Between belief and reality: a personal reflection on Tony Hall’s 2020 Vision for Southern Africa

Portrait of Tony Hall, Harry Voight 2005

Dale T McKinley

(For ARS NOTORIA)

A prefacing note: On 31st January it will have been exactly 13 years since Tony Hall passed away here in South Africa. A bit over a year before his passing, Tony penned a 14-page document that he titled, ‘2020 Vision for Southern Africa’ . While the document did get circulated amongst smaller groups of Tony’s family, friends and comrades it was (to my knowledge) never published anywhere and has not been formally engaged/responded to, publicly. Late last year, Tony’s eldest son Phil asked me to write a piece on the document given the arrival of 2020 and the approaching anniversary of his father’s passing. I am more than happy to offer this brief engagement with Tony – in the same vein that I engaged him in person after he had provided me with a copy in 2007. May Tony’s soul continue to rest in peace and his spirit continue to live on in the thoughts and actions of the many whom he influenced and touched.


Tony Hall was a giant of a man; not just because of his imposing physical presence but more importantly because his was a principled, committed and loyal life. A significant part of each of those life attributes were given over to the organisation that Tony (and his life-long partner Eve) joined just after the Sharpeville massacre in March 1960 – the African National Congress (ANC).1

That ANC journey had begun for Tony when, as a young journalist with the Rand Daily Mail, he interviewed Nelson Mandela and covered the Treason Trial in the late 1950s. Soon, Tony and Eve’s home became a (secretly renowned) gathering place for movement leaders. Not surprisingly, this and other activities resulted in the apartheid authorities ‘listing’ the two

This foundational and life-long journey with the ANC, infused with all its attendant political, ideological and organisational characteristics, is absolutely central to understanding and interpreting the core content of Tony’s ‘2020 Vision’.

as members of a banned organisation. As opposed to the high probability of being arrested, tried and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, they packed up their belongings and, along with their three young boys, went into exile. It was to be 26 years before they would return home.

During those 26 years spent in Africa, Asia and Europe, Tony maintained his membership in and active support for, the ANC/Congress Movement. This saw him forge close relationships with many leaders and activists within the ANC and in other Southern African national liberation movements (NLMs) such as Mozambique’s FRELIMO and Angola’s MPLA, as well as volunteer as the production editor of the ANC journal Sechaba while in London. From the time that Tony returned to South Africa in 1990 until his passing, both he and Eve remained active members of the ANC through their local branches.

he [Tony Hall] always believed that there were enough good people in the ANC, particularly amongst the broader and older generation leadership to, as the document puts it, “return to the transformation of society, to lay the base for completing the emancipation of the people”

This foundational and life-long journey with the ANC, infused with all its attendant political, ideological and organisational characteristics, is absolutely central to understanding and interpreting the core content of Tony’s ‘2020 Vision’. Simply put, despite his increasing criticisms of the behaviour of some individuals and component parts of the ANC as well as of certain socio-economic policy choices made by the ANC-run post-apartheid government in the last few years of his life Tony, at heart and in practice, remained an ANC loyalist. The same applies, even if less directly and experientially, to other liberation movements in Southern Africa (most especially FRELIMO).

As my many conversations and debates with Tony serve to further confirm, he always believed that there were enough good people in the ANC, particularly amongst the broader and older generation leadership to, as the document puts it, “return to the transformation of society, to lay the base for completing the emancipation of the people”. Indeed, Tony locates his ‘2020 Vision’ in a “duty” of the ANC and associated Alliance2 leadership, who he believed still had the necessary moral authority and willingness to effect the needed changes. His plea to these leaders in the ‘2020 Vision’ is that they must act accordingly and do so immediately, through example and action.

Tony locates his ‘2020 Vision’ in a “duty” of the ANC and associated Alliance2 leadership, who he believed still had the necessary moral authority and willingness to effect the needed changes.

