#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.

Please share, comment and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

The hashtag is #ZumaTradeOff

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