What the ANC can learn from Singapore's PAP in remaking itself into an effective developmental party

Occasional Paper 2/2022



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FEBRUARY 2022


by Prof William Gumede

Associate Professor, and former Convener, Political Economy, School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand; and former Senior Associate and Programme Director, Africa Asia Centre, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London; and author of South Africa in BRICS (Tafelberg)



Introduction


Singapore’s People’s Action Party (PAP) offers valuable lessons for the ANC and other African liberation and independence movements, in how to turn themselves into effective developmental parties. This type of political body has the necessary capacity to govern diverse countries inclusively and manage the complex development strategies that are needed to turn ethnically diverse former colonies into highly industrialised, racially inclusive and peaceful countries.


The PAP transformed itself from a party of independence – a typical broad front spanning trade unions, communists and small business – into a developmental party with pragmatic policies, merit-based leaders, and with honest, anti-corrupt and ethical governance.


Unlike many other independence and liberation movements, especially those in Africa, once in power, the PAP did not wallow in victimhood, or blame colonialism or imperialism for everything that went wrong or for self-inflicted failures. Instead, it focused its energy firmly on the present, the future and on tackling problems pragmatically[1].


The PAP used its postcolonial hegemony over society better than Africa’s dominant independence and liberation movements. It transformed Singapore within one generation from dirt-poor at independence from Great Britain in 1965, into a highly developed economy. At independence Singapore had no mineral resources, no significant industries and imported its energy, food and water[2].


In 1965, Singapore’s nominal GDP per capita stood at US$500 – the same as Mexico at the time. In 2015, GDP per capita rose to US$56,000 – similar levels to Germany[3]. Singapore had caught up with industrial and former colonial powers. The country managed to make income distribution more equal on the back of concentrated focus on quality education, improving technical skills and fostering entrepreneurship in both the public and private sectors[4]. In contrast, almost all African countries within one generation became significantly poorer, more corrupt, more ethnically divided and more dysfunctional than they were at independence.


By delivering industrialisation, widespread prosperity and racial peace, the PAP ensured its continued legitimacy[5]. With few exceptions, African independence and liberation movements have been successful in opposing colonial or apartheid regimes. However, they have failed to use their hegemony over their societies to make the transition as governing parties who can successfully manage the kind of intricate state-building, industrialisation and development so effectively implemented by the PAP.


Most importantly, the PAP is the only party after independence that renewed itself while in power. It changed independence-era policies, ideologies and ideas for pragmatic ones, and forcefully retired veteran struggle leaders who were not competent, in spite of their “struggle” credentials. The party brought in new leaders, many of whom were never part of the “struggle” or, in some cases, were not even members of the party.


The PAP dealt firmly with corruption within the party and state – jailing senior leaders in the party and government implicated in corruption, even if they were struggle grandees. The party introduced a strict meritocratic system and governed at all times in the widest public interest, not only in the interest of its struggle leadership elite, members or core constituencies. The shock therapy introduced by the PAP to renew itself offers many lessons for the ANC and other African liberation and independence movements, such as Namibia’s Swapo or Algeria’s FLN, who have backslid in government.


PAP – an independence party of the Left


The PAP was established in 1954 as a party to fight for the independence of Singapore from Great Britain. Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of post-independence Singapore, was one of the founders of the PAP. The party was similar to many African liberation and independence movements, a party of the Left[6]. However, unlike many African liberation and independence movements who adopted either Marxist-Leninism, African variants of socialism and communalism, democratic centralism, and state-led development, the PAP pursued social democracy, adopted pragmatic market-based policies, and partnered with business, including multinationals.


The Singaporean thinker, Chan Heng Chee says that the PAP ideology was that of pragmatism[7], meaning adopting policies based on whether they produce results, and if they do not, rejecting them, and not basing policies on dogma or the belief in an absolute truth. Lee Kuan Yew explained the PAP policy approach as “rational” decision-making[8].


Michael Hill and Lian Kwen Fee said that the PAP adopted ‘‘purposive rational policies’’, which “requires planning and considerable quantitative analysis to complement a very strong strain of empiricism. If the leaders find that a policy is not working or that it is producing unintended results, the PAP will jettison it without any sentimentality”[9].


Many African liberation and independent movements of both the left and the centre, often also pursued left populist social, political and economic policies, whereas the PAP consistently rejected populism. The PAP essentially almost became “non-ideological” in government[10]. The PAP has been exceptionally “responsive” to citizens’ concerns[11], contrary to most African liberation and independence movements, who often take for granted that their supporters will vote for them because they supposedly brought “freedom”.


