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South Africa: An open letter of SAFTU to the Communist Party


NOVANEWS
Why we are unable to honour the invitation to your Congress
Nigel Sibanda

The South African Federation of Trade Unions turned down an invitation to the congress of the South African Communist Party. SACP is an ally of the ruling African National Congress. SAFTU says SACP is as guilty as the Jacob Zuma government in implementing a neoliberal programme that is anti-poor, anti-working class, pro-capitalist and anti-socialist.

Dr Blade Nzimande
General Secretary
South African Communist Party

Braamfontein

Dear Comrade General Secretary,

Thank you for the invitation to your elective 14th National Congress, which we have carefully considered.

As the second largest and fastest growing trade union federation in the country, and one with an unambiguous socialist orientation, it would be entirely proper for a Communist Party to invite SAFTU to its Congress. However we are unable to accept your invitation for a number of reasons including the following:

Reflection is a revolutionary process 

Firstly, it would appear that the SACP leadership has been unable to seriously reflect on the consequences of their decision to actively support the destruction of the unity of the trade union movement.

By openly supporting the expulsion of over 340,000 metal workers, and then to stand idly by when hundreds of other unions members within COSATU were summarily expelled for demanding an end to corruption, financial and political accountability and transparency by their union leaderships makes us doubt that any serious reflection has taken place.

We have yet to hear the profound voice of a genuine Communist Party speaking out against the ‘business unionism’ of corrupt leadership within CEPPWAWU, SATAWU, SAMWU, etc.

It was clear at the time that the unity of the working class was of paramount importance if a challenge to austerity and capitalist rule were to be taken seriously. Workers have been under siege from the capitalist class and neoliberal programmes implemented by the government, from the genesis of GEAR right through to the NDP.

To weaken trade unions further at the time when no effort should have been spared to unite workers is an unforgivable act of treason. These anti-worker acts alone, we must say, have seriously undermined the credibility of the SACP leadership both locally and internationally.

Frankly, SAFTU unions are simply disbelieving and skeptical about the motives of the SACP leadership. An organisation that has recently and consciously acted to destroy workers’ unity simply cannot be trusted to act differently and do the same again, if the leadership were to believe the need arose to address what the SACP referred to as a “lingering irritation”.

Looking in the mirror 

Secondly, it would appear that the leadership of the SACP have been unable to ‘look in the mirror’ and learn the lessons from the past, and especially the constraints that have been imposed and internalized in order to secure Cabinet posts and other positions inside the belly of a capitalist state driving an anti-worker, anti-working class and pro-business economic agenda.

To witness SACP leaders in the Cabinet acting as spokespersons of those implicated in thieving schemes, and pulling the wool over the eyes of our people to obscure and justify brazen theft in relation to Nkandla was such a betrayal of the role the communists inside the SACP have historically played.

Joining the attacks on the judiciary and the media and going to the extent of proposing insult laws (by actively calling on the South African citizens not to insult Jacob Zuma and, therefore, calling for legislation to punish anyone who “insults the President”) was nothing but a move to muzzle the outrage expressed at the project that was and is still about destroying all the gains of our democracy. Given the evidence, which was widely available indicating that this project was about driving a programme towards a full-blown kleptocracy, this has left many in disbelief.

This programme did not start when the Guptas were gunning for the heads of SACP leaders and other Cabinet members in 2015. It started as soon as Jacob Zuma was elected in May 2009. Those with short memories must recall the disbandment of the crime and corruption busting capacity of the state in the Scorpions, the hollowing out of the intelligence services, the destruction of almost all state capacity, including state-owned enterprises, and more recently the capturing of the Public Protector and much more besides, are the limited examples we raise in this short letter to you.

It is only very recently that the SACP leadership has been bold enough to voice their disappointment with the leadership of the ANC, when it has been painfully obvious to everyone else, as wave after wave of evidence has surfaced making an irrefutable case against Gupterisation and state capture. The SACP in a very significant way together with many in the ANC helped Zuma and made him untouchable in the process.

There have been two kinds of state capture in our view. The first was the capturing of the ANC itself in the run-up to the 1994 which resulted in the abandonment of its historic mission to liberate black people in general and Africans in particular, to address the exploitation of the working people and end the triple oppression faced by women in their homes, workplaces and broader society. The Zupta capture is an immediate threat. Left alone, the Zupta project will destroy any prospects for a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.

We are in agreement with the SACP on this immediate threat; however, those who raised the alarm from 2009, even from 2007, were labeled anti-majoritarian and, worse, counter-revolutionary by the SACP leadership. SACP members must ask how this was allowed to happen.

The alternative to neo-liberalism is not austerity by another name! 

Thirdly, the SACP does not appear to have reflected on its own role in justifying and propping up the status quo. We don’t believe that you have truly looked at the scale of the destruction caused by neoliberal policies and austerity measures that the SACP has been party to supporting at national, provincial and local levels.

Have SACP leaders not asked themselves why hundreds of thousands of poor people in our communities have taken to the streets over the last period, sometimes employing extremely desperate measures, in order to be heard, and to demand that ANC election promises of a better life for all to be honoured?

Have the SACP had an opportunity to look at the destruction of jobs in the manufacturing, agricultural and other sectors, which are being decimated?

Furthermore, we are convinced that the SACP leadership has not assessed ideologically the devastating impact the Zuma and ANC Alliance projects have had on the future prospects of a genuine left project.

The destruction of state-owned enterprises in particular, the hollowing out of the state and organs of people’s power have made it harder for left forces to convince and mobilise the public about the efficacy of an active democratic developmental state that could make real change possible through programmes such as the nationalisation of strategic sectors of the economy and other measures to redistribute wealth and power in our country.

Two factions: different sides of the same coin! 

Fourthly, the SACP appears to have to have fallen into the trap of factional politics. Despite the lessons of the past, in particular the devastating decision (which all of us rallied around and must shamefully regret) to rally the working class behind an extremely dangerous and compromised candidate such as Jacob Zuma and his NEC, it is ready to support the leadership of one faction against another by uncritically backing a pro-capital candidate as the next President of our country.

From a distance we see a repeat of history as another coalition of the wounded is put together to challenge a man who has become more and more unpopular.

Surely, the lessons of the Zuma period must teach us that a reliance on individuals, despite their rhetoric, has led to a disaster. Without an explicit programme to challenge capitalist rule, linked to the rebuilding of a mass democratic movement to ensure that the programme is implemented, will inevitably lead to further paralysis and, worse still, deepening levels of poverty, unemployment, inequality and corruption.

Meanwhile, the unending exploitation and misery that huge sections of our population experience today will continue, and blame will be placed at the door of the Alliance which you are determined to preserve regardless. Changing who occupies the Presidency will not change the class balance of forces, or the reality of workers’ lives in South Africa today, or restore the electoral fortunes of the ANC.

Despite the fact that we are possibly in the deepest political and economic crisis for decades, the SACP remains unable and unwilling to offer the working class an alternative to that posed by the dysfunctional ANC-led Alliance. In our view, Alliance policies at this time consist of little more than an accelerated continuation of the policies of GEAR and other variants of an austerity approach that is crippling the working class locally and globally.

The SACP is as guilty as the Jacob Zuma-led faction in imposing and implementing a neoliberal programme that is anti-poor, anti-working class, pro-capitalist and anti-socialist. You have to look at the rate of youth and women unemployment and the Esidimeni scandal to understand the full meaning of the crisis.

A question arises, is the SACP by inviting us and sudden talk of putting together a broad front of left formations not an attempt at redeeming itself and, worse, using us as a bargaining chip in its factional maneuvers inside the ANC-led Alliance to sort out the eating queue in 2017 and 2019, instead of addressing the crisis facing the working class and the black majority today?

Unity of the trade union movement 

Communist parties around the world have always understood the critical importance of the role trade unions must play as a school for working class consciousness. In fact Lenin defined that role as follows:

“When the workers of a single factory or of a single branch of industry engage in struggle against their employer or employers, is this class struggle? No, this is only a weak embryo of it. The struggle of the workers becomes a class struggle only when all the foremost representatives of the entire working class of the whole country are conscious of themselves as a single working class and launch a struggle that is directed, not against individual employers, but against the entire class of capitalists and against the government that supports that class. 

Only when the individual worker realizes that he is a member of the entire working class, only when he recognises the fact that his petty day-to-day struggle against individual employers and individual government officials is a struggle against the entire bourgeoisie and the entire government, does his struggle become a class struggle.” (Vladimir Lenin, On the Foreign Policy of the Soviet State)

The factionalist and sectarian behaviour of the South African Communist Party leadership has today turned the trade union movement in South Africa into a lap dog of capitalism. Look at the state of the once mighty COSATU to appreciate your own contribution to the destruction of the country.

The evidence of this assertion is the fact that the SACP, on the eve of the December 2013 NUMSA Special National Congress, wrote an open letter to NUMSA delegates to disown their national leadership who courageously called for Zuma to be removed. It is now a fact that you rejected these calls in 2013 BUT surfaced this same demand in 2017. Surely a Communist Party worth its salt should be seen to lead and not follow.

