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Observations by Thabo Mbeki to mark  the 30th Anniversary of South Africa’s Democracy

THIS year I celebrate 68 years of membership of the ANC, having joined the ANC Youth League as a 13½-year-old in 1956.

You can therefore imagine what a difference it would make to me and others of my generation if the South Africa of today looked like the South Africa for which many sacrificed in many ways, including by losing their lives. 

The ANC held a victory party at the Carlton Hotel in Johannesburg as soon as the results of our very first democratic elections of 1994 were announced. I happened to serve as the Master of Ceremonies that joyful evening.

As I was making my introductory remarks to kick-off the celebrations, my eyes fell on one of our esteemed guests that evening – Mrs Coretta Scott King, wife of the late esteemed leader, the Rev Martin Luther King Jr.

Almost spontaneously I repeated the words her husband and comrade cited as he ended his famous “I Have a Dream” speech – “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

I am certain that those words of thanks to the Almighty were uttered by millions throughout our country because, indeed, these millions were free at last from 350 years of cruel white minority colonial and apartheid rule.

That freedom meant that at last as visualised in the Freedom Charter we would have a government “based on the will of all the people”.  

This government would lead the protracted but historic process of bringing about the many changes such that in time our diverse but united nation would proclaim together, again basing themselves on the words of the Freedom Charter – “South Africa truly belongs to all who live in it, black and white”.

The Reconstruction and Development Programme

All of us will recall that the 1994 Election Manifesto of the ANC was based on the Reconstruction and Development Programme, the RDP.

After the Elections, the RDP was slightly recast and presented to Parliament by the Government of National Unity as a White Paper. Among others that White Paper said:

“At the heart of the Government of National Unity is a commitment to effectively address the problems of poverty and the gross inequality evident in almost all aspects of South African society. This can only be possible if the South African economy can be firmly placed on the path of high and sustainable growth.

Of great interest, the Conclusion of the White Paper is headed – A NATIONAL CONSENSUS – and says:

“The responsibility for the renewal and transformation of our nation is, however, not the responsibility only of the Government nor of particular elected officials. It is a joint responsibility of all sections of our nation, and calls on all to put their energy and creativity into finding ways of doing things better and differently. 

Beyond setting broad objectives, the White Paper includes a very important Annexure One. This Annexure lists 18 Lead Projects, all of them funded significantly by the then RDP Fund, with the funds actually specified in the document.

To select just one-third of these Lead Projects, these were:

•  land restitution

•  the National Urban Reconstruction and Housing Agency (NURCHA): 

•  small scale farmer development

•  clinic building especially in rural areas and informal settlements: 

•  extension of municipal services

•  urban renewal projects

Here we must bear in mind that the RDP Fund was used to supplement the much large Departmental budgets.

However, the fact of these RDP Fund allocations, specified in the White Paper, indicated the determination of the Government to achieve the socio-economic objectives stated in that document.

SONA 1999

Five years after the adoption of the RDP White Paper by Parliament, I delivered my State of the Nation Address in 1999, after our second democratic General Election. I said then:

“Steadily, the dark clouds of despair are lifting, giving way to our season of hope.

“Our country which, for centuries, has bled from a thousand wounds is progressing towards its healing.

“The continuing process of social and national emancipation, to which we are all subject, constitutes an evolving act of self-definition.

“At the dawn of a new life, our practical actions must ensure that none can challenge us when we say – we are a nation at work to build a better life!” 

Viewed in the context of South Africa today, it could be said that these comments were utterly wrong.

However, I am very glad that I was actually not wrong as I uttered those words so optimist about our country’s future.

The First Years of our Democracy

The actual reality is that during the first thirteen to fifteen years of our democracy, Government and other social partners did much practically to implement the vision and programme contained in the RDP White Paper and related socio-economic development programmes.

Here I am referring to programmes which complemented and did not replace the RDP, as some have wrongly argued. 

These programmes were the Growth, Employment and Redistribution macro-economic strategy, GEAR, and the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa, ASGISA.

With your permission, here once more I will again quote from a speech delivered last year by the CEO of the South Africa Institute of Race Relations, Dr John Endress.

To address some of the speculation that has arisen in this regard, I must explain why I keep citing Dr Endress.

In terms of our country’s political and ideological spectrum, the ANC and the Institute of Race Relations stand at polar opposites. Accordingly, there is no reason to expect that the CEO of the Institute would decide for some inexplicable reason, to say anything positive about the ANC.

When he does this, his view would be more credible in the eyes of many of our fellow citizens, not tainted by suspicions of self-serving self-praise if what he said were to emanate from a member of the ANC.

I beg the patience of those among us who have read the remarks by Dr Endress to which I will now refer. This is because they are very importance in terms of the story I am trying to narrate about South Africa@30.

What Dr Endress said – Age 1

In July 2003 Dr Endress addressed the Cato Institute in Washington DC in the US, speaking about the future of South Africa under the topic, “South Africa’s Third Age: What lies ahead”.

Here is part of what Dr Endress said:

“The period since the 1994 transition can be divided into two ages. The first lasted from about 1994 to 2007. The second age started around 2008 and we are now at the tail end of it. The two ages reveal themselves clearly in South Africa’s development indicators. I will describe for you some of those development indicators and will then speak about what lies ahead for South Africa as it moves out of the second age and into its third age.