The PAP also focused on the long term, rather than the short term, whereas many African liberation and independence movements focused largely on the short term, undermining long-term sustainability. The PAP focused on making “things work”, delivering quality basic public services on time, making “basic utilities function efficiently”, and ensuring new “infrastructure is intelligently planned with a long-range vision in mind”[12].


PAP’s pragmatic policy turns away from liberation ideology


At independence local and international business were alarmed by the rise to power of the PAP, because of its left-wing history. As a result, many local and international companies moved their head offices to other countries[13]. However, the PAP proved the market doubters wrong.


The PAP cobbled together an industrialisation strategy, focusing on export manufacturing, unlike many African liberation and independence movements, who rarely focused on industrialisation, but rather concentrated on redistribution of colonial or apartheid-inherited assets, land and businesses as the main strategy.


Ravi Menon, Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the country’s central bank, says that in 1965, Singapore made two strategic economic decisions which broke from accepted left-wing developing country independence ideology. Firstly, it moved away from a strategy of import-substitution to one of export-led industrialisation. Secondly, the country went all out to attract foreign multinationals – given the fact that it did not have its own industry players, to drive industrialisation. “The government developed industrial land, put in place infrastructure facilities, reformed labour laws to promote industrial peace, and invested in basic education with emphasis on technical skills relevant to industrialisation. Sound fiscal and monetary policies ensured macroeconomic stability and underpinned investor confidence.”[14]


By 1975, the country’s manufacturing share of GDP had expanded to 22% from 14% in 1965 and the economy almost reached full employment[15]. The country’s manufacturing drive focused on making basic products that were needed by the population, such as fishhooks, matches and mosquito coils. When it reached a sizeable new manufacturing base, it changed track to focus on “moving up the value chain towards more capital-intensive and skill-intensive activities”[16].

The new capital- and skill-intensive strategy, by the late 1980s, yielded a large value-added sector in electronics, component and precision engineering and petrochemicals[17]. Such was the expansion of the electronics industry, which started from a zero-base, that in the 1980s Singapore became the world’s leading producer then of hard disk drives, the early method of memory storage used in computers[18].


“The first two decades of Singapore’s economic history could be described as the ‘take-off' phase. It was the period when the economic fundamentals of prudent public finances, sound monetary policies, co-operative industrial relations, outward orientation, and market-based strategies took root. The economy grew by an average of about 10% each year during this period, and Singapore emerged as a newly-industrialised economy at the forefront of developing countries”[19].


Private sector-led growth, rather than state-led growth


The PAP encouraged private sector-led growth, rather than state-led growth, unlike many African liberation and independence movements, who discouraged private sector-led growth, prioritizing state-led growth. It focused on export-led manufacturing. It eschewed import substitution, the policy of replacing foreign imports with domestic production, to focus on manufacturing locally for export abroad.


The party’s post-independence economic strategist, Goh Keng Swee, strongly pushed industrialisation as a way to foster growth and create jobs, rather than using redistribution of existing or colonially inherited wealth[20]. The state partnered with business – predominantly foreign multinationals. In contrast, African independence and liberation movements nationalised many local and foreign companies, or introduced indigenisation or empowerment programmes, where the state or local political capitalists close to governing parties get slices of local or foreign companies.


The PAP used private sector individuals who had previously successfully managed large companies to lead the implementation of critical government policies. For example, the banker, Lim Kim San, was appointed to lead the government’s pillar redistribution and industrialisation strategy, its housing development programme, which he led spectacularly successfully. It is very unlikely that a PAP politician or activist who had never led a complex commercial organisation, as Lim Kim San had, would have been so successful in driving the housing development programme.


The party sought out progressive outside expertise for help. They did not take on Marxist-Leninist or neo-liberal advisors. Instead, Singapore took lessons from Japan’s successful post-Second World War industrialisation, the Dutch and German industrialisation following the end of the Second World War, and the United Nations Development Programme, which is more sustainable development-orientated, than say the World Bank or International Monetary Fund. It particularly sought the advice of the Dutch social democratic economist Albert Winsemius, who became economic advisor for the country from 1960 to 1984[21].


The PAP uniquely used multinationals in Singapore to lead industrialisation – because at independence there were no large indigenous companies, international multinationals led the export manufacturing expansion[22]. The PAP government did not nationalise colonial-era local and foreign businesses – as has been the case in many African independence and liberation movement-led countries.