The ideas and policy recommendations that make up the majority of the document reflect both Tony’s own political-ideological and organisational journey as well as this ANC-specific leadership framing. More particularly, they reflect a positionality embedded in three decades of an exiled ANC (alongside other liberation movements in Southern Africa in the first two of those decades) in which a relatively small group of leaders (some of whom were in prison and/or underground in South Africa) took centre stage and amongst which a post-independent, ideological ‘middle of the road’ social democratic liberalism was preeminent.

They also reflect a hearkening back to a time in Sub-Saharan Africa when a strong, centralised state (run by ex-liberation / independence parties) driving a nationalist developmental agenda was seen as the preferred post-independence ‘model’ of governance. Further, they are largely embedded within certain ‘historic’ and core strategic and policy documents of the ANC such as the 1955 Freedom Charter, the 1988 Constitutional Guidelines and the 1993 Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

The ideas and policy recommendations (…) are largely embedded within certain ‘historic’ and core strategic and policy documents of the ANC such as the 1955 Freedom Charter, the 1988 Constitutional Guidelines and the 1993 Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).

This is clear in Tony’s socio-economic proposals where he calls for the adoption of a Keynesian economic model (referenced by the restoration of the RDP) that incorporates, among other things:

  • a “capitalist/free enterprise market” with increased taxes for the rich and corporates
  • “public oversight” of the economy with necessary regulations and “public ownership” of state-owned enterprises (SOEs)
  • “nationalisation of all mines” with 55 % state ownership
  • the continued free movement of capital overseas and allowance for the holding of foreign personal accounts
  • a basic income grant for “all adult South Africans”
  • public ownership and delivery of essential services along with free basic services such as electricity and water to those who are officially categorised as “poor”3

Reflecting his embrace of the generally collegial as well as support and solidarity networks that existed in Southern Africa during the period in which various national liberation and more immediate post-independence struggles were waged, Tony proposed the “free movement of all SADC-born citizens in South Africa”. And yet in parallel, the underlying and often exclusionist nationalisms of those movements and struggles is also reflected in his proposal that “all illegal immigrants (should) be either deported or allowed to apply for 2-year work permit” and further, that “citizens only (should) own houses and land”.

Tony proposed “walls of remembrance … to acknowledge those who died in the struggle” as well as “special support for MK veterans”.

Consistent with that embrace, are Tony’s proposals in the sphere of culture and on foreign policy. In respect of culture, they further reflect the centrality of the ‘struggle years’ and a view in which the history of that struggle should be ‘told’ through formal remembrance and affirmation of those involved. Besides the naming of urban streets after ‘struggle heroes and martyrs in both SA and region as well as international supporters”, Tony proposed “walls of remembrance … to acknowledge those who died in the struggle” as well as “special support for MK veterans”.

The proposals on the foreign policy front retain and strengthen the embrace. First up is the dual call to “start negotiations for all SADC members to form the Federation of Africa South and East (FASE)” and, for the establishment of the ‘Southern African Liberation Movements Association (SALMA)’. Amongst other things FASE and SALMA will ensure that all member countries “follow a social charter and coordinated economic policies and allow free movement of people and trade”, where no party/government leader is “to serve more than two five-year terms” and where respective governments hold a majority “of all natural resources and infrastructure”. This is followed by more specific calls for the South African government “to renounce (the) neoliberal provisions of NEPAD4 and endorse an economic and social programme for Africa which returns to the provisions and strategies of the Lagos Plan of Action and the African Alternative Framework”. Added to this, the SA government should “strengthen relations with Russia” as well as South-South relations.

First up is the dual call to “start negotiations for all SADC members to form the Federation of Africa South and East (FASE)” and, for the establishment of the ‘Southern African Liberation Movements Association (SALMA)’

Even though some aspects of these proposals are no doubt informed by Tony’s critical appraisal of certain governance and policy performances of post-independent states in Southern Africa, they are more centrally, in context, shape and purpose, a nod back to the halcyon days of the continental Organisation of African Unity, more regional bodies such as the ‘East African Community’ as well as strong regional as well as international anti-apartheid and national liberation movements. That was a time when political solidarities and liberation party/movement connections were paramount, and where the dominant expectation was that once in state power, the NLMs would largely follow the promises of their stated democratic, socially progressive and internationalist politics/ideology.

