Black forgiveness must be preceded by White remorse

An excerpt from a piece in Business Day, 21 June, 2010, published under the title “Whites’ failure to say sorry holds back SA’. Anthony Butler

In South Africa there is curiously little discussion of whites’ failure, collectively and at the level of their political leadership, to apologise to blacks for the apartheid system, and to ask for forgiveness for the specific atrocities in which it resulted.

Post-apartheid public intellectuals have mostly followed former Anglican Archbishop’s Desmond Tutu’s nostrum that “without forgiveness there is no future”. In 1995, Tutu even described forgiveness as a done deal. He conceived South Africa as “a living example of how forgiveness may unite people”, and insisted that “our miracle would almost certainly not have happened without the willingness of our people to forgive.”

Tutu’s conflation of moral forgiveness with psychotherapy does not do justice to the necessary role of repentance. Although one might conceivably forgive the dead, for example, the normal meaning of the word requires that an offer of forgiveness can, at least in principle, be understood and embraced by the wrongdoer.

If the process of forgiveness is to be concluded, moreover, it requires of the wrongdoer that he understand that he has done wrong. It must therefore be preceded by remorse and then by self-forgiveness — for surely one can only truly accept forgiveness from others when one has forgiven oneself?

Most whites have not begun to take that first step. Former state president FW De Klerk, a formidable strategist but not a statesman, set the pattern of evasion that still characterises white sentiment today. There has been no apology – just equivocation and amnesia, followed directly by the blather of the “open opportunity society”.

When the issue of responsibility is pushed, Afrikaners and English cynically point the finger at each other for a system from which they benefitted together.

The result of this poor leadership and moral cowardice is that whites have been unable to accept, or even to understand, the forgiveness that blacks have offered them. When forgiveness is thrown back in the face of an injured party, bitterness is supplemented with frustration, and new generations grow up with anger in their hearts.

Perhaps because of close relations between adult African women and white children in their care, Africans in this country have continued to treat whites as moral infants who cannot be held fully responsible for their actions. To hold a wrongdoer to account, however, is at its core an act of respect, because it treats that guilty party as a fully moral person.

Tutu’s therapeutic sentimentality has almost had its day. Sometimes, where rights have been violated, the pursuit of retribution is inescapable – and ultimately it can be good for injured parties and wrongdoers alike.

The offering — and true acceptance — of forgiveness still offers the most promising path forward for all South Africans. But until whites can bring themselves to say sorry, they should not be surprised if black people argue for retribution.


Leftist attacks on treasury: time for an apology

Published in Business Day, 26 October, 2009, under the title, ‘Excluding treasury will serve Zuma, not the left’. Anthony Butler.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) have become disoriented dupes of President Jacob Zuma’s conservative administration. Leftist intellectuals have abandoned planning and instead adopted an ill-advised critique of “treasury domination”.

First, the left wants treasury stripped of its control of economic policy. SACP theorists complain that the economy is still dominated by resources groups, and by financial and agro-processing conglomerates. Growth is not absorbing available labour, savings are low, and the small business sector is stagnant.

Why are these pathologies the treasury’s fault? Treasury has allegedly been obsessed with fiscal and monetary stability and an excessively conservative pursuit of low inflation, all buttressed by an “indefensible” inflation targeting regime.

Treasury “bean counters” have supposedly disallowed strategic industrial policy and obstructed the developmental mobilisation of state-owned agencies and infrastructure programmes. They have also overlooked the positive externalities that public investment in health, education and rural development could generate.

The treasury has been under even heavier fire for its second key role as manager of public expenditure. Its macro-economic stance allegedly obliges it to control spending at any cost. Its junior officials veto programmes that might increase human welfare and expand the productive potential of the economy. A treasury preoccupied by bilateral wars of attrition with individual departments has meanwhile failed to introduce overarching appraisals of the value of public spending.

Treasury’s third key role has been in the strategic co-ordination of government. The left complains that treasury’s divide-and-rule negotiations with individual departments are incompatible with the planning, long-term strategic thinking, and information-sharing required for effective governance.

This treasury critique is in some respects highly persuasive, but the left’s proposals for corrective action are poorly considered. In the absence of credible alternative economic policies and instruments, stripping the treasury of power is worse than futile.

Where the left has been given free rein to develop such alternatives — in creating new regulatory institutions, formulating industrial policies, leveraging infrastructural programmes, and setting out sector strategies — progress has been painfully slow or non-existent. Private and state monopolists have meanwhile used the languages of “strategic development” to cloak planning fiascos and procurement abuses.

Jacob Zuma has been here before and he knows that economic development minister Ebrahim Patel has few policy cards to put on the table. When Zuma and his then comrade-at-arms Thabo Mbeki were last suppressing the left in the mid-1990s, they used exactly the same ruse: they assigned a lame-duck economic portfolio (the RDP office) to a mild-mannered and institutionally disempowered trade union leader.

On public spending, the left’s diagnoses are again more persuasive than its remedies. The treasury, for all its failings, has introduced a culture of justification into the public expenditure process. Every supplicant alike – a leftist minister proposing a strategic investment, a rent-seeking special interest, or an opportunist looking to boost his personal patronage powers — has been obliged humbly to justify his demand for scarce resources.

Treasury officials can be arrogant and they sometimes cut out good proposals along with the bad. But treasury arrogance and discipline have partly insulated national departments against the disorder and financial mismanagement that plague provincial and local government.

The treasury’s coordination and planning failings are well known. A year ago, the left championed the planning commission to address precisely these limitations. Suddenly the left has turned full about and instead now backs what may be far-reaching changes to the functioning of the cabinet system.

National government coordination has rested on a system of cabinet subcommittees or “clusters” that bring only relevant ministers and officials into play. Over the past decade, treasury has been represented on all cluster committees at all levels to ensure that resource considerations are mainstreamed into policy development.

Last week, the presidency announced that reorganised ministerial committees for human development, social protection, and justice would henceforth have no finance ministry representation. Forum of Directors-General (FOSAD) clusters are to be “re-configured” in the same way.

If true, this is a dramatic and foolhardy change. It is hard to believe that treasury representatives should be absent, at any stage, from committees that take decisions with major resource implications.

The SACP and COSATU may have been misled that the human development cluster can now formulate public policy on national health insurance, or higher education and training, without being subjected to treasury-imposed financial discipline. The real beneficiaries of treasury exclusion will be Zuma’s close political allies in the justice cluster who may now treat even cursory treasury oversight as beneath them.

Zuma has chosen provincial politicians with provincial mindsets to chair many of his cabinet committees. If the treasury culture of justification continues to be eroded by its unthinking detractors, the provincial patronage-based tender and procurement model may firmly establish itself across the national sphere of government.


Butler teaches politics at Wits University

Missing Mbeki; fearing Zuma. A prediction from 2008

Published in Business Day on 19 May 2008 under the title, ‘Lovable Zuma may be harder to keep from perpetual power’. Anthony Butler

When former President Nelson Mandela last week praised the new African National Congress (ANC) leadership at a ceremonial to mark his acceptance of the Freedom of the City of Tshwane, he may have been speaking from a sense of personal regret.

Mandela, after all, chose Thabo Mbeki to be his deputy president. He then set precedents, such as the neglect of HIV/AIDS, informal schmoozing with business people, and the cultivation of a personality cult, that prefigured some of the worst aspects of his successor’s rule.

By the time Mandela realised Mbeki’s limitations it was too late to stop him. OR Tambo’s determined protégé quickly fused, and so multiplied, the powers of the offices of state and ANC president.

It is not an easy time to reflect on lessons to be learned from President Thabo Mbeki’s rise and fall because a chorus of his former praise-singers are noisily blaming him for each and every ill that afflicts the region. Nevertheless, it is only prudent to consider the potential dangers posed by his most likely successor, Jacob Zuma, a man inexplicably buoyed by an airy and inappropriate optimism.

It is comforting for some to attribute all of SA’s ills to the person and personality of Thabo Mbeki, and to suppose that once he has departed a great cloud will be lifted. However, three major weaknesses undermine this rosy scenario.

First, Mbeki possessed certain valuable capabilities that will be greatly missed when they are gone. He was willing to shoulder the immense unpopularity that came with championing economic stabilisation, and he fiercely protected his finance minister’s right to take controversial decisions.

