National General Council
The RDP of the Soul
30 March 2007
This document reviews the problems we found in Liberation, analyses them, and sets out the way of Transformation through the reconstruction and development of the nation’s spirit. For it is the spirit of South Africans that drives our political, economic and social processes.
‘The question must therefore arise – for those of us who believe that we represent the good – what must we do to succeed in our purposes? … We must strive to understand the social conditions that would help to determine whether we succeed or fail. What I have said relates directly to what needs to be done to achieve the objective that Nelson Mandela set the nation, to accomplish the RDP of the Soul.’Thabo Mbeki
Liberation Brought us a Packet of Problems
Before the post-apartheid election of 1994 the ANC set out the social challenges in a booklet named the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP). It’s six basic principles were an integrated and sustainable programme; a people-driven process; peace and security for all; nation-building; linking reconstruction and development; and the democratisation of South Africa.
The first priority was the basic need of jobs, land, housing, water, electricity, communications, transport, a clean and healthy environment, nutrition, health care, and social welfare.
So many major developments have taken place since then that it is easy to forget the problems we had to overcome, many of which still face us.
Lack of experience
In those days we had run a successful liberation struggle against seemingly impossible odds, but had little experience of running a Government, a Parliament, ministerial departments and a civil service. We had to learn from government servants who were mostly committed to the previous apartheid regime, and we soon discovered that South Africa was in serious financial crisis. We were in at the deep end.
The Population Explosion
The RDP of 1994 was based on a population of 30 odd million. These apartheid figures were underestimated then, there has been a high birth rate since, plus major immigration from other African countries. The population now exceeds 47 million people, and the need for food, shelter, work, health care, education and social services is half as much again as the estimates for 1994. It is a major problem.
The Dictatorship of Capital
Liberated South Africa surfaced in a world dominated by a group of dictators who owned the capital resources of the globe. It had been preparing for years to retain its hold on the new South Africa as it had on the old. The priority was not to provide liberation, employment, income and self-fulfillment for the masses, but to uplift the profits of those who already had money. To this end they devised strategies, targeted the blacks and whites to be coopted, the areas of activity to be controlled, the raw materials to be secured, the markets to be gobbled up, and the policies to be enacted, to secure the bulk of the country’s wealth for private profit.
Wealth is currently distributed mainly through employment and wages, but the dictators of capital accept no responsibility for providing such employment. Capital is manipulated outside democratic control, and admits no responsibility for the majority who do not have enough to live on. Through the use of machines, exploitation, and subsidies dis-employment, non-employment, and un-employment are ruling factors. The only criteria is the profit of the dictators. The assertion that wealth trickles down from rich to poor is demonstrably false. The rich need a few people to trickle up: nothing trickles down, for the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
An economic system which allows dictators to administer capital without responsibility to anyone is wrong in principle for those who believe in the spirit of democracy. To maintain that it is a legitimate human right to accumulate wealth through a system condemning the majority of our citizens to poverty is totally illegitimate. It is condemned by religious prophets, humanists and economists alike. Humanity cannot work that way.
Government has moved in this area. It has massively reduced the overseas debt it inherited from the apartheid regime, and ‘taken steps to redirect state expenditure towards meeting the needs of the poor, and to free up resources previously used to service our inherited public debt for spending on service provision and infra structure. But Government action to refocus the wealth of capitalists is limited: they will simply press a few buttons on their computers and move their money to other countries.
The draft Strategy and Tactics Document for the 2007 National Conference requires the state to ‘place the needs of the poor at the top of the national agenda.’ ‘Whether such common social decency is achievable under a market -based system in a globalised world is an issue on which society should continually engage its mind.’
The economic problem of the poor is the spiritual problem of the rich. To move from the greed of the rich to the need of the poor we must change the system. We need a new spirit – an RDP of the soul.