“South Africa’s first age, from 1994 to 2007, was marked by considerable progress across a range of indicators. GDP grew at an average rate of 3.6%. The number of people with jobs increased from 8 million to 14 million, and the average GDP per capita increased by almost 40%, from R55 000 per year to R76 000 per year in real terms, after adjusting for inflation.”

Additions to what Dr Endress said

I will now add further remarks concerning the period Dr Endress characterises as our country’s ‘first age’, and thank Dr Frans Cronje for his assistance in this regard.

Our country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, per capita, measured in real terms, grew from under R65 000 in 1994 to nearly R80 000 towards 2008.

The fixed investment rate rose quickly between 1998 and 2008, almost reaching the rising global average.

At the same time, our country’s investment competitiveness ranking improved to reach a ranking between roughly the 37th and 40th most competitive investment destination in the world.

The public debt levels inherited from the apartheid administration at just below 45% of GDP were cut to a low of nearer 23% by 2007.

Accordingly, as interest payments were reduced, the savings were reallocated to service delivery improvements and the very necessary social protection system. 

The national data in the period up to 2007 collectively marked progress in advancing living standards that would rival any other post-colonial emerging market.

Using various studies, there is little doubt that substantial strides have been made in reducing poverty since 1994, whether using a moneymetric measurement or a multidimensional poverty measure… Although South Africa has made progress in reducing poverty since 1994, the trajectory of poverty reduction was reversed between 2011 and 2015, threatening to erode some of the gains made since 1994. (SA Twenty Year Review & World Bank).

After the 1998 Asian economic crisis, the GDP growth rate rose steadily to average over 5% between 2004 and 2007. This was the first time that level of economic growth had been maintained for that number of years since the first half of the 1960s.

One important result of the pursuit of the correct macro-economic policies was that the Government achieved the very first sustained budget surpluses since the formation of the Union in 1910.

Everything I have just said confirms exactly what Dr Endress said that: “South Africa’s first age, from 1994 to 2007, was marked by considerable progress across a range of indicators.”

What Dr Endress said – Age 2

Then Dr Endress went on to say:

“By contrast, for the period 2008 to 2022 the average GDP growth rate was a lackluster 1.2%. The number of people with jobs increased by barely a million over a period of 14 years, while the population grew by 10 million over the same period. GDP per capita declined by R1 600, as people became poorer in real terms. The unemployment rate has crept up over the years and now sits at an astonishing 32.9% (up from 22.6% in 2008), or 42.4% (29.5%) on the expanded definition that includes discouraged job seekers. Even these bleak employment numbers are generously assessed, as they include both formal and informal employment.

“Business indicators show a similarly stark divide. The RMB/BER business confidence index registered above the confidence-indicating 50 mark in seven out of 14 years of the first age, on a rising trend, but has been below 50 – showing lacking confidence – every single year since 2008. Investment trends are downwards, with gross fixed capital formation as share of GDP climbing during the first age, reaching a level of 21.6% in 2008, before declining in the second age, dropping to as low as 13.1% in

2022. This number should be around 24% for an emerging market like South Africa. The government’s 2012 National Development Plan specified a target of 30%.

“The lack of investment by the private and the public sector has started affecting the infrastructure that forms the backbone of the country’s economic activity. While dramatic deterioration is being recorded in road, rail, ports and water infrastructure, the sector that has attracted the greatest attention is electricity generation. While the total amount of electricity produced rose from 170TWh in 1995 to 253TWh in 2007 during the first age – an increase of 49% – it declined from there to barely

209TWh in 2002 – a drop of almost 18%.”

This sharp difference between Dr Andress’ Ages I and 2 poses the question – why?

An answer to this question becomes especially important because during both Ages, the ANC was the major governing party.

Before I deal with this important matter, I would like briefly to refer to a central issue which Dr Endress does not discuss.

Establishing the Democratic Order

During his Age 1, our country adopted two Constitutions, in 1993 and 1996.

It was therefore during this Age 1, between 1994 and 2007, that especially the Executive and the Legislature, supported by the Judiciary,

set about establishing the institutions prescribed by these two Constitutions.

These institutions include the Constitutional Court, the Independent Electoral Commission, the Public Protector, the Gender Commission and other Chapter IX institutions.

This also means that the necessary Statutes were passed legally to establish these institutions. Other legislation was also approved to repeal a wide spectrum of apartheid laws and thus establish a truly democratic, non-racial and non-sexist national statutory framework.

In summary, in addition to the socio-economic progress made during Dr Endress’ Age 1, we also owe the democratic order we enjoy today to the work that was done during this same period, 1994 to 2007.

This brings us back to what I said earlier.

“The sharp difference between Dr Endress’ Ages I and 2 poses the question – why?

“An answer to this question becomes especially important because during both Ages, the ANC was the major governing party.”

Two important changes took place during the period 2007/2008 – one economic and exogenous, and the other political and endogenous.

The political change was the more important of these.

2008  Economic Changes

During the years 2008/9, the world economy suffered a recession as a result of the banking crisis which started in the United States in 2008 with the collapse of the major bank, Lehman Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy on 15 September, 2008.