While there are many other proposals in the document that are not mentioned here, their core thrust, and purpose is consistent with Tony’s historic positionality as earlier noted. It is that positionality that was imprinted on Tony’s political, ideological and organisational DNA. What this translated into was an understandable but ultimately contradictory relationship between belief and reality.

Although Tony very clearly saw – and was genuinely saddened by – the litany of governance failures, of ideological betrayal, of corruption and of personal moral degradation that had become so widespread across all ex-NLM parties and the post-independent states they ran, he still believed that it was possible for those same parties and people (most especially, the respective leaderships) to reclaim what he calls in the document, the “liberation project”. The fundamental problem though is that the reality had long destroyed the foundations for such a belief.

[Tony] still believed that it was possible for those same parties and people (most especially, the respective leaderships) to reclaim what he calls in the document, the “liberation project”

In this sense then, it is not that the ideas and policies contained in Tony’s ‘2020 Vision’ are to be dismissed. On the contrary, many of them speak directly to the “alternative” and the “dream” that both ordinary folk and liberation activists from the past and in the present embraced and continue struggling for. It is rather the vehicles that Tony remained attached and loyal to and which he saw as the ultimate carriers of the ‘Vision’ have, for a long time, simply not been capable of what he expects and asks of them. Indeed, even if there are some conjectural and individual part exceptions, those vehicles have, for an equally long time, become the main barriers to pursuing and potentially realising most of the ‘Vision’.

“socialism in our lifetime”. Regardless of the U-turns, the detours and the lost journeys, that is most definitely a vision worthy of new vehicles that can become a reality through our individual and collective ideas and practical struggles.

The document ends with the exhortation, “socialism in our lifetime”. Regardless of the U-turns, the detours and the lost journeys, that is most definitely a vision worthy of new vehicles that can become a reality through our individual and collective ideas and practical struggles. I have no doubt that Tony would agree.


1 At the time, formal ANC membership was only open to black Africans but in practical reality, its members were effectively constituted through a range of organisations. For example, the previously banned South African Community Party (SACP), the ‘Congress of Democrats’ and the ‘Transvaal Indian Congress’ among others, that fell under the umbrella of what was called the ‘Congress Movement’ and/or ‘Congress Alliance’. While the ANC was banned soon after the Sharpeville massacre, most of the remaining organisations in the ‘Congress Movement/ Alliance’ were banned in the ensuing two years.

2The ‘Congress Alliance’ has changed over the years to reflect shifting organisational realities. By the 1970s all of the previous ‘Congress Movement’ components, with the exception of the independent SACP, had been absorbed into the ANC in one form or another. The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) formed in 1983, then become the third formal member of the ‘Alliance’ and after 1994, the South African National Civics Association (SANCO) became the fourth official member.

3This specific proposal – to essentially adopt a state managed means-test to determine who is and is not “poor”, was and remains highly controversial and a continuing point of serious opposition from most of the poor themselves

4 The ‘New Economic Partnership for African Development’ – this was adopted at the 37th Summit of the OAU held in Lusaka, Zambia, in July 2001.


Dale T. McKinley is an independent writer, researcher and lecturer as well as research and education officer at the International Labour, Research and Information Group. He is based in Johannesburg, holds a PhD. in International Political Economy/African Studies and is a long-time political activist and has been involved in social movement, community and liberation organisations and struggles for over three decades. He is the author of four books and has written widely on various aspects of South African and international political, social and economic issues and struggles. Dale occasionally lectures at university level, is a regular speaker at various civil society and academic social and political conferences and events and is a regular contributor in the print media as well as commentator on radio and television.