Actions speak louder than rhetoric! 

Fifthly, despite the fact that the SACP may still enjoy some support in sections of the working class and the poor, it has been impossible to detect any concrete actions to provide solidarity to workers and communities who have engaged in day-to-day struggles. We see no communist party flag in battles for “Outsourcing Must Fall”, “Fees Must Fall” and the 13 000 annual service delivery protests.

Actively supporting our people in struggle against exploitation, corruption and state repression is an essential task for any organisation claiming to be socialist and communist. The building and leading of genuine mass campaigns, to strengthen class-consciousness, and to take forward explicit demands that challenge the logic of capital is the hallmark of an organisation that is serious about challenging capitalist rule. Instead the SACP has been passive, or when pushed, has tailed organisations that represent wider class interests.

We could discuss these points in greater detail, but what we hope they illustrate is that the actions of the SACP leadership over the last period have been part of the problem, and not part of the solution.

We hope that those honest workers who have thus far continued to support the SACP, in the absence of anything else, will take note, and at the very least ask themselves if the programme of the SACP in the recent past, and at the current time, is capable of taking the class struggle forward. We believe that is decidedly not the case.

Only if, and when, the SACP decisively and publicly breaks with the politics of positioning, patronage and class collaboration will organisations like ours be able to accept an invitation to witness your deliberations. Until that time, we shall continue placing the needs of the working class at the centre of our concerns, for that is the real meaning of non-sectarianism.

Activists on the ground, if listened to, will testify and show evidence to indicate that the working class and the poor are desperately looking for organisations that will represent their interests, and who will also be ready to stand side-by-side with them in actively challenging, not accommodating the dictates of the market. That is what we intend to do.

We will await the outcomes of the SACP Congress to see if such an orientation is capable of emerging. We remain however convinced, unless otherwise proven, that you will remain hanging on to the apron-strings of the African National Congress, who has now proven to be the champion of neo-liberal capitalist policies.

Yours faithfully

Zwelinzima Vavi

General Secretary

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Open letter to Rotschild’s Trevor Manuel


NOVANEWS
First post-apartheid finance minister denies existence of white monopoly capital
Getty

“Sir, you have served white monopoly capital with distinction. You have worked for them as an agent and a counter-revolutionary, selling out our right to have transformation of the apartheid economy. You have betrayed the values that define a disciplined cadre. Today you live large in arrogance and attempt to lecture us when we, as soldiers for our liberation, are dying as paupers.”

Dear Mr. Manuel

We read with interest your new conviction that our claim of white monopoly capital is a fallacy, invented by a public relations company named Bell Pottinger, as you recently did at the Nelson Mandela Foundation event you attended.

We as the leadership of the MK Inkuleleko Foundation pen this letter as representing 200+ former MK members aptly described by one of the departed gallant soldiers who took the liberty to refer to them as “Prisoners of Hope”. Hope then is the atmosphere in which our faith, unswerving commitment to see a better tomorrow, finds meaning and purpose.

You may forget that most of these members are in their fifties and majority still stay with their parents at home, not for lack of trying to be independent or because they so had determined by choice. These are the very same soldiers that you and your friends have opted to label as thugs, hooligans and all unwelcoming names.

Mr. Manuel, we choose to address you as Mr. Manuel. Sincere apologies for the length of this. It is only because you were the longest finance minister – a title you wear with pride. It is increasingly difficult to refer to you as a cadre. Permit us to prevail on you in briefly reflecting on that period prior to the dawn of our democracy, commonly known as the Talks about Talks and CODESA era.

We must then remind you that during the negotiations, these foot soldiers were held in high esteem. Negotiations simply were not possible and could not proceed until weapons were laid down. If we share today in any benefit of a negotiated settlement, it was against the confirmed backdrop of a need to have arms laid down. Therefore, to consider our freedom in democracy in denial of this important moment in history is to engage in cheapness of our current fruits of democracy.

There exists no doubt that some time in history, at some point in our chequered past, the nation’s cause for freedom was served by these soldiers – many of them willing to lay down their lives against a brutal and ruthless apartheid government that would kick pregnant women and torture the black masses as they rose in the proverbial winter of discontent.

These soldiers became the critical force that the Movement could unleash in the event of a deadlock. Mr. Manuel, these soldiers, despite extreme poverty and the everyday challenges of life, remained resolute and disciplined, resisting any temptation to use their military skills to plunge our beautiful country into turmoil and thus discourage investors.

Africa, the landmass of fifty-four countries that made Europe and its allies exceptionally wealthy, is replete with examples of former soldiers who ultimately formed rebel forces rendering their countries ungovernable through concerted efforts of insurrection thus creating havoc in their countries.

Today we know that the MK soldier was not just trained in execution of military discipline but also represents the finest of political school alumni, who have sat through political education without infrastructure immanent in colleges or schools.

Our soldiers remain disciplined regardless of the prevalence of an unjustifiable manifested adversity. The BEE [Black Economic Empowerment] deals you and the administration you served engineered produced a thin layer of the super rich. That BEE has come and is gone, rendering you and others like those of the para-structure ‘101 veterans’ to varying degrees, the ultimate signpost of our economic freedom.

At the earliest convenience that white monopoly capital offered you and those of you who today claim a moral high ground, you bowed and ate from that trough. This, when all of you in convenience chose to let self-interest count, therefore forgetting the foot soldiers – the very ones you were ready to unleash, the same foot soldiers like Ashley Kriel, Zuka Baloyi and others, who paid the highest price for our liberation. You could not hitherto have done anything for the Kriel family, let alone Johnny Issel who died a bitter cadre, because you chose to forget him and many others – like you forgot the foot soldiers, when you started flying the now retired Concorde.

Mr. Manuel, in your position as Minister of Finance, regardless of the fact that you were responsible for budgeting, you failed to allocate a budget for the repatriation of our fallen heroes and heroines, whose blood nourishes the freedom that you and your cohorts today enjoy and even abuse.

Sir, let it be known today – like Cadre Johnny Issel is the face of that foot soldier that you literally left in the gutters – we represent those who were never the beneficiaries of your failed BEE policy and we remain economically destitute yet disciplined.

You Mr. Trevor Manuel, in case you think we forgot, you threatened Dr. Rev. Allan A Boesak when he wanted to reveal in his book ‘Running with Horses’ that you have a case to answer, as the one who received assistance. You threatened him by claiming that you would show him who you are. Sir, you went gangster on a man of the cloth, because you, Mr. Manuel, have suffered a sense of entitlement as a ‘golden boy’ when you never remotely deserved to serve in Mandela’s cabinet.

You, like all of us, know that you only served in that government of National Unity thanks to the need for a racially inclusive cabinet. It was your false race of a Coloured identity that placed you in Mandela’s cabinet – you may protest it as much as you want to, but just like the Rev. Allan Hendrickse of the Apartheid Tricameral system, you owe your political and economic presence of whatever significance to that false identity of being a Coloured.

As I alluded earlier, the majority of our members are over fifty and others are already dying as paupers. We have vowed this time around we will never allow you and your white monopoly capital friends to derail that which rightly is aimed at correcting the ills of your actions.

Radical Economic Transformation (RET) is not a slogan; it is not an empty rhetoric; it is not radical looting as you would want our people to believe. It is the conclusive answer for the economic plight of the downtrodden still – yes those who still must benefit as the masses. The R500 billion in State Procurement spent, is not a pipe-dream but it is earmarked as a catalyst and will go a long way in addressing even our challenges as former soldiers.

We are compelled to enquire from you as to when did you come to the realization of your new doctrine that, in this season, denounces the existence of white monopoly capital? It is clear that you are being instructed as a hired gun by your white monopoly capital masters, to cause to delay and sidetrack the potential tsunami that has more than a mere potential to dislodge your master’s hand in our economy of inclusive growth.

You are today fulfilling the necessary role of a ruse as always to deflect our concerted efforts to feverishly work to realize economic freedom for more than yourself, your friends like Cheryl Carolus and Sipho Pityana who today count among the wealthiest in the country.

As OR Tambo reminded us, “To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the roots of racial supremacy and exploitation, and does not represent even the shadow of liberation”

Let it be known that you don’t represent us. You represent your masters and you are a mere puppet in the hands of the bastion of American Monopoly Capital, that Rothschild’s family of thugs. You are doing just enough today to obtain a loan from your handlers to buy the Barclay stake in ABSA.

Today you sing for your lunch, because Anton Rupert allegedly paid for your wedding to your second wife. Your wedding took place in the heart of white monopoly capital because the wine farms of SA are no different to the game farms owned by white monopoly. In case you have forgotten, from the warm pristine Indian Ocean coastline to the cold but ultra-scenic Atlantic Ocean front on the west of what defines a South African coastline, this confirms the presence of white monopoly capital.

You do know that every sector that makes up this economy is white controlled. You,sir, choose today to lecture us from the comfort of your pummeled oversupply of resources as you sing for your meal and do the slog work of your handlers in the ilk of a Judas Iscariot of the biblical narrative who betrayed those who loved him. You chose to be a part of a sophisticated network that has been plundering our resources/economy for many years and today you benefit handsomely.