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That global crisis resulted in our country losing a million jobs. The damage could have been worse.

Fortunately, during this period we were investing in infrastructure, in good measure to prepare for the 2010 Soccer World Cup. In addition, we had the budget surpluses which enabled government to engage in counter-cyclical measures.

Other things being equal, like other emerging economies, our country could have recovered from the economic recession fairly quickly.

However, other things were not equal centrally because of the endogenous political changes to which I have referred.

Die Rooi Gevaar

As recently as two years ago, in April 2022, the on-line journal, ‘politicsweb’, published an article by the eminent Afrikaner academic and intellectual, Hermann Giliomee, entitled ‘When the ANC lost its brain’.

This provides a clue as to the political change I have mentioned.

All of us are familiar with the concept of ‘die rooi gevaar’ which was strongly advanced by the apartheid regime and establishment.

In his treatise, ‘Afrikaner anti-communist history production in South African historiography’, Wessel Visser has written: 

“In the 1950s, Piet Meyer published a pamphlet containing a concise history of communist activity in South Africa. The cover page displayed the ominous spectre of a Bolshevist looming like a giant over a Christian city in South Africa. Wielding a hammer and a sickle the giant went about destroying the city, Meyer illustrated how the SACP’s policy was repeatedly defined and dictated by Moscow…

“In his book, ‘The Red Trap, Communism and Violence in South Africa’,

(appropriately provided with a red cover to illustrate the point), Chris Vermaak, a South African Security Police Officer, asserted that a Sovietinspired communist plot was being hatched to foster anti-apartheid sabotage, subversion and revolution in South Africa. Agents of the SACP infiltrated organisations such as the National Union of South African Students…the ANC…Umkhonto we Sizwe…the South African Congress of

Trade Unions and even the South African Jewish Board of Deputies…

(According to this historiography), The objectives of the Freedom Charter…’carried the unmistakable stamp of communism’ as the SACP acted in ‘international cohesion with Russia’…

“From the 1970s onwards…South Africa was now being perceived (by the West) from its strategic global position vis-à-vis Soviet and Chinese strategic intentions…(and) the discourse of the anti-communist publications of this period shifted accordingly from the “Red Peril” inside South Africa to the “Soviet” and “Red Chinese Menace” and expansionism in African states bordering white South Africa.”

Elsewhere, Tarryn Halsall and Johan Wassermann wrote:

“In the Apartheid era textbooks, in line with the political ideology of the NP and within the context of the Cold War, Russia and Communism was the “Red Peril”. Communism was foregrounded as a threat to especially Capitalism and the white way of life.”

Wessel Visser said that, “the average white South African, especially during the period 1974-84, was imbued with the psychosis of a fear of a world-wide communist threat.”

On January 22, 2010, the Financial Times published an article by Alec Russell entitled ‘Lunch with the FT: FW de Klerk’

The article said: “Encouraged by the fall of the Berlin Wall, which took away the rooi gevaar (red danger), or fear of a communist takeover, de Klerk was emboldened to press ahead (with changes which led to the end of apartheid rule.)”

The ANC, the NDR and the Rooi Gevaar

The hard reality, however, is that not everybody in the apartheid establishment took this position concerning the rooi gevaar

For instance, in his book, ‘The Afrikaners: Biography of a People’, Hermann Giliomee writes:

“To preserve its image as a national movement the ANC, as distinct from the South African Communist Party (SACP), did not commit itself to a socialist state. Instead, nationalists and communists alike propounded the theory of a National Democratic Revolution (NDR). In the first stage of this revolution the goal was to take charge of the political and economic system and from this basis create the conditions for the transfer to socialism, which was to be the second stage.” The author then says that wanting to put all his efforts into the NDR’s first phase, Mbeki “postponed the introduction of socialism indefinitely.”

You will understand from this quotation that to this day, sections among the old apartheid establishment continue to hold this entirely false view that the NDR, the fundamental policy of the ANC, is in fact an old communist policy. 

The argument states that the communists prescribed this NDR for countries emerging out of colonial domination, this being their first step on the road to socialism. Later, those leading the NDR would then take the next step, the introduction of socialism.

It was exactly on this basis that Professor Giliomee wrote the article headed, ‘When the ANC lost its brain’. Specifically, he wrote:

“…the ideology of the SACP was very close to that of the Soviet Union and…the SACP dominated the ANC-SACP Alliance during the years of Struggle. The ANC’s intimate relationship with the SACP and its association with Moscow have acquired something of a smell…

“It is clear that the paralysis that has seemed to grip the ANC government is due largely to the decline of communism as an ideology and the cessation of the flow of expert advice from Moscow…

“President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appeals to his voters sound increasingly like calls to stragglers who are lost and without guidance.”

These comments communicate the convictions of those, unlike F.W. de Klerk, who never believed that the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the disappearance of the Soviet Union meant an end to the rooi gevaar in South Africa.

To the contrary, South Africa still had the SACP-dominated ANC, intent to advance from the NDR to socialism, regardless of the fact it was experiencing some paralysis because it had lost its real brain, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and was therefore ‘without guidance’ because of ‘the cessation of the flow of expert advice from

Moscow…’

Earlier I quoted some analysts as having written that during the apartheid years, “Communism was foregrounded as a threat to especially Capitalism and the white way of life.”