He resisted blackmail by special interests in the trade union movement and big business, and he astutely ignored the South African Communist Party’s empty threat to throw itself on the mercy of the electorate. He refused to humour white denialists about their culpability for apartheid, and he rejected the easy pretence that race does not matter any more. In all these respects, Mbeki’s replacements already show a tendency to find and then to follow the paths of least resistance.

Second, the practical problems that destroyed Mbeki have not gone away. The social environment has worsened dramatically as a result of the maturing HIV/AIDS epidemic which will very soon leave a million – and then two million — South Africans in need of anti-retroviral drugs. Obstacles to sustainable and universal ARV provision remain deeply entrenched and there is little reason to hope that more rational leadership can turn around this deepening crisis.

Service delivery shortfalls will continue to grow, in part because the low-hanging fruit of the Mbeki era have already been picked. Only hard cases now remain in areas such land reform, household services, and the education system. There will also be a Polokwane payback period which will divert energies and involve a costly rotation of snouts at the provincial procurement trough.

Third, the uniquely favourable economic environment Thabo Mbeki enjoyed for a full decade is over, and inequality, poverty and unemployment can be expected to maintain their hold.

The successor will endure continued political turbulence and he may be forced to respond to it in very much the same way as Mbeki. Centralisation in Luthuli House had the primary functions of controlling factionalism, neutralising ethnic and racial entrepreneurs, regulating the worst extremes of corruption and patronage, and maintaining the liberation movement as a professional electoral machine. The stifling of debate, imposition of office-holders, and insulation of leaders from competition were mostly unintended side-effects of this well-meaning – and perhaps necessary — process of central control.

The new ANC leadership has emphasised that collective decision making will replace Mbeki’s factionalist power monopoly. The National Executive Committee’s array of redoubtable sub-committee chairs, and a secretary general now armed with a policy institute, will supposedly keep a rein on the state president and control appointment and deployment processes.

Such hopes fly in the face of history. Once Jacob Zuma is entrenched in the Union Buildings, with a landslide election victory behind him, he is certain to expand his authority rapidly. Even the leaden-footed and unsympathetic Mbeki was able to accumulate powers relentlessly and to sideline rivals and antagonists using the instruments of state power.

Patronage and political intelligence, once injected with the emotions of sycophancy and fear that a president excites, propelled even Mbeki dangerously close to perpetual power. How much harder will it be to contain the ambitions of the loveable, resilient and quick-footed Jacob Zuma?


Butler teaches public policy at UCT

Religion and politics in SA

Published in Business Day on 17 September, 2007, under the title, ‘SA politicians show their spirit’

Should South Africans celebrate the recent discovery of an unexpected spiritual dimension in some of the country’s political leaders?

Earlier this year, churchmen from the Full Gospel Church, the eThekwini Community Church, and the Miracles Gospel Church conferred the honorary title of “pastor” upon African National Congress (ANC) deputy president Jacob Zuma. Pastor Vusi Khoza, who presided over the May 2007 ceremony, brushed aside the disapproval of some larger churches: “We stick by our decision to honour Zuma. He will continue to carry the mandate of Jesus Christ for us.”

Now citizens hear the news that the country’s largest church, the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), has taken a special interest in President Thabo Mbeki.

On 2 September, His Grace Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane, paramount leader of the ZCC, invited Mbeki to attend the church’s latest assembly in Moria, a meeting that attracted a staggering two-and-a-half million believers.

Mbeki recalled Bishop Lekganyane’s sermon at some length ten days ago in his regular letter in ANC Today. His recounting came complete with sub-titles – such as “the leaders we need” and “the role of the media” – in order that inattentive readers should not underestimate the significance of Lekganyane’s words.

The “leaders we need”, the hereditary paramount ZCC leader observed, are not born of “meaningless quarrels”. True leadership is based on “service to the nation” and not on “serving your interests and fighting over leadership”.

Meanwhile, Lekganyane’s account of the proper “role of the media” echoed the philosophy propounded by SABC chief executive Dali Mpofu. Although Mpofu is not a ZCC member, and may not be strongly associated in the public mind with ZCC values such as dutifulness and abstinence, he would concur with Lekganyane that the role of the media is “to educate, to transform and inspire our nation”. The bishop’s castigation of “negative reporting”, which encourages disrespect for community values and for the rule of law, likewise recalls the state broadcasting supremo’s recent extensive ruminations on the subject.

His Grace also ventured into the field of health policy, advising the youth to abstain from premature engagement in “adult activities”, and demanding that unnamed villains should “please stop misleading our children that there is a cure” for HIV/AIDS.

In Mbeki’s emotional recollection, the Bishop concluded with a prayer for the President and his cabinet that they might “overcome the challenges they have [faced] in fulfilling their mandate to make a better life for all.” Celebrating achievements such as Nepad, Lekganyane commented that “Your expertise has made us great”.

Mbeki, perhaps unsurprisingly, concludes that “Bishop Lekganyane addressed all these important matters as the leader, and on behalf of, the millions of members of the ZCC,” his words suggesting that His Grace was delivering a vote of confidence on behalf of his church and its many members in the president and his government.

Such an interpretation of the paramount leader’s sermon, however, is misleading. In the apartheid era, after all, ZCC doctrine confused almost all outsiders. Some highlighted what they saw as the church’s tolerance for apartheid evils, and accused the ZCC of “political acquiescence”. Others took the contrary view that the ZCC’s rituals and superficial conservatism concealed a robust cultural resistance to colonialism or even a powerful political protest against apartheid.

As Bishop Lekganyane explained the crux of the matter more than twenty years ago, ZCC theology demands that “a man cannot be a follower of God without rendering due respect to the earthly government which He has ordered.” For this reason, “the President, Prime Minister, Ministers of State, chiefs, and all members of administration, are in authority over you.”

One consequence of this doctrine was that the current Bishop’s father, His Grace Edward Lekganyane, invited representatives of the National Party to Moria even in the immediate aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre. In 1965, when Minister of Bantu Affairs de Wet Nel visited a conference, Bishop Edward thanked government for its “kindness” and “goodwill”.

Two weeks ago in Moria, Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane doubtless conferred upon President Thabo Mbeki the respect due to him as state president. However, this same obligation to a secular authority was evident in April 1985 when Lekganyane invited state president PW Botha to celebrate the 75th Easter Paseka of the ZCC with him. His Grace prayed to God to “keep our state president and Mrs. Botha safe from harm” and awarded PW the “Freedom of Moria”.

The Groot Krokodil inevitably interpreted this gesture as tacit support for the apartheid regime and gratefully told ZCC members that “you respect law, order and authority. I have come to tell you that we see this.”

Botha’s gloating was based upon ignorance of a theology that insists on due respect for the earthly authorities created by God. In 1986, a year after Botha’s visit, in a sermon delivered to believers and reported only in the ZCC’s official newsletter, the Bishop spoke quite unequivocally about institutionalised racism: “The ZCC, and I as a leader, detest apartheid together with all of its discriminatory laws”.

Despite often profound social conservatism, ordinary members were also a long way from the mindless accommodators of apartheid they were often made out to be. Indeed, when all opposition parties were unbanned in 1990, thousands of ZCC believers immediately became ANC activists.

Today, the Zionist obligation to respect secular authority still conceals a wide spectrum of political opinion and a high degree of underlying political sophistication. Members of the ZCC will not be swayed, and are unlikely to be impressed, by attempts from whatever quarter to mobilise them as recruits in a merely political campaign to advance factional or personal interests.

Butler teaches public policy at UCT.


The great mineworkers’ strike: 30 years on

Published in Business Day on 8 August 2007, under the title, ‘When mineworkers changed the course of SA history’. Anthony Butler

Exactly twenty years ago [now a little over thirty], the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) launched the most staggering industrial action of the apartheid era. On the evening of 9 August 1987, the night shift of gold and coal miners refused to enter the cages that normally hurtled them deep into the ground. On 10 August, as an unprecedented 300 000 mineworkers downed tools, the great mineworkers’ strike had begun.

The strike took place at a political turning point. The exile ANC was wedded to a purely symbolic “armed struggle”, and Oliver Tambo had conceded that victory could only come from “the people inside South Africa … as a result of their reliance on themselves.” A wave of popular discontent was sweeping across the country to which government had responded with a national state of emergency. The leadership of the United Democratic Front that coordinated domestic opposition was harassed and detained.

