MyWay of Making Sense of the #MiWay Email Debacle: the B-BBEE Scorecard

Yesterday afternoon, a photo-image of an email circulated on Twitter suggesting that MiWay Insurance’s managers and claims’ assessor would “reject 90% of claims made by black people” in order to save money and “punish these black baboons”.

MiWay hit back calling that “fake news”.  Incidentally, their social media accounts are usually populated by smiling black models who look far too happy to be thinking about insurance or racism. Nevertheless, customers were tweeting things like, “Cancel my policy!”

A few months ago, homophobic pastor Steve Anderson came to South Africa and was to host something at ; Spur barred him from using their premises to spread hate.  Later, Spur had an incident involving a black mother and a white father (of different children) on which the restaurant took the black mother’s side; AfriForum called for boycott on Spur.  A lot of my gay friends immediately supported the Spur brand because of what it had done for them; even I encouraged people I knew to eat at Spur.  I was just about to post that thought when Spur capitulated to AfriForum.

Likewise, OUTsurance had the Father’s Day ad that had no representation of black fathers in a country where the majority of fathers are black.  The point is more brands, restaurants and businesses are being caught in the cross-fire of race-related battles.

One way to know for sure whether a business is racist is through these incidences and the social media furore that follows, but that is like listening to a whisper through a whirlwind.  Circumstances turn around in less than the blink of an eye, as they kept doing with Spur.

The other way is pulling Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment scorecards from those companies’ websites.  JSE-listed businesses are now required to display theirs on their websites.  I recently resolved to go down that list in alphabetical order, reading through those sites for context, and to also look up state-owned enterprises.  Who knows what blog posts will come from that when I understand what I have been reading?  And ever since a friend started posting the BEE scorecards of varying brands that are used religiously by black households, I started looking up certificates for the companies I buy wine, toiletries and snacks from, just to start.

This is a more fact-based approach to working out whether an entity is racist or not.  Many of us want the South African economy to be transformed.  How are we measuring how transformed an economic player is?  Do some social media scandals harm brands that are contributing positively to the kind of future we want?  Is reading press statements and social media comments really going to tell us what we need to know?  (

Unlike circumstances, BEE certificates are valid for fixed periods of time.  It’s also important to look at which verification agency measured the company’s compliance level: they interpret different aspects of BEE a little differently.  Sometimes, one has to dig up older scorecards for comparison.  When I have no idea what I’m looking at, I sometimes phone law firms that write articles on BEE or I try to contact the company itself.

Here is MiWay’s BEE scorecard.  It was issued on March 1 this year and will expire on the 28th of February next year.

I’m no BEE expert, but I do believe that to be interested in transformation is to be interested in BEE.  For this reason, I’m slowly learning what transformation looks like in its most empirical, most measured manifestation.  I’m happy to get feedback or criticism on my interpretations, and also to read people’s thoughts, opinions and feelings on it.  BEE isn’t perfect, but it’s there.

Of course, MiWay’s scorecard is Santam’s, which (I stand to be corrected) wholly owns MiWay Insurance in part directly and in part through Sanlam.  Put differently, Sanlam has an effective 60% interest in Santam, which in turn operates (among other entities) through MiWay.  So to know Santam is to know MiWay.  I can’t pinpoint when Santam acquired the balance of MiWay, though multiple sites report that as a current reality.

On paper, Santam is deeply transformed.  It’s got a level 2 B-BBEE rating.  For reference, level 8 is the lowest compliance level there is, but it’s still better than non-compliant; level 1 is the highest compliance level there is.  So level 2 for a JSE-listed corporate (a company whose turnover exceeds R50 million) means someone sat down, planned the business’s transformation strategy — and executed it pretty damn well.

For further reference, when you buy a good or service from a non-BEE compliant business, your money contributes not to transformation, nor the eradication of inequality nor the end of systemic racism.  On the contrary, you may be paying to maintain what apartheid put in place.  This is why BEE has a “preferential procurement” aspect to it — a measure of how much of the money spent on a BEE-compliant company is considered a contribution to transformation.  This strengthens the purchasing entity’s scorecard.

When you buy from an entity with a level 8 rating, 10% of that money goes towards transformation; the other 90% may very well be to maintain the status quo but we don’t know for sure; at worst, the net effect may be that 80% of the money goes to racism.

When you buy from an entity with a level 1 rating, 135% of your money is reckoned as contributed to transformation.  Yes, the different levels lie on a sliding scale; level 3 says 110% of your money contributes towards transformation, and with Santam’s level 2 rating, 125% of the money you spend with them can be considered a contribution towards transformation.  I think the reason we measure beyond a 100% (which is a level 4’s contribution percentage) is that money is pretty elastic.  Compound interest and other profit-making magic enchantments can stretch it further than it would normally go.  So it is theoretically possible for 135% of your money to fund transformation.

But there’s a fly in the ointment: in 2013/2014, Sanlam extended and expanded an equity relationship with Patrice Motsepe’s Ubuntu-Botho. To spare you even more details, this means a significant percentage of the wealth redistribution on MiWay’s scorecard is funnelled through a narrow base of super-wealthy black gatekeepers: to know more about the true black empowerment that happens through many “BEE deals”, one has to read further than the scorecard to companies’ corporate social investment initiative webpages.  A “gatekeeper” can, in many instances, keep black people on the ground a step removed from the economic artery of the companies those gatekeepers make BEE deals with.

This is not to say Patrice Motsepe, the current Deputy Chairman of the Sanlam Board, (speaking of Sanlam, can somebody tell me whether the Public Protector has gone after them for the Bankorp bailout yet…?) is a greedy oligarch.  Nor is it to say that Mr. Motsepe should not make more money if he wishes.  It is to say that as long as BEE is amenable to the further enrichment of the already-rich, it should not be called Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment because there is often nothing Broad-Based about many BEE transactions.  When your money goes to MiWay or any other major corporate, ask yourself whether 125% of it is truly going towards Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment, or just Black Economic Empowerment.  I cannot answer that for you; I can only hope you research if you have not been doing so.  Transformation and poverty alleviation will not happen by osmosis.

I’m not alone in these misgivings.  At the time, money boffin Riaz Gardee commented that,

“One of the measures of a successful BEE transaction, particularly for a public listed company, should be the public participation component.  Whilst there may be many beneficiaries in Ubuntu-Botho for whom significant value was created it is unfortunate that Sanlam did not include a public participation component.”

and

“Critics of Government’s BEE policies have always stated that transferring billions to politically connected existing billionaires should not qualify as BEE and will certainly use Sanlam’s BEE transaction as a case in point.”

Also,

“In hindsight it would have probably been better to include employees and raise the initial equity contribution via a public offering.  The result would have been a much wider spread of the massive R13.3 billion value uplift.  This could have been achieved whilst still including all Ubuntu-Botho’s current participants in Sanlam’s BEE deal as there was more than enough to go around.”

 

At any rate, what’s really happening with MiWay?  That the email disclaimer at the bottom of the photograph is barely typed up tells me that someone there decided to play Bell Pottinger on the insurer.  We really give that UK-based firm too much credit for “creating” racist division on the basis of economic inequality in South Africa.  We have been creating our own divisions all along.

An incident like this can completely reshape how people understand a brand.  Someone tweeted,

#MiWay remember when you sent me to take pics of the car my hubby had died in.  Even before I could burry him. Its all making sense now.

This is why both companies and consumers should ideally use Broad-Based (an emphasis on broad) Black Economic Empowerment as the common measure of economic transformation; it protects both the brand and its consumers.