This is exactly how those who were and are convinced that the NDR is a communist strategy leading to socialism, understood the threat posed by the electoral victory of the ANC in 1994 – that it would establish a system which was “a threat especially to Capitalism and the white way of life.”

This threat had to be defeated!

The Organised Counter-Revolution

It was exactly to realise this strategic objective that a group emerged from among especially the erstwhile apartheid security forces, centred of the former Military Intelligence Division of the SADF, whose objective was to ensure the defeat of the ANC whose NDR and other policies continued to perpetuate the rooi gevaar.

This group was the leader and practical expression of the counterrevolution whose activities we will now discuss.

One of the important decisions taken by the counter-revolution was that to achieve its objective of defeating the ANC, was to ensure that it fails in its task properly to govern our country.

The second important and directly related decision was that the ANC had to be so weakened that it would not be able successfully to frustrate the realisation of the first counter-revolutionary task we have just mentioned.

Counter-Revolution’s intervention in the ANC

In December 2007, the ANC held its 52nd National Conference in Polokwane, Limpopo. One of the tasks of this National Conference, like all others, was to elect the National Executive Committee, the NEC, which was done.

Having taken the decision to weaken the ANC, the counter-revolution started already in 2002 to work on the task to change its leadership. The 2007 National Conference presented the counter-revolution with the opportunity to implement its plans in this regard.

It therefore participated both in the preparations and the Conference itself to ensure the success of those it favoured as members of the ANC National Executive Committee.

In this regard I must mention a very important matter concerning the reality about South Africa, which we are discussing. 

This is that the apartheid regime had paid a lot of attention to the task to infiltrate as many of its agents as possible, into the ANC and the rest of the broad democratic movement. 

Though much was done by the ANC to discover and expose these enemy agents, the hard reality is that a considerable number of these remained undetected within our ranks.

Quite early after the formation of the 1994 Government of National Unity, we approached the heads of the former SADF, the SAP and NIS to request that they give us the lists of these agents so that we could discuss with and demobilise them.

Effectively, all three services turned down our request.

The counter-revolution used these agents in the ranks of the ANC to intervene in the Polokwane National Conference as it did. 

Later we will return to this important matter of the place of the ANC in the context of the counter-revolution.

You will recall that earlier I said there were two reasons to the radical change between Dr Endress’ Ages 1 and 2, the one economic and exogenous, and the other political and endogenous.

In terms of the latter, I was referring to the change in the leadership of the ANC engineered by the counter-revolution, one of the major events during this first 30 years of our democracy.

I will now discuss another important event which occurred during this 30year period.

I would like to believe that nobody would contest the assertion that governance in any country would face serious challenges if denied access to state revenues, electricity and a properly functioning economy.

The Counter-Revolution and SARS

The South African Revenue Service, SARS, accounts for 95-98% of state revenues.

From Age 1 into Age 2, SARS outperformed itself in terms of revenue collection, with each year being better than the one before.

However, this changed from the 2014-2015 financial year, with SARS underperforming in an ascending manner in the following years.

Alarmed at this development, which meant an ever-shrinking pool of state revenues, President Ramaphosa appointed a Judicial Commission to inquire into SARS and make the necessary recommendations to address whatever shortcomings the Commission might have unearthed.

Led by Justice Robert Nugent, this became known as the Nugent Commission. It submitted its Final Report to the President in December 2018.

To cut to the bone, the Nugent Commission made the startling finding that some people had set out to destroy SARS. It explained in detail how this was done.

Obviously, the destruction of SARS would mean the destruction of the democratic State, given its unique place in terms of the provision of state revenues.

It was exactly the success of this process of destruction which had resulted in the escalating underperformance of SARS from the 2014/15 FY, which set off the alarm, obviously contrary to the wishes of those who wanted to destroy the Service.

One of the things which stood out in the Nugent Report was the role that the well-known US Business Consultancy, Bain & Company, had played in planning and participating in the attempted destruction of SARS. 

The Commission also detailed the extensive process of consultation which had taken place between Bain and then President Jacob Zuma.

President Zuma himself had appointed the Judicial Commission to Inquire into State Capture which was led by Justice Raymond Zondo, and was therefore called the Zondo Commission.

This Commission also looked into SARS, building on the work already done by the Nugent Commission.

Here, let me quote some of what the Zondo Commission says:

“The SARS evidence is a clear example of how the private sector colluded with the Executive, including President Zuma, to capture an institution that was highly regarded internationally and render it ineffective…

“All these actions and events (aimed at dismantling SARS) cannot be coincidental. This is especially so in the light of the planning documents which the Commission has been shown. The only feasible conclusion is that the organization was deliberately captured and President Zuma and Mr Moyane played critical roles to in the capture of SARS and dismantling it in the way it was done during Mr Moyane’s term as Commissioner…

“It is a notable feature of the SARS evidence, in contrast to the rest of the evidence which the Commission heard, that this is one of the few instances where President Zuma was himself directly and personally involved in the activities and plans to take over a government entity, namely, SARS. Another was Eskom which is discussed elsewhere in this Report.”