Trade unions were increasingly acting as surrogate vehicles for attacks on the regime. NUM general secretary Cyril Ramaphosa explicitly linked industrial and anti-apartheid protest, telling Anglo American patriarch Harry Oppenheimer to his face that the mining industry was “the furnace in which race discrimination was baked” and still relied on “the exploitative migrant labour system and police oppression”. The NUM adopted the Freedom Charter, elected Nelson Mandela honorary president, and marched under banners reading “The Year Mineworkers Take Control”.

Responding to the union threat, Minister of Law and Order Adriaan Vlok determined that COSATU House, where NUM was housed, was fostering a “revolutionary climate”. He engaged Security Branch Unit C1, also known as Vlakplaas, to “neutralise” the problem. On the night of 7 May, a team of 16 Vlakplaas operatives equipped with silenced AK-47 rifles and explosives destroyed the building with two massive blasts. When NUM workers came to work the following morning, they found their third-floor desks in the basement.

Meanwhile, subterranean power shifts at the Main Street headquarters of Anglo American were also propelling the company towards a showdown. Anglo’s earlier embrace of “modernised” labour relations and voluntary union recognition agreements had resulted in high unionization but brought few corresponding benefits. Mine managers complained to their bosses on Main Street that they were losing control of “their mines” to the NUM.

Meanwhile, all the big houses were running out of mineable gold and the gold price was plummeting dramatically. Mines would soon have to close and low grade ore would have to be left in the ground, implying that any show-down with the NUM would not merely be about one year’s wage increases. NUM had to be decisively defeated if the company was to control the rationalisation process head. Many Anglo executives even wanted to wipe out the union.

The industry had sufficient lead time to build up gold and ore stockpiles, recruit vigilantes, and plan for mass recruitment of strike-breakers from neighbouring countries. As the strike unfolded, striking mineworkers were subjected to violence from police and mine security forces equipped with armoured cars and surveillance helicopters, but the strike dragged on improbably into a third week.

By then, the strike had to be brought to a rapid end one way or another if mining house assets were not to be destroyed. Deep-level mines operate under unimaginable geological pressures, and depend for survival on the regular maintenance of mine supports, roofs and walls. Despite internal rifts among bosses, the Chamber of Mines and Anglo refused to offer any concessions on headline wages that NUM leaders could sell to their members. They opted for a strategy of mass dismissals and reprisals against organisers, an approach that had the potential to destroy the union. By 27 August, 50 000 workers had been dismissed, and NUM leaders discovered that Anglo was planning to escalate dismissals. Representatives of the regional strike committees took the heart-rending decision that the union should not be sacrificed in a dispute they could no longer win, a decision some ignorant outsiders misinterpreted as a betrayal of the workers. On the evening of 30 August, the mineworkers returned to work.

In narrow industrial relations terms, the mining houses had demonstrated their greater power. Anglo had curbed union protest and it was able to manage a major labour downscaling on the gold mines over the next decade largely on its own terms.

However, the significance of the strike was human and political as much as it was industrial. Mineworkers had been victims of a brutal system that left them ashamed of their work. They had been forced to wear a belt with their personal number stamped on it, and they would have to remove this belt whenever they left their mine compound for fear of ridicule or assault. After the great strike, underground work became a badge of masculinity and strength.

The strike shook government ministers, including a young deputy minister of police responsible for coordinating strike policing, Roelf Meyer. Politically, it marked the turning point between abstract discussion “regime vulnerability” and concrete planning for the end of the old order. The NUM and the Congress of SA Trade Unions which it had helped form soon joined the UDF is a Mass Democratic Movement that redoubled pressure on the regime.

In retrospect, it was probably disorganized local protest and “ungovernability” that represented the worst fears of government. After the great strike, however, organised domestic activists, led by the union movement, played a decisive role in bringing the regime to the negotiating table.



Pensions for patronage

There has been widespread condemnation of a reported plot to hijack the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), with the apparent aim of bailing out ailing parastatals and the bloated parasites feeding off them.

It would be a mistake to believe that this is a “state capture” project that involves a small number of corrupt politicians and business people. The seizure of the PIC, and the tapping of the Government Employees’ Pension Fund (GEPF) that this would enable, is close to becoming official policy of the governing ANC.

The idea enjoys widespread support in the movement’s leadership, on the left of the tripartite alliance, in the ANC Youth League, and among black management professionals, especially in the financial services sector.

Many on the left of the alliance have long argued that pension funds — public and private — should be diverted to “developmental purposes”. Numerous black investment professionals believe that emerging asset managers should control a significant proportion of the funds currently invested by the PIC.

In August 2015, ANC Gauteng chairman Paul Mashatile told a Black Management Forum conference that the movement should instruct the PIC to invest in the local economy. “For too long our pensions have been used not to benefit us,” Mashatile claimed.

“We can’t be beggars in our own country, we have to participate, we must be beneficiaries.”

Instead of investing in the future, the PIC is now predictably being asked to rescue corrupt members of the political elite from their past indulgence.

In the energy sector, proponents of competition in a regulated wholesale electricity market have long argued for a separation between the grid and generating units. This could have allowed global power companies to invest in SA, and local private investors to buy power stations. After all, private pension funds are attracted by the long-term and reliable returns that power stations typically provide.

The break-up of Eskom was stalled and then reversed. The then public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba began to turn the whole parastatal sector into a site of unprecedented patronage.

By the start of 2015, the weight of parastatal indebtedness, and the disastrous repercussions of vast Treasury loan guarantees, was becoming clear. At this point, ANC economic transformation committee head Enoch Godongwana proposed Eskom should not be broken up, but rather invite in “equity partners”.

The left would not allow “privatisation”, Godongwana feebly claimed, so the equity partners would have to be “public”. In other words, they would be the unwitting clients of the GEPF. Throwing pensioners’ money at unreformed parastatals might buy crooked politicians some time, but it is an appalling ethical breach.

We can guess where some members of the ANC’s committee stand on this issue: Pravin Gordhan, Tito Mboweni, Joel Netshitenzhe, and Max Sisulu might be expected to take a relatively principled approach. But few expect that Gigaba, Lynne Brown, or Tina Joemat-Pettersson will stand up for the interests of ordinary people against the claims of greedy patronage networks.

What we do not know is where the self-styled leftists of the economic transformation committee stand on the abuse of public sector pension funds to rescue patronage networks. What is the view of the SACP leaders on the committee, such as Thulas Nxesi, Rob Davies, and Senzeni Zokwana?

• Butler teaches public policy at the University of Cape Town.

Why Dlamini-Zuma can’t win (a Business Day column from March 2013 that still holds true)

Seniority in the ANC will only get you so far

Business Day, 1 March 2013

The idea of “seniority” plays an elusive but important role in the internal politics of the African National Congress (ANC). Its meaning is neither defined in the ANC’s constitution nor debated at the movement’s elective conferences. But it shapes decisions about who exercises power and it influences the outcomes of ANC elections.

Seniority is not merely a matter of which office one holds. Deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe has been stripped of ANC offices but he nevertheless retains a reservoir of seniority.

Seniority is plainly not a direct reflection of age (although it is difficult to acquire this property if you are young). Most ageing ANC cadres lack seniority; they are instead described as “veterans” or, worse still, as “stalwarts”. Such cadres serve on integrity rather than tender committees and can be safely ignored.

The young acquire seniority only if their patrons die – most famously when Oliver Tambo’s aura was bequeathed to his bag carrier, Thabo Mbeki. The young pipe smoker acquired even more of the property by virtue of the status of his father.

Aristocrats such as Nelson Mandela enjoy an initial seniority advantage. Representatives of the workers, such as Gwede Mantashe, can reach the highest offices in the movement, but they can never accumulate a sufficient quotient of this precious commodity to become ANC president.

In the Mbeki era seniority was associated with exile and with Robben Island. Trade unionists and United Democratic Front leaders were inherently junior to their illustrious exile liberators. Whites and Indians obviously cannot become senior no matter what offices they hold (but they can become “dedicated cadres of the movement” instead, which is a reward in itself).

Men are inherently senior to women (of course) but this is no longer an absolute barrier. A woman can acquire seniority from her family (for example in the Sisulu dynasty) or through marriage.

The latest beneficiary of this magical property is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. “Dlamini-Zuma is as intelligent as she is charming”, an international diplomat remarked at a recent function in Cape Town. “The trouble is that she isn’t very charming.”