The Western imperialist empire
This dictatorship of capital is an integral part of the centuries old western imperialist Empire which is dominated today by the United States of America. Africa has much experience of Empire decision making under the control of London, Berlin, Brussels, and Paris, and now Washington. The US, Europe and their black collaborators are a continuation of colonial exploitation in government and private business: colonialism is the guide book to globalization. There can be much good in it, but the buy-out of some African leadership, the profiteering, corruption and exploitation, is nothing new. US efforts to indoctrinate Africa with
fears of Islamic terrorism, to establish a US Military mission in every African country, to control our media, our financiers, our religions and our politicians … we have seen it all before. We fought a liberation struggle against that problem. It inhibits our transformation.
South Africa inherited a culture of corruption from the earliest invasions onwards, intensified by the discovery of diamonds and gold. The early Transvaal was riddled with machinations over land, gold, and concessions for everything from dynamite to water; apartheid was corrupt in thought word and deed; and the western Empire today is repeatedly subjected to leaders who are shown to be liars and deceivers: and major respectable business leaders, clergy and politicians who are shown to be criminal.
Recent ANC Conferences have all expressed concern for the emergence of corruption not only in business, civil society and government, but in some ANC personnel themselves.
Many in society openly and avowedly promote self-centred, political and economic policies which worship anti-human greed, promote their own profit, and side line the needs of the poor and the survival of humanity. As President Mbeki said recently:
The capitalist class, to whom everything has a cash value, has never considered moral incentives as very dependable… it entrenched in our society as a whole, including among the oppressed, the deep seated understanding that personal wealth constituted the only true measure of individual and social success.
The new order, born of victory in 1994, inherited a well-entrenched value system that placed individual acquisition of wealth at the very centre of the value system of our society as a whole … get rich! get rich! get rich!
The root of the problem is the corruption of thought and motive. If the primary object of life is to get rich, the means are secondary.
A major barrier to the transformation of our society has been criminal activity caused by need, greed or violence.
Item 11 of our Constitution states that everyone has the right to life. In hard fact the economic structure of South Africa condemns half our population to very limited life. An economy which ensures that most people lack the means to provide enough food, housing, clothing, and health care to sustain life, is clearly unconstitutional. This economic system does not justify those who steal to live but it does demands the justice of an ubuntu society. Whilst we recognise our social and personal responsibility to afford everyone the right to life, many turn to crime from need.
Crimes of greed are directly related to the worship of money and possessions which has become the ruling motif of the unequal western society, although ‘this value system within society that encourages greed, crass materialism and conspicuous consumption’ denounced by all religions and ethicists. When we move the priority from concern for our fellow citizens in the whole society to a self-centred focus on additional possessions for ourselves – as the media and advertising industry often does – this is a recipe for many anti-human social disasters.
Crimes of need, crimes of greed, and crimes of violence are produced by the deliberate promotion of a community without moral integrity. It is a promotion of false inhuman values for which many sectors of society must accept responsibility, including the religious sector. Because the main focus of much religion has moved to financial support for institutions, and individualistic concern for the after life, many have excluded themselves from its theological, ethical and social emphasis, with a consequent collapse of value systems. Crime is the result of spiritual failure, and the ethical product of the media and advertising industries also needs close analysis and transformation.
Our right to freedom of expression, includes not only the freedom of the press and other media, but the freedom to express criticism of how the media handle their freedom. The Transformation of our country can be inhibited by the negative attitudes, news items, editing, illustrations and advertisements in the media. The media can be subjugated to portraying western oppressive values, instead of the liberating values of ubuntu thinking. The media has a major positive role in the transformation of our country.
THE ROLE OF RELIGION
Human fulfillment consists of more than ‘access to modern and effective services like electricity, water, telecommunications, transport, health, education and training for our people …
As distinct from other species of the animal world, human beings also have spiritual needs. Thus all of us, and not merely the religious leaders, speak of the intangible element that is immanent in all human beings – the soul!
Acceptance of this proposition as a fact must necessarily mean that we have to accept the related assertion that consequently, all human societies also have a soul.’ Thabo Mbeki.
The colonial misuse of Religion
For several hundred years the colonial forces which invaded Africa were supported by a variety of religions. Finding no priests, temples, scriptures, Religious Institutions or Schools of Theology, they assumed that Africans were not spiritual people, and had nothing to teach the West. They were totally wrong to limit spiritual fortitude to institutional religion.