The party’s government encouraged local and foreign investment, introducing tax holidays, low taxes, and establishing the Jurong industrial estate[23]. It also involved foreign multinationals in partnering with the government in industrialisation and partnered with local and foreign businesses to stimulate growth, industrialisation and development. The PAP government focused all-out on revamping the colonial education system, making the system fit for purpose for industrialisation. It put pressure on the trade union movement, aligned with the PAP to strike compromises to encourage economic growth, employment and business creation.


Redistribution that focuses on industrialisation, infrastructure and education


The PAP government-built redistribution strategies on industrialisation, infrastructure and education. It constructed its infrastructure programme around building low-cost housing – forging a manufacturing industry link to the inputs of the housing programme, fostering technical education and forming inclusive ethnic communities around the housing programme[24]. As stated earlier, the banker, Lim Kim San, was put in charge of the rollout of the housing programme – which he did very successfully. The government also used the housing expansion to integrate different ethnic communities, to foster multiracialism and common nationhood.


The PAP’s land reform strategy was pragmatic, not ideological or vengeful or emotional. In 1966, the party enacted the Land Acquisition Act, which made it possible for the government to acquire private land for public purposes[25]. The Act provided for compensation to private owners of land acquired by government, which was land that was in “surplus”, vacant or that private owners wanted to willingly sell. Land in productive use remained largely untouched.


Between 1959 and 1984, the government acquired around one-third of the total land area of Singapore. An Appeals Board was established, with independent members, to mediate in any disputes over the amount of compensation between private landowners and government. The Act fixed compensation at market value as of 30 November 1973.


The PAP did not pursue affirmative action and empowerment programmes for previously disadvantaged communities, such as the Malay communities. They prioritised lifting everyone out of poverty, giving the poorest of all communities a leg up.


They focused especially on education as a development, growth and empowerment strategy. In 1981, the Prime Minister established Yayasan Mendaki (Council for the Education of Muslim Children) to boost the educational performance of poor Malays and to promote a cultural change to make education a priority among the community[26]. To finance the Mendaki scheme, the government deducted 50 cents from every Malay-Muslim employee’s pension fund contribution – which the government matched[27].


Prioritising entrepreneurship


After the Second World War, Singapore – like other successful East Asian economies such as South Korea, Taiwan and Japan – pushed entrepreneurship. This is the reason why the country is now more advanced than all African countries, which did not follow that route. By the late 2000s, Singapore had become one of the world’s leading countries for start-up ecosystems[28]. High-tech manufacturing is now the country’s main focus in its drive to ever-increasing manufacturing output.


The PAP, after coming into power, ditched the rigid ideological view that almost all independence parties of the Left – whether in Asia or Africa – had during their independence struggles, that only the state should lead development (Gumede 2017). Rather, the party’s leadership under Lee Kuan Yew prioritised entrepreneurship[29]. The PAP’s focus was not on what is called “necessary entrepreneurship”, meaning “people who by necessity, the unemployed or the unemployable, resort to creating or starting their own business”[30], but on a whole-of-society entrepreneurship[31].


The PAP government initially focused on attracting foreign multinationals. But by the late 1970s it began to concentrate on transforming the local small business sector into an export manufacturing sector. A 1985 government report, the Sub-Committee Report on Entrepreneurial Development, proposed that the government foster a countrywide entrepreneurial spirit by inculcating entrepreneurship into the education system, into the country’s work culture, and by encouraging local companies to internationalise, to force them to become more entrepreneurial[32].


The Singapore government itself also played the role as an entrepreneur. Tony Fu-Lai You describes the term “state entrepreneurialism” and David E. Osborne and Ted Gaebler (1992)[33] called it “entrepreneurial government” for the way a state itself could function as an entrepreneur[34]. The PAP introduced merit-based appointments to the public service, rather than cadre deployment, which brought large numbers of entrepreneurial minded new public servants into government. Lichauco (1988) called such entrepreneurial minded public servants “entrepreneurial agents of the state”[35].


When the PAP’s left-wing, communists and trade unions opposed the new entrepreneurial direction, Lee Kuan Yew, like other leaders of independence movements did not try to hold the left and moderate factions of the party together for the sake of “unity”, which would invite policy paralysis, but instead encouraged them to leave. The far-left faction’s opposition to the party’s focus on driving the private sector to become prominent in leading industrialisation, combined with its opposition to securing a merger between Singapore and Malaya, caused it to eventually leave the PAP in 1961. The PAP leadership did not try to accommodate them by backing away from private sector-led industrialisation for the sake of unity.