It is rumoured that Mathews Phosa, former treasurer general of the ANC, has been assigned a new role working with Dlamini-Zuma. One former minister likened this deployment to animal cruelty; another to the “promotion” of disgraced Soviet politicians to run nuclear power stations in Siberia. It will certainly give pause to future challengers to Zuma’s authority.

Dlamini-Zuma’s record as a minister of health and foreign affairs was lamentable. But despite her personal and political limitations she has acquired a bucket full of seniority over the years.

Her decision to run as Mbeki’s deputy at Polokwane gained her seniority credits.

Her miraculous post-Polokwane rehabilitation has seen her acquire still more. A few months after her arrival as minister at home affairs, it was declared that she had “turned around” the department. Her previous personal relationship with Zuma represents an additional source of seniority.

At Mangaung she came top in the national executive committee elections as a result of concerted lobbying.

Now she has acquired a massive new draught of seniority as a result of her rise to the chair of the African Union Commission.

Dlamini-Zuma may be intellectually and temperamentally unsuited to this demanding role. But her backers in KwaZulu-Natal evidently believe it will provide her with the gravitas that she will need if she is to be parachuted into the ANC presidency in 2017.

This judgment is probably mistaken for two reasons. First, she will flop as AU Commission chair. Second, seniority remains a somewhat haphazard amalgamation of racism, nepotism and cronyism. It is therefore only a secondary value of the ANC, alongside such middle ranking ideals as the quest for human freedom, the search for mining licenses, and the identification of shopping opportunities. It cannot successfully be used to trump the movement’s foundational commitment to reject tribalism.

Butler teaches politics at the University of Cape Town

A quasi-Marxist survey of SA history from Thabo Mbeki (1978)

Thabo Mbeki 1978

The Historical Injustice

Transcribed: for by Pallo Jordan;

This speech was delivered by Thabo Mbeki, member of the National Executive Committee of the ANC, at a seminar held in Ottawa, Canada, from February 19 to 22, 1978. It was published in Sechaba, March 1979 issue, with a view to generating a discussion on the important issues raised in the article.

Modern political science recognises the fact that social systems are founded on definite historical origins.

If the saying ‘out of nothing nothing comes’ is true, then it must follow that the future is formed and derives its first impulse in the womb of the present.

All societies therefore necessarily bear the imprint, the birth-marks of their own past. Whether to a greater or lesser extent must depend on a whole concatenation of factors, both internal and external to each particular society.

The latter consideration has often led many observers of the process of social development to over-emphasise the particularity of each society, to deny that this social development is in any way reducible to a science founded on observable facts, a science which has general laws, definitions and categories.

In this way, the relative is credited with the features of the absolute. Each society is thus presented as unique, its birth and development products of accidental collisions and inter-connections and therefore incapable of scientific prediction and cognition.

We consider that this position constitutes a dereliction of intellectual duty. Those of us who claim to be revolutionaries obviously cannot proceed in this manner. Indeed we must resist all attempts to persuade us that our future lies in the hands of an ungovernable fate. For the imperative of our epoch has charged us with the task of transforming ourselves from the status of objects of history to that of masters of history.

We must, by liberating ourselves, make our own history. Such a process by its nature imposes on the activist the necessity to plan and therefore requires the ability to measure cause and effect; the necessity to strike in correct directions and hence the requirement to distinguish between essence and phenomenon; the necessity to move millions of people as one man to actual’ victory and consequently the development of the skill of combining the necessary and the possible.

All this becomes attainable if we have succeeded to discover the regularities of social development, if we have studied our own society critically and in depth to discover the interconnections, the dynamic links that knit together and give direction to what might at first appear to be a chaos of facts, incidents and personalities thrown up by this particular society. For, to repeat, out of nothing, nothing comes.

Therefore to eliminate the speculative element as much as possible when talking about the policies of a new South Africa, it is necessary to examine the principal’ feature of the predecessor of that future reality, namely, present-day South Africa.

But again, a penetrating understanding of our country today requires also that we look at its past. We hasten to assure you that we shall not drown you in a plethora of historical detail.

Rise of Capitalism and Colonial Expansion

The first category of social science that we want to use tonight is that of class. To understand South Africa we must appreciate the fact and fix it firmly in our minds that here we are dealing with a class society.

In South Africa the capitalists, the bourgeoisie are the dominant class. Therefore the state, other forms of social organisation and the “official” ideas are conditioned by this one fact of the supremacy of the bourgeoisie. It would be therefore true to say that in its essential features South Africa conforms to other societies where this class feature is dominant.

Yet a cursory comparative glance around the world would seem to suggest that such a statement is hardly of any use in helping us to understand the seemingly unique reality of apartheid South Africa. More and perhaps better explanation is called for. We return therefore to the category, a class society, as well as step back into history.

The landing of the employees of the Dutch East India Company at the Cape of Good Hope 326 years ago, in 1652, represented in embryo the emergence of class society in our country. And that class society was bourgeois society in its infancy.

The settlers of 1652 were brought to South Africa by the dictates of that brutal period of the birth of the capitalist class which has been characterised as the stage of the primitive accumulation of capital`.

Of this stage Marx wrote: “The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement and entombment in the mines of the aboriginal’ population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black skins, signalled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief momenta of primitive accumulation.” [1]

“The transformation of the individualised and scattered means of production into socially concentrated ones, of the pigmy property of the many into the huge property of the few, the expropriation of the great mass of the people from the soil, from the means of subsistence and from the means of labour, this fearful and painful expropriation of the mass of the people forms the prelude to the history of capital. It comprises a series — of forcible methods… The expropriation of the immediate producers was accomplished with merciless vandalism, and under the stimulus of passions the most infamous, the most sordid, the pettiest, the most meanly odious,” so wrote Marx. [2]

Such indeed was the slave trade; (such also incidentally the eviction of the Scottish Highland peasants many of whom came to settle here in Canada — vandalism of the most merciless kind.) Such indeed was the expropriation of the African peasantry.

It should therefore come as no surprise that six years after the arrival of the Dutch settlers, in 1658, the first group of slaves arrived in the Cape Colony.

In 1806, when England seized the Cape Colony from Holland by force of arms, there were 30,000 slaves in the Colony as against 26,000 settlers. There were also another 20,000 “free Coloured, Nama and in white employ…” [3]

Equally, it should come as no surprise that these 20,000 African wage-earners had been compelled into this position by the process, described by Marx and other historians of the period, of the “expropriation of the great mass of the people from the soil, from the means of subsistence and from the means of labour…”

Described as “free” in relation to the 30,000 slaves in the Colony, they were also “free” in so far as they had been liberated by force of arms, disease and starvation from their status as independent producers with their own hunting, grazing and arable land, their livestock and their working implements.

Calvin’s Doctrine distorted

Nowhere is this clearer than in the fate that befell Calvinist theology. Tawney has said that: “Calvinism was an active and radical force…(Its adherents were) disposed neither to idealise the patriarchal virtues of the peasant community, nor to regard with suspicion the mere fact of capitalist enterprise in commerce and finance… Calvinism was largely an urban movement… (Its teachings were directed primarily) to the classes engaged in trade and industry, who formed the most modern and progressive elements in the life of the age…” [6]

Writing of a British Governor-General in India, Marx says: “His favourites received contracts under conditions whereby they, cleverer than the alchemists, made gold out of nothing. Great fortunes sprang up like mushrooms in a day; primitive accumulation went on without the advance of a shilling.” [4]

And there we have the reason why Europe carried out this early accumulation at home and abroad with such merciless enthusiasm and passion — because the process assured men of property stupendous and immediate profit. Brought up in this European hothouse of rapine, the settlers in South Africa could not but continue this process in their colony. The result was that when England abolished the slave trade in 1834, ‘nearly two centuries after the arrival of the first batch of slaves, the descendants of the original colonists rebelled against this decision.

Judging themselves too weak to reimpose slavery by arms, the Boers resolved to take themselves out of the area of British jurisdiction. Thus began the so-called Great Trek of the Boers into the interior of our country.

Of course, all along, the Boers were determined that again they would have to seize our land and livestock and enslave our people.

We see therefore that the methods and practices of primitive accumulation which represented a transitional phase in the development of capital in Europe, assumed permanence in the South African economy and life-style of the Boers. They acquired a fixity characteristic of feudal society, legitimised by the use of force and sanctified by a supposedly Calvinist Christianity.

