We view Nelson Mandela through sunny scenes of “forgiveness,” forgetting he wrote a note in 1990 that read,
“The nationalisation of the mines, banks and monopoly industries is the policy of the ANC, and the change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable. Black economic empowerment is a goal we fully support and encourage, but in our situation state control of certain sectors of the economy is unavoidable.”
Before he passed, Sowetan Malaika wa Azania railed that “Mandela must not die yet. No no no. That would be unfair. People don’t get away with crime.”
She was mildly echoed farther afield by Harvard law professor Noah Feldman. “South Africa’s founding pact was born in the sin of compromise. Compromise is sin because people don’t get what they deserve”:
“[Mandela] brought peace through his ability to convince millions of his countrymen that they should accept much less than they were in justice owed.” Or as Mandela realised, “What the National Party was trying to do was to maintain white supremacy with our consent.”
Where Canadian author Naomi Klein thinks that, “The ANC failed to protect itself against…[the National Party’s] plan against the economic clauses in the Freedom Charter ever becoming law in South Africa,” I believe the ANC not only resigned itself to the idea that the Freedom Charter would be unworkable but also decided the people for whom it had been drafted were not worth it. This happens once you’ve been given a taste of the good life, whilst those you subsequently see as the bleating, unwashed masses watch on in rags, thinking the relationship is still as it once was.
And where the NP had severed the political means of liberty from its economic tools, capital (which was initially white) infected the accommodating black liberation movement with what we now experience as broad-scale corruption. Business owned political parties then as they do now.
So the ruling party knew from the start that substantive equality had been postponed indefinitely; its members looked after their own stomachs. The Marikana massacre was the ANC’s Judas kissing the workers’ Jesus. Such things arise from the 1994 deadlock that’s kept South Africa’s white minority relatively better-off than everyone else, though many in that minority piously rage against the corruption that’s built into the status quo without equally hating the unequal status quo.
Into this, #SparrowGate hit the fan.
The official opposition quickly made the issue one of economic inequality instead of just racism (not a wholly invalid view) but then it said part of the solution would be jobs. It reiterated its position as the party that fights for jobs.
But soon after, rumours that many marchers were given R100 each “for transport” (search #RentedCrowd) began discrediting the demonstration. The remaining explanation for it, pushed mightily by the ruling party, is that its purpose was to serve white money’s interests.
ANC hypocrisy aside, how is this march different (in its insistence that the job-creating market gods must be trusted and appeased) from the #ZumaMustFallMarch, which was met with widespread criticism for its demand for only a change to one part of a system critics thought had to be overhauled as a whole? How many intersectional theorists believe that access to the job market, given through existing capital (the face of which remains largely white) have helped society come closer to a solution to racism without re-inflicting it in subtler, more hidden ways that make it more difficult for the efforts of the formerly disadvantaged to get them as far as they would anyone else?
Far from establishing the DA as the pro-job anti-racism party, the march may end up having a different effect. That the racial profile of the marchers was darker than the DA’s voter base or its parliamentary caucus makes Mashaba’s eschewing of all race-based policies especially awkward. What do we do with van Wyk’s belief that, “Our government is nothing more than the ‘human resource’ manager for global corporations” other than believe that the DA promises nothing more than to perform that task better, but cannot promise that black people won’t be stuck with bottom feeder jobs and in the long run, none of the lasting financial security that comes with stewarding the means of productions instead of merely servicing them while they are owned by someone else?
The ANC and the DA punt small business as job makers because the alternative involves the nationalisation of big companies, mines and land or a wealth tax on those who have had big businesses since apartheid. Is the small-businesses-create-jobs doctrine not only another way to convince millions “that they should accept much less than they were in justice owed,” but also that they should start over as though South Africa has never had minerals, or land, or exploitation of the black body?
The only entity that could anticipate a return on the long-term investment arc of funding free education would be government. The other option would be for businesses to inject resources into high-quality education. Failing this, key businesses will be absorbed into government as #FeesMustFall and like-minded movements rise up to demand post-apartheid reparations. ENCA has a video in which student activist Busiswa Seabe insists, “We are going to fight for free education. Come hell, or high waters or Jesus himself. Free education will come in 2016. Amandla!”