Failing this, we never needed Bell Pottinger to set us at war.  If you were starving in the Africa of your ancestors, would you really need someone from the former (?) colonial power to explain to you why you’re hungry?

Please follow, comment and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book under construction

A Question About the ANC Policy Conference

Conversations with politically clued-up persons reveal Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma will win the ANC’s succession race this December, beating Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa.  This seems to be an open secret in politics — written, scripted, foreordained.

Let’s look at the math necessitating this.  Cyril’s faction would fill positions from which they’d initiate processes to offer Zuma and his cronies up as sacrificial lambs to wash the ANC’s many sins away.  But just how sure are our handlers (the Guptas) that Dlamini Zuma can win now and carry the ANC through 2019?  Sipho Pityana does not mince his words about the plan as he imagines it:

“We shouldn’t rule out the possibility that Jacob Zuma’s project to sell South Africa’s sovereignty could involve rigging the ANC elections in 2017, and even the national elections in 2019.”

In an article titled, ANC conference: It’s not about policy, stupid — it’s about who wins, Stephen Grootes says the meeting starting this afternoon is important only because it

“gives us the best possible test of the relative strength of the different factions.”

It’s not about which ideas win; it’s about whose faction does.  It’s about who’s willing to play dirtiest.  Now, the tribalism the ANC used to shore up support cannot take the party forward through an educated woman.  On Voting Day, all manner of sins shall be forgiven the ANC, but for the sin of presenting a woman as the country’s presidential candidate while the country wages a war against women’s bodies, there will be forgiveness in neither this term nor in the term to come.  “But the ANC is about gender equality!” some will say.  Not quite.  While it’s one thing to get ANC members at an elective conference to vote for a female leader, it would take a miracle to repeat that at a national scale.

Could Dubai commission a PR strategy that to overcome this that wouldn’t simultaneously dismantle the thought patterns that have made the ANC’s looting more tolerable than the idea of a woman president?  Impossible: once patriarchy is challenged, so, too, is tribalism and nationalism.  But for fun, let’s imagine the ways a would-be Bell Pottinger could get around this patriarchy without exposing the ANC’s low-key abuse of nationalism, race politics and tribalism:

They could position Dlamini-Zuma as a natural continuation of Zuma’s legacy.  The challenge there is Zuma’s greatest achievement as president was becoming president.  There’s little else for a protégé to repeat.

Another way out of the conundrum would be to have Dlamini-Zuma’s persona so completely eclipse her husband’s, it would be tantamount to emasculating him.  Her message would be, “What was impossible with this man will be possible with me”, namely land expropriation and the “radical” transformation (read: deformation) of the economy.

Or a hybrid approach: he loosened the lid from the jar she’s now unscrewing open.  But how would they formulate that message and roll it out in two years, given people’s growing disenchantment with the ANC and, consequently, a higher threshold of scepticism to overcome?

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the patronage network’s only way through the much-needed 2019 with any of its favoured candidates would be what Pityana said — election rigging.  The question we should be asking ourselves isn’t whether elections are free and fair; it’s to what extent they haven’t been, and to what further extent they won’t be going forward.

Accordingly, this is the question we should be asking ANC attendees delegated to this conference: what is the going rate for a parliamentary seat’s worth of votes?  Does anything else matter?  Soon after the Constitutional Court said,

“Central to the freedom ‘to follow the dictates of personal conscience’ is the oath of office.  Members [of Parliament] are required to swear or affirm faithfulness to the Republic and obedience to the Constitution and laws.  Nowhere does the supreme law provide for them to swear allegiance to their political parties, important players though they are in our constitutional scheme.”

the ANC replied that its MPs are

“representatives of the ANC in Parliament and derive their mandate from the political party which deployed them.”

Just so we’re clear, never has an organization sung so consistently from the same hymnbook on any other issue.  This means no organization’s members have ever been as unanimously in on a gig.  History experts, tell me: treason been committed at this scale?  ANC experts, tell me: does the party’s idea of “the revolution” entail violating the country’s constitution?  These are not philosophical questions; they have enormous economic implications.  Do you know much more money we could save for even more looting if we replaced the ANC’s MPs with one Luthuli house correspondent, and elections with auctions?

Many questions, issues and answers will take up airspace at this time.  The discourse will move along much faster, and everything peripheral will instantly fall into place, if we approach the next two years asking everyone in the ANC just one question: what is the going rate for a parliamentary seat’s worth of votes?

Wouldn’t you want to know how much your body and soul were worth, if you’d been put on the slave market?  If you’d been trafficked or had your organs auctioned off?  I’d want to know.

I have friends in the ANC.  All I’d want to know from them is how much were they paid for my freedom.

Please follow, comment and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book under construction

#ZilleTradeOff: Why Helen Zille Could Be Found Guilty

To grow substantively in 2019, the DA has to adopt a jurisprudential philosophy that could, unfortunately, be used to hold WC Premier, Helen Zille, responsible for bringing the party into disrepute through her colonialism tweets and defences thereof.

I have glimpsed Helen Zille’s humanity through her political nimbus.  I’m not sure which shines brighter.  So I regret our collective obligation to examine her actions, which needlessly stand in the way of the political realignment our country needs.

Zille apologised unreservedly and then defended her tweets.  Will she also apologise for the confusion this created as to what was unreserved about her first apology, never mind whether her DA can be trusted to say what it means?

She’s made claims on the relationships among causes and effects (colonialism and progress — the benefits of the latter being unevenly distributed and subjective) but those claims are speculative at best and dangerously mistaken at worst.  So people understandably interpret her argument through the cynical lens of the political moment, as well as varying complex motivations imputed to her.  That comes with the territory!

Apart from these considerations, her tweets are nothing that’s never been said before.  It’s when you start asking, “Why her?  Why this medium?  Why now?  What’s her intention?  What taste does she want to leave in people’s mouths?” — questions she would have asked as a journalist — that you start wondering whether a mind as analytical as hers spent so many years studying how news works “from the inside” that her subconscious could seize this opportunity for a perfect storm.  So what scores is she settling?

Why shouldn’t people find that line of questioning more relevant than her claim that “the legacy of colonialism wasn’t all evil”?

Just as her post-apology behaviour is not consistent with apologising, her tweets aren’t coherent among themselves as to her beliefs on the immorality of colonialism.  And how many of the countries she compares ours to had the former beneficiaries of oppression stay without having to make reparations?

When there is an injured party and a party implicated with injuring (or indirectly benefiting from the injury), it is the injured’s prerogative to rank the pros and cons of the situation — not the injurer’s or beneficiary’s.  I use this analogy because sexual violence was a sub-legacy of colonialism: what if a rapist’s family said to one of his victims, “But what our son did to you gave you this beautiful child, so the rape’s legacy wasn’t only evil”?

Wouldn’t it be more respectful (dignity is constitutional!) for the rapist’s family to wait for the survivor to frame the story?  Everyone frames stories because just as there is no objective fact-book against which to test Zille’s posited relationships among causes and effects (apart from the more immediate contextual considerations of who she is and what her intentions could have been when she pursued this path), no story dropped down from heaven fully-formed.  No court would say her tweets were “correct”, for then it would have to exonerate tweets on how today’s Jews benefitted from scientific advances made during the Holocaust.  It could be easier for a court to condemn Zille’s tweets than rule them “factually correct.”