Obviously, this confronts us with a conundrum!

Here, according to the Judicial Commissions, we have a Head of Government who joins a process to reduce the very revenues he needs to enable the Government to discharge its responsibilities, up to the point of the possible collapse of that Government.

How do we explain this puzzle?

The only logical way to explain this is that, challenging as this might be even to comprehend, here we are dealing with a wolf in sheep’s skin!

Accordingly, in terms of this logic, the involvement of such a ‘wolf’, so to speak, in the effort to destroy SARS would not be surprising, as it would represent the discharge of its responsibilities as part of the counterrevolution.

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Time will tell whether this logical deduction is in fact correct.

The Rescue of SARS

To conclude this section, it is important to note that President Ramaphosa acted on the recommendation of the Nugent Commission to remove the then Head of SARS, Mr Tom Moyane. 

He appointed a new Head of SARS, Mr Edward Kieswetter, under whose leadership the Service has largely recovered the competences it had lost under Tom Moyane.

Let me now address another important matter.

The Counter-Revolution and Eskom

Virtually no country in the world, including ours, can function properly without electricity.

It would therefore be obvious that to realise its objective to ensure the failure of an ANC-led government, the counter-revolution would do its best to compromise the supply of electricity to democratic South Africa.

There is a particular false narrative that has attended the electricity crisis which has affected our country for some years.

That narrative says that Eskom warned the Government as early as in 1998 that if no immediate steps were taken to build new generation capacity, the country would suffer from serious load shedding from 2007.

It is then said that Government ignored this alert and that it is this failure on the part of Government which lies at the base of the energy crisis that has affected our country for some time.

As I have said, this is a false proposition advanced to hide the reality in terms of what has negatively affected the availability of electricity at various moments. 

Some among us will recall that in 2007, speaking as the then Head of Government, I apologised on behalf of Government for the instances of localised load shedding which had taken place, and continued in the same vein in 2008 after the first instance of national load shedding in January of that year.

With regard to the latter, it was only 11 years later, in 2019, that we discovered that our apology had been misplaced.

This was because the January 2008 national load shedding was completely unnecessary and had been deliberately engineered from within Eskom, and had absolutely nothing to do with any failures by Government.

In 2017 a Special Investigation Unit, (SIU), submitted a report to then President Jacob Zuma ‘On the Investigation into the affairs of Eskom Holdings (SOC) Limited’. Among others this SIU Report said:

“Eskom’s Executive Management and Board of Directors did not heed warnings from employees that Eskom was facing a potential shortage of coal by December 2007. The declaration of an emergency could thus have been avoided with the exercise of reasonable care…The BOD did not respond to warnings that the coal stocks were reaching dangerously low levels prior to

January 2008 and that the threat of load shedding was a strong possibility.”

Simply, the Eskom station managers had defied instructions to replenish their coal stocks until they literally ran out of coal at many of the Power Stations.

This was a deliberate attempt to compromise the supply of electricity.

At the beginning of 2004, the Government issued the directive to Eskom to build new Power Stations. Two of these were Medupi and Kusile.

Over the years, regular Eskom communications have reported that it started building Medupi in 2007, three years after the Government directive.

This report is incorrect and tries to hide some bitter truth.

The reality is that Eskom started building Medupi much earlier than 2007.

The truth is that the company/s commissioned to prepare the site for the building of the Power Station did not do its geotechnical work properly. 

The result is that when construction started, the building sank into the soil. Construction had to stop. What had been built had to be destroyed and work had to start afresh to prepare the site for construction. 

At some point Eskom appointed the law firm, Dentons, to carry out a forensic investigation of the company to help it overcome its challenges. With regard to this matter of the failure to prepare the building site properly, Dentons said:

“This led to changes in the foundations, which caused significant cost increases and substantial delays of the order of 12-18 months.”

Here was a deliberate attempt to delay the building of new electricity generating capacity.

During February 2023, the then Eskom CEO, Mr André de Ruyter, submitted an affidavit to the Pretoria High Court and, among others, said correctly: 

“…in 2005, Eskom had not built a new power station for approximately 16 years…Eskom had significantly reduced its skills and capacity to execute mega-construction projects.”

Strangely, however, instead of awarding turnkey contracts for the building of the new Power Stations, Medupi, Kusile and Ingula, Eskom   awarded 34 contract packages at Medupi, 46 contract packages at Kusile, and 27 contract packages at Ingula.

Here is what Dentons said about this:

“A decision was made by Eskom to execute the Medupi/Kusile projects on a multi contract basis rather than structuring the projects on the basis of a minimum number of large contracts. This meant that the responsibility and risk of integrating and managing the overall project implementation was with Eskom. This decision coupled with the shortage of the appropriate skills in Eskom to manage such a large complex project contributed greatly to the new build projects being over-budget and behind schedule.”

It was surely not difficult to foresee this negative outcome when, as Dentons put it, Eskom decided “to execute the Medupi/Kusile projects on a multi contract basis”.

Later, I will come back to this important matter mentioned by Dentons, of “projects being over-budget and behind schedule”.  

