you must decline to enter into any real negotiations until the very last moment. So, here we had no real negotiations.

21:07 Jeffery: Negotiations from 1990 through to about May 1993. It was only after the assassination of Prashani when the National Party government agreed to an election date. And now you had this completely immovable deadline and no agreement on the constitution on any of the legislation that you would need to guide the transition. Only at that late stage and in fact from about September onwards, did you get any real negotiation? And by then, it was so late in the day, and it was so obviously vital that you couldn’t postpone the election, that people made concessions that they might otherwise have avoided. And that was a lesson that came straight from Vietnam and what they had learned from Ziao. If we fast forward from there, and it’s a wonderful background that you’ve given us and your book is, as I said, it should be a South African classic, just to open eyes.

22:04 Alec Hogg: And we get to where we are now, this plan that was clearly very well put together should have died when the Soviet Union ended, the end of history, Francis Kiyama’s book in 1992, and yet it didn’t. If anything, it seemed to have accelerated. Why?

22:27 Jeffery: I think so that the primary reason is that there were so many other socialist organizations. There was still the Socialist International. There are a number of very left-leaning academics all over the world, various countries, and they somehow convinced themselves that socialism had never been tried. I mean, this has been mentioned a couple of times at this conference.

22:53 Jeffery: But this was really the justification that was used. And Joe Slover was one of the first people out of the blocks to say, has socialism failed? He wrote an article about it in November 1989, just about the same time as the Berlin Wall came down. And he said, no, not at all, because what happened in the Soviet Union was this completely bizarre thing. They got a bureaucratic and commandist system, which took away from democratic socialism, which is what all of us want. So what they did there was wrong, but irrelevant. Real socialism hasn’t been tried, and we will get it right when we do it. And then you also had a kind of reorientation of a concept of socialism, whereas initially it had been very much that, you know, you must have the party that’s in charge of the means of production and distribution and exchange. That’s now completely been played down. And you get Chris Haney as the general secretary of the SACP in the early 1990s saying, socialism is all about human rights. It’s about making sure that there is decent housing for people who don’t have it. It’s about making sure that there’s healthcare and good education and that the older looked after.

24:16 Jeffery: And so on. And he painted a picture of this benign government that just wants to do its best to look after people. And that’s what socialism is about. And so I think you also had an increasing anti-capitalism focus, which is used perhaps at two key themes. The one is that capitalism creates a huge amount of inequality. And it is true that when you have, you will find some growing faster, growing more quickly than others. There will be a widening of inequality, but it doesn’t matter if everybody is becoming more prosperous. It’s kind of the wrong issue to focus on, but useful to say that this is a fundamental flaw of capitalism. And the other was very much the environmental argument that capitalism is so intensely focused on growth at all costs that they’re willing to destroy the planet.

25:16 Jeffery: And then an increasing theme also coming out is that under capitalism, you will see this emphasis on profits, whereas what you need is an emphasis on people, which may sound very attractive to many, but of course no capitalist can make a profit unless what he or she produces has value in the market, but people are willing to pay for it. And that aspect of it is completely forgotten in this kind of analysis, that capitalism will spawn inequality, it will destroy the planet, and it’s not caring about people and the way that socialism is. It was astonishing when you think about the 100 million people killed in socialist countries. But as the memory of those 100 million deaths has faded, so this kind of packaging of socialism has become more and more credible, particularly to the young. And so I think it is disturbing that increasingly opinion polling is showing that young people aged 18 to 34 have a great interest. In fact, they value socialism and many think that it is better than capitalism and that their lives would be improved if their countries turn more purely to socialism. This came out, for example, in an opinion poll that was done in late 2022 in the US, the UK, Australia, and Canada. The US is not as strong, but even in the US it is going that way, particularly among the young and particularly among Democrats. And the other countries, this belief that socialism will be good. And when the people asked, conducting the poll, said, well, what’s your understanding of socialism? It’s not at all that the ruling party controls the economy. It’s Harnie’s vision. It’s that the government then takes care of everybody. And that has been the great success of the Socialist International and all the people who retained their socialist beliefs after the Soviet Union disbanded and are increasingly able to shift the narrative in these ways. And now as we see in the states also to the idea of equity, they call it.

27:41 Jeffery: become used to it as demographic representativity. There must be equal outcomes for different groups. And that is now already becoming very powerful in the US under the influence of critical race theory. And it means that we in South Africa are trying to fight back against the notion of demographic representativity are now likely to be told, but even in the US they recognize there’s a need for equity.

28:09 Hogg: So it’s made the job of ready mounting and waging the battle of ideas more tricky, but perhaps also as the inherent unworkability of this idea comes more to the fore, there may be a wider group of people that can work together to a person. Well, that would be the message of hope. Yeah. And that here in South Africa, we’ve seen that these ideas don’t work. We know, I think there was a mention today about Phil Craig. He said that the Western Cape last year had 33 days load shedding free. Now, surely if that doesn’t ring a bell in somebody’s, what else will? Could that be, I’m looking for a lever of hope here. Could that be maybe on the upside that the other guys who put the National Democratic Revolution plan together must have been real smart.

29:07 Jeffery: and they had a plan and they’ve implemented it, but it hasn’t worked and we can see the practical consequences of it. I think there is scope for fight back.