Even if Zille’s voicing her opinion is constitutionally sustainable on the basis of her right to freedom of expression, the tastelessness with which she exercises it right conflicts with others’ right to dignity (which includes the aggrieved’s right to frame the story) and will be the reason neither the DA’s nor South Africa’s constitution will be supported by voters come 2019: those legal frameworks fail to endow black persons with equality.  The failure happens when those interpreting them don’t impress contextual equity into disputes.  No constitution or constitutional right was ever formed or ever operated in a vacuum.

The justice framework we inherited came about because former President Nelson Mandela, among others, backed down from implementing what would have been seen as perfectly justifiable measures in 1994.  His reticence about justifying that version of justice was prior to and made possible Zille’s rush to justify her interpretation of the rules.  If we’d applied her approach to law during Mandela’s moment, there would have been no Zille moment.

Prior to her self-justification should be mindfulness that a negotiated settlement is negotiated, as opposed to meeting all the needs of every party, let alone the aggrieved who could make the greatest claims.  It’s a settlement as opposed to being an ideal and perfect ending.  From its beginning, “We, the people of South Africa, Recognize the injustices of our past”, the letter of our law decidedly points beyond a threadbare reading of itself towards restoring dignity; towards spirit, not letter.  The constitutions ultimately answerable to the Constitutional Court are signposts guiding us to interpretations that allow aggrieved parties to frame for themselves, to their own equity and dignity, their stories of how they came to be aggrieved.

We’re stuck in 1994 until we outgrow the ANC.  The DA must grow, come Helen or high water.  That the announcement on her possible suspension was mishandled may discredit the DA, but it doesn’t re-credit her.

The DA could be the ANC of the 21st century if it does what the ANC never did — liberate, not tax money, but black people and all South Africans.  But that would depend on the jurisprudential philosophy it segues into.

Thank you.  Please follow, retweet, share and comment: @SKhumalo1987

Book loading

On #MenAreTrash (Multiple Trigger Warnings)

In response to Karabo Mokoena’s shocking murder, the online community has taken to social media to say #MenAreTrash.  People are rightly calling out men’s inertia towards gender-based violence.

But…

***

One afternoon in school, I noticed a group of older boys whisper conspiratorially behind me.  I started walking away discreetly.  One of them followed.  Dilemma: was I to draw more attention to myself by breaking into a run, or bite the bullet and face whatever humiliation was coming?

Before I decided, one of them groped me indecently with the school watching.  They laughed as he walked back to his friends, an exaggerated “swish” in his movements.  I picked up what everyone around me was saying through the blood rushing to my ears:

“But he isn’t gay…is he?”

“I’m sure he is.  Why else would that guy have done that to him…?”

A girl turned to look at me and asked, “But you are gay, aren’t you…?” as though that justified it.

Often incorporating sexual harassment, bullying was rarely one-dimensional.  Is this as bad as what women go through?  Nope.  Still, my observation was that while female students were neither the primary sources of homophobic bullying, nor derived any direct benefit from the maintenance of that status quo, they enforced it then as women play a significant role in enforcing it now.

***

 

I will say upfront there will be some mansplaining so you may want to turn back now.

The expression men are trash has a distinctly heterosexual dog-whistle pitch.  What made men “trash” or “dogs” in the distant past wasn’t rape or violence.  It was infidelity / inattentiveness / inconsiderateness / inability or refusal to provide within the contexts of the relationships they had with women.

Not being raped by her intimate partner wasn’t one of women’s ironclad expectation.  Women’s rights were not universal; they were dependent on the men (brothers, fathers, husband) in their lives.

So a woman’s lot was to be infantilised in exchange for accepting romanticised portraits of patriarchy; it was also to accept gender-based violence as the man’s exercise of his rights, or displays of his jealousy.  Mind you, if we rewind further back and visit the places we sourced Abrahamic religious scriptures, we see men could technically neither cheat nor rape except other men’s wives and daughters.

What men could do wrong entered public discourse rather incrementally and contextually.  So the expression “men are trash” has not meant the same thing throughout time; it has had slippery meanings that have stuck to it through time, meaning whatever women wanted the words to mean, given whatever they could speak out about at that time.  It is only recently that femicide became something polite society speaks about.

We could have had something that more acutely reflected today’s concerns, like, oh I don’t know: #AllMenAreRapists.  #YesAllMen.  #AllMenAreMurderers.  But unlike rapist and murderer, the word trash embraces all the resonances the word has carried through the ages.

So women are rightly telling us we’re trash for not doing more to stop gender-based violence, but somewhere in that crowd is a jilted lover, a woman scorned, who is also calling all men trash for all the other ways we have betrayed the promises heterosexism and hetero-patriarchy made to women and to her.  All men’s crimes, responsibilities and failures from throughout history are lumped together into one slam of the gavel.  The problem with a consolidated criminal charge is femicide presupposes one context, one worldview and one set of promises; rape, and all men’s other crimes and failings, presuppose others.  The word trash potentially hijacks anger from one context and uses it to relieve frustrations from another without explaining either very deeply (go 140 characters!); it therefore potentially Trojan-Horses very non-feminist, male-dependent energies into the public psyche while dishing them up as feminism and independence.

Don’t believe me?  Let’s agree on heterosexism as the assumption straight is default and normal.  Heterosexism’s implicit promise to women is that if they give little bits of themselves to patriarchy, they’ll get all patriarchy’s benefits without its pains.  Its implicit promise to men is that since their identity is (falsely) tied up into dominance, women will be where they demonstrate said dominance and preserve said identities through the subjugation of women.  While not every couple within the heterosexist framework realises every pleasure and every pain made possible by the heterosexist framework, heterosexism has funny ways of intersecting with other structural lies to produce hell on earth.  Bear in mind, again, when they say, “men are trash”, many women are venting at the inevitable frustration at men that comes with buying into this lie, and they are venting at rape and domestic violence at the same time.

My point is we can’t complain about breakdowns in heterosexism as it once was (wishing to rescue and enjoy it) while complaining about rape culture as we now face it.  The heterosexism that powers rape culture cannot be the paradigm from which we fight rape culture because it places more of a premium on sexual conquest than it does on consent.

The demand that there always be a male and a female in relationships is the demand that there always be a conqueror and a conquered as a reflection of broader social norms and structures replicated in our workplaces, governments, academia and other spaces in which men live out their trashiness.  “That’s not true!  We believe in equality!” many heterosexists will say.  But if they did, they’d validate LGBTI persons, experiences and relationships as representative of authentic human experience as much as they do CIS-heterosexual lives and stories.  If they don’t, then consent isn’t the backbone of a “normal” relationship, in their world: conquest is.

There is no middle ground between these two extremes.  If we pretend there is, let us not act all shocked when the statistics for violence against women, especially black lesbians in townships who defy heterosexism’s demands, indicate we cannot centre heterosexuality without spiralling gender-based violence out of control, without finding horrendous intersections between heterosexism and other structural oppressions (classism, racism, etc.).

If we centre consent to displace conquest (or power, or dominance) and, consequently, heterosexism, in our experience of sexuality, we would have gone a long way towards erasing eradicating rape culture.  #MenAreTrash the heterosexual culture that produces rape culture and domestic abuse, and passes its frustrations off a battle against rape culture and domestic abuse.  It’s time to pick between heterosexism and women’s lives.  You cannot rescue women’s bodies and heterosexism at the same time, yet few, if any, who tweet #MenAreTrash feel any need to interrogate the relationship amongst these violences and norms, despite the relationship being resonant in the historical and contextual stickiness of that word, trash.