She may have not meant it as I read it: broad-scale nationalisation will take place come economic backlashes, private sector outrage, and the end of the ANC’s rule (see Zuma, “Until Jesus returns”) because there is no other way to force anyone’s hand towards quick justice or the free education that goes with it. And with birds of Sparrow’s feather flocking about, it will be difficult to convince black people to be patient with this system any longer. Which is what the DA is trying to do moments after Penny Sparrow and Co. opened their mouths.
Did the DA’s speech on racism borrow from the prevailing discourse on race in order to tame the coming revolution? They whose mayoral candidate for the most important metro has no interest in race-based legislation, were overnight radicalised enough to endear themselves to many black people. But were they radicalised enough to alienate the capital that went on business as usual while the State legislated the oppression of black bodies before and after 1994? “The rules were simple and crude, the electronic equivalent of monosyllabic grunts: justice—expensive, sell; status quo—good, buy,” recalls Klein. “When, shortly after his release, Mandela once again spoke out in favour of nationalisation at a private lunch with leading businessmen, ‘the All-Gold Index plunged by 5 per cent’.”
No matter where it is, Wall Street is rich enough to get the world in its debt but not enough to help those victimised under its nose. “In the end, South Africa has wound up with a twisted case of reparations in reverse, with the white businesses that reaped enormous profits from black labour during the apartheid years paying not a cent in reparations, but the victims of apartheid continuing to send large paycheques to their former victimisers.”
#MarchForJobs’s job was slowing the inevitable result of a legitimate discussion on race. South Africa is capital-starved and the world isn’t giving a free lunch. If the ANC could fail so spectacularly and fall so hard in its compromises with capital, I wonder what makes the DA think the same route (albeit with more slickly-managed levels of corruption) is going to gain them long-term relevance. Is it the wonderful status of most black and coloured people in the Western Cape that will sell this deal to everyone else? If not, then more black people will perceive DA and ANC as apartheid in sheep’s clothing and pronounce a plague on both their houses.
The NP’s and big businesses’ ideological conquest of the ANC may have laid the foundation for today’s resurgence of the leftist ideas they meant to suppress in 1994.
The subsequent time lapse with its multiplication of Sparrows has served to remind many black people that they were wronged where many had truly forgiven, forgotten and gotten on with their lives.
The DA’s talk of jobs (mirroring and envying the ANC’s national HR Department role) may serve as the dry straw into which the EFF throws the flame of revival for a Freedom Charter that’s been lip-serviced to death since 1994.
Capitalism’s triumph over socialism may turn out, at its consummation, to be nationalisation’s conquest of what capitalism has accomplished.
The ANC’s expulsion of Julius Malema may have been its catapulting him to dizzying heights of power, or at least a political relevance they no longer command; it may have been their freeing him of the dead weight of their sinking party to run on, opportunist he is, for the finish-line ribbon they left flapping in the wind when they left the Freedom Charter they signed in their own blood.
Every victory big business seemed to win when it kept itself intact – by bleeding the nation dry through the ANC, or the preservation of seemingly unrelated white wealth or our state’s Guptafication – has led to this moment where nationalisation may be dirty and disastrous way out.
The EFF’s recent silences may have been its clearing its throat for its loudest battle-cries.
The last 22 years and the racists they have brought to the surface may have taught black people to never look to the left or to the right of the Freedom Charter for economic emancipation ever again.
In C. S Lewis’s words, “What looked to us like hands held up in surrender was really the opening of arms to enfold us for ever.”
And far from keeping them above the fray, white individuals’ denial of white privilege has only added momentum to the pendulum swing from pre-’94 white money to the opposite many of their parents feared: the swart en rooi gevaar, realised to receive the country on a silver platter with a big red communist bow on it.
Siya Khumalo blogs about religion, politics and sex; he has also written a book (#TheUnveiledFacesProject coming soon).
Please share and follow @SKhumalo1987 and also contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com