ANC Elective Conference

Cyril Ramaphosa would be a marvellous short-term solution to the ANC’s problems, but the party’s (and nation’s) role would remain fundamentally unchanged.

Stephen Grootes recently presented two possible scenarios for the ANC’s Elective Conference.  In the one, it’s derailed or dragged out on disputes about the provincial general councils.  In the other (contrary to what my political sources used to tell me), Cyril Ramaphosa wins ANC presidency, Zuma is possibly recalled and Ramaphosa is sworn in before year-end.

A look at the battle themes that have brought us here will reframe our perspective so even if the President Ramaphosa scenario plays out, we will not be taken off guard when this ANC conference cycle repeats itself in another 10 years.

State Capture versus White Monopoly Capital

This is South Africa’s favourite dance: a

  • Public Protector’s Report on Nkandla or State Capture,
  • Slew of emails (#GuptaLeaks) or
  • Book (#PresidentsKeepers)

is released.  In response, the anti-WMC brigade says, “If Zuma must pay for Nkandla, then white people must return the land” or ,“When it’s white people, it’s called business; when it’s people of colour, it’s ‘state capture’.”

At the July policy conference, the ANC seemed to favour the description “monopoly capital” over “white monopoly capital”. But economist, Dr. Dr Jason Musyoka, has pointed out that South Africa’s middle class has always initially been a “creation of the state”, making state capture in its latest manifestation a betrayal, especially, of black aspirations.

I would add that in view of race inequality statistics and the legacy of apartheid, taking the colour out of the monopoly capital descriptor in the name of shoring up political power against the facilitators of state capture foreshadows a subtler betrayal of black people. Why have the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment Act if the face of South African wealth is not white, unless B-BBEE exists to enrich a narrow, politically-connected base? And if BEE is “reverse apartheid” as many of my white friends complain it is, isn’t that a tacit admission that apartheid was unbearable? Far from arguing against the need for reparations, the complaint strengthens the case.

I digress.

This year has increasingly been characterised by the exposure of private sector involvement in government corruption; auditing, software and media/communications businesses have been implicated. When you connect the company names to National Party funders, you see we preserved the apartheid state’s capturedness, suppressed it through Nelson Mandela’s term, and afterwards used the ANC for what it was summoned from exile to do all along: clean up the old government’s mess by being the visible fall guy for increasingly visible business scandals. The ANC proved its ready corruptibility through the Arms Deal before fully embracing its role as the black slavetrader, pimping tax payers and black labour to the highest white bidder. Until the Guptas’ race pulled our attention behind the curtain.

The end of apartheid and transition into democracy were not miracles: they were a PR exercise. 1994ism was the world’s dog-whistled prerequisite for doing business with us while preserving some semblance of white innocence. The myth of white innocence was necessary because white South Africans would remain masters in what would essentially be a neocolonial setup. The exposure of the Guptas first concealed this system by focusing blame on blackness; then it exposed it because it focused attention on the private sector. Until the latter happened, as the shamefulness of the former exposés emboldened the shamelessness of exposed (black) politicians and their comrades in corruption. This fatigued the public’s sensitivity to scandal — and freed more black politicians to run into kickback deals. With this stampede, the curtain hiding the public sector’s participation ripped apart.

Until it ripped, the Constitution made it nigh impossible for courts to force the Executive and Parliament to do the jobs they were contracted to, forcing the Judiciary to further highlight the country’s impotence to do little more than yell, “Shame!” at the corrupt. The definition of “corruption” (which I have questioned before on this blog) made it appear the law was something more than trust-bait so voters would willingly give a contract-dishing, kickback-collecting mandate to some or another party and its funders.

Despite this, white supremacy feels justified in not hiring black people to its offices. Those black people are then left to entrepreneurship, which shouldn’t have to be for everyone. As I’ve pointed out previously, a new entrant threshold of R50 million means the most lucrative government contracts return to the same politically-connected (black) elites, who leverage having had that business to pick up private sector jobs as well.  This concentrates the country’s wealth and makes a mockery of trickle-down economics, forcing more black people to dependency on government.  And government is too busy looting to care that numerous small black-owned businesses do not get paid when they have done work for government (*looking at Minister Lindiwe Zulu*). No wonder Herman Mashaba is so superior: I would be too, if I had beaten the odds he did. The point is something everyone knows: employment and the level of education standards are inversely proportional to the ruling party’s likelihood to retain power. White supremacy is the ANC’s fuel but the ANC was never really that against it to begin with.