The South African settlers of 1652 had themselves been the expropriated of Europe. But, as in America, here in Canada, in Australia and elsewhere, after a little while, they were able to re-establish themselves as independent producers, acquiring land in the manner we have described, on the basis of the expropriation of our people, despite the most fierce resistance of the indigenous people.

It was exactly the blissful regaining of their status as masters of their own house, their re-emergence as independent producers, that froze the Boer community at a particular moment of historic time and thereby guaranteed their regression.

Thrown up by the birth of a higher social system, they reverted precisely to that natural economy which capital was so vengefully breaking up. But capital had already taught them that in the pursuit of a better life, everything, including murder, was permissible and legitimate.

A natural economy presupposes the absence of accumulation, “consisting of the petty dealings of peasants and craftsmen in the small market town, where industry is carried on for the subsistence of the household and the consumption of wealth follows hard upon the production of it, and where commerce and finance are occasional incidents, rather than the forces which keep the whole system in motion.” [5]. Thus it is the direct opposite of a capitalist economy even when the latter is at its primitive stage of accumulation.

When they reverted to a patriarchal economy, the Boers therefore abandoned all that was dynamic and revolutionary in the formation of bourgeois society and transmuted the rest into something stultified and reactionary.

The Boers had brought this Calvinism with them from Holland and were joined later by the Calvinist French Huguenots. But when they grafted this eminently bourgeois theology onto their patriarchal economy, they in fact transformed its content into a species of Lutheranism, which was essentially a theological school which sought to idealise feudalism and save it from destruction by the capitalist mode of production which was springing up all around it.

From Calvinism the Boer took the doctrine of predestination and perverted it.

For Calvin, the chosen of God were those who survived the jungle of capitalist enterprise in industry and trade and emerged as successful men of business, without regard to race or nationality.

In the patriarchal economy this was transmuted to read: the chosen of God are those who are white. For his part Luther had said: “An earthly kingdom cannot exist without inequality of persons. Some must be free, others serfs, some rulers, others subjects.” [7]. Racism, today so much part of South African reality, constituted a justification, an attempt to rationalise, to make acceptable the enslavement and expropriation of the black people by the white.

In Boer society and in the end among almost all the Whites, racism as an ideology, squired the attributes of a psychological fixation, with the characteristic of fixated behaviour that an ineluctably irrational perception of a particular set of relationships coexists with and distorts the perception of all other sets of relationships. In the circumstance that, in any case, ideological formations bear a complex rather than a simple relationship with the material world, generating a momentum which carries them beyond the material conditions that created them, we could expect that this racism would in time present itself as an autonomous force, God-given or nature-given, as an incontrovertible condition of human existence.

To go back to Calvin, where his theology had sanctified individualism to detach the bourgeoisie from the narrow and rigid world of feudalism and thrown him, unhampered by old prejudices, Into the world market, the Boers sang praises to a stultified individualism even narrower than that of the feudal epoch, an individualism which drew its strength from the economic self sufficiency of each Boer family, the isolation of the homesteads one from another and the isolation of a whole community from the rest of the world; an individualism which became truly itself and complete only to the extent that it despised and set itself in contrast to everything that was black: an individualism therefore which was and is characterised by a rapid racism.

British Involvement

British capital subdued this petrified and arrogant individualism during the Anglo-Boer War. In 1910 Boer and Briton entered into a social contract in which the Briton undertook to help ease the Boer out of the Dark Ages while promising to respect his traditions. For his part, the Boer pledged’ not to resist the advance and domination of British capital.

Between them, Boer and Briton agreed that they would share political power and, finally, that the indigenous African population would not be party to this contract but would be kept under the domination and at the disposal of the signatories, to be used by them in whatever manner they saw fit.

There were therefore written into this agreement, the so-called Act of Union of 1910, the continuation of the methods and practices of exploitation characteristic of primitive accumulation of capital which had remained fossilised in the Boer economy but which British capital had outgrown, certainly in Britain.

Why did the British ruling class, having won the war against the Volksraad, thus regress?

One reason of course is that we; are ere dealing with the post 1885 Berlin Conference period. It could therefore be argued that the predominant colonialist practices and attitudes of the time made natural and inevitable that the British ruling class would do in South Africa what it was doing in other colonies.

Yet this explanation would not be complete. For Britain had maintained an uninterrupted colonial hold on South Africa, to one extent or another, since 1806.

The decisive point to bring to the fore is that British capital, throughout the 100 years before 1910, had itself, in South Africa, clung tenaciously to the methods and practices of primitive accumulation.

Thus while in 1807 the British administration prohibited the importation of slaves into the Cape Colony, in 1909 it introduced a vagrancy Act directed at the Khoi people. [8].

Under this law, all Khoi people not in the employ of a white person were declared vagrants. Vagrancy was made an offence. To prove that one was not a vagrant one had to produce a pass. To get the pass you had to enter into a written labour contract with a white employer.

This measure was introduced to meet the labour short-fall created by the non-importation of slaves. It was therefore used to drive those Khoi people who still maintained an independent existence, off the land, to turn them into permanent wage earners and to create the means to direct this labour where it was needed.

In the end, it was the British armies which defeated the African people, the British who drove us off our lands, broke up the natural economy and social systems of the indigenous people. It was they who imposed taxes on the African peasants and, starting with the Masters and Servant’s’ Act of 1856, laid down the labour laws which govern the black worker in South Africa today.

In Europe, the economic freedom of the worker to hire himself out freely to the highest bidder, which came with and was part of the bourgeois revolution was of course connected with, accompanied and enhanced by the political freedom of the worker to represent themselves in matters of state through the vote, itself an integral part of the victory of the bourgeoisie over feudal society.

In South Africa this was not to be. Here, the capitalist inherited the rights of the feudal lord and appropriated to himself the right to determine where, when, at what price and under what conditions the African shall sell his labour power to the capitalist. He also appropriated to himself the right to decide “what is good for the native.”

It is therefore clear that British capital in South Africa differed from the Boer patriarchal economy with relation to primitive accumulation in two major respects.

The first of these was that it outgrew chattel slavery and therefore abolished it: the second, that, as capital, its aim continued to be that of greater and greater accumulation, through the pursuit of maximum profit.

It was therefore inevitable that British capital would be all that more thorough in the expropriation of the African peasant, all that more brutal in the exploitation of African labour, more scientific and less wasteful.

The historic compromise between the British bourgeoisie and the Boer peasantry represented hence not an historical aberration but the continued pursuit of maximum profit in conditions of absolute freedom for capital to pursue its inherent purposes.

British capital had at other times and in other circumstances made other compromises. One of the most important of these was undoubtedly that made with the British working class.

In its struggle against its feudal predecessors, the British bourgeoisie had called upon and received the support of the working people. It therefore had to take cognisance of the fact that its political victory did not belong to it alone.

It further took note of the fact that the denial of political freedoms to its ally while claiming them as a natural right for itself, posed the danger that these working masses would pass beyond the struggle against the feudal lords and take on the bourgeoisie itself.

While convincing the workers of the sacredness of private property. especially its own, bourgeois property, it nevertheless conceded them their political democracy. Thereby and mainly because of this concession, it destroyed the possibility for capital to continue using primitive methods of accumulation within Britain.

Capital in South Africa never had to contend with such a situation. Historically, it owes the working class nothing and has therefore conceded to it nothing, (excepting of course the white workers, about whom later.)

It is clear that during its war with the so-called Boer republics, the British ruling class consciously avoided putting itself in a state of indebtedness to the black people. For instance, in January 1901, Lord Milner, the British High Commissioner “told a Coloured deputation… that he could not accept their offer to take up arms against the republican forces.” [9]. The same thing happened when another Boer rebellion had to be put down in 1914.

That the bourgeoisie was aware that the denial of democratic rights to the workers was in the interests of capitalism was evident when indentured labour was imported from China after the Anglo-Boer war.

Then, the mine-bosses stated that “a big body of enfranchised white workers ‘would simply hold the Government of the country in the hollow of their hand’ and ‘more or less dictate not only on the question of wages, but also on political questions.” [10]

Translating the advantages of black worker disenfranchisement into cash, the Chamber of Mines stated in its 1910 Annual Report that it “viewed the native purely as a machine, requiring a certain amount of fuel” It decreed accordingly that the diet of the African miners living in the mine compounds should be determine in Arms of the formula “the minimum amount of food which will give them maximum amount of work.” [11]

Of the bourgeois countries, South Africa is unique to the extent that profit maximisation is the overt, unhidden and principal objective of state policy, and can therefore be regarded with respect to this characteristic as an almost perfect model of capitalism, cleansed of everything that is superfluous its essential characterisation; a model which displays to all, in their true nakedness, the inner motive forces of this social system and its fundamental inter-connections.