#MenAreTrash was borrowed indiscriminately from experiences found largely in respectably heterosexist Hotepist stories in which men overstepped the boundaries of soft-core patriarchy.  This went unquestioned because deep down inside, those who used the hashtag also desired patriarchy’s benefits without its baggage — so much so, they neither saw through it nor really heard where it was coming from.

Many jumping on this bandwagon aren’t fundamentally against patriarchy; they’re against patriarchy’s excesses and those excesses’ incompatibility with, and betrayal of, fantasies of “happily-ever-after” they could have gotten out of patriarchy and heterosexism.  They are performing patriarchy even as they claim to fight it.  If they spoke against homophobia and heterosexism as consistently as they do about everything men do wrong in more domestic and more familiarly heterosexist environments — from cheating to inflicting violence — then my feminist chord would be resonating with the men are trash note.  It isn’t.

At the end of the day, many of the women tweeting “men are trash” are still going to turn around, selectively benefit from the very patriarchy they sometimes take a stand against, and still remain oblivious to the struggles of the LGBTI community being killed, raped and murdered on their doorsteps.  Their primary allegiance is to the “normality” of heterosexuality and rescuing that from its own violence so they can return to it without critiquing it or their place in it more deeply than that.  They are feminist to the extent that they can get soft-core patriarchy to deliver on its promises and hold back on its excesses and its violence — but not its violence against queer bodies.  Why are homophobes not trash when hate crimes against LGBTI persons are reported?

I’ve paid my dues to the straight community.  Everyone — yes, everyone — from that world has already trashed me.  I get bonus points for double-trashiness, having been gay in a straight world and a man in a world where all men are rightly regarded as suspects.  The heterosexism that suffocated me then is no different from the heterosexism that suffocates you, but hey, why question the air you breathe?  So it’s okay if I don’t get brownie feminist points for not tweeting #MenAreTrash.  Look closely.  Those brownies aren’t brownies; they’re something really nasty that looks like brownies; that feminism is negotiated patriarchy dressed up to look like women’s empowerment.  It calls patriarchy’s bluff, but has no plans to fundamentally destroy it.

A similar argument gets made about white people, apartheid and ongoing structural racism.  It goes: the white people who passively benefitted from apartheid should be lumped together with those who actively drove apartheid.  If white people were serious about non-racism, they would take responsibility for the whole mess.

My issue here isn’t heterosexuality (just as the issue isn’t “whiteness” but Whiteness): it’s heterosexism and its beneficiaries refusal to take responsibility for perpetuating the gender inequality that’s inherent to their way of being when that way of being is centred as THE way of being

So as long as the voices of heterosexists who are simply trying to tame patriarchy instead of dismantling it are mistaken for feminist voices just because they can imitate them, you will worsen the problem even as you go about fighting it, and, I’m sorry to say it, women will be complicit.

 

Please follow, share and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

Book on religion, politics and sex downloading

#FICABill: The Myth of Economic Policy Stability

President Jacob Zuma has finally signed the Financial Intelligence Centre Act Bill.  This could mean one of three things.  If the first, we owe him an apology; if the second, we can relax a little; if the third, we must brace ourselves because winter is coming and it’s cold outside the ANC.

I once read a book.  It was a difficult experience for me — not because it was the only time I’d read a book, but because of a story it told.

A father was out with his young son.  The kid wanted to run around and play.  “Sure,” his father said, “but don’t run on the bank.”  The kid nodded, excited, before he took off to frolic on the forbidden bank.  His dad yelled, “No running on the bank!”  The kid nodded, but kept at it.  Eventually, his father dragged him off the grass and spanked him.  “What part of, ‘No running on the bank!’ didn’t you understand?”

His teary baby eyes blinking up, he asked, “Daddy, what’s a bank?”

That’s how tragically wrong the conspiracy theories around President Jacob Zuma could turn out to be.  He’s signed FICA, after all.

The second possibility is that the conspiracy theories are true but he’s changing his ways or losing ground.  This would make sense, when you look, also, at the Western Cape High Court ruling on behalf of NGOs Earthlife Africa and the Southern Africa Faith-Communities’ Environmental Institute: the run-up to nuclear energy deal was unconstitutional, the court said.

The third possibility is that as in rhetoric where a debater would concede a point in order to strengthen his initial position, Jacob Gedliyehlekisa Zuma is living up to his names — supplanter, mocker and ambusher: conceding only to lure into a trap.

He’s neither innocent kid being punished for a crime he doesn’t understand, nor short-sighted ruler who, “going out to encounter another king in war” embarrasses himself by not first deliberating “whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand”.  If he’d realized the error of his ways he’d be asking for amnesty.  His plan is not to shield the shady transactions that will be exposed to further-reaching investigations of FICA, but to threaten retaliation through said FICA.

When the State of Capture report emerged last year, the ANC Women’s League responded, “Any investigation which excludes white monopoly capital is an advancement of white supremacy and serves a racial political agenda that hinders the building of a non-racial society.”  Once you deepen investigations into relationships between high-profile political persons and big money, who decides that banking transactions flagged only yesteryear should be looked into?  Did something happen in, say, 1994, that expunged the sinfulness of all state-capital relationships until then?  Gotcha!  Unless the Bill explicitly carries a statue of limitations around how far back anyone can investigate (something Zuma could have highlighted) he will use it now that he has been forced to adopt it.

The moment the ANC stole bragging rights for our liberation, it became our Saviour and then our Lord.  Jesus can’t come back to save us from the ANC because we’ve made the ANC into our Jesus, our golden calf.  “These [be] thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”  President Zuma is banking on the idea that once you turn on the lights on illicit state-capital relations, you stumble upon an explanation for the economic inequality the ANC promised to rescue the black electorate from in 1994.  It would suddenly appear the apartheid State subsidized whiteness in a way that can only be rectified by the “radical economic transformation” the President will whet his MPs to vote for in June if not sooner.  ZumaTradeOff: A bigger reshuffle is on the cards sought to explain why President Zuma wants to keep his finger close to that trigger.  Therefore, he is not afraid of the FICA Bill and if he were, Minister Gigaba could delay its gazetting.

While we’re on Minister Gigaba, someone should warn him that he’s starting to look and sound like Pontius Pilate.  Until eternity’s last day, Pilate will boast an ecclesiastical honour known to no human save for Mother Mary: he’s one of the only two individuals named as having interacted with Jesus in the Christian Nicene Creed chanted by millions of believers weekly around the world.  Unlike the Virgin, however, Gigaba and Pilate will be caught in history’s spotlight denuded of core, conviction and character.  Both suffer from what Turkish historian Kenneth Weisbrode calls the “problems and pleasures of having it both ways.”  Is Gigaba about “radical economic transformation” (which is dog-whistle politics for another thing altogether) or “inclusive economic growth” (that whistle is deafening)?  Or will he not really know until he’s caught between a spear and a machine gun?

For he evades — look at the spin around the credit ratings downgrade.  He equivocates — “The views expressed in [Professor Chris Malikane’s] opinion piece [on land expropriation without compensation] are not necessarily government policy.”  He enables — guilty by association with the Gupta family.  Already he buckles under the weight of making the call to choose between crucifying South Africa’s economic Barabbases and Jesuses.

Not knowing who or what he is, media and markets will squeeze him to see what comes out of his slim frame until, finally, he will be squeezed by the 32, 000-pound bus Zuma will throw him under.

President Jacob Zuma, The Unburnt Chief of Nkandla’s Fire Pools, Maker of Chains, Father of Draconian state brutalities and Not-First of Unspeakable Names, signed FICA into law.