Most African governments and leaders have either actively discouraged or were indifferent to entrepreneurs, and rarely fostered supporting institutions, policies and environments for entrepreneurship. Since independence from colonialism, African industrialisation, development and growth have been stunted because most governments have not explicitly encouraged entrepreneurship. And not much has changed since then.


Entrepreneurs change society[36]: they create new industries, new jobs and new wealth, which more people can benefit from. They increase the size of economies and fuel economic growth. They inspire a virtual cycle of others trying their hand at starting new businesses, developments and initiatives too[37].


The French economist, Jean-Baptist Say, who in 1800 coined the term entrepreneur, described entrepreneurs as being able to “shift economic resources from an area of lower productivity into an area of higher productivity and greater yield”[38].


The celebrated economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote that an entrepreneur is “an individual who introduces something new in the economy, a method of production not yet tested by experience, a product with which consumers are not yet familiar, a new source of raw material or of new markets”[39].


Researchers Robert Hirsch, Michael Peters and Dean Shepherd in their book, Entrepreneurship, described entrepreneurship’s role in economic development as involving “more than just increasing per capita output and income; it involves initiating and constituting change in the structure of business and society”[40].


There is a widespread wrong belief among many in the ANC – in fact, among many African left-leaning liberation movements – that entrepreneurship is something bad, that it will lead to capitalist “exploitation” and will take power from the state. Such movements minimise the impact of entrepreneurial individuals to bring developmental transformation.


In African liberation ideology, the individual often does not matter, and everyone is lumped as part of the “collective” or the “masses”. This is one of the reasons for the misguided phenomenon that anyone can be appointed to run complex organisations, even if they do not have the skills, as long as they are a “cadre”, which has led to the collapse of many African countries, state-owned entities and agencies.


For another, in South Africa, tenderpreneurship – getting a tender, or political entrepreneurship, being middle-men or women based on one’s political connections, rather than competence or skill – is often falsely seen as entrepreneurship. It is not. It undermines entrepreneurship.


Repositioning the PAP from an opposition independence movement into a pragmatic developmental party that can govern effectively


The PAP, like African liberation and independence movements, was also at its inception a broad church, or popular front, bringing together different ideological groups – from the left, centre to the right – trade unions, businesses and conservative religious leaders, under one umbrella to oppose colonialism.


Communists and trade unions were aligned with the PAP, a left-wing nationalist party which had “a reasonably broad working-class base”, the “English-educated” middle class, the “Malay blue- and white-collar workers”, and “the Chinese clan associations, trade guilds, and blue-collar workers’’[41]. At the party’s inaugural meeting more than 90% of those present were from the trade union movement.


At independence, the PAP was dominated by strands: one the central democratic wing, led by Lee, and the other, the communist grouping, led by Lim Chin Siong. When the PAP repositioned itself into a governing party, with pragmatic policies, rejecting fixed old independence movement-era ideologies, appointing leaders on merit and firing incompetent, corrupt and dishonest leaders, many struggle cadres rebelled. The party’s left-wing groups also objected to repositioning the party as a pragmatic developmental party.


Lee pushed to realign the PAP to turn it into an effective governing party. In August 1961, Lee forced out the communists from the PAP broad church because of irreconcilable ideological, policy and leadership differences. The PAP communists then, in 1961, formed the Barisan Socialist Party and took 35 out of 51 branches of the PAP with them.


Extraordinary for any independence party, the PAP actively discouraged populism among members and leaders – at the threat of expulsion[42].


The government established a social pact coordinated body, like the Dutch equivalent, to forge a consensus between organised labour, business and the government on growth, industrialisation and multiracialism strategies[43]. Importantly, business had equal power to that of labour, although the PAP started off as a party aligned to trade unions.


Trade unions were compelled to compromise short-term interests in favour of the country’s long-term industrialisation[44]. For example, they had to agree to productivity targets, accepting lower wages and increases and not to strike, to foster an investor-friendly labour market. African liberation and independence movements aligned to trade unions often give preference to their labour allies above that of business. This results in these governments alienating business, and therefore losing out on having the support of business, with its resources, ideas and capacity for the industrialisation programme.


Many African liberation and independence movements, when in power, still keep together the different and opposing ideological groups which were part of the broad church of the anti-colonial or anti-apartheid struggle. However, keeping such disparate ideological groups within one governing party in power causes continual paralysis in decision- and policy-making and direction. This undermines development, industrialisation and societal peace, which need clarity in decisions, policies and direction.