You were long captured when you served as Finance Minister. You were wined and dined into submission by your masters when you were the Minister of Finance and head of Treasury.

Not dissimilar to so many like you who are captured, when you left the state after serving your masters with distinction, you were rewarded handsomely with a position in their abode.

Today you sit as Old Mutual Chairperson when you oversaw the demutualization process. Let me remind you of the COSATU press statement in 1998 which noted with dismay the decision of the NCOP to pass legislation allowing Old Mutual and Sanlam to go ahead with their demutualization plans. We regret this hasty action on the basis that we are currently engaged with both the ANC and the companies concerned on this issue. The bill was passed and demutualization continued with your influence, because you always acted as if you were a prime minister during your tenure. COSATU’s vital concern was the real transformation of the two mutual companies controlled by policyholders.

This, sir, presents a clear conflict of interest for your intervention back then. It set you up for your current position as Chairperson of Old Mutual. We will pursue a criminal case against you for this conflict of interest.

Clearly Sanlam and Old Mutual, seeking at the time respective listings on the London Stock Exchange, was not in alignment with South Africa’s economic transformation goals. As in the case of the Arms Deal you justified demutualization with the following statement, “Once demutualization is completed in the latter part of this year the Umsobomvu Fund is expected to have in order of R1bn of capital and will be in a position to start investing in training and development programmes for young people.”

You had no moral conscience of any degree to condemn the Arms Deal in its flawed reality as the clearest indication of our first mass scale corruption deal under the democratic government. You promised job creation and justified the debt we are still paying when any true prudent finance minister would have questioned the efficacy and necessity for this expenditure. When Andrew Feinstein shared the conviction of his mind on this corrupt deal, you had the nerve to tell him his claims would go nowhere.

You, Mr. Manuel, had no presence of mind to raise your so-called moral conscience when over 300,000 South Africans died in the HIV/AIDS denialist genocide. You today feel entitled, in between sipping on your favourite libations, to lecture us when you had no moral stand when it was needed most.

We will not entertain your type anymore. We will not respect you and be quiet, but we will call you who you are – a true sell-out and a counter revolutionary of note. One who despite being not remotely qualified to hold that office was given a responsibility to serve, and you became inebriated with your own toxic substance of a sense of enlarged self-importance. Today you sit as chancellor of the bastion of white Afrikaner oppression. You are comfortable in that space because it is a reward for your work for your masters.

Can we keep you directly accountable for this injustice? It should be that finance ministers, as accounting officers, are held personally accountable for the privatization of natural resources since this attests a grave assault on those who constitute the poor.

Sir, you have served white monopoly capital with distinction. You have worked for them as an agent and a counter revolutionary, selling out our right to have transformation of the apartheid economy. You have betrayed the values that define a disciplined cadre. Today you live large in arrogance and attempt to lecture us when we, as soldiers for our liberation, are dying as paupers.

You had plenty of time to serve your masters. In the words of Bishop Clyde N. S. Ramalaine who aptly captured you, ‘it is amazing what being associated with the Rothschild Family, the USA bastion of white monopoly capital, does to a former activist. They first render you a black diamond (the ultimate insult to a black identity) then they pummel you with resources and access. Finally you speak for them and repeat their claims in stark contrast to your upbringing and fight for the factory workers of the Cape Flats”.

Let it be known – we will not give you rest! Neither you, nor any of these new mlungus (township lingo for blacks who became wealthy) will be allowed to claim a moral high ground when you have long betrayed your own.

Yours sincerely,

Sparks Motseki
Convener of MK Foundation

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Apartheid in Today’s South Africa: The Corruption of A Dream


NOVANEWS
 

 

“Behind every great fortune there is a crime.” — Honoré de Balzac

The SASSA scandal currently unfolding is probably the most dramatic expression of how far the African National Congress (ANC) has traveled since its days of opposition to apartheid. [SASSA stands for South Africa Social Security Agency, which is the agency that pays social grants to about 17 million beneficiaries.] Under apartheid, ANC activists were associated with laying down their lives in defending and advancing the interests of the mass of the people – in particular the black working class. Today, the cadre of the ANC is associated with stealing from the mass of people they used to die for. It is now commonly accepted, including in the ANC itself, that the corruption and theft of public resources is not just an isolated problem in the ANC. The general South African public and the ANC itself now accept that the problem is deep and systemic.

In every newspaper, social media, and television platforms and in everyday conversation the corruption in the ANC is now standard diet, and therefore the SASSA scandal would seem to be just one other scandal among many. But the SASSA scandal, on the contrary, is important in one respect: it allows us the opportunity to develop an understanding of ANC corruption as being made up of different kinds. As a result of the political struggles in the ANC around which the SASSA debacle is unfolding, this scandal gives us an opportunity to look into a part of the ANC’s corruption that the mainstream and middle class press shies away from – the legalized corruption that the ANC has presided over for over 20 years.

Corrupt Alliance

The corruption of the President Jacob Zuma and Gupta family alliance (aka ‘Zuptas’) is clear for all to see – and it is clear to all but its beneficiaries, that it must be opposed and struggled against. What is equally clear is that Pravin Gordhan and the finance ministers that came before him have presided over the growing impoverishment of the mass of black working class South Africans. Under their watch, wealth has become more concentrated in South Africa and has remained deeply racialized. It is equally clear that the development of the black middle class has not moved beyond flashy clothes and flashy cars – under their watch this class remains as precarious as ever. It is also undeniable that there is really no serious black big bourgeoisie to speak off – except a couple of pin-up boys who are exceptions that prove the rule.

In the public domain – and in particular in the media – the focus has been on the most visible part of the problem: the Zuptas. Indeed, Pravin Godharn and his bloc in the ANC have been held up as models of good governance and clean government who will save South Africa from its ‘descent’ into a banana republic. No connection or relationship is established between the corruption of Zuma and his supporters in the ANC, and Gordhan and his “clean governance.”

Anti-Apartheid Struggles

In the course of the SASSA crisis it began to emerge that there may be deep interconnections between the corruption of the Zuma group and monopoly capital in the form of Alan Gray (owners of Net1 and Cash Paymaster). Note also that another Mr. Clean, ex-Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, booted out by Zuma on account of his commitment to “good governance,” has also ended up at Alan Gray. Ex-Minister Nene is no flash in the pan when it comes to the revolving door between government finance leaders and finance capital. We know that ex-Finance Minister Trevor Manuel is now one of the big chiefs at Old Mutual, that other giant of South Africa’s monopoly club. Soon after leaving the Reserve Bank, Tito Mboweni joined Goldman Sachs, the U.S. investment banking house notorious for its scandalous if legal behaviour all over the world. It also turned out that the bankers of SASSA are none other than the ‘white monopoly capitalist’ most hated by Zuma and his side-kick, College ‘Oros’ Maine – the Ruperts.

How did it come to pass that the most corrupt section of the ANC is connected in all these ways to “white monopoly capital”? Further, how do the “clean” politicians of the ANC also end up in the same bed of monopoly capital? Is there, indeed, a more than passing connection between corruption in the ANC and “white monopoly capital”? Is there a connection between the break up of the ANC currently underway and white monopoly capital?

In light of the SASSA crisis it is important to move beyond the smokescreens and hype put up by South Africa’s mainstream media and its analysts, and explore the deep connections between corruption and neoliberal governance (popularly known as ‘good governance’) that is promoted by Pravin Gordhan and his supporters.

Distribution of Wealth

The wealth of any society is distributed among its various social classes through a range of mechanisms. In capitalist society, the means and processes of the distribution of society’s wealth range from the division of wealth between wages and profits; the markets in which goods are bought and sold serve to distribute wealth between the classes; for example, in the agricultural commodities market the wealth is extracted away from the small farmers and other producers toward financiers who control the world’s global markets in agricultural commodities. The system of taxation in a country also serves to distribute wealth between the classes; and the way the government (in any country a key economic actor) produces, buys and supplies goods and services to the mass of the population also serves to distribute wealth between the classes. The entire capitalist economy is organized around the making of profit for the capitalist, the owner of factories, shops, mines and farms: the means of producing goods and services. The entire system, therefore, is essentially about the way the wealth that is produced is distributed among the capitalists, the middle class, and the working class or poor people in a country.

Theft vs. corruption

In any society there are people who steal something from others. Corruption, however, is not just theft (though in many cases it includes theft), but involves an illegal, hidden and unethical use of access to resources and power to transfer wealth and power to the benefit of oneself or for the benefit of one’s associates. Corruption can be done for a range of reasons, including for personal enrichment, enrichment of friends or relatives, and/or facilitating access to resources and power by yourself, friends and relatives. In the history of capitalism and in the formation of the capitalist class, corruption (and sometimes even more violent crimes) constitutes the most important way of creating wealth for a new capitalist class. In addition, as a result of the constant threat to the wealth of the capitalist resulting from competition and the instability of capitalism, capitalists must periodically engage in corruption – this illegal, hidden and unethical transfer of wealth and power – to maintain their wealth.