The colonial religions began missionary work to win African converts to western institutions, which today are led largely by African people. Few realised that in the process we were being coopted into western civilisation and a corrupted version of the Gospel, which undermined the essentials of spiritual humanity proclaimed by the great spiritual leaders of the past. None of these were products of western civilisation: not Hindus, Confucius, Isaiah, Amos, the Buddha, Jesus, or Mohammed. Colonial religion was often sincerely wrong.
At the height of the Liberation Struggle in South Africa sections from all religions worked together, reflecting the ecumenical and inter faith movements developing in the world at large. This was seen in Liberation Theology, in the 1991 inter-faith ‘Declaration of Religious Rights and Responsibilities’, in the Religious freedom enshrined in the new 1996 Constitution , and in the establishment of the National Religious Leaders Forum (NRLF) to work with one another and with the government to transform South Africa. But little happened.
Many religious leaders (some of whose predecessors were criticised in history for killing the prophets, and preferring tradition to truth) continued the old colonial practices of religious apartheid. Many modern Christians sincerely consider themselves too special to meet on a common ground with other Christians, let alone Muslims, Hindus, Jews, or ‘traditional’ Africans. The separate development of Religious Institutions is as strongly entrenched as it was in the apartheid era.
The problem is that although religious institutions are aware of agreement on the principles of spiritual values and integrity for the whole human community, many are too busy running their inherited separate activities to work out united strategies of transformation. They produce statements but not strategies.
The ‘Church Theology’ criticised in the 1998 Kairos Document is still rampant. Many religious communities excuse themselves from involvement in the programmes of national, provincial or local government ‘because you must not mix religion and politics’ (a totally un-godly anti-human colonial doctrine.) Many still pursue the attitudes of the Crusades, Medieval Religious Wars, the battles of Reformation, or the attitudes which rejected recent Scientific developments. Such religions are barriers to transformation, not the means of it.
There is a clear contrast between religious leaders (at all levels) who wish to present a united front for the better progress of humanity, and those who see no further than keeping their local religions going. Many pulpits refuse to explore the spiritual unity in religious diversity which is written into our Constitution: they go backwards not forwards. So people have left religion: millions of them.
The malaise affects all ‘main line’ churches of the world, for a major sociological fact of the 20th and 21st centuries has been the falling away of congregations. Believers have crossed to unbelief, often unhappily, often reluctantly, but definitely. A century ago most of the world was religious: today it is not.
Many recognise the need of spiritual strength in a world beset by poverty and war, hunger, disease and ignorance, oppression and environmental destruction: but they have written off hope that religion can save the world. They reject its divine claims. A gap has been formed between a world needing a new spirit of transformation and the failure of religions to provide it. Agnosticism rules.
Earth does not like a vacuum, and others have rushed in to take the gap. It has produced the international phenomena of agnosticism on one hand, and the massive growth of the right wing fundamentalist movements, on the other.
Right wing Fundamentalism
The fastest growing religion in the world including Africa today is right wing fundamentalism. It began when people thought the discoveries of science would subvert the teachings of the church, and amongst people who sought more emotional satisfaction than that offered by the cerebral assertions of mainline churches. Pentecostalism emerged, and then right wing fundamentalism took the gap.
Faith is replaced by superstition; theology shrinks to a few ‘proof texts’; the salvation of the world is replaced by the salvation of individuals; health and wealth will be provided in response to the faith shown in supporting the church through donations; concern for goodness in this life is eclipsed by concern for life after death; the world will shortly end when Christ will come again to gather his followers into a rapturous after life, and destroy his enemies. Jesus of Nazareth is replaced by a hideous christo-caricature and the Prophet Mohammud by a suicidal fanatic.
Fundamentalists breed extremists in all religions (including the contending groups in the Middle East whose twisted thinking degrades the same deity). Strong support comes from pseudo-Christian groups in the US which are committed to spreading their influence throughout Africa. It goes hand in hand with the current US policy of promoting propaganda about Islamic terrorism to justify the spread of a US military presence. Comments from the 2007 ANC Strategy and Tactics Document need pondering in depth on this matter.