Those winds we’re hearing could be the winds of change but if we change nothing, they signal that winter is coming.

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#ZumaTradeOff: A Bigger Reshuffle on the Cards

 

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s economic adviser, Professor Chris Malikane, says government should scrap Black Economic Empowerment. He feels it’s worsened inequality among black people. I think his words herald another financial reshuffle — but not the kind we’d expect.

The first article on the #ZumaTradeOff said the louder people call for Jacob Zuma to fall without offering the trade-off of economic transformation, the more Zuma will paint those calling for his fall as racists who are unconcerned with the financial challenges facing black South Africans.

I am certain the ANC’s 62% is very close to voting with the EFF’s 6% on Section 25 of the Constitution. The EFF made the ANC a standing offer on agreeing around land expropriation without compensation. That is what Zuma said the ANC MPs should have voted for earlier this year in Parliament. Now, if ANC MPs can’t agree on voting by conscience on whether Zuma should remain President, in which world will they resist Zuma’s stance on land forever?

Whether you and I believe “white monopoly capital” exists or not is irrelevant. The debate on land ownership is a red herring. At its lowest, politics is never distracted by stats and facts; it focuses on what the greatest number of people will support whether it’s sensible or necessary.

In the eyes of supporters who have defended him thus far, there isn’t a sin Jacob Zuma can commit that won’t be covered by land reform in his term, nor will they fail to reward him with eternal presidency should he bring about “radical economic transformation”. Human nature hasn’t changed since Zimbabwe or many of the other African countries. And history’s shortest summary is that people don’t learn from history.

The issue of economic inequality is the deadliest weapon in Zuma’s considerable arsenal. On the one hand, if he isn’t backed into a corner where he has to force his MPs to vote on land in order to strengthen himself, it means he’s feeling strong enough to overcome resistance to the nuclear energy deal without effecting this financial “reshuffle”.

On the other hand, if he is feeling threatened by calls to step down, he will pull the land and God knows what else out from under white people to re-entrench his power.

Either way, the price for underestimating him is much too high.

Zuma does not hate his life, freedom, family and power so much that he would watch ANC MPs consider voting for him to leave office, but not use all manners of threats to effect a financial “reshuffle” that the finance portfolio reshuffles were mere dress rehearsals for.  Indeed, the cabinet reshuffle has shown he and the ANC will juggle office-bearers who can’t be bought to keep Zuma in power.

We are hanging by a thread no thicker than a spider’s web over a bed of really sharp, really long nails. Those nails are nuclear debt, junk status, a battle over land and being shunned by the global financial community for not signing the new FICA Bill.  This isn’t touching on how we may have unconditionally accepted responsibility for nuclear accidents connected with our power stations even if they happen outside our borders at someone else’s hand.

Professor Malikane is correct that the current Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment exacerbates inequality amongst black people. This is why Lee du Preez at BEE Novation argued that the “New Entrant” threshold — the amount of wealth a black person has to be under to be considered a new participant in the economy worth more BEE points for ownership — is too high at R50 million. It’s basically saying, “I won’t see to the needs of other black people until I’ve made my closest friends multi-millionaires.”

It’s why I said that Zuma’s fall can only happen if enough black and white people agree on a “trade-off” in which white people fight to have the threshold decreased to, say, R10 million (a number the DA has suggested) and fight so that black people whose net asset worth is over R10 million not count as black for ownership purposes under BEE. The opportunities must move on to those who need them — and those who have the most economic power have to make the opportunities available.

Given that white people seldom march for economic issues that affect black people, it will sound disingenuous if they now say they’re marching for Zuma to fall so he’ll stop abusing BEE.  They should instead lobby to have BEE less amenable to abuse, ensure transformation and equity happen, and play a supportive role towards political reformation.  That is black people’s fight, and they’ll show up if they have a meaningful stake in the economy to defend.

Professor Malikane overplays his hand is where he says BEE should be scrapped.  Socially and economically, it makes more sense to fix it so it stops enriching super-rich black elites, and starts aiding broad-based black economic transformation like it says on the label.

Unless you strongly disagree with this analysis, I urge you to please look up the #ZumaTradeOff hashtag and get everyone you know engaging it.

We’re going about the Zuma thing all wrong, and the price to pay for that will be greater than we can afford.

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The hashtag is #ZumaTradeOff

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#ZumaTradeOff: One Sitting Away From Constitutional Change

Today I had a conversation that picked up from where we’d left off on the #ZumaTradeOff series. It was about why white people have a vested interest in ensuring Black Economic Empowerment works.

BEE was created to protect white people from more radical means of accomplishing redress for historical injustices like apartheid and colonialism. But for BEE to continue doing that, it has to bring about restitution, not postpone it.

[And yes, on this blog we refer to people by the racial classification apartheid would have assigned to them because that’s how political parties and advertisers gain power over us. To take that power back, we need to anticipate their thoughts, not avoid them.]

The conversation reached a point where I started explaining that even white people who do not or cannot have BEE in their businesses need to ensure that where there is a BEE scorecard, whosever’s it is, it must be real and really help with transformation. One way to ensure this would be to lobby for the lowering of the “new entrant” threshold as I’ve advocated in previous posts in the #ZumaTradeOff series. But it’s not the only way to skin this cat.

What happens if white people don’t ensure the integrity and power of existing legislation?

The EFF and the ANC will egg each other towards changing the Constitution, that’s what.

And that change can look or sound like anything. We saw this in late Feb/early March this year — that because existing legislation has not delivered transformation but has enriched an elite few, we are potentially one Parliamentary sitting away from the most radical alteration of the Constitution in recent history. Once someone touches Section 25 of the Constitution, everything comes into question.

It’s that easy to reverse the effects of apartheid and level racial inequality — the EFF’s 6% and the ANC 62% would just have to agree on it.

And nothing could stop it. God wouldn’t stop it. Other countries wouldn’t intervene beyond speaking against it. This is a democratically elected government. Nothing, do you understand me, nothing would stop it. The whole thing dangles by a thread no stronger than a cobweb.

The louder white people call for Jacob Zuma to fall without offering the trade-off of economic transformation, the more desperate Jacob Zuma becomes to sacrifice something to appease the agitated crowds. White people it is; their votes don’t amount to much. Because, as explained in previous posts, unaccompanied by a white-backed call for economic transformation, those calls for his resignation can easily be construed as being horrendously self-occupied with whiteness’s interests at best, and racist at worst.

Again, only way to contest this is if white people lobby and march more for transformation than they do for political reformation, leaving the political reformation to black people who would then have a vested interest in protecting the economy they’d be let in on.

After the ANC refused to vote with the EFF on land expropriation without compensation, Zuma openly said the ANC MPs should have voted with the EFF. The only thing that stopped ANC MPs from voting with the EFF was political ego; at least, that’s what Zuma said when he lambasted [his! I emphasise: his, not their on consciences’; his] MPs.

But now that he’s effected the cabinet reshuffle, everyone in there fears him more than before. If they didn’t, they’d vote for him to go. So if he said yes to land reform, then, why shouldn’t they listen now?

Also, the ANC’s need for a scapegoat is greater now than it was in early March. Whether you and I believe “white monopoly capital” exists or not is completely irrelevant; all that matters is that all protocol considered, we are potentially. One. House. Sitting. Away. From. The. Most. Radical. Change. To. The. Constitution. One. Uno. Like, one take. The real thing. No dry run, no dress rehearsal.

Let this sink in because I don’t think people understand. Everything can change in one blink of an eye. In one sitting.