Legalization of corruption

In South Africa, for example, the wealth of all the rich white capitalists is founded on the theft of the land, the minerals beneath the land and other resources of the country. Also, it was founded on the exclusion from power of all social classes and groups from the black majority. During the process of the formation of the South African state in the early 1900s, the black middle class of the time – led by the ANC – attempted to get themselves included in the new power arrangements of the Union of South Africa, but this was rejected by the white capitalists and their colonial government in Britain.

An important step in the development of any capitalist class is reached when the wealth this class acquired by theft, corrupt and illegal means is transformed into legal wealth; when they write and rewrite laws to legalize their wealth. For example, the land that was stolen by white settler capitalists over many years in South Africa was legalized with the Land Act of 1913. The initial legalization of corrupt wealth requires that the capitalist class creates a range of laws that maintain this ill-gotten wealth. These laws include property laws and by-laws (in cities and municipalities), laws around setting up businesses, the organization of state policies and taxes that favour the reproduction and maintenance of that wealth, and so on. Meetings between individuals and corporations to organize this corruption are sometimes legalized – and this is referred to as “lobby-groups” and so on. In many countries, such as France, “lobbyists” get paid a lot of money and spend a lot of money (legalized bribery) to persuade those in power to act in the interests of certain power groups.

Power and corruption

Once a capitalist class or section of a capitalist class has legalized its corruption, it has an interest in ensuring that the corruption of competitors is not legalized. By keeping them illegal, the ruling capitalist group can obstruct, weaken, or punish at will its competitors. At times, it may “turn a blind eye” to this corruption as long as it does not threaten its rule. It can also periodically use this dark side of capitalism to strengthen its position without running a risk of becoming illegal – in other words the established capitalists can “outsource” corruption.

Because of their power these groups have created their own system of justice, in which they all agree to pay “traffic fines” for this corruption and theft. In South Africa recently, a number of banks agreed to pay “fines” for manipulating the rand. This parallel system of justice, which includes legal institutions like the Competition Commission, whitewashes corruption and allows powerful groups in society to evade the normal process of criminal justice. Along this line, think also of the bread cartel, which colluded to rob the poor of their already meagre wages and grants.

Distribution of Wealth and Corruption

Image result for ANC africaCorrupt groups in society – such as the ANC cadre or groups of new capitalists like the Afrikaner capitalists after 1948 – draw the wealth they transfer to themselves from different parts of society. There are four main sources of wealth, or circuits of wealth, from which the corrupt groups can steal. The first is from the capitalist class itself. There are many cases of this corruption in the financial markets, and daily we hear of reports of “insider trading,” which is corruption between and among financial market traders to steal from the capitalist class itself. The second is from the state. The third is to steal directly from the middle class, and fourth, they can steal directly from the working class. Corrupt groups focus on the lines along which wealth is distributed in society, where they “intercept” this wealth behind the scenes and direct it to themselves and friends. The wealth can be “intercepted” within the circuits of wealth of particular classes, as well as when wealth moves between the different circuits. Corrupt groups do not in general create wealth, they redirect it and consume it once it is produced.

The line of distribution on which corrupt groups focus depends on the power this group enjoys in society. For example, groups like investment banks and currency trading groups are able to redirect wealth that is circulating in the financial sector by corrupt means. As I have argued, they have created their own systems of justice to ensure that their corruption is legalized. In order for corrupt groups to intercept wealth from the capitalist classes and the middle classes, they need control of important institutions like banks and large corporations.

Weaker groups of emerging capitalists are forced to focus their corruption on less powerful groups in society – such as the working class. In order for them to intercept resources within the working class, and to intercept resources that move from the state to the working class, they need access to political office. Political office allows these groups to intercept transfers from the state to other classes as well, but their lack of power forces them to focus on transfers from the state to the working class.

The 1994 Transition Blocks Black Capitalists

A number of key agreements made during the negotiations before 1994 have come to block the formation of a new class of capitalists. Their elements were:

a. Constitutionalism and constitutional continuity

The constitutional and political settlement at the dawn of democracy constituted the first line of defence against the dangers that democracy posed to the wealthy groups in society – in particular to white monopoly capitalist interests. While not being the only elements of the settlements that served to block the redistribution of wealth, the ones we would like to highlight are:

  1. the transformation of South Africa into a constitutional state.
  2. the adoption of the concept or doctrine of ‘legal continuity’, which meant that all laws and agreements that were passed or entered into during colonialism and apartheid remained valid and could only be changed through the legal process.
  3. the new dispensation made it unconstitutional to punish anyone for any offence committed in the past if no law said it was an offence at the time.
  4. the capitalist corporations continued to be “juristic persons,” and this meant that all key rights conferred by the new constitution to protect people against abuses of apartheid (such as expropriation of property for very low compensation) also protected capitalist organizations.

The doctrines of constitutionalism, constitutional continuity and illegalization of retrospectivity were not enough to defend monopoly capital. Monopoly capital did not trust the new black elite as it was not always clear if the black political elite now in government would resist the pressure of their constituency to redistribute wealth. The capitalist class, through a range of means, intervened to create other lines of defence against the pressure for redistribution of wealth.

b. The capture of the ANC

Image result for capture of the ANC

To protect the interests of monopoly capital, determined efforts were made to capture the ANC as an organization, and these efforts were already successful by 1992. In that year, the Mail & Guardian organized a retreat at Mont Fleurs outside Cape Town, where the consensus about a free market capitalist road began to emerge. Some of the people present were to be key in the adoption of free market economics or neoliberalism in post-apartheid South Africa. They included Trevor Manuel, Tito Mboweni, Rob Davies, Saki Macozoma, Jayendra Naidoo, and some of the biggest capitalists, Christo Wiese, Derek Keys and so on. It was these series of engagements that ended in the capture of the ANC by monopoly capital, and resulted in the adoption of “Growth, Employment and Redistribution” (GEAR) policy by the ANC in 1996.

c. Flags of convenience

Another line of defence put up by (white) monopoly capital was to ensure that key capitalist organizations are protected against the South African state – which was black and could not be trusted – by foreign governments. Following the ascent of Trevor Manuel to the Treasury, five of South Africa’s large corporations were granted permission to become “foreign companies” by shifting their “home” addresses to London and New York. This move allowed these companies to move their wealth overseas. By 2001 the companies were exporting more than R7-billion in profits made in SA overseas. The ‘flags of convenience’ of these companies meant that they were now protected against South African people by their new-found “parents” – the UK and U.S. governments. From being South African companies, they now became foreign investors in South Africa! While the big five companies expressed this process in the most visible manner, the strategy of ‘flying flags of convenience’, even without moving the primary listing to foreign countries, has continued. Today almost half of the biggest companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are controlled by foreign shareholders. Almost 75% of the companies have 30% or more of their stocks owned by foreign shareholders. This level of ownership is enough to control a company, and with the resources at the disposal of these foreign groups they are able to exert a major influence on the South African economy and on the South African state.

d. Privatization of state enterprises, or starving SOEs of investment

Wall number four was also put up, and this mainly involved pressure on the new South African state to privatize the key assets of the state. If privatization was not possible, the state allowed these assets to fall into neglect so as to allow the “private sector,” meaning the big capitalist, to create “new industries” to substitute the state industries. Private health is one such example – the decline of state health has led to the consolidation of the rise of private health.

The debacle around SASSA is another example of how the decline in the capacities of the state, a direct product of the neoliberal policies pursued by successive ANC administrations with the Finance Ministry at the vanguard, has led to the current situation in which a state organ cannot even process payments, notwithstanding the fact that the South African Revenue Services run an equally large, modern and sophisticated electronic system of filing and payments. Add to this that the entire Department of Home Affairs platform is now digitized and uses modern biometrics, and we can see how the SASSA crisis is one manufactured by vested interests.

Fortress Capitalism

These four lines of defence created a fortress around capitalist organizations and the privileged white middle class, and ensured that their wealth would be preserved. This defence of capitalist and white privilege and power ensured that any new group of black capitalists that wanted to become rich could only be rich on one condition: by the mercy of white monopoly capital. This is how many ANC cadres such as Cyril Ramaphosa, Tokyo Sexwale and Patrice Motsepe became rich. This condition, however, was a recipe for conflict. Not only would the black working class grow restive over time, but the black middle class and the aspiring black bourgeoisie would have to find ways around these walls of defence. This battle was what set in motion the battle for the ANC.

This battle began to take shape around what was called “the class project of 1996” (a code for the capture of the ANC by monopoly capital and neoliberalism); the battle grew into the Polokwane project that brought together Julius Malema and the ANC Youth League, Zwelinzima Vavi and COSATU, the black petty bourgeoisie at the local level (mainly in the bureaucracy of the local state), and sections of the aspiring black bourgeoisie such as Tokyo Sexwale and Ramaphosa. At this point in the battle, people like Nene and Gordhan were part of this broad church.

