(Written 18 June 2012)

Dear All,

If it is true that the ANC wants to find ways to solve the problems facing the country in 2012, why do they not simply start with the work done by the State’s  National Planning Commission? After all, that Commission was established in 2010 to investigate exactly those issues that plague South Africa and their first (perhaps only?) report was published in November 2011. As I understood it, the findings of the NPC were meant to inform the policy deliberations at the ANC’s policy conference at the end of June this year, so what is the role of Jacob Zuma’s ‘second transition’ document?

Report on South African development

Why does Zuma need a second transition document?

I have written, on 19 March 2010, about the ‘zuma manuva’, a phrase that describes a political manoeuvre in which the leader presents to the followers ideas or promises in such a way that every individual can interpret what he or she heard as if what they wanted was being offered to them, but in truth nothing is being offered to anyone. Jacob Zuma, after whom the strategy has been named, is the arch-practitioner of the zuma manuva and so it comes as no surprise to me that there should have been leaked to the press a set of discussion documents that the ANC has dubbed the “second transition”. (Drawn up incidentally, also, to protect the ANC from those who want to steal it from the masses. A story well know to students of the history of Liberation.)

Indeed, the president and various ministers and officials have alluded to the importance of the second transition in recent speeches but from the pieces on the topic published so far, it is not possible for the public, nor the Deputy-President it seems,  to work out from what and to what the second transition may be. Come to think of it, I don’t recall a first transition in the ANC, but that is of no consequence because the only important thing about this document is that it lacks specifics; you see, obfuscation is the hallmark of a zuma manuva.

The ultimate purpose of the second transition document is to prepare for the ANC’s Mangaung presidential election at the end of 2012 and so the timing of the leaking of the second transition documents – before the ANC’s June policy conference, but not too long before in case it is recognised as a nonsense – is a key part of the strategy. Unlike the work of the National Planning Commission which has a brief to point in some particular way to a better future, the purpose of the second transition document is to point in every possible different way at once… that is the essence of the zuma manuva. And by the time Mangaung arrives, the Zuma camp will make the claim that their second transitional plan was ratified by the ANC’s June policy conference.

The second transition is anything you want it to be

The second transition is anything you want it to be

For those who wish to read that land will be given to all and that the right of ownership of property will be protected; that the broken education system will be repaired and that teachers’ unions will not be challenged; that the moribund economy will be invigorated and that all workers will be given decent work without their having to work very much; that a free press in South Africa is sacrosanct and that the state’s ‘secrets’ will be protected; that nationalisation of mines and banks  is being discussed and that foreign fixed investment is safe; that corruption will be rooted out and that government officials who inadvertantly had their fingers in the till will be given a second chance… just look for it in the second transition. The picture from the Mail & Guardian of 20 March 2012 is an example of what I mean. Green? Of course, everything is green in the second transition. What colour would you like it to be? (This already government policy after all, so no problems there.)

In summary, the purpose of the second transition is to play the role of a promised “Great leap forward”. So, for some real insight into the goings-on inside the ANC over the next few months, don’t look for what is or is not written in the second transition document, look for the way in which the political ambiguities are incorporated.