‘In a situation in which an exploitative socio-economic system rules the waves, the danger should not be underestimated of widening wars of conquest and other more sophisticated means of subversion in search of resources, markets, and geo-political advantage. This imperils sovereignty of smaller and weaker nations.
Attached to this phenomenon is the assertion of shallow and populist ideologies such as the so-called ‘clash of civilisations’, which seeks to justify political crusades of blood and gore. Byproducts of this mind set include racial profiling and the undermining of the rule of law both in domestic and global conduct.
The growing threat of terrorism on a global scale forms an indistinguishable part of the phenomenon. Masked as resistance against imperialism, terrorism – which is the deliberate targeting of civilians in violent conflict – is as right wing as unilateralism and militarism. The two phenomena feed one another. They are two sides of the same coin.’
The Rev Dr Yansako-ni-Nku, President of the All Africa Council of Churches (AACC) – where our own Mvume Dandala is General Secretary – recently warned about these fundamentalist groups which he called ‘hawks and charlatans who are not so much for God’s glory but for themselves.’ ‘In a very short time, the preacher who promises prosperity for everyone gets richer and the congregation gets poorer.’ He attributes the growth of these churches to the fact that they exploit the ignorance, the emotions, and the poverty of the vulnerable class who have been abandoned on the fringes of society with no one to give them any direction.
Fundamentalism is a major problem preventing transformation.
And throughout our society there are progressive people already enacting transformation. They are in all sectors, young and old, women and men, spiritual and secular, poor and rich, working as individuals or in institutions, seeking the transformation of society, citizens of the age whose dawn cannot be held back, promoting progressive movements in religion and politics, economics and academia, schools and colleges, unions and businesses, medicine and the media. Behind all the criticisms and tensions, across the board, people and communities are engaged in clear constructive commitment to human rights and social cohesion, to community renewal and spiritual adulthood from their living rooms and local communities to national and international bodies. In many places in the world, especially in the West, the issue of transforming humanity is not even on the agenda. In Africa, you can smell it coming like the rain after drought, or the warmth of the sun after winter.
Somewhere ahead there beckons a civilisation which will take its place in God’s history with other great human synthesis: Chinese, Egyptian, Jewish, European. It will not necessarily be all black: but it will be African.
– Chief Albert Luthuli
ANALYSING THE ANSWERS
Such problems inhibit the progress from Liberation to Transformation: lack of experience, capitalist dictators, western imperialism, the population explosion, corruption, crime, an unliberated media, and conservative religion. But what are the positive factors?
Oppressive Empires collapse
History is the story of the rise and fall of Empires. One after the other they come into the light and pass into darkness: Chinese and Egyptian, Babylonian and Inca, Persian and Assyrian, Greek and Roman, Goth and Muslim, Spanish and Portuguese, the French and Belgians, the British – and now the North Americans. Empires are not normally defeated by opponents: they collapse from within. It starts at the edges; is resisted by violent enforcement from the centre; and then the whole edifice collapses. Africa has witnessed the phenomenon in recent years, seeing the fall of many oppressive regimes, including apartheid. Those who dread the oppressive violence of the US Empire today, the pursuit of invalid politics to control the world, the refusal to grasp the realities of modern life, the lust for wealth and power, the grim grip of right wing fundamentalist heresy, can be assured. Empires collapse. History says you can bank on it. It is happening.
A new economic system
We have been so thoroughly indoctrinated in 19th and 20th century ideologies that many still think of economics in terms of a conflict between earlier capitalist and socialist systems. But the recovery of soul in the secular world moves us onward.
In the ongoing evolution of human society there is no way in which that conflict can be solved by violent confrontation, destruction, or massacre. Many South Africans have already recognised the subtle changes in themselves as we reach for new solutions. The political wisdom which led us to liberation without ongoing violence, is directing our economic wisdom to discover a new role for capital in a new concept of socialism.