The problem, then, has been that with UBaba’s ascent to the ANC’s pinnacle in Polokwane ten years ago, the refined dining of white-collar criminals descended into the savage feeding frenzy of common, bare-faced thugs. This has forced investigations that debunk the white/business innocence myth. Though they had representation on the boards that should have seen the crookedness of the transactions they were signing off, these businesses are now trying to shove all the blame to subsidiaries with the greatest BEE representation (As I often say, BEE consultancies and verification agencies should be defending the integrity of their profession but this hardly ever happens). One begins to suspect the reason ratings agencies (which have also been caught in scandals) don’t think South Africa is “safe” for investment is that under the penetrating gaze of our investigative journalists, our government will, willingly or not, “kiss and tell” as to which businesses have bedded it.

The negotiated settlement may have neared Cyril Ramaphosa to immense wealth. But because what was being held together with those trade-offs was the legend of white innocence, black lives had to be cheapened in that no reparations were made for apartheid victims in 1994 — a decision that made Ramaphosa synonymous with Marikana in 2012 even as he’s presented as messiah in 2017.

Whether because of this or out of envy that he was invited to the white table while so few others were, Ramaphosa and the establishment he represents have attracted enemies he’ll have to overthrow using ju-jitsu type techniques in the next three weeks. These fighting styles are about leveraging assailants’ attacks as opposed to starting on the offensive. With the evolution of media, the legend of  white innocence has become incompatible with demonstrations of full-faced violence and naked ambition by its custodians. Ramaphosa has become one of those, and though he is black, he is counted upon to remain above stereotypical black fighting styles.

Nandos/Daily Maverick Gathering

At the Gathering last week, the ANC’s only cheerleaders were Mr. ANN7 (supports Dlamini-Zuma, last I checked) and Mr. Gordhan, whom I wanted to ask, “Do you support Ramaphosa as your ideal candidate, or as a compromise?” The Guptas are said to have said, “We can buy the Struggle”; we must know whether Luthuli House is selling it Left, Right or Centre. God knows the party capitalised on its own shame by positioning the ANC as the only thing that can save from the ANC. It presents two faces, one for your right-leaning economic appetite and another for your left-leaning social concerns. It is Shaka Zulu’s Bull’s Horns ambush tactic, and it could explain why even Julius Malema was as tame as he was at the Gathering where he all but admitted the ANC is the only game in town.

So, the party’s only weakness might be Dr. Dlamini-Zuma. Patriarchal societies are threatened by women in power: Robert Mugabe got more grace for his sins than even she whose name is Grace, and if Dlamini-Zuma wins and carries the party to 2019, she’ll be more likely cast down in mid-term than the two presidents before her.

As it is, she is not being forgiven for the sin of ever being a Zuma; how would she survive between the expectation that she will end racism by destroying the economy, and the expectation that she would preserve the economy by upholding racism?

Remember, 1994 was a PR exercise and South Africa will never know more racial equality than the global economy in which it trades. We may be one of the most unequal societies in the world but that is only when we are measured in isolation. In truth, we are a microcosm of the macrocosm: you will find former colonial powers’ opulent wealth in Clifton and the former colonised’s devastating unemployment in Khayelitsha. We are not a failed state; we are a failed world.

The Centrality of Racism 

As has been happening more frequently of late — almost daily — I saw this gem of a racist comment on Facebook. The post was about the possibility that EFF might return to ANC; this commenter said such treachery was part of “their blood”.

The other commenters automatically assumed “their” was a reference to black people. Said commenter’s subsequent behaviour (like deleting the comment without saying it meant anything other than what the others thought) indicates it was correctly read by the others as racist.

I wanted to reply, “Would you prefer black people had in their blood whatever white people had in theirs when they visited their hatred on us through history, or would that be too fair?”

There must be black ineptitude, treachery and corruption for narratives and campaigns to leverage towards ideologies that are racist enough to keep black labour cheap, but not too racist lest those of us buying into them recognise them for what they are.

These ideologies seem especially innocuous when they have a black face over them — a Woolworths-priced Cyril dressing to be drizzled over the hypocrisy salad so Maimane can yield high returns in the country Europe intended to have as its refreshment station but turned out to be a literal gold mine, “undiscovered” land and a cheap labour farm.

Please comment, retweet and follow: @SKhumalo1987

Book coming courtesy of Kwela, one of NB Publisher’s seven imprints.

Post-script:

I got hold of the commenter. Her explanation for her comment was something I had initially believed (that “in their blood” was about political conditioning, not race) until she deleted her comment on the advice/instruction of those who thought it was about race. Her choice to delete her comment was not an admission that the racist reading was correct; it was simply the path of least resistance on her part. 

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