The position that black people occupy in this model can be defined as follows:

they are the producers of wealth;

they produce this wealth not for their own benefit but for its appropriation by the white population; and,

they are permitted to consume part of this wealth but only in that proportion which will “give the maximum amount of work” on a continuing basis.

This may sound harsh and anti-human but it characterises “pure capitalism.” Let us see for instance what Marcuse in his studies of Max Weber had to say: “The ‘formally most rational’ mode of capital accounting is the one into which man and his ‘purposes’ enter only as variables in the calculation of the chances of gain and profit. In this formal rationality, mathematimisation is carried to the point of the calculus with the real negation of life itself…”[12]

If this sounds too abstract, the white South African Member of Parliament G.F. Froneman translates it into the concrete when he says: “(within white society, Africans) are only supplying a commodity, the commodity of labour…It is labour we w importing (into the white areas) and not labourers as individuals…” [13]

Froneman went on to say that the numbers of Africans to be found in the so-called white areas therefore make no difference to the composition of Society — society with a capital S — precisely because the African is not an individual, comparable to a white individual.

Rather, he is the repository of the commodity labour power, which can and must be quantified in a profit and loss account to the point of the very “negation of life itself.” In that very real sense the African therefore belongs to the category of commodities to an equal extent as gold, diamonds and any other commodity you care to mention, to be bought and sold. hoarded and even destroyed depending exclusively on the state of the market.

The denial of the humanity of the Slav’ which occurred during the period of primitive accumulation of capital is therefore repeated here but at a higher and more rational level.

That rationality demands that to ensure maximum profit that portion of the national wealth which accrues to the black people as consume” should be kept at the barest minimum.

Consequently, the real wages of the African mined are today lower than they were in 1911. [14]. Note also the almost total absence of social security benefits for the African people. To provide these benefits would be to increase the cost of reproduction of the producer and conversely to decrease capital’s show of the national cake.

It might be argued that our thesis might begin to collapse when we tackle the question of the white worked.

Appearance would have it that in maintaining a white labour aristocracy, capital is behaving in a most irrational fashion, that capital itself has become so impregnated with racial prejudice that it cannot seek to extract maximum profit from a white worker.

Yet we must bear in mind that the capitalist class does not view itself solely as the appropriator of wealth in contradistinction to our being the producers.

The capitalist class is also heavily burdened with matters of state administration. It has taken on itself the task of ruling our country. As early as November 1899, Lord Milner had said: “The ultimate end (of British policy) is a self-governing white Community, supported by well treated and justly governed black labour from Cape Town to Zambesi (sic).” [15].

A principal pre-occupation of this self-governing community must therefore be to ensure that the “justly-treated and well-governed” do not one day rise up and transform themselves also into a self-governing community.

From the very beginning,British capital knew that it had to face this possibility and that if it fought without any allies; it would lose in such a confrontation.

The historic compromise of 1910 has therefore this significance that in granting the vanquished Boer equal political and social status with the British victor, it imposed on both the duty to defend the status quo against especially those whom that status quo defined as the dominated.

The capitalist class, to whom everything has a cash value, has never considered moral incentives as very dependable. As part of the arrangement, it therefore decided that material incentives must play a prominent part.

It consequently bought out the whole white population. It offered a price to the white workers and the Afrikaner farmers in exchange for an undertaking that they would shed their blood in defence of capital.

Both worker and farmer, like Faustus, took the devil’s offering and, like Faustus, they will have to pay on the appointed day.

The workers took the offering in monthly cash grants and reserved jobs. The farmers took their share by having black labour, including and especially prison labour directed to the farms. They also took it in the form of huge subsidies and loans to help them maintain a “civilised standard of living.”

The indebtedness of these farmers to the profit-making bourgeois in 1966 was equal to $1.25 billion, amounting to nearly 12 per cent of the gross national product.[16]

In 1947 a commission of the Dutch Reformed Church included in its report the prophetic words: “In the country, one feels dependent on God; in the towns on men, such as one’s employer.” [17]

In the struggle that marks the growing onslaught of the black producers on the society of the parasites, the white worker will have to pay for that dependence on the employer-industrialist, the white farmer for that dependence on the employer-creditor.

The God of Calvin is a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate him: the God of Capital will after all have his pound of flesh!

Engels wrote in 1895 that: “When Bismarck found himself compelled to introduce (universal) franchise as the only means of interesting the mass of the people in 0a plans, our workers immediately took it in earnest and sent August Bebel to the first constituent Reichstag. And from that day on, they have used the franchise in a way which has paid them a thousandfold and has sewed as a model to the workers of all countries. The franchise has been… transformed by them from a means of deception, which it was before, into an instrument of emancipation…And so it happened that the bourgeoisie and the government came to be much more afraid of the legal than the illegal action of the workers’ party, of the result of elections than those of rebellion.”

Engels continues: “Of course, our… comrades do not thereby, in the least renounce their right to revolution. The right to revolution is, after all, the only really ‘historical right’, the only right on which all modern states without exception rest…” [18]

Yet it came to pass that in large measure the working class of western Europe and North America did in fact for some time anyway renounce its right to revolution.

Some of the mass parties of the workers became parties of Order and Reform. And to the extent that bourgeois Law and Order was the basis on which the proletariat founded its trade unions and secured for itself higher wages, better working conditions and the right to strike, this was an inevitable outcome.

That bourgeois Law and Order also gave the proletariat the right to form its own political party and the right to install that party in power, all within the legal framework of bourgeois democracy.

In the work from which we have just quoted Engels says: “The irony of world history turns everything upside down. The Parties (of the property owning class) … are perishing under the legal conditions created by themselves. They cry despairingly…legality is the death of us; whereas we, under this legality, get firm muscles and rosy cheeks and look like life eternal… (There) is nothing left for them to do but themselves break through this fatal legality.” [19]

The condition of the black workers of South Africa, the place in society allocated to us by the capitalist class, demands that we must assert our right to revolution.

Capital in its South African mould turns things right side up again. We are perishing under the legal conditions created by the bourgeoisie whereas they, under this legality, get firm muscles and rosy cheeks and look like life eternal. We have no choice but to break down this fatal legality.

For the burden of our argument has been exactly this that in the totality of the social relations that describe the apartheid system, we have a place only and exclusively in so far as we are “the ragged trousered philanthropists” — the exploited producers. We are otherwise the outsiders, the excluded — on our own continent, in our country!

In this context, take the Bantustan programme. In its objectives stated by the creators of this policy, the black producers will have the right to be complete human beings only in these areas which have been set aside as our so-called homelands.

Otherwise, when we enter so called white South Africa, we have the following dramatis personae: “He who (is the) money-owner…strides in front as capitalist; the possessor of labour power follows as his labourer. The one with an air of importance, smirking, intent on business; the other, timid and holding back, like one who is bringing his own hide to market and has nothing to expect but — a hiding.” [20]

The Bantustan policy is therefore not a deus ex machina, a contrived and inartistic solution of a difficulty in the drama of South African life. Rather, it is but the legal codification, the pure representation in juridical form, of the centuries-old socio-economic reality of the alienation of the black producer from the society which he daily produces and reproduces.

At the level of abstraction, there are two alternatives out of this condition -available to the black workers.

One of these is to cut the umbilical cord that ties us to bourgeois South Africa, for us to cease to be producers on somebody else’s account. What would then happen?

We could then join the demi-monde of the thieves and murderers, the pimps and prostitutes and, by becoming true and complete outcasts, recast ourselves in the parasitic model of our bourgeois progenitor, outside the bounds of bourgeois legality. Such an alternative is obviously absurd.

The racist regime is on the other hand pushing us into the Bantustans. This constitutes a death sentence for thousands of our people. For South Africa’s land policy, of which the Bantustans are the historical outcome, is founded precisely on the land dispossession of the African people which ensures that hunger compels us to bang our own hides to market.

The second, and in fact, the only historically justifiable and inevitable alternative is that we cling very firmly to our position as producers, that we hoist the bourgeoisie with its own petard.