Social grants, the growth of skills, and economic programmes are steps we must take. ASGI-SA is one step on the way. It envisages ‘a single and integrated economy that benefits all’ and sees that ‘further work is necessary to put the proposal into practice in a partnership amongst all economic role-players.’ It recognizes that ‘a significant proportion of communities and households receive little direct benefit from economic growth’ … and comments that … ‘Balanced growth means shared growth, not only because it is socially just, but also because it ensures long-term sustainability.’ Facing and responding to the complex issues involved, it is clear that what is emerging is a new economic system. The Strategy and Tactics document sums it up :
‘The relationship between the national democratic state and private capital is one of unity and struggle. On the one hand, the democratic state has to create an environment conducive for private investments from which investors can make reasonable returns, and through which employment and technological progress can be derived. On the other hand, through effective regulation, taxation and other means, the state seeks to ensure redistribution of income, to direct investments into areas which will help national development, and broadly to ensure social responsibility. ‘ ‘State and private capital, as well as resources and capacities in the hands of communities, will be mobilised for this purpose.’
None of these programmes will solve the problems of rich and poor on their own. We go step by step. Transformation looks forward to something new, not backward to last centuries battles. It is happening.
A new African identity
After humanity first emerged in Africa about 140,000 years ago, it dispersed world wide into innumerable racial, national, religious and economic groups. But in recent years it has started to come together again, rediscovering its common humanity.
Most of the countries in Europe are amalgamations of earlier different tribes: Britons, Germans, French, Scandinavians are trunks growing from many roots; so are ‘Canadians’, ‘Americans’,’Russians’ and ‘Brazilians’. South Africans are rapidly developing in the same unifying way, especially in the way we think, plan, and relate.
Since its birth in 1912 the ANC has recognised our common identity and citizenship, and refused to set one group against another. Naturally and rightly, we have a high regard for family, tribal and neigbourly relationships, but hold them within the overall sense of being African. A profound transformation is taking place welding different historic groups into a strong and secure way of being ‘Proudly South African’.
Citizens are not made by Acts of Parliament, but by a growing common awareness emerging through politics, education, working together, sport, entertainment, and religion. A new Indigenous Knowledge System (IKS) is arising
which is not western, American, European, but African. It is happening.
‘A new spirit is abroad on the continent, and the people of Africa are determined to use their newly-harnessed energy, pride and self-assertiveness to chart their own course of development and extricate themselves from the lowest rungs of human development.’
A Secular Spiritual understanding
Transformation extends spiritual understanding from the religious world to the whole secular creation. It recognises that spiritual strength lies in human communities as such, and not necessarily in religious institutions. The RDP of the Soul which moves us from the Liberation to the Transformation of our society is a secular activity of the spirit of ordinary people, not reserved as a religious activity for saints. Its proclamation and practice by some transformed experienced progressive religious and theological people is a huge bonus.
Many progressive believers welcome as godly the description of modern society as a post-religious age. They believe we are being led out of the divisive and superstitious period of diverse religions. Many profound people are convinced that the Gap is an inspired movement developing beyond the earlier hesitant ecumenical and interfaith experiments into an understanding which sets the spiritual firmly in the secular world. Humanity is reaching for a new reality which religions will endorse and fulfill, as firmly as leaving behind the Druids or the belief in fairies.
The major spiritual component of the Continent of Africa – given a thousand different words in a thousand different languages – is the deep primal human concept of ubuntu. It rejects the individualistic priorities of western civilisation as anti-human destructive assertions born of a juvenile period of development, and asserts that we are part of one another and can only prosper on that basis. President Mbeki asserts that:
Existing alongside, and contrary, to the values and norms we inherited from the apartheid past are values and norms that have also resided amongst our people and which have held together our communities from ancient times up to the present. These values contained in the world view known as ubuntu, succinctly expressed in the phrase Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu emphasise society, community and family as critical elements of personal development, security and fulfillment. Ubuntu acknowledges the truism that no person is an island, but an integral part of broader society and humankind, and therefore that our individual fortunes are intimately connected to the fortunes of the whole.
This is a spiritual truth of all humanity. It is a basic understanding to be taken into all progressive religious, political, and economic institutions. Ubuntu rules.
Unity of the spirit is the RDP of the soul
All religions agree on the great spiritual truths which drive humanity, and we need to accept this agreement as the launch pad for new development. We hold the same values in common whether it is love, joy, or peace; honesty, justice or integrity; generosity, responsibility or loyalty; and these arise from the experience of ubuntu. They are the transforming values which the human spirit puts into secular expression by ordinary people in the daily life of home, work and play.
