Standing on the Promise
Liberation movements must deliver or face extinction
Harare – How the elective congress of South Africa’s ANC in December will pan out has been a major news item.
It is a story that has overshadowed the fact that several liberation movements in Southern Africa have – or will – this year hold important congresses that could have a major bearing on the political and economic ideological bent that the region will assume in coming years.
In the next few weeks, SWAPO of Namibia and ZANU-PF of Zimbabwe will hold national congresses, as they prepare for general elections.
Zimbabwe is set to hold its poll next year, while Namibians will go to the ballot in 2014.
Tanzania’s Chama Chama Pinduzi (CCM), fresh from its Eighth Annual Congress, will face the electorate in 2015.
Mozambique’s Frelimo (which turned 50 this year) has also held its major elective congress ahead of elections in 2014, while Angola’s MPLA has already swept a general election this year and has made leadership changes indicating its intentions for the next poll.
At the end of this month, SWAPO will hold its fifth annual congress while ZANU-PF will hold its 11th annual congress.
SWAPO, going by what President Hifikepunye Pohamba said ahead of the congress, is primarily going to address issues of social development as it charts a course for the next five years.
“We must use the important platform of the upcoming congress to critically review our policy positions on issues that are vital to the achievement of our national development agenda,” President Pohamba said.
He called on the preparatory committee to give attention to “the measures aimed at combating unemployment and poverty, improving the performance of national economy and delivering of quality health care, education, housing and other public amenities”.
ZANU-PF will hold its congress under the banner, “Indigenise, Empower, Develop and Create Employment.”
The party says it has adopted that theme because “it is relevant to the current situation and also to our campaign ahead of next year’s election”.
December is likely to be dominated, though, by the ANC’s congress, which comes as Africa’s oldest liberation movement celebrates its centenary.
As the biggest economy on the continent, events in that country are of importance to hundreds of millions of people who would normally expect the ANC to provide moral leadership.
Away from the dogfights, key issues of economic participation and the socio-economic well being of the majority will loom large at that congress.
It is a busy season for the liberation movements; but what direction are they taking?
Safe … for now
Hard questions will continue to be asked of the parties, especially within the context of delivering on the goals of Southern Africa’s liberation struggles.
In Tanzania, President Jakaya Kikwete is confident of a CCM victory in 2015; buoyed by notable infrastructure development, growth in mining, and steady enrolment in both public and private schools, is well comfortable.
Poverty, however, remains a major problem though the people of Tanzania will likely be content to give CCM another term of office and see if it delivers on its promises.
In Mozambique, Frelimo has started delivering with money flowing in from huge coalfields. And the discovery of oil and gas potential can only serve to put that party in good stead to repay the electorate’s unwavering faith in the two decades since the end of the civil war.
At the party’s September congress, President Armando Guebuza said the country’s natural resources should benefit all Mozambicans.
“These are the fundamental conditions for us to continue weakening poverty until it passes into history.
“The message of Frelimo is this: let us all continue, my dear fellow countrymen, to build this beautiful Mozambique, a Mozambique that we and future generations should all be proud of.”
Mozambican economy has been growing at an average rate of seven per cent a year, lately, with a direct impact on improving the quality of life of Mozambican citizens.
But the same problem as in Tanzania arises: spreading that wealth.
And this is a problem that is being played out in all the countries concerned.
“An election landslide won on August 31 by (President Eduardo) dos Santos’s ruling MPLA party is, from the outside, as monumentally impressive,” noted a Reuters report three months ago.
“But more than ever before, Angolans, including MPLA supporters, are openly calling for a fairer share-out of the national wealth.
“This swelling social clamour for more equality and jobs points to cracks and strains in a political edifice that has ruled Angola since independence from Portugal in 1975.”
With 72 percent of the vote in the bag this year, MPLA does not appear to be in any immediate danger of being kicked out of office.
But there are questions that the party must address if it is to consolidate and even build on this strong showing in future polls, particularly with all indications showing that their mainstay, President dos Santos, could be paving way for former Sonangol boss, Vice President Manuel Vicente.
The journal Shaping Change – Strategies of Development and Transformation, published by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Centre for Applied Policy Research at Munich University outlines the problem.
“Despite being richly endowed with natural resources such as oil and diamonds, Angola still belongs to the group of least developed countries … with at least 65 percent of its urban population living below the poverty line, resources seem to be more a curse than a blessing for this country.”
SWAPO has “noted with concern the state of vestiges of poverty still inflicting our people 17 years after independence”.
Namibia is working to address poverty in line with its Vision 2030.
But as the years roll by, little action is being taken to address land hunger, a key determinant in poverty levels.
President Pohamba has said, “The issues of land reform, economic emancipation and development are at the heart of our strategies to address the challenges of poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment in our country.”
At independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990, about 20 percent of the population owned about 75 percent of all land.
Not much has been done to transfer massive landholdings from the white minority to the indigenous black majority.
One newspaper has noted, “The land reform has been slow, mainly because Namibia's constitution only allows land to be bought from farmers willing to sell.
“Also, the price of land is very high in Namibia, which further complicates the matter.”
Professor Sam Moyo of the African Institute of Agrarian Studies says 44 percent of Namibia’s land is privately owned freehold; 43 percent is classified as “communal” and held in trusteeship for its occupants by the state; the remainder of the land is “public-purpose” state land.
“Privately owned land outside the urban areas is divided into some 5 000 large commercial farms, of which 4 500 are white-owned; redistribution of land to the black majority is thus a major issue,” says Prof Moyo.
SWAPO’s biggest fear going forward, thus, should not be the political opposition parties, but rather its own supporters who have been clamouring for land for 22 years now.
South Africa’s labour unrest is indicative of a society often referred to as “the most unequal on Earth”.
Poverty abounds in South Africa, and the ANC has its work cut-out dealing with this.
The general perception is that the ANC is not in any clear and present danger, but some analysts have warned of an attempt to collapse the opposition Democratic Alliance and the ANC into one outfit around 2019. (Read The Southern Times, October 5-11, 2012: “An Ugly Fight”).
In essence, the ANC has a battle on its hands to retain its character as a revolutionary party by delivering on land, empowerment, housing, security, employment and a host of other issues.
There surely is cause for concern for a liberation movement in a country where academics, like Dr Motsoko Pheko say, the black majority fare the worst in human development indices amid the worst wealth gaps in the world.
On land, Prof Moyo says: “The South African land reform programme has not proceeded very far in terms of implementation since 1994, with less than 1.5 percent of commercial farm land being redistributed, perhaps 20 percent of restitution claims finalised (most of them urban) and policy on tenure reform in the communal areas not yet defined.”
ZANU-PF may have authored the twin revolutionary games in town – land reform and economic ‑ but that is no guarantee that the party is sitting pretty.
Some 300 000 families benefited from land reforms, but state support for these new farmers has not been top-notch, though those into tobacco are smiling all the way to the bank.
There have been internal and external factors curtailing government support for the new farmers, but the onus is on ZANU-PF to find solutions to things such as the illegal sanctions on the country.
One such solution may lie in the growing diamond production sector.
But that too presents a problem for ZANU-PF, which has to clear perceptions that a few, well-connected people are the major beneficiaries of this key national resource.
This too is an allegation that ZANU-PF must work hard to address in regards to the indigenisation of the economy.