Introducing the rule of law and tackling corruption regardless of leadership seniority


The PAP was from the start very firm against corruption, prosecuting its own powerful leaders for such malfeasance, to show that liberation leaders are not above the law, as is the case in many postcolonial societies. No successful country development can take place amidst corruption, incompetence and lawlessness. Most of the postcolonial African development initiatives were carried out under leaders who were corrupt, incompetent and acting above the law – which predictably caused these efforts to fail.


Corruption included elected and public representatives living beyond their means or being unable to explain wealth, property or assets. Very early on in power, the PAP came out hard on corruption within its leadership ranks. In 1959, Education Minister Chew Swee Kee was forced to resign after evidence emerged of his involvement in corruption. The PAP prosecuted a key leader, Phey Yew Kok, who was also the powerful leader of the National Trade Union Council (NTUC), sending him to jail for accepting bribes.


The party was also more determined to establish the rule of law at independence – and making everyone equal before the law. When Singapore was granted self-government by Great Britain in 1959, not at independence, which came only in 1965, PAP won the 1959 general elections and Lee became Prime Minister.


In the first thirty days of gaining power in 1959, the PAP government broke up criminal gangs, mafia networks and illegal activities. The government continued with enforcing the rule of law – bringing to book both party members and leaders and ordinary citizens who were corrupt – which entrenches the rule of law.


When they get into power, many African liberation and independence movement governments often exempt party members and leaders from the rule of law, while they police ordinary citizens not connected to the liberation or independence movement leaders. This unequal treatment of citizens depending on their connection to the leaders of the governing party undermines establishing a culture of rule of law – crucial for industrialisation, growth and development.


In addition, party members did party organisational work as volunteers – receiving no payment or benefits[45].


Ethnic inclusivity in party and government


Singapore is a multi-ethnic and a multilingual state. It consists of 77% Chinese, 14% Malay, 7.7% Indian and 1.3% Eurasians.


Within these individual groups, there is extensive diversity. The PAP went out of its way to represent all ethnic groups at ‘‘all levels of the state and in state institutions’’[46]. It adopted multiracialism, a respect for and equality of all ethnic groups, and tolerance of differences, as one of the post-independence country’s “founding myths”[47].


In its policy of meritocracy within the party and the state, the PAP rewarded performance, excellence and efficiency on merit, rather than basing it on ethnicity. It went out of its way to protect minorities.


The PAP was scrupulous in electing and appointing leaders who came from diverse ethnic backgrounds in the multiracial country, making multiracialism a guiding ideology. In elections to the central executive committee, to Cabinet, and for candidates for parliament, the party took care to have ethnic diversity and gender equality. Ahead of every election, the PAP vigorously reviewed existing representatives in terms of their performance, and to make place for new talent.


Many African independence and liberation movements were often dominated by and prioritised one ethnic group, colour or region, excluding others. And thereby, marginalising the talents, ideas and resources of other groups who could have been marshalled for industrialisation, development and nation-building. Furthermore, in many African countries, one ethnic, colour or regional group, has often been scapegoated for the lack of advancement of another community. Many countries in which this happens have been plunged into ruin, social disorder and economic stagnation.


Diversity in government, political parties and private organisations brings different skills, experiences and ideas together, which collectively spark innovation, boost performance and unleash dynamism.


Merit-based deployment system to bring talent and marginal ethnic groups into the leadership in government and party


In 1958, the PAP introduced one of the most successful cadre deployment policies of any former independence party[48]. The system, where minimum educational standards were set to become a cadre and certain kinds of people were excluded, was initially used to raise the quality of new party members.


The Singapore cadre system was only used for the party itself, initially to recruit quality ordinary members, and then later to recruit talented ethnically and gender diverse members from outside the party for leadership within the party. In addition, the party used the cadre policy to headhunt new leaders who were not members of the PAP for leadership positions in the party, parliament and government.


The public service of Singapore was ring-fenced from cadre development and had an inclusive merit-based system. The PAP vigorously pursued the strategy of merit within its own party and within the state. Elections to party leadership were largely on merit, but also included all ethnic groups, which lifted the best talent among its support base to the leadership of the party. The PAP was “obsessive about co-opting talent”[49] and they “ ‘constantly’ replaced ‘older MPs’ with the ‘best and brightest’ young talent that can be recruited”[50]. Parliamentary candidates were selected after interviews, competency assessments and lifestyle audits[51].