Compassion marks it. The survival of the fittest which Darwin deduced had produced the human physique, was succeeded by the survival of the weakest which enabled the human community to emerge. Cooperation marks it. The great sharing values of our Constitution supercede the colonial pursuit of cut throat competition. Commitment seals the struggle for the spirit of transformation in the secular world.
Compassion, cooperation and commitment are the fruit of secular spirituality, the heart beat of ubuntu driving forward the long process of evolution, the essence of the RDP of the Soul.
None of this denies the positive role that religion can play: the value of sacraments, the message of theology, the empowering experience of communities of faith, the role of history, the proclamation of the prophets, the lives of the saints: all feed the spirituality of the human world, the secular reality in which the soul of humanity has its being. It is happening.
‘The ANC government will consolidate partnerships across society to strengthen social cohesion and ensure that our nation achieves the moral values of a caring society. It will contribute to the improvement of structures of civil society including sports, women’s and youth bodies; the media; and the institution of the family.’
THE WAY TO TRANSFORMATION
A site of struggle
The RDP document commented on apartheid that:
Millions of ordinary South Africans struggled against this system over decades, to improve their lives, to restore peace, and to bring abut a more just society… It is this collective heritage of struggle, these common yearnings, which are our greatest strength.
This concept of struggle was crucial to liberation. It was easy to criticise apartheid, but to change it required you to join the struggle. Religion was also a site of struggle. Some in the religious sectors failed to follow fine words from the pulpit with action, satisfying themselves that the polemic of protest excused them from the practice of struggle.
The Culture of Transformation demands a struggle to evolve a new society through compassion, cooperation and commitment, which includes an economy designed for people not for profit, and the release of spiritual values into secular life.
The ANC is not a religious organisation; it fully supports the Constitutional policy of freedom of religion; it has no policy of interference with those whose religious policies are not its own. But the ANC has a major responsibility to spell out the dangers when people promote organisations which are opposed to the spiritual or material development of our people, whatever religious credentials they may claim. (Apartheid did the same.) The ANC is deeply involved in South Africa’s struggle to renew and develop her soul.
This requires the ANC to devise policies and set out comprehensive programmes for secular transformation by spiritual values, through public education and commitment in the branches, the religious bodies, the media, in branches of government, in the structures of the ANC, and wherever people are learning to transform human community together. It is necessary to overcome the culture of violence, of command, of dominance, of competition, of manipulation. Our role models are Luthuli, Tambo, Mandela and Mbeki – not Botha, Bush or Blair, and we must carry this barrier into the international arena. The January 8th Statement said:
We must continue our work to build stronger links with the progressive forces on the continent, on other parts of the developing world, and in the developed world. In a time of great global crisis and important new opportunities, it is essential that a strong, coherent, progressive international movement exists to act in concert to advance the interest of the poor and marginalised.
The details of these programmes will emerge as our Conferences and Consultations engage in the process of enacting the Culture of Transformation.
‘In this phase of national democratic transformation, the ANC commits itself to intensifying its work around the five pillars of social transformation: the state, the economy, organizational work, ideological struggle, and international work.’
CRA proposes that the time is now ripe to recognise the multi-religious nature of our society and Constitution by affirming certain Holy Days as Public Holidays, not only of Christians, but of Muslims, Hindus and Jews who represent significant sectors of our population. It is suggested that Christmas and Easter, Eid ul Fitr, Deepavali/Diwali, and Yom Kippur be celebrated. To prevent this from negatively affecting the economy the current practice of adding a Monday when a Public Holiday falls on a Sunday could be abandoned.
The Open Vote
It is proposed that the ANC can declare an Open Vote in Parliament on such matters as it decides, after due deliberation, and agreement from the decision making structures of the ANC. This would enable members to vote in favour, or abstain from voting, without offending either conscience or loyalty. Party discipline would thus be respected. Even if an Open Vote is declared, no member may have the right to publicly oppose the official ANC position.
CRA Pastoral Committee
It is proposed that the NEC appoints a Pastoral Committee of the CRA to attend to such matters as are referred to it.