Think you that State and ANC President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma hates his life, hates his freedom, hates his family so much; think you that he so despises power that he’ll watch his MPs vote for him to leave office to appease white calls for him to step down, but won’t throw dust in everyone’s eyes by pulling the rug out from under white people’s feet?

Do you think he is that much of a saint? That much of a push-over?

The same Jacob who collected Cyril Ramaphosa’s and Gwede Mantashe’s spines after they openly criticised him? A whole Jacob Zuma?

Why do you think he’s been screaming, “These marchers are racist!” if not to prepare the country for his response to their calls for him to step down?

Did we learn nothing from the cabinet reshuffle?

The less power the current Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment codes have to transform the economy, the less resistance the EFF and ANC would encounter from their respective constituencies if they changed the Constitution in this way.

The more power existing codes have, the more resistance these parties would encounter from their respective constituencies.

That’s why, quite simply, white people have a vested interest in what I’ve been discussing in the #ZumaTradeOff.

This is all assuming that they want to keep their assets. I don’t know. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with altering the Constitution if the people affected don’t mind, I guess.
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The hashtag is #ZumaTradeOff: please send questions, make comments, share and tell your friends.

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#ZumaTradeOff: What are White People Planning?

On Easter Sunday, President Zuma’s risen glory was manifested to (and beheld by) hundreds of the faithful at the Twelve Apostles of Christ Church in Umgababa, where he passed himself off as the lamb that had been slain for championing “radical economic transformation”.

His genius lies in that up until the cabinet reshuffle, other political players had merely spoken of transformation. But there was no action prior to Zuma’s to measure it against. So transformation can be whatever Zuma says it is — including reckless cabinet reshuffles and credit ratings downgrades — because nobody has seen anything else.

A large part of how he has retained power was his abusing the most potent tool we had for transformation, Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE), to fund his crony capitalist network — while passing that off as his navigating the economic exclusions experienced by the black majority. And, given that nobody else had really done anything to relieve this exclusion, Zuma’s friends could call whatever he did “radical economic transformation”. Again, there was nothing else to measure it against.

If Mandela and Mbeki were sheltered by the cosy, respectable arms of white veneration, Zuma passes himself of as in the trenches with the ordinary black South African. When he is scapegoated by what he covertly describes as racist media for his sins, black people vicariously participate in his reproach and his navigation thereof. Sure, those black folk who saw Nkandla with their own eyes, put their finger in the wound in its side and saw it wasn’t photoshopped by said racist media, they voted IFP. But for many black people, marching against Zuma would mean marching with racism against one’s alternate universe self lifted up and crucified at the pinnacle of political power. For championing radical economic transformation.

If people’s perception is their reality, Zuma knows how to keep hope going.

There is a black marcher who can be mobilised against Zuma, though. He wears a red beret and is drawn by the EFF’s call for land, asset and business expropriation without compensation.

Do you see how the black majority, as a whole, faces no shortage of ideological suitors beating down its doors, offering it schemes for radical economic transformation? None of those ideas has to be particularly sophisticated or helpful because there’s nothing to compare them to. They also lack holistic stakeholder participation because most white people barely grasp their role in systemic racism, let alone contribute meaningfully to the discussion on transformation.

The suitors have multiplied. The other afternoon, the Department of Trade and Industry tweeted that we “need to broaden the base of participation in our economy, so for us black economic empowerment is imperative.” I’m not sure what the Department is thinking now or to what extent it will just continue serving the needs of the politically-connected few, but this isn’t the first time Minister Rob Haydn Davies has made noises on stricter BEE in the last few days.

Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba said at his Easter sermon that rich and poor need to negotiate trade-offs at an economic and land Codesa. UDM’s Bantu Holomisa also tweeted about the need for an economic Codesa.

But if the Department of Trade and Industry willingly offers improved BEE, the resultant narrative will be that the Zuma administration is sincerely pro-transformation. This will defuse much frustration against corrupt government officials. We’ll then have a transformed economy with deformed guardians, and therefore no economy at all.

And though we must speak of economic Codesas, we cannot do so in broad terms anymore. We just don’t have the time. We need a framework to work off of, and we need it yesterday.

When one of these suitors, be it Zuma, Malema or Davis, offers a way towards radical economic transformation, we must look for strings attached or the unintended consequences of starting too broad. We must be very careful.

If my analysis that Zuma has abused BEE to gain and keep power is correct, loosening his grip on the economy may be achieved if we, the people, push for both radical economic transformation and political reformation as I’ve been describing under the #ZumaTradeOff series. Let me unpack why I insist white people have to fight for economic transformation, and black people for political reformation.

In line with his narrative that he’s the scapegoat who bears South Africa’s racism, Zuma has been mocking [white] marchers who had never been seen marching until now. He says they’re racist and greedy. How white people could answer that is through lobbying, not so much for a change in politicians, but for a BEE that will stop enriching a select politically-connected few and will spread the wealth more equitably amongst black people instead. I’ll explain shortly why pictures of rich white people climbing into convertibles to protest Zuma just look bad.

So those white people could march for businesses to be incentivised to make ownership deals with black people whose net worths are beneath R10 million. Currently, the BEE incentive is to have any black person as an owner, but there are bonus points that disappear once that black owner has a personal net worth of R50 million or more. Real BEE would cut the line off at a much lower net asset worth. Hence the R10 million mark. It would also make a starter difference between the number of points earned for ownership by someone with a net worth below R10m as opposed to someone with a net worth above R10m. Real BEE would possibly not count any black person with a net asset value of over R10 million as black for BEE ownership purposes. Once you’re a millionaire, you do not need to be prioritised for economic empowerment.

That one change, alone, would shrug a lot of crony capitalists off of government’s procurement chain while freeing BEE to economically empower those who genuinely need economic empowerment.

In exchange for lobbying for this kind of BEE, more black people who’ve previously been sceptical of white motives could then work for political reformation. Where there is the sure promise of economic transformation, black self-interest says to cast out those elements that would abuse the means of transformation for corruption. With a stronger BEE, the corruption no longer takes money out of just white pockets but out of black ones as well. The BEE we have doesn’t put money into black people’s pockets so government corruption remains an abstract idea.

The #ZumaTradeOff, then, says black people will fight for an economy that works by getting rid of incompetent or unethical office-bearers, in exchange for white people fighting to ensure the resulting economy works for everyone.

Our mistake has been that we kept swapping these roles. The optics of having white people fight for the economy to work by protesting black politicians when there had been a reshuffle, or of black people ensuring it works in a transformed manner by protesting white captains of industry when there were calls for minimum wages, have never worked. They have traditionally underscored our differences.

Black politicians would be more likely to listen to black lobbyists (who would be greater in numbers) and white industrialists would be more likely to listen to white lobbyists (who are the majority of consumers and hold more senior positions in business). But you would need both, at the same time, to turn South Africa around.

What this means is that instead of taking a day off work to protest a corrupt government run mostly by black office-bearers, white people really need to go into work to ask why senior management is untransformed.

We need to literally walk a mile in each other’s shoes.

Why am I picking so hard on white people? As said already, they need a distinctly pro-black reason for marching if they are to not play into Zuma’s game. Until then, everything they do or say can and will be used against them in a court of law.

Also, BEE was brought in by white capitalists as an alternative to nationalisation and expropriation. BEE’s primary beneficiary is the white populace. Isn’t it in their interests, then, to ensure that BEE works?  “How can it work if the blacks keep electing corrupt government officials?” many of these white people will ask.

