By Pinky Khoabane
After listening to Professor Chris Malikane’s presentation on radical economic transformation, it became very clear that the debate on who will succeed President Jacob Zuma was paramount.
Malikane is Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s adviser on radical economic transformation and what he painted was a picture of developments that could only be attained in a very long time to come. There are serious impediments in the way of achieving radical economic transformation: firstly, his proposal calls for unity among Blacks as a driving force behind the programme and a change of the Constitution which requires a two-thirds majority to be effected. Looking at the developments of the last few months, the pre-requite to true radical economic transformation as espoused by the Professor seems seriously long term but what he is advocating for, that workers, Black in particular, contest in the battle for ownership of state power, is what is creating the uproar that we have today. And this is why? On the class structure he says: “Across the board, the class structure under colonialism or apartheid remains intact to this day. The African is at the bottom of the food chain. The darkest skin performs the toughest job at the lowest wage across the board.
“Within sections of the middle class, the African professionals are the worst paid and the most overworked. African small businesses receive the worst deals from white suppliers and white- owned banks, and they operate under the worst economically depressed neighbourhoods.
“Even within the capitalist class, the darkest skin is the lowest in the hierarchy of capitalists. It should also be mentioned that, within the African capitalist class, the upper stratum which is credit-based is found inside, and accumulates directly through, established white monopoly capitalist structures. They own shares, sit on boards and have direct business deals with established white monopolies”.
Given the domination and exploitation of centuries – that created these levels of poverty and inequality in South Africa, we must look seriously at the ANC presidential candidates and ask the hard questions. Inequality and poverty pose the biggest threat to our democracy. And just as the then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki’s “two nations” speech in Parliament got South Africa angry, Malikane’s proposal of a complete overhaul of the economy which includes nationalisation, establishment of a state bank and dismantling monopoly capital and replacing with smaller cooperatives – is getting South Africans all worked up. The problem with our country is that whenever the debate over the racial characteristic of poverty and inequality is raised, it is met with uproar, ridicule, downright falsification of facts and the vilification of the person delivering the message. Poverty and inequality in South Africa have racial, gender and spatial dimensions. Black South Africans, women in particular and those living in the rural areas and townships are the hardest hit. South Africa for the past twenty-three years has shied-away from confronting this reality. In choosing the next president therefore, we must have someone with the courage and bravery to address this issue head on.
The question is who, among the presidential candidates will reverse the black condition as found among the black working class, African in particular. Who among the men and women touted to run our country is brave enough to face the capitalists, white in particular but the Black capitalists who have embedded themselves among institutions of white monopoly capitalists and have now become their spokesmen and women? Who has the courage to address the call to reverse poverty, inequality, and exploitation of the masses and is not indebted to white monopoly capitalists?And just as importantly, who will unite the African National Congress around this matter? There’s much talk about the fragile ANC which can ill-afford another breakaway group after national conference in December but can the ANC afford choosing unity over its commitment to fundamentally reverse the racialised and unequal structure of the economy? There are those who say there’s no need for unity at all costs and that the ANC has reached a critical crossroads where the black capitalists embedded in white monopoly capital structures must be called-out and they must leave if they so wish.
What is true is that the notion of radical economic transformation is not new. As Malikane explained in his address to the BlackFirstLandFirst event held on Saturday, his proposal is nothing new and in fact, as we showed here last week, it dates back to the ANC’s first national conference in Morogoro Tanzania in 1969. The idea to reverse the Black condition and the power that resides among whites can be found in policy documents of all liberation movements.
The commitment to transform the economy is also in the Freedom Charter. And so there should really be no reason for the surprise in a call for radical economic transformation. What has happened over the years since 1994 is that we have collected one set of policies after another on an issue which is clear for all to see. We have obfuscated, calling the devastating legacy of colonialism and apartheid one thing or another and burying our heads in all manner of slogans.
To the questions of why radical economic transformation hasn’t happened, the Professor explained that the heterogenous structure of the ANC impedes some of the noble ideas it has. Among its members are Black capitalists who, like their white counterparts, have amassed their wealth through the same exploitation of the Black majority. The Professor cautioned against throwing some of these capitalists in the rubbish heap of history saying some still work within the liberation movements and should therefore be part of discussions around transforming the economy.
And so, as the ANC faithful deliberate on who will lead them after December 2017, it becomes critical that the chosen one should lead them out of the current morass of poverty and inequality. He or she must lead them to the promised land. The blood lost for this liberation would be naught if it wasn’t accompanied by economic justice.