The irony of the South African situation is that exactly because capital permits us to enter the city, to pass through the sacred portals of a white church, and set foot in the even more sacred sanctuary of madame’s bedroom, but only as workers, capital thereby indicates to us daily that it is in fact our labour that makes the city to live, that gives voice to the predikant, the preacher and provides-the necessary conditions for procreation.

Since then we are, in a very real sense, the creators of society, what remains for us is to insist and ensure that that society is made in our image and that we have dominion over it.

In as much as the producer and the parasite who feeds on the producer represent antithetical forces, the one working, the other idle; the one wanting to escape the obligation of the nurse-maid and the other striving to ensure that he is for ever the fed, in as much therefore must a South Africa over which we have dominion be the antithesis of a present-day South Africa.

The Freedom Charter

That free South Africa must therefore redefine the black producer or rather, since we the people shall govern, since we shall have through our own struggle, placed ourselves in the position of makers of history and policy and no longer objects, we shall redefine our own position as follows:

we are the producers of wealth;

we produce this wealth for our own benefit to be appropriated by us the producers;

the aim of this production shall be the satisfaction, at an increasing level, of the material and spiritual needs of the people;

we shall so order the rest of society and social activity, in education and culture in the legal sphere, on military questions, in our international relations, et cetera, to conform to these goals.

In my view, this redefinition contains within it the theoretical basis of the Freedom Charter, the political programme of the African National Congress adopted in 1956.

It should be of some interest to point out that this programme was written exclusively on the basis of demands submitted by thousands upon thousands of ordinary workers, peasants, businessmen, intellectuals and other professional people, the youth and women of all nationalities of South Africa.

It is a measure of their maturity that these masses should have so clearly understood the fundamental direction of their aspirations. It is a demonstration in practice of how much the bourgeoisie, by refusing to temper its greed, did ultimately teach us to identify our true interests without any equivocation.

Whenever we stand up and say “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people…,” [21], we always meet with three different reactions.

There are those, naturally who agree with us. There are those who howl in derision: these are the white supremacists who are confident of the everlasting power of the repressive force of apartheid South Africa.

But perhaps more important, there are those, themselves the offspring of the black producers of our country together with their sympathisers, who, in anger, throw at us the epithet, traitor!

Yet this is what a free South Africa will be like. For as the masses themselves long discovered, the antithesis to white supremacy, exclusiveness and arrogance is not a black version of the same practice.

In the physical world, black might indeed be the opposite of white. But in the world of social systems, social theory and practice have as much to do with skin pigmentation as has the birth of children with the stork. To connect the two is to invent a fable with the conscious or unconscious purpose of hiding reality.

The act of negating the theory and practice of white apartheid racism, the revolutionary position, is exactly to take the issue of colour, race, national and sex differentiation out of the sphere of rational human thinking and behaviour, and thereby expose all colour, race, nation and sex prejudice as irrational.

Our own rational practical social activity, rational in the sense of being anti-racist and non-racist, constitutes such a negation; it constitutes the social impetus and guarantee of the withering away of this irrationality.

Consider the circumstances in which we might position “black capitalism” as the antithesis to “white capitalism.” Fortunately, Fanon has already warned us that one of the results of imperialist domination is that in the colonial middle class “the dynamic pioneer aspect, the characteristics of the inventor and the discoverer of new worlds which are found in all national bourgeoisies are lamentably absent.”

“In its beginnings, the national bourgeoisie of the colonial countries identifies itself with the decadence of the bourgeoisie of the west. We need not think that it is jumping ahead; it is in fact beginning at the end. It is already senile before it has come to know the petulance, the fearlessness, or the will to succeed of youth.” [22]

Thus black capitalism instead of being the antithesis is rather confirmation of parasitism with no redeeming features whatsoever, without any extenuating circumstances to excuse its existence. If you want to see a living example, go to the Transkei.

Even more, by thus expelling racism to the realm of the irrational by our own practice we would help to deny those who want to exploit and oppress others, including our very selves, the possibility of finding justification for their actions in such prejudices.

We particularly, who are the products ‘of exemplary capitalist exploitation, must remember that when German capital found opportunity, especially during the 2nd World War, to revert to primitive forms of accumulation, under the stimulation of passions the most infamous, the most sordid, the pettiest, the most meanly odious, lilt used exactly these prejudices literally to enslave and slaughter millions of people.

We must remember that the exploitation of the so-called gastarbeiter in Western Europe today is founded, in part, on contempt for their nationality: that in the United States and Northern Ireland the black and Irish worker respectively are oppressed and exploited on the basis of colour and national prejudice.

The charge of traitor might stick if we were to advance a programme of equality between black and white while there remained between these two communities the relations of exploiter and exploited.

But we have already said that our victory presupposes the abolition of parasitism and the re-integration of the idle rich as productive members of society as well as our writing off the debt of the white worker and farmer so that they can start again afresh, as equals with other producers, in law and in every other respect, without the heavy weight of blood money in their pockets and on their consciences.

The Freedom Charter itself says that “the national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people.” It also goes on to say “all the land (shall be) redivided among those who work it to banish famine and hunger.” [23]

We believe sincerely that it is only in conditions of such an equality as is underpinned by these provisions that we shall each be able to discover and unfold our true individuality, reacquire the right to be human, and thereby create the conditions for the creative realisation of the considerable talent of our people, both black and white, which today is so firmly stifled by the suffocating purposes of a small exploiting and oppressive minority.

To transcend the status of mere producer to that of human being, capital has taught us by negative example that we must guarantee ourselves the right to work and to social security, good housing and health services, education, culture, pride and joy in the multiplicity of languages and progressive national traditions among ourselves and among the people of Africa and the world.

We must therefore preface our own system of accounting with the provision that our rational calculations must serve to enlarge human life and not to negate it.

We have therefore to strive to banish war and the use or threat of force in the settlement of international disputes. We must work to abolish the use of rear against individuals and communities as an instrument of policy, and therefore uphold and fight for the right of all peoples to true self-determination, for friendship and mutually advantageous co-operation among the peoples of the world.

We are convinced that in this way we would restore our country to its rightful position in the world as a steadfast friend and ally of all who struggle for peace, democracy and social progress, and not the repugnant predator that she is today.

In 1953, one of our outstanding leaders, Nelson Mandela wrote: “To talk of democratic and constitutional means (to achieve liberation) can only have a basis in reality for those who enjoy democratic and constitutional rights…We cannot win one single victory…without overcoming a desperate resistance on the part of the Government…(Therefore) no organisation whose interests are identical with those of the toiling masses will advocate conciliation to win its demands.” [24]

This is a call to revolution. This revolution is necessary, as Marx and Engels once said: “not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew.” [25]

We have tried to covey to you our own view, as scientifically as possible, of our past, our present and our national democratic future and the organic connection between these.

Let us leave you with a few more words from Nelson Mandela: “In South Africa, where the entire population is almost split into two hostile camps…and where recent political events have made the struggle between oppressor and oppressed even more acute, there can be no middle course. The fault of the Liberals…is to attempt to strike just such a course. They believe in criticising and condemning the Government for its reactionary policies but they are afraid to identify themselves with the people and to assume the task of mobilising that social force capable of lifting the struggle to higher levels…The real question is: in the general struggle for political rights can the oppressed people count on the Liberal Party as an ally.”[26]

That question posed 25 years ago has reached a broader audience today, including this audience; can the oppressed people count on you as allies?


1. Karl Marx: Capital, Vol.1, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1965. p.751.

2. ibid. p.762.

3. H.J. and R.E. Simons: Class and Colour in South Africa; 1850-1950, Penguin Books, England 1969, p.11.

4. Karl Marx: op. cit. pp.752-3.

5. R.H. Tawney: Religion and the Rise of Capitalism, Mentor Books, New York, 1958, p.91.

6. ibid. p.91 ff.

7. ibid. p.84

8. Edward Roux: Time Longer than Rope, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison 1966, p.27.

9. Simons: op. cit. p.63.

10. ibid. p.82.

11. ibid. p.84.

12. Herbert Marcuse: Negations, Beacon Press, Boston, 1969. p.211.

13. Alex La Gums (Ed): Apartheid, International Publishers, New York, 1971, p.47.

14. See: Francis Wilson: Labour in the South African Gold Mines, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1972 and Hans Kramer: in Asia. Africa, Latin America, Special Issue 1. 1976, Berlin.

15. Monica Wilson and Leonard Thompson (Eds): The Oxford History of South Africa, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1971. p.330.