If we discount the deliberately engineered 2008 national load shedding, the first national load shedding took place late in 2014 and persisted until August 2015, largely oscillating between Stages 1 and 2. 

This means that there was no load shedding for at least six years after the 2008 incident. The question is – what happened to end this happy situation.

Once again, Dentons answers this question, saying that Eskom had been underspending on capital expenditure to maintain its generation equipment since 1999/2000, that during the same period Eskom had deprioritised maintenance, and that Eskom paid no attention to the fact that generation plant of similar age in other parts of the world was very significantly outpacing its own, demonstrating that it was not age which caused the under-performance of the Eskom plant, but the manner in which the generation plant had been operated, maintained and refurbished.

The Eskom engineers knew very well that failure to do the right thing about the maintenance and refurbishment of generation plant would result in power failure.

The practical reality is that this failure contributed directly to the counterrevolutionary objective to compromise the supply of electricity to our country.

The construction of Medupi and Kusile started in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and both power stations were planned to be commissioned in 2014, 7 and 6 years later respectively.

Contrary to this, two years ago, Eskom expected that Medupi and Kusile would only be fully commissioned in 2023 and 2026 respectively.

The reality, therefore, is that if Eskom had kept to the 2014 timeframe, we would never have had the power crisis we have been experiencing.

The question is – what accounts for the inordinate delay in commissioning the new power stations?

This is the last example I will cite about the practical instances which have contributed to our energy crisis.

One of the first major contracts awarded by Eskom for the building of

Medupi and Kusile was to the French multinational, Alstom, to supply the Control & Instrumentation, (C&I), system which is regarded as the ‘brain’ of any power station.

By December 2012, Alstom’s C&I system had already failed the Factory Acceptance Tests on the Boiler Protection System three times, a system that was critical to the commencement of commissioning of Unit 6 at Medupi. This led to further delays because the Boiler Protection System had to undergo substantial redesign.

To cut this story short, in 2015 Eskom announced that it had terminated Alstom’s C&I contract for Kusile. It said the reason for the termination was that the Alstom’s power plant control system had not met its specified technical requirements, and, in addition, would not meet the availability requirements prescribed during testing and installation.

It awarded the contract to another multinational, ABB.

It is clear that the problems of the C&I system were as a result of a deliberate decision to choose a technically inferior solution from a supplier that had very little experience, if any, on commissioning such systems in the South African power stations. The inferior solution was chosen ahead of more technically suitable solutions from more experienced suppliers relating to the South African thermal power plants.

Here is an example of what caused the inordinate delay in the building of the new power stations. There are a number of other instances we can cite, all of them contributing to the objective to compromise the supply of electricity to the Republic.

My last comment on Eskom concerns the matter of the escalating costs

Medupi and Kusile had initial budgets of R79 billion and R81 billion, respectively. 

In 2020, the Eskom board approved budget revisions to complete the power stations, giving: 

R145 billion for Medupi and R161.4 billion for Kusile’s build.

Earlier, in 2019, Mybroadband had estimated that the final true total costs would be:

•  for Medupi, R234 billion; and,

•  for Kusile, R460 billion!

Such is the measure of the escalation of the costs of the new power stations which Dentons wrote about!

In addition, concerning the shenanigans at Eskom, we should not

underestimate the similarly negative roles of sections of business and organised crime.    

With regard to the foregoing, we can confirm that some of the interventions of the counter-revolution directly negatively affected the economy, while others helped to create a national atmosphere hostile to investment. 

The major business leader, Mr Johann Rupert, reflected on this investment environment when he said in December 2018: “We let President [Thabo] Mbeki down because he created a perfect scenario for business to invest. But you know what – I think we could not believe our luck, we should have invested more from the private sector during that period… Before foreigners invest, they look at us.” 

Other counter-revolutionary interventions

Of course, there are other instances we can discuss concerning the destruction visited on our country by the counter-revolution in its determined effort to defeat the rooi gevaar represented by the ANC and its NDR.

I am talking here about such institutions as the South African Police

Service, SAPS, the National Prosecution Agency, NPA, Department of Health, and others across the board, including the State Owned Enterprises, SOEs.

Earlier this month, April 2024, one of our communications media published an important article jointly written by Advocates Shamila Batohi and Anton du Plessis, respectively NDPP and Deputy NDPP. 

The article is entitled, ‘Building a fit-for-purpose NPA is crucial for SA’s future’, and makes this important observation:

“In 2019, when the incumbent national director of public prosecutions was appointed…South Africa was reeling from the effects of a decade of state capture – an attack from the inside; a stealthy and deliberate war waged on the rule of law by the very people whose job it was to protect it.”

This observation, about “attack from the inside: a stealthy and deliberate war waged on the rule of law by the very people whose job it was to protect it”, describes the act of counter-revolution.

In this regard, I recall some of the instances cited in the (Justice) Mokgoro Report about what the courts had said about Advocate Jiba, for instance that:

“(Jiba’s) conduct is inconsistent with the duty imposed on all public functionaries by section 195 of the Constitution to be responsive, accountable and transparent.

“(Jiba’s) stance is technical, formalistic and aimed solely at shielding the illegal and irrational decisions from judicial scrutiny.”