The PAP headhunted new talent based on their performance record, educational background and values for leadership in the party. During the first years in power, when it faced fierce competition from opposition parties, Lee Kuan Yew made a case for the PAP to recruit the country’s top talent: ‘‘It is a battle of ideals and ideas. And the side that recruits more ability and talent will be the side that wins’’[52].


In 1976, the PAP modified Shell, the oil company’s system of testing new executives to evaluate new recruits for party leadership. The Shell system involves testing candidates’ ability to analyse, imagination and sense of reality[53]. Critics have slammed the rigorous selection process saying it promoted elitism[54]. However, the merit-based system in the party and government was a key reason for the country’s economic growth, racial peace and political stability miracle.


The PAP also established a meritocratic public service, setting entry examinations for new entrants, to recruit the nation’s best talent, no matter their ethnic, political or language affiliation. No African liberation or independence movement has created meritocratic public services. Rather, most appoint only cadres of their parties, or in some cases members of the ethnic, language or regional group dominating the party, to public service positions.


Bringing the best talents continuously into leadership, getting rid of corrupt and incompetent ones and ensuring ethnic diversity in leadership appointments, made the PAP a much more dynamic political party than most African liberation and independence movements. These entities often elected leaders based on struggle credentials, loyalty to the leader and ethnic, colour or religious affinity to the dominant leadership group.


In contrast to the PAP in Singapore, in South Africa, the then general secretary of the ANC said the party will not do away with cadre deployment because the ANC do not want “graduates and businessmen and women who are competent, but who are hostile to the programme of the ANC”[55].


Lessons from the PAP for the ANC


The ANC and other African liberation and independence movements would do well to learn from how the PAP, one of post war’s most effective former independence movements, transformed Singapore from a poor backwater into a prosperous, ethnically inclusive and peaceful society.


The ANC is in deep crisis. It urgently needs renewal of policies, leaders and ideologies; to introduce merit in the party and state; and to make the party more racially, gender and youth inclusive. It needs to genuinely tackle corruption.


African liberation movements like the ANC, in their fight against colonialism or apartheid build broad fronts, ranging from African traditionalists, Marxist-Leninists to free-marketers. But in power, governments need one set of policies, not a multitude of conflicting policies. To be an effective governing party, the ANC must have one set of coherent policies, and shed the groups that have ideologically different outlooks.


Genuine renewal of the ANC necessitates realignment of the internal forces, groups and factions within the party. As the PAP got rid of the far-left, so too will the ANC have to rid itself of the populists. The ANC must also shed its ideological opposition to entrepreneurship, its dismissal of business, civil society and professionals, and instead genuinely partner with these social partners, in order to leverage the resources, ideas and capacity of these social partners to improve the capacity of the state. In fact, it needs to build new kinds of social pacts between itself, civil society, business and communities.


Like the PAP, the ANC now needs to recruit new talented leaders from outside the party structures. The South African public sector must be fully ring-fenced from cadre deployment, which should be restricted to the ANC as a party deploying talent, ethnic, youth and gender diversity into their party ranks as part of deployment, not into government. South Africa’s public service must be an inclusive merit-based system – seeking out those from previously disadvantaged communities on merit also.


The ANC leaders must restore the rule of law, by making everyone equal before the law. Top ANC leaders who have mass support, but who are corrupt, dishonest and criminal should not be shielded from prosecution. They must be expelled from the ANC. But the ANC government must also break untouchable parallel governments such as gangs, violent taxi associations and autocratic traditional leaders. The ANC must also firmly tackle the party’s own militia, such as the MK military veterans.


Trying to renew, modernise and clean-up the organisational culture of any organisation, let alone the ANC, where corruption has become so entrenched, will meet with fierce resistance. When organisational cultures are deeply entrenched, leaders who want to change them are often deposed by members of the organisation. Serious reforms by President Cyril Ramaphosa to change the ANC organisational culture will likely cause a similar rebellion against him at the party’s December 2022 national elective conference, as happened against former ANC President Thabo Mbeki at the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference, when he tried to introduce overdue modernisation reforms of the ANC[56].


ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa will need to introduce shock therapy to shake up the ANC: be bold and lead, sack all corrupt leaders, and on merit bring in large numbers of new ANC leaders who have not been part of the current corrupt ANC structures. The party needs new ideas, new partnerships with business, civil society and professionals. If the ANC does not change, the party will lose the 2024 national elections.

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