30:04 Hogg: So we have allies, potentially. We have, I think, lessons from how demographic representivity doesn’t work. We, of course, have a particular also… The way in which our population is structured is different from that of the US, where it may be easier to think that, well, if you’re aiming at 14%, 15% quota for a particular group, maybe it’s not so… damaging as it is when you’re taking people who were never given the opportunity for decent education and saying that they must be represented at the 80% level from every sphere of the workplace down, whether it’s the board, whether it’s top management, middle management, and so on, which clearly isn’t workable when you don’t have the skills, you don’t have the experience, you don’t have the institutional memory.

32:41 Hogg: So yeah, it’s a mixed picture. There’s some good and there’s also more challenge. What about the future from here? You’ve got such deep insights into what brought us to where we are today. When one tries to impose an artificial system, eventually it has to, it has to not be, well, it has to be kicked out. So how are you seeing South Africa this election and thereafter?

33:12 Jeffery: I really wish that this election could mean the end of all these crazy policies, but I’m afraid that I agree with Bill. I also did the calculation. If the race and dependent are wrong, then what happens if you put the EFF, the ANC, and the MK party together and you get to over 60% for people who all agree absolutely on the NDR? As Sarah Ramaphosa said in… 2022, there are no divisions within the ANC on ideology or policy. There are big divisions about who gets what post and the benefits that go with that. But on ideology, we all agreed and that’s 100% correct. So the sort of fallacy that Zeru Ramaphosa is a reformer who’s been fighting off the RET faction.

34:09 Hogg: is a nonsense. They all agree on ideology. So we face the prospect that those people will agree in order to keep moving the revolution forward, no matter how much they might fight about who gets what person. There’s too much at stake. So how can we resist it? And perhaps what we need to look at is at the provincial level.

34:38 Jeffery: because I think that the opinion polling has been showing quite clearly that the ANC is unlikely to win Ha Teng, unlikely to win Kwa Zulu-Natal, though the MK Party now has a bit of a complication in that, and certainly unlikely to win the Western Cape. So if there are three major provinces that are now not run by the ANC but by coalition, maybe this is the time when we can start using the constitution.

35:08 Hogg: because black economic empowerment, for example, particularly as it’s applied to business, is against the constitution. The constitution commits us as a founding value to non-racialism, which is inconsistent with race classification and race targets. The constitution says that we must have broad representivity in the public administration, but broad representivity is not the same as the kind of arithmetical quotas that we have becoming used to, and that the target for black representation is 79.2%. Broad representivity is different. Critically, it’s only in the public administration. There is nothing in the constitution that obliges business to apply employment equity or BE. When it comes to preferential procurement…

36:05 Jeffery: We have section 217 of the constitution, which deals with public procurement. And it says that public procurement by state entities must be efficient, cost-effective, competitive, transparent, all these good values. And then it goes on to say, this does not prevent state entities from applying preferences if they choose by application. It’s not obligatory at all. So it’s high time to start using the actual wording of the constitution. And then people will say to me, what about section nine two, which makes some provision for affirmative action, which it does, measures to advance the disablanded. But there I think we need to rely on what the constitutional court said in the Van Heerden case back in 2004. They said that remedial measures…

37:01 Jeffery: shouldn’t be presumed to be invalid, but they must pass three tests of which to accept them. If they’re to be race-based, and we have this non-racial constitution, then they must pass three tests. They must target the disadvantaged, they must open up opportunities for them, and they must achieve equality. And we can show that not one of those tests is being met, because the people that they target are the 15% who are the relatively neat. within the black population. The ordinary, the great majority, are not being advanced in any way through these policies. They’re being enormously prejudiced, partly because state services are collapsing, partly because investment has been so put off by all this complexity and the ever-branching up rules. And so we have this high level of employment. So the second test is not met. And the third one, achieving equality. Well, the SACP itself has said BEE is the reason.

38:57 Hogg: First of all, is that a rational thought? And secondly, if there is no more Soviet Union, why would Putin be following a Soviet plan?

39:09 Jeffery: Yes, I think that it’s difficult, obviously, to see into his mind, but I think we must take seriously his belief that the disbandment of the Soviet Union was the greatest tragedy that ever befell that Russian Federation, which pretty much has the same boundaries as the Soviet Union. And therefore, he has an ambition to, I think, restore the glory of the Soviet Union as it was.

39:37 Jeffery: And to begin to take back parts of the old empire, beginning with Ukraine. I think I have no information about whether he is funding MK, but I think that Russia and China were shipped as declared now the spritual friendship and alliance. I was certainly very keen for the ANC to remain in power. And I think it’s interesting to recognize that there is now…

40:05 Jeffery: in Tanzania, a political school, set up and run very much with the help of the Chinese Communist Party, which is very conscious that the six liberation movements in Southern Africa must all remain in power. This was obviously being discussed and was reported on in the Daily Maverick saying that they were all developing a strategy.

40:31 Jeffery: as to how, first of all, they could make sure that Zonipi would retain power in the Zimbabwean election last year, and that the ANC would retain power here, and Swapo would retain power in Namibia. So again, what you’re seeing is evidence of the East, as it were, alliance between the Russians and the Chinese, and always this network of socialist-leaning

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*The above transcript has been condensed and paraphrased for brevity and clarity, and may not capture the full context or nuances of the original session between Anthea Jeffery and Alec Hogg at the Biznews conference, BNC#6.

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