by Jeremy Cronin
Recently we’ve been treated to the sorry spectacle of DA MPs seeking to emulate their EFF counterparts in a reckless competition to be the most brazenly objectionable in parliament. If a callow Floyd Shivambu can defy the Speaker and be asked to leave the House, why should David Maynier from the DA benches not follow suit? Watching this unfold, I was reminded of a recent interview by DA leader Helen Zille. In the UK, soon after the May elections, she spoke candidly to a journalist. The interview received scant local attention. That’s a pity.
Whatever the electoral rhetoric might have been, Zille explicitly conceded in the interview that her strategic calculations aren’t based on any hope of a medium term DA national electoral majority. Rather, she is seeking to position her party as the catalyst for a major political shake-up. In particular, Zille envisages a decisive split within the ANC. “The battle is on in the ANC…a huge contestation”, she told her interviewer.
The rift line along which Zille aspires to polarise the ANC is curious: “The battle within is: who gets to hold onto the biggest political brand in SA’s history? Is it the people who support the constitution or people who support the National Democratic Revolution (NDR)?” Are the two things incompatible? Is an ongoing commitment to the NDR not central to the ANC “brand”?
“Eventually”, she told her interviewer, “the realignment of politics will happen around the principles espoused in the constitution …our job is to be a catalyst…to bring all the people together who support the constitution and rule of law, genuinely support non-racialism and support an open market economy…” (Let’s bracket support for “an open market economy” for the moment.) Leaving that aside, in Zille’s analysis our collective democratic challenge is to defend the constitution, the rule of law and non-racialism. At face value, I’d agree. I’m happy to make common cause with anyone genuinely espousing these values.
But how then explain the tactical parliamentary alliance between the DA and the EFF? The latter’s leadership openly disparages the constitution, is contemptuous of parliament and the rule of law, and, when not momentarily sucking-up to a swooning liberal audience at Kelvin Grove, constantly spews out anti-white invective. Indeed, how do we explain the fawning reception Malema received at that Cape Town Press Club event? The answer is: anti-ANC opportunism on all sides and the foolhardy liberal inclination, in Germany in the early 1930s, in SA in 2014, to appease right-wing hooligans in order to deal with the left and defend “market economies”.
Which brings me to the nub of the issue – Zille’s sleight of hand in her UK interview is to map into the constitution a so-called “open market economy”. You’ll find no such reference whatsoever in our constitution.
It’s precisely the massive post-1994 “open market economy” liberalisation of exchange controls, dual listings, runaway financialisation and globalisation of former South African corporations, along with transfer pricing and illegal capital flight that have drained productive investment out of SA, deepening de-industrialisation, unemployment, and racial inequality. These realities have spawned, in turn, alienated constituencies vulnerable to demagogic mobilisation, ready to believe their predicament is due to the rule of law, or the constitution, or to whites in general.
Advancing a national democratic defence of our country’s popular sovereignty (in other words an NDR) in the face of the corporate plundering of resources, and the suborning of a majority electoral mandate is, in fact, the only safeguard for our hard won constitutional dispensation.
Comrade Jeremy Cronin is SACP First Deputy General Secretary, this piece was first published by the Cape Times, “Left Turn” column (24 September)
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