Corruption and the battle for the ANC

The policies implemented by the government of Thabo Mbeki and Trevor Manuel blocked the emergence of a class of big black capitalists that could challenge white monopoly capital. The rich few blacks they produced were too dependent on white monopoly capital. Their policies also began to have a negative effect on the working class and the small and fragile black middle class. As unemployment rose and the black middle class struggled to survive, the tide turned against Thabo Mbeki’s leadership in the ANC, and he was overthrown at Polokwane in 2007 and recalled in September 2008. This overthrow of Thabo Mbeki was seen as the end of the “class project of 1996,” and a new regime at the Finance Ministry was thought to be at hand with the accession of Pravin Gordhan to the helm. It was not long before the Polokwane bloc came up against the many lines of defence put up by monopoly capital. It must be remembered immediately on becoming president, Zuma was on his way to London to meet “investors.”

Although this bloc had come to political office around the rhetoric of “radical economic transformation” based on the Freedom Charter – much as the Zuma bloc is now again trying to do – they had no real programme or plan on how to break through the stranglehold of monopoly capital and the defences it had put up over more than 20 years (1990 and before, to 2009).

Without any programme, the new Polokwane bloc could not break through three of the four lines of defence put up by white monopoly capital. The economic situation of the middle classes – their key constituency – had been deteriorating and their indebtedness had been rising in the 15 years or so of the new democracy. As an historical bout of bad luck would have it, they also came into political office against the backdrop of a global economic crisis. This meant that even the crumbs that had been dished out to the Tokyos of this world were drying up. Black participation in the JSE began to decline, monopoly capital and its international counterpart demanded fiscal discipline and austerity and the state as a redistributive mechanism was frowned upon even more by those who held economic power in society.

Thus the Polokwane bloc and the class it represented – the petty bourgeoisie, now dependent on their position in the state – had only one option to survive: through corruption, tenders and doing business with the state that employed them.

Earlier I argued that there are four sources of corrupt enrichment in capitalist society. Recall that I argued that the first line is to divert resources from within the capitalist class. The second was to extract resources from within the state through large state contracts. The third was to extract resources from the middle class, and fourthly, from the working class. Three of these remained blocked, and only one (extracting resources from state transfers to the working class) was now open for this class and the Polokwane bloc.

A new situation had arisen because in the Polokwane struggle monopoly capital and its allies in the ANC lost control of the ANC. The Polokwane bloc had breached one of the four walls of defence set up by capital – they had recaptured the ANC. This immediately opened up the possibilities of extracting resources meant for the poor working class communities, especially via the local state. The only option open to a weakened and defeated black middle class was to extract resources from the line that distributed resources from the state to the working class. At all levels of the state, but particularly at the local state, the new black elite has been extracting wealth for its consumption from resources meant for the working class and the poor. The scale of this corrupt extraction can be seen in the reports of the Auditor General year after year since the transition began. Billions and billions of rand are “lost” every year to “wasteful,” fruitless, and unauthorized expenditure. We can see this extraction from broken RDP houses, unfinished school buildings, pot holes on roads across the country, non-delivery of text books, waterworks that are sabotaged in order for fictitious tenders to be created, and the list goes on without end. The SASSA crisis currently unfolding represents a particularly ugly version of how this group is intercepting resources meant for the working class, but it is only the most visible one because it is now unfolding around a single date, April 1.

The control of the ANC by the Polokwane bloc, however, did not bring with it the power to breach the three other lines of defence set up by monopoly capital. The constitutional and legal defences are still intact, and litigation against the Zuma state has intensified at all levels. Also, massive capital flight and export continues, and various means are implemented to accelerate this. Lately, transfer pricing has become a favoured means to export profits to overseas destinations. The swindling of the middle class, especially the affluent white middle class, remains the preserve of big capital and its banks, which are jealously guarding the banking space for new entrants and find all manner of ways of collapsing upstarts that want to disturb the current division of the market into spheres of influence.

The struggle currently underway (Zuma vs. Gordhan) in the ANC owes its specific origins to a number of key developments since the victory of the Polokwane bloc. The basis of these developments is the fact that the Polokwane bloc had no real programme of how to confront monopoly capital. The rhetoric of the SACP and COSATU, themselves closet believers in neoliberal policies, was clearly not enough to confront the “beast” that is monopoly capital. Confronted with these defences, the bloc folded and fractured in a hundred different directions. Some of the key modalities of this fracture included:

  1. Zuma, who had no programmatic or political interest in the struggle against monopoly capital, went back to his old ways of responding to the intractable nature of the transition: petty corruption. Remember that before his rise to the throne, Zuma was facing hundreds of petty corruption charges. What the new situation opened up was more of the same: resource extraction of the pettiest kind. So followed Nkandla, a large dose of petty theft.
  2. The Treasury under Gordhan was recaptured by monopoly capital, as he was forced to continue dishing out all the neoliberal formulas of his predecessor, Trevor Manuel. The continuation of the Treasury’s orientation toward neoliberal economics of monopoly capital was facilitated by the difficult conditions of the global economic crisis on the one hand (he came into the Treasury just after the crisis), and the lack of any programme (besides rhetoric) on the part of the Polokwane bloc. Without any programme, the man who was going to put an end to the “class project of 96” had no clue on what was to be done – and when you don’t know you just keep going. Zuma’s propensity for petty corruption, his lack of any real ideas (big or small) on any issue and his patent helplessness in running the ship of state – all these facilitated Gordhan’s capture by monopoly capital.
  3. The entry, or rather re-entry, of sections of the Polokwane bloc that had pretensions to being big capitalists also dampened any appetite for a fight with monopoly capital. The likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, deeply indebted to monopoly capital, deeply intertwined with it (Lonmin) had no appetite for this fight and did not believe in radical economic transformation. The attitude of this faction was that it could be rich by being “clean,” and were clearly at odds with the Zuma group of petty thieves.
  4. Those who still believed in the rhetoric of the Freedom Charter, like Julius Malema and Irvin Jim, now came face to face with the fact that no amount of radical rhetoric can shift the entrenched nature of monopoly capital. They also came face to face with the fact that the Zuma section of the bloc and the Ramaphosas of this world had no appetite for the fight, and for the rhetoric as well. They split off from the Tripartite Alliance and the ANC, and went on to continue with their rhetoric and theatrics.
  5. In the course of all these struggles (the run-up to Polokwane and the immediate beyond), COSATU became less and less of a force to be taken seriously by the other factions in the Polokwane bloc. The Marikana massacre bled the key actor in the pro-Zuma blocs in COSATU – in particular the NUM – and with Numsa leaving the sorry state of COSATU is there for all to see.
  6. The South African Communist Party (SACP), as usual, puts its head in the sand, throws around a bit of rhetoric, and hopes that history will lead to socialism in the end. Caught between the petty corruption of Zuma and Gordhan’s shift to the right, the SACP defends Rupert (anything but the Guptas), likes the rhetoric of “radical economic transformation,” and in general swings wildly between the two main protagonists in the struggle of the excluded petty bourgeoisie against white monopoly capital.

These lines of fracture of the Polokwane bloc led to the alignments of factions in the ANC that are now playing out a new, and maybe last phase, of the disintegration of the ANC. In the immediate conjucture of the SASSA crisis, the alignments look like this:

In the corner of monopoly capital stands Gordhan. As the conjuncture of circumstances would have it, the SACP and COSATU stand in this corner. As a result of his anti-Zuma orientation, Julius Malema find themselves (temporary?) allies of Gordhan, and therefore of white monopoly capital. In the other corner stands (?) Zuma, his family, the consuming black petty bourgeoisie at the local level, and of course the Guptas.

Enter the Guptas

The arrival of the Guptas on the scene (initially introduced by the Mbeki bloc), and their linking up with the Zuma bloc, has led to an intensification of hostilities in the struggle for the extraction of resources from the state. Up to then, there was no actor in the Zuma or Polokwane bloc more broadly, who had the appetite and resources to fight white monopoly capital. Also, up to then there was no actor that was involved directly in real production – people like Ramaphosa are stock millionaires, not real production capitalists.

The importance of the Guptas in this battle cannot be understated. The Guptas are providing four key elements that have been lacking in the Zuma bloc. First, as we indicated already, the Guptas are a producing capitalist group and not just a group of consuming individuals. Second, the Guptas have financial resources that can “take on” big capital in South Africa. Third, the Guptas have the organizational skills that come with organization of production, and they have had to “organize” the whole bloc, even to the extent of dishing out cabinet posts!

Fourth, if the Guptas succeed in making inroads into the circuits of wealth that run between the state and large capitals – the state enterprises are key in this circuit – they may well break into the heart of the circuits that run within the capitalist class itself. An important project of the Guptas will be that of having its own banking arm. This aspect of the project will also give it access to extracting wealth from the affluent middle classes, or in the beginning from the black middle classes. With the ability to issue loans to the middle class on a significant scale, and backed up by access to large state contracts – it will most certainly be game on!