A minority judgement at the SCA about Advocate Mrwebi said:

“Mrwebi lied about the event of both 5 and 9 December 2011 and abused his position. Not only has Mrwebi shown himself to be seriously lacking in integrity, but has failed in these proceedings to have taken the court into his confidence and fully explained his actions. All of this hallmarks him as a person unfit to practice as an advocate…”  

It is clear that whatever their own intentions, the wrong things which Advocates Jiba and Mrwebi did served the objectives of the counterrevolution.

Before we pass this reference to the NPA, it is important to note that

President Ramaphosa used transparent processes to identify the new NDPP, to ensure that the right person was chosen effectively to address the recovery of the NPA.

The article I have cited asserts that this objective is being achieved.

Let me cite one other instance relating to the State institutions, this time concerning the South African Police Service.

Major General Berning Ntlemeza was appointed head of the Hawks in 2015. However, this appointment was challenged on various bases.

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Ultimately the Pretoria High Court ruled in 2017 that this appointment

was unlawful and invalid. In this regard the Court said, among other things: 

“The judgments are replete with the findings of dishonesty and mala fides against Major General Ntlemeza. These were judicial pronouncements. They therefore constitute direct evidence that Major General Ntlemeza lacks the requisite honesty, integrity and conscientiousness to occupy the position of any public office, not to mention an office as more important as that of the National Head of the DPCI, where independence, honesty and integrity are paramount qualities.”

It can reasonably be argued that part of the process of disabling the SAPS by the counter-revolution would be the placement in positions of authority of such officers as Ntlemeza.

The July 2021 mayhem

Before I conclude my remarks about the specific role of the counterrevolution, I must cite what the former Deputy Head of the apartheid South African Army, General Roland de Vries, said recently about the mayhem which took place in July 2021 largely in KZN, and in Gauteng.

During an interview earlier this month, Gen de Vries was asked a question about what would happen in a situation where ‘the State loses control of the stability of this country’. Here is part of what he said:

“In a sense, I would like to relate that to what happened in KZN in July 2021, on the 11th and 12th of July if I can remember correctly after Zuma was incarcerated. KZN started burning overnight. And brand new Range Rovers and BMWs without number plates and people dressed in red tshirts and caps, just driving into the rural areas and the cities. And the plundering started overnight. And it was to my mind a well-orchestrated (counter)-revolutionary threat which materialised as if by signal, as if by magic… My question is what is the capacity of the present government to contain a serious threat if security and stability are threatened…The Government and the Police don’t have control over the security situation in our country.”

It was important that General de Vries made these observations about the destructive and criminal events of July 2021 because they confirmed the estimate some had made about the deadly events of July 2021, that these constituted a practical exercise by the counter-revolution to test its ability to destabilise the country.

This is exactly why General de Vries expressed his concern about the capacity of the present government to contain a serious threat if security and stability are threatened.

I can cite other examples illustrating the damage caused by the counterrevolution in the public sector. However, I believe that what I have said so far will suffice.

The State of the ANC

I must also speak about the critically important decision adopted by the last two ANC National Conferences that the ANC must renew itself as an absolute and urgent priority, and for its very survival.

The ANC Conferences took this position as an acknowledge that the organisation itself was not in good health. 

As has been said repeatedly, essentially during the years since it assumed state power, the ANC has drawn into its ranks people who were only interested in getting into positions of power in government and abusing those positions for self-enrichment at all costs. In time, some of the older members of the organisation also adopted this stance.

This represented a serious corrosion in the quality of some of the members of the ANC leading to abhorrent behaviour, such as embezzlement of public funds and other forms of corruption. 

Of course here we are talking about a governing party. Therefore, it was inevitable that those who ended up in positions of state authority, without the value system which was fundamental to the ANC, would engage in activities directly opposed to the objective to serve the people.

It would therefore be dishonest not to mention that some of the negative developments during our country’s governance during the past 30 years were a result of negative actions by members of the ANC.

Fortunately, the ANC itself has recognised the validity of the observations

I have just made. In its latest and very important policy statement, the 2024 Election Manifesto, it makes some important and relevant commitments. 

Among others, it says:

“We admit we made mistakes as the ANC, with some members and leaders undermining institutions of the democratic state and advancing selfish personal interests.

“We are now raising the intellectual capacity and enhancing the moral and ethical orientation of our membership. 

“The living embodiment of a renewed ANC will be members who show exemplary conduct in society by upholding the core values and principles of selfless public service, discipline and integrity.”

ANC & Governance commitments

The Manifesto goes on to make other commitments about such important matters as: 

•             strengthening the links between government at all levels and the people;

•             ensuring that the ANC public representatives and deployees are held accountable for the basic services to communities;

•             strengthening investigation and prosecution capabilities, conducting rigorous lifestyle audits and improved vetting procedures, and ensure severe consequences for corrupt activities; and,

•             building a capable, developmental and ethical state, led by honest, dedicated and capable leaders.

During the 30-year period we are discussing, the ANC has remained the single largest party. I believe that whatever the outcome of the forthcoming Elections, the ANC will still remain the largest political formation in our country, as we begin our next 30-year period.