To which I would reply, “Stop that.” Get out of that narrative. It is not in your self-interest to stay in it. Being right about this will not help in any case. You will only get corrupt government officials out of power if you ensure tomorrow’s economy is set to benefit everyone equitably. That’s on you.

How will we get black people to protect something they don’t have if we can’t get white people to use BEE to protect the interests they do have?

Not to put too fine a point of it, but if I were white in South Africa I would be discussing what this blog has been calling the #ZumaTradeOff like nothing else matters. If you’re not sure what it is, look up the hashtag and read other articles on it. Or contact me. A few people have, and I’ve only been to happy to respond to their case scenarios or clear up misunderstandings where the posts weren’t clear.

I respond faster on Twitter and Facebook than I do to blog comments. It’s just easier.

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#ZumaTradeOff: Meet Yesterday’s Black Anti-Zuma Marcher

It’s crucial to understand why yesterday’s black anti-Zuma marcher is fundamentally different from last week’s black non-marcher.

Let us first work out why last week’s anti-Zuma marches were so white-dense and black-light.

For the last few days, this blog has been saying that with Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) abused by President Zuma to fund his crony capitalist network, two things happen:

The first is black people think white people are the decisive reason the economy remains untransformed. In reality, President Zuma more decisively slows transformation than the average white South African could.

The other is white people think black people are the central reason Zuma is President. In reality, his patronage network keeps him in power despite his unpopularity amongst even black people.

Zuma plays these two sides off against each other, then.

When it’s time to vote or march against him, this dilemma in conscience affects many black people: they feel Zuma has done more to empathise with, and navigate, the economic exclusions experienced by the black majority than the previous presidents did. And indeed, under Zuma, we have seemingly shifted lefter.

In Zuma’s being scapegoated by what is believed to be white-owned media for his many sins, those black people vicariously participate in Zuma’s reproach and his navigation thereof. So though he steals and lies, he is the imperfect but necessary hero; though he is violent, he is the only husband who will protect from economic racism; though blemished, he is the only sacrificial lamb that bears the sin of structural racism in ways his predecessors never did; though selfish, he is the only martyr who shows black people how to cope before systemic racism.

This is many black people’s perceived and experienced reality, so there’s no arguing with it. For them, marching against President Zuma would be denying the need and the rightness of the little good they pick out of what is otherwise a messy and complicated leader. After all, white people don’t usually march alongside black people on their issues. The suspicion, then, must be that they care exclusively about their economic interests.

It is in this space that Zuma gets to say the marches against him were motivated by racism.

Though Zuma only feigns being a champion of black economic empowerment, each time we call for his removal without offering the trade-off that his ostensive role as economic emancipator will be taken over and consummated by others more capable and sympathetic than he is, we hang the spectre of economic nonexistence over black people’s heads.

So until a trade-off is suggested, the black majority only sees two possible futures: in the one, Zuma remains president but they have access to a junk-rated economy. In the other, if they march alongside white people for it, Zuma is no longer president but they have junk access to the economy.

Now that we understand last week’s non-marcher somewhat, we can discuss yesterday’s black marcher. This is the kind the EFF mobilises successfully. Until that EFF collapses or is absorbed into the ANC, those black people will be drawn by its call for land and asset expropriation without compensation. The majority of yesterday’s black marchers see right through Zuma’s act and want him out of the way so they can also get white people out of the way to their economic liberation. How white people are gotten out of the way for the purpose of black economic liberation isn’t necessarily violent, but neither is it necessarily nice. In the law of eye-for-an-eye, one may not exceed the violence shown under apartheid and colonialism to rectify their effects. You do the math.

Is this to say yesterday’s black marcher is violent and blood-thirsty? No, but it’s no use saying apartheid was a crime against humanity without acting like it was. Black EFF supporters probably hate unprovoked violence more than anyone else. That’s why many of them would respond to the unprovoked violence that apartheid was, with provoked violence — sort of how Old Testament God demonstrates his hatred for violence by inflicting it upon those who benefitted off of prior violence.

My point is calling for Zuma’s fall without articulating what that means economically corroborates accusations that white people will act more decisively to defend their economic interests than to rectify the effects of the apartheid they benefitted from. The untenability of such a status quo, of that post-Zuma South Africa, is why we have not moved past Zuma. If we cannot remove Zuma now, that nuclear energy deal is as good as done, as are whatsoever other rare delights he has in store for us.

Industrial designer and agricultural innovator William Blake suggested anti-Zuma marches be geo-spatially close to townships and rural areas instead of just at city centres and in suburbs. Risk is constant wherever people march; the ANC Youth League will always gate-crash. The greater risk is sitting at home or at work doing nothing about this political battle. The point is, where the marches happen says much about what Zuma’s fall is meant to accomplish and protect.

There are many economic trade-offs I’d suggest but one tweak in BEE would be the simplest. An understanding of BEE can buttress us from being politically manipulated into the false need to change the Constitution to allow for the expropriation of land, assets or business without compensation. The onus is on white people to lobby for real transformation and monitor the flow of wealth to ensure everyone has a fair chance to contribute to the economy and be rewarded fairly. One could argue it is on black people to vote differently or hold politicians accountable. But that simply demonstrates a lack of appreciation for the kind of perceived (and somewhat real) political reality many black people live within. In that political reality, everything white people would have black people do benefits white people first and black people last, if ever.

President Zuma’s removal is essential for our economic survival, lest he continue doing naughty things in the name of “radical economic transformation.” But an economic trade-off of some manner, shape or form is essential for his removal, without which most black people have no reason to march against him unless mobilised by the EFF to do so.

And for those who think black people are ignorant/uneducated/don’t understand what’s going on and therefore can’t be mobilised: lo and behold, they freaking marched yesterday. Why? Because the EFF proposes the most “radical” trade-off ever conceived of in our democracy: vote us in to replace the ANC, and we’ll let you take the land back.

One way or another, a trade-off of some nature is the only thing that will bring about political change in this country.

If I understand “the markets” correctly, the #ZumaTradeOff (centred on tweaking the new entry provision in BEE and therefore costing investors much less than the outright confiscation of assets) is our economy’s only hope for not only working better for Zuma’s absence, but working for everyone, lest inequalities persist.

What is this new entry provision? For those who haven’t read previous posts, I gleaned some technical insights from transformation consultancy BEE Novation. In the name of transformation, the current Black Economic Empowerment codes recognise as a “new entrant” to the economy, any black person with a net worth of less than R50 million for the purpose of part-ownership in an empowering company. With a threshold this high, transformation begins to look a lot like the enrichment of a politically-connected few to the exclusion of a politically unconnected many.

If we could drop the threshold to R10 million, and increase the number of points an empowering company could earn for introducing black people whose net worth is less than R10 million each, we could accelerate real economic transformation. If we were feeling drastic, we could consider not counting anyone over the threshold as black for BEE purposes. There is no way an individual with a R10 million net asset value could need support from legislation that was passed to help poor black people. There are real, and really poor, black people waiting in the wings.

At some point in the country’s future, white people will negotiate with black people. They could negotiate today with the black people who didn’t march last week, mobilising them to march in exchange for BEE being changed to really work for them.

Or they will negotiate tomorrow with the black people who marched with the EFF yesterday.

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That book is dancing on me.

Thank you everyone who’s been sharing the posts and the hashtag #ZumaTradeOff. Feedback is most welcome

As We Protest (God Help Us All)

Today, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) Party, among other organizations, is leading an  ambitiously-named “national day of action” protest to persuade President Zuma to step down.