In the short term, the most important strategic goal is to capture the Treasury, currently the most important bastion of monopoly capital within the state. A common error in the analysis of what is clearly an important strategic project for the Guptas – the capture of the Treasury – is that the Guptas only want to “loot.” Now, the idea of looting is always associated with corruption, in particular with consumption, and not production. This is a fundamental error of theory and analysis.

The Eskom contract around the Tegeta coal mining contracts is a classic example of the processes of the legalization of corruption. It therefore provides an interesting example of how monopoly capital and its “fourth estate,” the media, would cry wolf while they themselves engage in similar kinds of practices. The main purported “sin” of the Guptas is that they got “paid an advance” on coal that they did not have, and in turn used this advance to purchase the mine and later deliver the coal. Now, this kind of financial engineering is standard practice with the likes of Goldman Sachs (see Goldmans Greek debt swindle), derivatives of all kinds (remember that what triggered the global economic crisis was the housing loan derivatives), and in many cases straightforward theft of state resources.

If we leave the world of financial engineering (that is the legalized theft of social wealth) the Eskom deal is classic in another and more important sense. The formation of large capitals in South Africa was underwritten by massive state subsidies over several decades. And guess who was key in the provision of these subsidies? Eskom! For decades, while the black working class had no access to electricity, Eskom ran the lowest electricity price regime in the world for big capitals. A combination of cheap electricity (Eskom), cheap steel (ISCOR) with cheap labour was the recipe that created today’s white monopoly industries. The Tegeta deal is borrowing from an old book.

South African monopoly capital is aware of the threat posed by a victory of the Guptas: the Guptas may just succeed in legalizing their corruption alongside that of white monopoly capital. Sensing this, big capital and its allies are putting up a fierce resistance, and this threatens to break up the ANC completely. The battle for the Treasury expresses this issue most acutely, but the battle is equally acute across all the big state enterprises.

Public Opinion

Image result for gupta and zumaOf importance in this struggle will be the battle for the hearts and minds of the population. Who will be able to win the battle for public opinion? At this point in the battle the Guptas and Zuma (a minor player in this historical drama) have the odds stacked against them. Almost the entire media sings from the same hymnbook: the Guptas are corrupt, they are a danger to the “nation,” (here xenophobia even comes into it) and they should be denied citizenship, etc, etc. On the other hand, it is easy to mistake the noise of the media for real support for the Gordhan corner.

The Guptas may therefore be under siege, but they have a crucial trump card, so to speak. Although the Polokwane project has broken up, the systemic social, political and economic problems that brought it into being do not only still exist – they continue to deepen. The economics of austerity implemented by Gordhan continue to pulverize the black middle class and the black working class. The levels of indebtedness of South African consumers has been steadily rising, and the only remaining question is when the tipping point will be reached: when are we going to see large-scale and politically explosive defaults among the middle classes?

On the other hand, the ANC has steadily lost credibility in the working class, as shown by the local government elections of 2016. As a result of this, the working class has become a passive force, as shown by its stayaway from the August local government elections. A combination of pressures on the black middle class still dependent on the state and its tenders, and a passive working class mean that Zuma and his faction may have lost the battle for the media, but they remain firmly in charge of the ANC. Sensing this, Zuma and his faction have “conjured up the spirits of the past to fight their current battles”: they have resurrected the rhetoric of “radical economic transformation” that initially launched the struggle against the “class project of 1996.”

These layers of the ANC apparatus see Gordhan’s “clean government” crusade as directed against them. They see a repeat of the “class project of 1996,” and they are learning in the process not to depend on their traditional allies – the SACP and COSATU. Through its various factions in the ANC – in particular the Premier League – this group is digging in for a bitter fight for the ANC. This fight will break the ANC to pieces, but for this class there is no other option.

The consequence of this alignment of forces is that the Gordhan group has to try and launch assaults from outside the ANC. Thus the need for “stalwarts” and all kinds of “eminent persons” that appeal to the Zuma bloc to desist from the road of corruption. Their capacity to contest within the structures of the ANC has been considerably weakened by their association with monopoly capital and its vanguard in the person of Gordhan.

Free and Egalitarian South Africa?

June 26: Freedom Charter Day

At the heart of the Zupta versus Pravin battle is a battle between two kinds of corruption. On the one side is a corruption that has not yet been able to legalize itself, a corruption of excluded sections of the black middle class and those who aspire to be rich capitalists. At this point this corrupt faction steals directly from the poor, but it seeks to legalize itself and “play” in the greener pastures of corruption in the circuits of wealth that move within the capitalist class and the state itself. On the other side stand the front troops of legalized corruption – the corruption of white monopoly capital. Behind their appeal to the “rule of law,” to “clean government,” to “anti-corruption” stand the defence of privilege that has not only excluded aspiring black capital, but has produced a deep, structural and enduring poverty of millions of working class South Africans.

The prospects of a victory of monopoly capital, a Cyril Ramaphosa victory in the ANC, and therefore a recapture of the ANC is currently looking extremely slim. On the other hand, the Zupta bloc is facing formidable odds as it tries to breach the walls put up by monopoly capital. What South Africa may indeed be facing is what Marx called a “peace of the graveyard,” a common ruin of the contending classes.” With monopoly capital unable to flush the Zuptas out of the state, and the Zuptas not able to impose a deal that legalizes them as co-thieves of social wealth, we may see a ruin of all classes.

In this whole battle for Treasury and the state between Zuma and Gordhan, the real elephant in the room is this: how did it come to pass that almost 40 million South Africans are dependent on meagre grants handed out by the state? This is the real inheritance of Mbeki, Manuel, Nene and Gordhan and the big capitalist groups they represent.

Both the monopoly capitalists and the Zuptas have corrupted something very precious in South Africa’s history – they have corrupted a proud and militant tradition of struggle for social justice; they have corrupted South Africa’s dream of a free and egalitarian nation.

With a ruin of all classes increasingly looking likely, the only way out is for the working class to come out of its period of apathy – but this will constitute a whole new historical period.

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For South Africans, another ‘long trek’ looms


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Stiff-necked apartheid high priests had their problems but none of them contemplated the type of weird political culture the ANC and Mr. Zuma are foisting on post-apartheid South Africa. Where is that country headed?

From the look of things, another long, tortuous trek looms in South Africa. The ‘long trek’ has been primed by what many expected would be a honey-coated story but which has now left a bitter taste in the mouth of South Africans! Coming a little over two decades after South Africa threw off the yoke of apartheid, the trek threatens to replace white minority rule with black majority dictatorship.

We can only hope the mere thought of South Africa sliding into dictatorship under President Jacob Zuma did not hasten the recent expiration of anti-apartheid activist, Ahmed Kathrada.

What we do know is that South Africa, for the second time in its chequered history, is under siege arising from the crass leadership deficit of Mr. Zuma, the third person of colour to rule South African since independence in 1994. Once again, the ruling ANC party has thrown its weight behind the embattled president even as authentic voices continue to appeal to the ANC “to take urgent corrective action in the best interest of South Africa and its peoples”.

The latest indication that Mr. Zuma was determined to take South Africans down the weather-beaten road of all despots came when, against wise counsel, he reshuffled his cabinet with the main aim being replacing the independent-minded finance minister Gordhan Pravin with one of his fiercest supporters and former defence minister. This time, Mr. Zuma’s deputy and the powerful Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU, which stood by Mr. Zuma in previous corruption scandals, added their voices to calls on the president to step down.

Elections are due in 2019 but, with majority ANC parliamentarians solidly behind him, it should come as no surprise if Mr. Zuma transmutes into another sit-tight African leader. He only needs to look northward across the border for inspiration. The defences around the scandal-prone president may be crumbling but, like a cat with nine lives, Mr. Zuma can still count on fiercely-loyal supporters who impatiently shout down dissenting voices, to achieve his aim.

Any attempt at transmutation may only intensify the campaign to unseat Mr. Zuma. The campaign took a new twist after a controversial security upgrade at the Nkandla country home of the president in 2012. Allegations that Mr. Zuma corruptly enriched himself from the controversial house upgrade were confirmed by the report of the Public Protector that was released in March 2014. A superior court even ordered President Zuma to refund part of the appropriated funds.

Signs that South Africa was headed in the wrong direction manifested in 2007 when Mr. Zuma clawed his way to the powerful presidency of the ANC. For Mr. Zuma, the ANC presidency was an opportunity to get even with enemies, including then President Thabo Mbeki, who dismissed the controversy-prone Mr. Zuma from his cabinet position in 2005 after he was implicated in a corruption scandal. Mr. Zuma got his pound of flesh when he forced Mr. Mbeki to resign in September 2008. Eight months later, Mr. Zuma, as presidential candidate of the ANC, led the party to an easy victory. Things have continued to fall apart for the country since then.

Mr. Zuma is not new to challenges. As a young man with no formal education, the budding anti-apartheid struggle appeared the only way for him. After joining Umkhonto We Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC, Zuma received military training at ANC camps in several southern African countries and occasionally sneaked into South Africa to participate in insurgency against the apartheid regime. It was during one of the operations that Zuma was arrested and jailed for 10 years.