This reality emphasises the point that the ANC has an obligation truly to be guided by the principles of Batho Pele whatever role it plays in the public domain, and that ways and means have to be made to make it genuinely accountable in this regard.

This is why I have tried to detail the commitments the ANC has made in its latest Election Manifesto with regard to the vitally important area of governance.

I believe that one of the important lessons we must learn from this first 30 years of democracy in our country is that any political party given the responsibility to govern in any sphere of government, must practically be held accountable in terms of such good governance principles and policies as the ANC has listed in its Election Manifesto.

I am convinced that this is one of the common objectives we must carry forward as a people as we take whatever steps to define the South Africa we want.

Outstanding challenges

During his Address to the Nation a few days ago on Freedom Day, 27 April, President Ramaphosa pointed to some of the major challenges our country continues to confront. He said:

“…the apartheid’s legacy continues to define the choices and opportunities of so many South Africans.

“We know that despite our achievements, South Africa remains a highly unequal society.

“Our people confront every day the apartheid legacy of unemployment, poverty and underdevelopment.

“Crime, especially crimes of violence against women and children, are a scourge in our communities. 

“Despite great progress, many households do not have electricity or clean water. There are still many families that go hungry.

“There is a huge divide between the rich and the poor.

“We see this divide in access to health care, in access to safe transport and proximity to services and work opportunities.

“At times, it seems that these challenges threaten to undermine the achievements we have made over the past thirty years.”

Without doubt, the President was very correct in the observations he made. Something must be done to address these challenges because we cannot afford that they continue to define our country.

Other challenges

At the same time, our combined actions must continue to focus on nation building, national and social cohesion, the South Africa which, as visualised in our Constitution, truly belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity.

We must build and entrench the strong ethical foundations which must make a critical contribution to the task to end such scourges as lawlessness, violence against the person, including gender based violence, as well as a pernicious individualism which leads to looting, corruption and all manner of criminal abuse.

Together we must achieve a correct definition of our place in the world, so that once more we re-emerge as steadfast champions of Africa’s renaissance and co-architects of the global human family visualised in Agenda 2030 and Agenda 2063, in which no one is left behind.

Three Messages

There are three messages I would request that we take with us arising from everything I have said.

The first of these is that the charge that some make repeatedly, that the last 30 years of our democracy have been a disastrous period for our country and people, is entirely false and serves ignoble purposes.

Rather, the achievements realised as a result of the efforts of our people as a whole during the first 13 to 15 years of our democracy demonstrate this vitally important consideration that together we have the capacity to take this country to great heights.

More than this, it makes the statement that regardless of our situation today, we will certainly enter into a new beginning, to resume the labour of love once more to build a winning nation, a people-centred and caring society.

The second message is that the quality of the leadership we elect to govern our country is of critical importance to the very survival and healthy development of the democratic rule and governance for which many of our people sacrificed their lives.

This means that as we begin our journey into the next three decades of our democracy, we must elaborate the processes whereby we ensure that those who govern us abide by specified principles and practices of good governance which must be binding, on a non-partisan basis.

This would condemn to the dustbin the notion and conduct according to which the fact of a numerical majority leads to a conclusion that this rewards such a majority party with the freedom to engage in any governance practices of its choice.

My third and last message is that at the heart of many of the problems our country faces lies the brute reality of a counter-revolutionary intervention which began some years ago.

Whereas the central objective of the counter-revolution was to defeat the ANC and its NDR programme, its intervention has caused enormous damage to the country as a whole and visited much suffering to millions of our people.

I believe that this situation makes it incumbent on our people as a whole to act together to address the harm caused by the counter-revolution, first of all by answering the question of what is to be done to undo the damage caused by the counter-revolution.

In his Freedom Day Address, President Ramaphosa said:

“…we know that if we work together, if we harness the same spirit of unity that we did in 1994, we will surely overcome (the challenges I have mentioned.) 

“History shows us that by working together in pursuit of a common goal, we will succeed…We believe in a better tomorrow and it is within our hands to shape our collective destiny.”

Consistent with this approach, I suggest that to respond to the enormous challenges created by the counter-revolution, our people should convene in a new and truly inclusive National Dialogue to answer the question – what is to be done?

Of course that National Dialogue would be held later this year, after the General Elections.

In this regard I must report that currently I am engaged in serious discussions with a number of our national Foundations because I am certain the country as a whole will benefit greatly from their collective voice on the matter of the National Dialogue I have mentioned.

I am certain that during this coming month of May it will be possible to present to the country as a whole a more detailed proposal concerning the proposed National Dialogue.

Conclusion

I would like to conclude this presentation by referring to an important document issued recently by some of our compatriots. I refer here to the document issued earlier this month by a collective of Afrikaner leaders headed Afrikaner Statement, which, incidentally could be discussed at the National Dialogue I have mentioned.

I was struck by the statements these Afrikaner compatriots make in this Statement that:

•             we want to stay here and contribute to the well-being of the country and all its people; that,

•             we are building to remain here; and that,  • the past should not destroy the future of us all.

It seemed to me that the Statement communicates a vitally important commitment I trust all of us share, that – together we must contribute to the well-being of the country and all its people.

It is exactly this spirit and noble attitude which guarantee that working together we will overcome!

By THABO MBEKI

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