16. ibid. p.167.

17. ibid. p.203.

18. Frederick Engels: Introduction to Marx’s Class Struggles in France in On Historical Materialism, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1972. pp.264 & 269.

19. ibid. p.270.

20. Karl Marx: op. cit. p.176.

21. African National Congress: Forward to Freedom, Morogoro, 1969.

22. Frantz Fanon: The Wretched of the Earth, Grove Press Inc., New York. 1968. p.153.

23. African National Congress: op. cit.

24. Nelson Mandela: No Easy Walk to Freedom, Basic Books Inc., New York, 1965. p.34.

25. Marx and Engels: The German Ideology, International Publishers, New York, 1970, p.95.

26. Nelson Mandela: op. cit. p.33-34.

PIC capture is not about the Guptas alone

As I noted more than two years ago, the tapping of public sector pensions to “recapitalise” parastatals — notably Eskom — was debated and apparently approved in principle by the ANC’s economic transformation committee (ETC) in May 2015.

Since the Mbeki era, proponents of competition in a regulated wholesale electricity market have proposed a clear separation between power generation — which could be in part private — and a transmission grid available to all players. This would allow the sale of some power stations to private investors.

ETC head Enoch Godongwana instead proposed bringing “equity partners” on board without breaking up the parastatal.

Supposedly because “privatisation” is unpalatable to “the left”, this could not be done because partnerships with private pension funds are off limits as a form of “privatisation”.

In reality, of course, no private pension fund will invest in Eskom — not without fundamental changes to how it operates, which the ANC lacks the stomach to bring about.

This is the real reason why PIC (and the GEPF money it manages) have sole access to this unique investment opportunity!

It is true that a further decline in Eskom poses a catastrophic threat to the interests of the PIC’s clients and to the value of the pension and insurance policies those clients protect. (And to everything else in this country.) But throwing money at unreformed parastatals will not avert such a catastrophe.


The PIC has also slowly established precedents for “political investing” in companies that offer no, or vanishingly little, prospect of returns. By throwing money into marginal platinum miner Lonmin, for example, it has hinted at a future in which public-sector pension funds will be used to buy out ailing but “politically connected” companies, so dumping their environmental and labour legacies onto retired public sector workers.

Eskom is a much bigger sinkhole, of course, but PIC is already getting sucked towards it.

So is this a problem caused by the Guptas and their friends in the Zuma faction?

Not really. Most of the ETC are anti-Zuma. And one important advocate in the wider movement is the hugely influential ANC Gauteng chair Paul Mashatile, who last year went on a tour to quietly promote just this course of action. He is pretty certain to be on the Ramaphosa/Mantashe slate as treasurer general.


What kind of president would Ramaphosa be?

This is an excerpt from a Huffington Post piece on CR, written by Liesl Pretorius on 17 August 2017.

Who is Cyril Ramaphosa?

Professor Anthony Butler of the University of Cape Town, who wrote a biography of Cyril Ramaphosa, says he’s not sure if he “ever really got to the bottom of” who Ramaphosa is. We asked him …

1. If someone only knows Ramaphosa as deputy president, who would you say he is, based on your research for the book?

… I think when he was younger he was one of those people who had an immediate charisma and compelling effect on people around him. I think he was someone who got what he wanted and who was always charming and I think to some degree that was moderated by his genuine religious commitment when he was young. I think that religion was a very important force in his early political career until maybe some way to university or perhaps even a bit later, 1976. Ideologically since moving across that boundary between liberation theology and black consciousness after university, I think he has never really settled on any firm ideological position. So I spoke to people who were really committed Marxists including one of his close friends who worked for the Stasi in East Germany and who remained a communist after the fall of the Soviet Union … who insisted that Ramaphosa was pulling the wool over the eyes of business people and his liberal friends and that deep down he was a committed socialist. And if he was to rise to power, he would immediately move left and surprise everybody. But I also talked to business people who said exactly the opposite — that Cyril was pulling the wool over the eyes of his leftist supporters. I think his closest friends were quite conservative. Particularly James Motlatsi … his fellow creator of the mine workers’ union and I think that perhaps Cyril is in fact a conservative. And perhaps a pragmatic conservative who pushes soft social-democratic possibilities, but very cautiously.

But he’s able to speak to quite different audiences in a way that convinces them that he’s one of them …

Cyril has friends of all different kinds and he keeps them apart, so he will meet with his old friends from the University of the North on one day of the year … he’ll meet with his old white business palls and play golf with them and invite people in groups to his farm. And he will entertain quite, very different kinds of people apart from one another. And each of those different groups of people believes that Cyril is one of them or is sympathetic towards them. And he’s maintained that really over his whole life. To a degree that suggests it’s a big part of his personality — that he’s not able or willing to commit himself to any particular — not just ideological position — but any particular group of friends … What kind of person is he? He’s also quite capable of being an intimidating person but the face that he presents to the world is most usually charming and he’s effective at charming almost anybody that he wants to charm … The other thing about him is … he’s very energetic, persistent, determined, hard to stop when he sets his mind on something and unflappable …

2. If it’s hard to stop him when he puts his mind to something, why did he leave politics for business when he came up against competition?

He came up against something much bigger than that … The consultations that [former president Nelson] Mandela went through were very unlikely to favour Ramaphosa. [Thabo] Mbeki was the ascendant man in the ANC and I think Ramaphosa saw that Mandela was not going to back him. But at the same time I think he felt that he deserved it. I think he was genuinely angry, and not just Ramaphosa. There was a sentiment among people in the trade union movement that the exiles had come back, they were arrogant … and that they expected to take over … Mbeki really represented that expectation of the exiles. I think Ramaphosa and the people around him were very resentful … He is and always has been deeply ambitious. And then he was essentially told by Mandela to leave … Dr Motlana, Mandela’s physician … told me he was present at the meeting where Cyril was told to leave and he reported Mandela as saying that you’re young enough to come back in 10 years.

And you can see that one of Ramaphosa’s weaknesses was that he had a narrow power base … Also, he was very young and in some respects a newcomer to the ANC.

So, I don’t think he had much choice. He could have fought it out but he would have lost …

3. What kind of a leader do you think he would be if he is successful in the leadership race?

… I suppose we can look at the past. And it’s clear that he … is somebody who is able to sustain concentration, to negotiate for long periods of time; to operate in different spheres simultaneously. So, he [has] a lot of skills that you need to be a president. He also has … developed a sophisticated grasp of financial-legal issues … I think maybe most important is [that his experience as] a constitutional negotiator indicated that he could manage a large and sophisticated team in complex and sustained negotiations. That’s another unusual skill. People who have worked with him in business have often complained that he moves between micromanaging — the one thing that always sticks in my head is how he insisted on choosing the clothes that the staff wore on his farm — so, very minute attention to detail but at the same time … failing to be sufficiently decisive, interestingly particularly in pursuit of his own interests. He didn’t want to be seen to be pursuing his own interests … But he took some very strong decisions about how Shanduka would operate. In particular, he had an overwhelmingly black executive management team that he placed trust in. Unlike many other BEE barons whose businesses were run by white executives … So Cyril was always determined that his businesses should be black businesses and in fact that’s one of the areas in which he showed real determination that progress should be made rapidly, not just in his own business, but he believes in BEE … The other thing about him as a president, I think, is not just that he’s rich, which may help in providing insulation against temptation but he’s also … a principled person. So, I don’t think we want to exaggerate this — in that politics and business require a degree of flexibility and negotiation of ethical quandaries that don’t have simple solutions — but … he thinks too much of himself to act unethically just to make money. And he also doesn’t care … who’s his friend, I don’t think. He’s never tried to build a constituency of sycophants and he wouldn’t begin to do that. So, I think there are quite a lot of strengths. The problems I think are that at some point the decisions of presidents have to become ideological in one sense or another. If you’re going to be a successful president, you have to impart some sense of direction to your administration and it remains unclear what he believes in. So, he believes in finding solutions. A classic example is the minimum wage negotiations … He demonstrated his mastery of a certain kind of politics. Most politicians would not have been able to come out with a [solution] that was both reasonably rational but also protected his own interests quite successfully.

But on the other hand, it wouldn’t be good for the country if the whole presidency was a negotiation of that kind, because there are a large number of hard decisions that need to be taken and pushed through …

And in order to do that, you would have to have a clear idea of what your project is …

The full article is here