The return of black majority rule in 1994 was all Mr. Zuma needed to advertise his recklessness. As a parliamentarian in 2004, he was fingered in a scandal that involved Schabir Shaik, a businessman and Zuma’s ally who was jailed in 2006 for taking bribes from arms deals which he allegedly channeled to Mr. Zuma. Critics who called on Mr. Zuma to resign as deputy president of ANC were disappointed when COSATU joined in the defence of Mr. Zuma who, on the gravity of the offence, resigned from parliament but remained as deputy president of ANC.

While the Nkandla scandal raged, a former ANC member of parliament, Ms. Vytjie Mentor, revealed that the Guptas, a prominent Indian family with interests in information technology, media and mining, promised her a ministerial post on condition she drops the India route on the flight schedule of the South African national carrier. Within hours, then deputy finance minister, Mcebisi Jones, also revealed how he rejected the offer of substantive finance minister by members of the Gupta family.  South Africans had good cause to worry when, around the same time, a former cabinet spokesperson, Themba Maseko, revealed that President Zuma requested him to find ways of helping the Gupta family.

South Africa has many indigenous Indian families but the Guptas is not one of them. In fact, the Guptas, probably at the instance of Mr. Zuma, arrived in South Africa a decade-and-half ago and has made giant strides that are only possible with a string-pulling benevolent godfather. Of course, President Zuma’s family is represented in the octopoid Gupta family business by his 33-year-old son, Duduzane, who resigned his non-executive directorship when the latest scandal broke.

If South Africans needed proof of how well connected the Guptas are, they got one in April, 2013, when security and aviation authorities simply turned the blind eye as the Guptas breached state security when the highly-favoured Indians landed a private jet, filled with wedding guests, at an Air Force Base near Pretoria! South Africans were aghast and, soon, those who pressured government to wield the big stick were silenced and dubbed enemies of state by the normally-vibrant official propaganda machinery.

Stiff-necked apartheid high priests had their problems but none of them contemplated the type of weird political culture the ANC and Mr. Zuma are foisting on post-apartheid South Africa. For now, the least expectation of Africans is to sneer as Mr. Zuma transforms a promising Republic of South Africa into a prototypic African republic.

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Black girls “throwing tantrums” over hair? Excuse me


Screen-grab: looptt.com

To call a conscious protest by schoolgirls resisting racism a “tantrum” is myopic. Although apartheid has long been legally dismantled in South Africa, racism still exists and whiteness there still means being part of a privileged group; one whose traditions, religion, food and appearance – including hairstyle – is still the default norm.

It’s hardly surprising that BBC’s 2016 most influential women in the world list included Zulaikha Patel, one of the girls that led the protests at Pretoria High School for Girls (PHSG). She has reminded us that barely a decade after Indie Arie proudly sang, “I am not my hair”, matters of black hair are still very much political. The gains made by the Black Pride and Black Consciousness movements which sought to instill a sense of pride over Black aesthetics are perpetually challenged in institutions with policies that uphold racial hierarchies.

A range of institutions continues to work together to marginalize Black women’s hairstyles and encourage them to invest in products that will rid them of their ‘kinky, curly, unmanageable’ hair – they are urged to embrace wigs, weaves, or chemically ‘straightened’ hair. Doing so provides them access to jobs, education and social inclusion in predominantly white institutions. Black hairstyles thereby come to signify whether one wants to be included (read “conform”) or excluded (read “militant”). Patel’s protest is entangled in historical attempts to police Black women’s hair. At PHSG, Black students have complained that they are not allowed to wear afros, are encouraged to straighten their hair, and were subjected to racial slights by staff [1]. As a PHSG Old Girl, I feel obligated to respond, as it may be a useful discourse for many grappling with hair, Blackness and whiteness in the ‘New South Africa’.

PHSG, a leader in multi-racial education

PHSG was one of the first schools in the province when it came to progressive and inclusive race policies – it was a trailblazer during its time. It sought to finally realize its founding principles of admitting students from all races by being one of the first schools in Gauteng (Northern Transvaal) to admit Black students during the apartheid era – at a time when it didn’t legally have to – and a time when racially segregated schools were not only normal but legal. So, in August, when the allegations of racism started to appear in the media, I was taken aback that it was happening at that school. The school has now become the center of a national debate about lingering racialized policies, exposing polarized racial discords.

When I was a pupil at PHSG in the 90s, the school’s code of conduct did not specifically address Black hairstyles. At the time it was a one-size-fits all policy that did not specifically mention what is typically considered “Black hairstyles” [2]. They tried their best to apply existing rules to us. Our hair battles with the administration were for them to allow braids and cornrows, which they eventually allowed. They encouraged Black students to have “natural” hairstyles (which included afros), thereby discouraging any type of “fancy” or expensive hairstyles. This seemed largely due to the need for students not to “stand-out” and conform but did not seem racially motivated. The rules that were applied to us were based on an interpretation of their general hair policies, which posited that hair should not be “neat” and “tidy”.

To place these rules in context, there were only a handful of Black girls at PHSG at the time – this was in the early 1990s before apartheid was dismantled. Malawi was the only African country to still have diplomatic relations with South Africa. Therefore Malawi’s envoys had diplomatic immunity which accorded them the “privilege” of being able to live in white neighborhoods. As such, my parents sought to admit their children in the schools that were closest to where they lived and where their children could receive the impeccable education that PHSG could provide.

Following school-wide deliberations that culminated in a vote to decide to become a racially “open” model C school, my sister, Thoko, became the first Black student at the school – I joined over a year later along with other Malawian students. Therefore, a written policy meant for just a handful of us was probably not necessary. The changing demographics of the school over the years probably necessitated a more concrete hair policy.

This has changed. The current code of conduct at PHSG has stipulations for braids, cornrows and other hairstyles that are worn by all students [3]. It doesn’t mention afros explicitly – it neither bans nor permits them. Therefore, some people wrongly believe the policy cannot be racialized because it applies across the board to students of all colors.

Reaction to the protest

An opinion piece by Lelouch Giard captures the lens with which a significant number of white South Africans analyzed the students’ complaints. Giard posits that the entire controversy simply and neatly boils down to a matter of playing a “race card” because a handful of Black students don’t want to learn or follow the rules everyone is subjected to and thereby are inclined to arbitrary call ‘racism’. In sum, it holds that in a post-racial South Africa in which colorblindness prevails,  Black students would rather “throw tantrums” over exaggerated accusations and shout ‘racism’ rather than improve their socio-economic status [4]. He fails to acknowledge that although apartheid has long been legally dismantled in South Africa, racism still exists and whiteness there still means being part of a privileged group; one whose traditions, religion, food and appearance (including hairstyle) is still the default norm and is not ‘othered’. His backlash to their protests seems reminiscent of ideas shared in popular movements such as Trumpism, Brexit and other white identity politics that have recently gained traction [5].

Systematic discrimination

Giard acknowledges that the afro symbolizes Black identity and expression. However, he doesn’t mention the political connotations which link the style to marginalized, non-conforming revolutionary women such as Angela Davis or Winnie Mandela. Rather, he links the style to unsubstantiated political connections between hairstyle and bad behavior when he addresses the reasons Patel may have left her previous schools – “The question arises: is it really just because of her hair, or her attitude (possibly as relating to her hair)?” He goes on to question her credibility because of it, and uses her attitude as a basis for invalidating her experiences at the school. He also objectifies her from the start of the article by introducing her as a “a girl who calls herself ….” which already indicates his own subjective attitude towards her.

Giard’s tendency to focus on the victim does not acknowledge that systemic race discrimination still exists in the nation’s institutions and may continue to impact Black girls. Rather than acknowledging the possibility that she may have been subjected to racist comments by some of the staff members, he largely discredits her account and that of the girls that supported her. In fact, he seems set on proving that they were never wronged.

Alumnae have supported her claims arguing that some of the administrative staff in the school are interpreting the rules to mean that they can’t wear afros and need to straighten their hair. They note feeling harassed and being subjected to racial slights by faculty such as being called “monkeys” and being told that their head looks like there is a “a nest” on top of it. Although such behavior is unacceptable by any standards, Girard should, ideally, give equal attention to an administrative climate at the school that potentially allows teachers to act with impunity. Instead, he points to the social pathology of the Black alumni. He calls their experiences largely “imagined” or “exaggerated”. He also calls them “unsubstantiated” accounts. However, experiences of discriminatory harassment do not need his legitimization (or anyone else’s) to hold in a court of law.

If several girls experienced micro-aggressions by authority figures over several years, who is Giard to delegitimize their lived experience by telling them that they are wrong and are treated the same as everyone else? And even if they are treated the same, that comes with its own set of problems. In sociology and law disparate impact is when treating people the same results in a different impact for some groups. This can be liked to a school in France banning head covering for all its students, thereby unfairly impacting Muslim girls wearing hijab – or height requirements in the military which discriminate against women or having a single hair policy.