For reasons discussed in podcasts, blog posts and videos, the below are the reasons and necessary conditions for removing President Jacob Zuma.

I’ll be very surprised if any group can depose of him without reaching consensus on these.

Reasons:

Being credit-rated as junk will take South Africa’s price of borrowing up, which will affect the price of…everything.

The nuclear energy deal will knock the price of power up, which will affect the price of…everything.

Zuma will also lead the campaign to destroy the ANC’s reputation within the next two years. Following his lead, rude and thuggish ANCYL members will pick the party’s brand equity down to its bones. The more vocally they defend the Zuma who has captured the party, the less ANC top brass will be able to do to curb or discipline this. They have let the fish rot from the head, leaving them with zero credibility when they reprimand their political children for taking after their political father. The ANC is not dead, not by a long shot. But its doom has become certain.

Your most uninformed voter in the country’s most rural outpost will see the flashy cars and rowdy behaviour (or even an attempt at masking it) at campaigns, and know instinctively that something is not right. They already know because they normally only ever see the ANC at election season.

The ANC presidential race is for nought because at this rate, the next president of the ANC will not be the next president of the country. All the contracts, the political and public positions ANC supporters hope to gain by toing the party line will not be the ANC’s to give. Stephen Grootes painted the dilemma in excruciating terms:

“For many ANC MPs now, things may well be coming to the point where they are wondering if they will return as an MP after the 2019 elections. The lower on the parliamentary list they are now, the less chance they have of coming back.”

and

“Which means that for their own self-interest, some of these MPs must surely be thinking that the party needs to change direction.”

“But their problem still remains: do they allow Zuma to stay, or do they try to act against him? Both are perilous. If they do nothing, they could be queuing up outside any McDonald’s with a ‘help wanted’ sign in late 2019. If they act, they could be doing that by December this year.”

Either way, President Zuma is bad news for ANC MPs and other office-bearers. If the party keeps him, it may have no choice but to steal elections in 2019.

The Conditions for Zuma’s Removal:

The first is organized civil disobedience. Recognized organizations like political parties, unions, civil society NPOs and businesses are bound in word and deed by the law. They cannot explicitly lead people into illegal activities, for if they did they would lose the platforms they speak and act from. This loss would implicate other stakeholders these organisations have legitimate commitments towards. Also, no organisation wants to take responsibility for death, injury or loss of whatsoever nature, howsoever arising, that would happen in the course of civil disobedience.

That does not mean they cannot implicitly point the way forward for those without such a platform to lose. In other words, we cannot rely on them to do all the thinking and organising for us.

When Pravin Gordhan said to mobilize, he may have implicitly meant to do whatever it takes to unseat Zuma. But notice he could neither mention a.) Zuma, whom we assumed he meant, nor b.) the need to do a pro-cons analysis as to whether we would act by the letter of the law or its spirit. Again, we assumed he meant we had to act within the law and not just within conscience.

We have to connect the dots. Politics is too important to be left to politicians.

Organised civil disobedience may be something as simple as mobilising people for an immediate march without applying for permits and permission, knowing the risks.

The moment an organisation applies for permission to work within rules, we must heed the expression that “Rules are for the Guidance of the Wise and the Obeisance of Fools.” Zuma probably won’t be deposed by petition, vote of no confidence or a march that has a start date and an end date. He can ignore the petition, win the parliamentary vote (quite easily, too) and cover his hears until after any planned demonstration.  The courts can do little or nothing.

The end of a demonstration should not be when demonstrators want to get back to work; it should be when the goal of the demonstration is accomplished. With days between our marches, there soon will be no work to get back to as Zuma works overtime to sell the economy off.

Any action we take would have to outlast and isolate him (or those who have the resources to oust him) from something they need, be it room to move, food or water. If we worked via a tax revolt, it would have to be broad, deep and last long enough to make his tenure untenable to those who have the legal power (but not yet the moral power) to remove him from presidency.

The Most Important Condition:

The most important condition to mobilizing the greatest number of people has to do with the “what’s in it for me” factor.

I’ve been to enough Zuma marches and read enough social media complaints about them to tell you the reason they don’t have enough support is racial. White people have a clear understanding of what Zuma represents — simply, a big problem — but in many black people’s lives, he’s the cause and the symptom (and therefore, the cause and the cure) of a more dynamic dilemma. The unintended but foreseeable effect of removing him is an exacerbation in systemic racism. Zuma may be lying when he says (anything at all) that he’s fighting for the economic upliftment of black people. But by virtue of how he’s positioned himself and how he operates, he does negotiate the factors that exclude black people from the economy much better than his predecessors did, even if he also steals from those black people to unfairly enrich while bribing and blackmailing those who keep him in power.

This is how he holds scores of black ANC voters consciences’ ransom. Worse still, he keeps black people convinced that it is white people slowing down transformation, and white people convinced that black people actively support him out of ignorance. The reality is, Zuma does not need that much support from the black person on the ground to stay in power. His patronage network is more important for that purpose. The ANC, in turn, is protected by the liberation legacy but also its position. Pure populism sans capitalism does not hold as much appeal to black people as we’d expect it to, but neither does sheer neoliberalism. The ANC can get away with murder because it ideologically negotiates around Zuma’s negotiating within politics.

The moment someone explains hair-raising moves through “radical economic transformation,” we should get those who work in the transformation space weighing in, just as we would expect doctors or some medical practitioners’ society to weigh in on the words of a politician who gives an unsound medical rationale for his decisions. Professionals defend their fields. In this regard, a Black Economic Empowerment consultancy called BEE Novation has shared the view that if, for example, “the new entrant” threshold on BEE were dropped from R50 million to say, R10 million, it would be a step towards empowering black South Africans on the ground while curbing crony capitalism. The alternative to BEE, now or later, is “expropriation without compensation” or ongoing inequality. So Zuma’s rhetoric is in direct contradiction to his actions’ trajectory.

As I have pointed out on this blog, Daily Maverick, Biznews and PowerFM, the solution to the Zuma stand-off is a Zuma trade-off. If white people want him gone, they need to lobby and march for economic transformation. It is then that black people would be “unshackled” to march for politicians who would ensure we have an economy in the first place.

Apart from socially and economically empowered white people lobbying for better transformation in exchange for more black people supporting Zuma protests, the bulk of black people have very little reason to get rid of Zuma or the ANC. This is crunch time, the greatest test the New South Africa has faced. If we get rid of Zuma or the ANC, the economy will remain inaccessible to black people. Zuma knows this. If we don’t get rid of him, black people will have access to a junk-rated economy. It’s lose-lose.

I’m happy to draw up and plan as much as I can around the #ZumaTradeOff, but honestly speaking this ball is in white people’s court. Nobody is better positioned to make it happen.

The #ZumaTradeOff would have to be explicit and deliberate. It is not enough for the races to march and sing together here and there, now and then; they have to cultivate the discipline of working for one another’s and, by extension, everyone’s best interests.

A lot of white people think if we solve the political problem, black people’s economic problems will be solved as well. But the deal we signed up for in 1994 left economic power in white hands — setting us up for the very moment we facing now. White people have yet to show serious interest in solving black people’s economic problems beyond where their political interests coincide with those economic problems.

The alternative to the #ZumaTradeOff is more of Zuma, and with him, untold misery. I cannot see this play out any other way.

If you agree, publicize the #ZumaTradeOff hashtag to help push the conversation to a fruitful end. If we fail to, what happens next is on us.

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The book is almost done, and I am well-done.