School of hard knocks

Lastly, to call their protest a “tantrum” when the issues that the girls are dealing with are real adult world problems is myopic. Black Women worldwide have to wonder if their hair will cost them a job regularly. It is an issue woman in the US military were dealing with as recently as two years ago and one that the US federal court recently ruled on. It’s not just a schoolgirl concern and they should be applauded for their consciousness, instead of being chided for seemingly not following the proper channels for complaints. Yes, protests should be the last recourse but that assumes that the girls never complained. In fact they did – and when they did, they were labelled as being too focused on politics and race [6].

Although hair was at the center of the issue, their concerns dealt directly with their right to gather, speak in their own languages and to be taught in an environment that is not hostile. Reducing this issue to race-baiting is short-sighted. All South Africans need to acknowledge that discrimination still occurs and still needs to be dealt with and in some institutions to be fully eradicated [7]. It can even pops up its ugly head in the nation’s progressive institutions because racism can’t be legislated away.

Although many alumnae are rightfully upset about the broad brush which the school is being painted with in the media, the incident may just be good for the school – the changes that it will make will once again make PHSG a leader when it comes to maintaining safe spaces for all leaners in South Africa’s schools.

 

End notes

[1] Nicholson, Greg, “Pretoria Girls High: A protest against sacrificed cultures and identities”, Daily Maverick, 30 August, http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2016-08-30-pretoria-girls-high-a-protest-against-sacrificed-cultures-and-identities/#.WD8MLVy3XEl accessed 11 November, 2016

[2] Mabuse, Nkepile (2016), “Race or Rules”, Check Point ENCA, September 7th, https://www.enca.com/south-africa/checkpoint-race-or-rules

[3] Pretoria High School for Girls (2015/2016), “PHSG Code of Conduct for Learners” http://www.phsg.org.za/uploads/cms/files/code_of_conduct_leaners.pdf accessed 11 November, 2016.

[4] Giard,Lelouch (2016) “Hair Trends and Racism in South Africa” South Africa Today, 01 September 2016 http://southafricatoday.net/south-africa-news/gauteng/hair-trends-and-racism-in-south-africa/ accessed 11 November, 2016.

[5] Taub, Amanda (2016), “Behind 2016’s Turmoil, a Crisis of White Identity” , New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/02/world/americas/brexit-donald-trump-whites.html?_r=0 01 November 2016

[6] Pather, Raaesa (2016), “Pretoria Girls High School pupil: I was instructed to fix myself as if I was broken” Mail & Guardian, 29 August, http://mg.co.za/article/2016-08-29-pretoria-girls-high-school-pupil-i-was-instructed-to-fix-myself-as-if-i-was-broken, accessed 11 November 2016

[7] Naidoo, Jay (2016), “Pretoria Girls High: A microcosm of what’s wrong with South Africa”, Daily Maverick, 09 September http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2016-09-09-pretoria-girls-high-a-microcosm-of-whats-wrong-with-south-africa/, accessed 11 November 2016

Posted in South AfricaComments Off on Black girls “throwing tantrums” over hair? Excuse me

“Regime Change”? South Africa Targeted by Western Destabilization Efforts?


NOVANEWS
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Issues surrounding a minimum wage bill, education and services are being utilized in attempts to overthrow the African National Congress

South African President Jacob Zuma has come out publically to state that there are efforts underway by the West to undermine the African National Congress (ANC) government which has held power for over 22 years.

A myriad of challenges are facing the South African ruling party including an economic recession, the bringing of several allegations about corruption within the office of the presidency, a declining stock market and national currency along with increasingly worsening relations with the United States.

In Africa there are numerous examples from the post-colonial period of the last five decades where the intelligence and military apparatuses of the imperialist states have sought to reverse the forward progress of the masses of workers, farmers, youth and their leadership. In the recent period in the South American state of Brazil, the first woman President Dilma Rousseff of the Worker’s Party, was forcefully removed from office in a political coup.

In addition to the decline in the South African economy largely due to the overall world crisis which has driven down commodity prices and systematically disinvested from the emerging states, there has been a fracturing of the national democratic movement and the workers organizations over contentious debates surrounding a way forward. In an October report delivered at the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) 17th Congress in Durban, South Africa, Dr. Blade Nzimande, the Secretary General of the South African Communist Party (SACP), placed these contradictions inside the national democratic revolution and the largest trade union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), within a broader context of the desire by the imperialist states to reverse the advances of the liberation struggles.

In a recent article published by the Agence France Press (AFP), President Zuma emphasized that: “Western powers want to remove the ANC because they do not want the ANC to develop relations with those countries which helped the party in the anti-apartheid struggle.” This statement was made by President Zuma on Nov. 19 laid the blame directly on certain Western countries which do not wish the ruling African National Congress success.

Zuma spoke to ANC supporters at a rally in Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga Province that the imperialist states were utilizing some ANC members to further their agenda, adding that some party members had been won over to the views of Western countries. The president said that those ANC members calling for his resignation were in fact serving the interests of the Western states.

The Political Economy of Destabilization

Since 1994 there have been substantial reforms initiated under the ANC government. There has been the construction of housing for the poor and working class, the expansion of healthcare, the breaking down of racial barriers in public facilities, along with access to household utilities and clean drinking water.

However, the fundamental relations and ownership of production remains under the control of the capitalist class. As a manifestation of modern-day capitalism, high unemployment, rising costs of living including education fees as well as problems associated with service delivery, have continued.

“In all other countries, the majority controls everything from politics, economy and defense . . . It’s only in this country (South Africa) where we don’t have economic freedom. It’s controlled by the minority and those who oppressed us,” Zuma stressed. (AFP, Nov. 21)

The president went on to say: “That is why they are scared that we will take away this economy. They want to take away the strength of the ANC because they know the ANC is the only organization trying to balance the scales.”

Zuma said that his government would not break ties with longtime friends internationally in order to win the approval of the imperialist governments. The president had also spoke at the WFTU 17th Congress noting that the capitalist system would not relinquish concessions to the working class without demands based upon mass struggle.

Recounting the history of the national liberation movement in South Africa, Zuma said: “Socialist countries like Russia and China helped the ANC, giving it military training and aid during the anti-apartheid struggle. The socialist countries came to our aid. It was Russia who trained us and helped us with the tools to fight. China and other socialist countries helped us.”

In addition Zuma said the Western states are retaliating against the ANC government due its affiliation with the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) Summit. The advent of such blocs among the emerging states was a threat to Western hegemony of the world economy.

“They are fighting us because we joined BRICS. Some are in ANC gear but are in the company of the West. We are at war. We are going to protect the ANC,” Zuma emphasized.

In an article published by the South African Mail & Guardian in reference to the stock values of holdings traded on the local market, it noted: “Should South Africa avoid having its credit rating cut to junk in the next two weeks, it could just be staving off the inevitable. More than half of 12 economists surveyed by Bloomberg said S&P Global Ratings will strip the nation of its investment-level rating. The median probability of South Africa retaining its current assessment in December is 45%, falling to only 20% in 2017, the survey shows. The economy faces a cut to junk on its foreign-currency credit rating as output is forecast to expand at the slowest pace this year since a 2009 recession, delaying the government’s plans to narrow the shortfall on the budget and rein in debt.” (Nov. 18)

Debate Surrounds a National Minimum Wage Amid Allegation of Regime Change Agenda

The ANC government has proposed the adoption of a national monthly minimum wage of 3,500 rand which is approximately $242 U.S. dollars. 47 percent of the working population earns less than this proposed amount. (BBC, Nov. 21)

Despite the possible introduction of such legislation, it falls far short of what is actually needed to maintain a basic household. Prof. Chris Malikane of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg suggested that 12,000 rand per month was essential in maintaining a decent home. (BBC, Nov. 21)

This issue is controversial among the business interests which claim that any significant government-mandated increase in the minimum wage would create further unemployment which stands officially at around 25 percent. Over the last few years there have been large-scale job losses in the mining sector which is impacting economic recovery.

Two years ago COSATU proposed a minimum wage of 4500 rand per month. With inflation since 2014 the amount would be at least 5000 today.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said the 3,500 rand per month figure was decided by a panel of experts. Ramaphosa said: “We are now a step closer to finalizing discussions on the national minimum wage. All social partners will now decide what their take is.” (BBC, Nov. 21)

The ANC must address the issues of joblessness, poverty and service delivery in order to win back its two-thirds majority electoral base inside the country. Local governmental elections which were held in August saw a decline in support for the ruling party by approximately ten points although it remains by far the most popular party in South Africa winning 54 percent of the votes in the August poll.

A commission report issued several weeks ago alleged that the government of President Zuma has been involved in corruption. Zuma has denied the charges and attempts to pass motions of no-confidence in parliament failed on numerous occasions. The current ANC leadership seems solidly committed to keeping Zuma in office until his term expires in 2019.

The party maintains that Washington through its embassy in Pretoria is pursuing a regime-change agenda. Party spokesperson Zize Kodwa stated in March: “They have taken about 45 young people to America to train them as part of their leadership program. What we got from those young people is not what they expected; they were trained on how to destabilize the country and regime change.” (Xinhua News Agency, March 16)

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