#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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Don’t ask me about the book (I’m joking; I want you to ask)

 

#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.

Please follow and retweet: @SKhumalo1987

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

 

 

 

 

#ZumaTradeOff: Why Both Sides Must Win

A version of this Article has appeared on Daily Maverick, BizNews and a growing list of media platforms.

Please read and share it as a matter of urgency. Thank you.

President Jacob Zuma is selling the country off in bits and pieces. We could return the favour by making him part of a trade-off between black people who want white people to share economic power, and white people who want black people to share political power.

Unless both sides can agree on a trade-off, fast, President Jacob Zuma will use his power to destroy both.

I wish this weren’t about race. But black social media users have accused white people of protesting only when Zuma jeopardises the economy, but never over high tuition fees, minimum wages, or other matters that impact on black people whose economic worlds are permanently in junk status.

Likewise, a lot of white people say if black people don’t join the call for new leadership, those issues won’t be solved even if white people tried to help solve them.

Each of these “sides” has to give something to get something back. Let’s call this the #ZumaTradeOff.

Underlying Zuma’s grip on our economy is the lie that he is working to bring about radical economic transformation. But a transformation consultant with years in the game believes Zuma is working for the opposite of what he has promised.

The alternative to BEE is “expropriation without compensation” after Zuma solidifies his grip on power and further wrecks the economy. If South Africans do not fight to take Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) back from croney capitalism, we will have nothing left to fight for. This legislation hasn’t failed; it hasn’t been tried. Instead, it’s been abused by the politically connected.

At a layman’s primer on BEE by BEE Novation, consultant Lee du Preez spoke of what he felt was a kink in the Act — its New Entrant provision. A company that takes on a black owner with a net worth of less than R50-million may get bonus BEE points for enabling a “new entrant” to the economy a greater level of participation. Once that person’s net worth exceeds R50-million, the company continues getting up to full points for transformed ownership; they just don’t get bonus points.

For obvious reasons, du Preez felt using BEE to make people millionaires 50 times over was a bit like using a charity organisation created to uplift the poor to enrich a chosen few. Once a person’s net worth exceeds R50-million — heck, R10-million! — he should no longer be considered black for BEE purposes because he’d be wealthier than the average white South African. The abuse of this high “new entrant” threshold, among other provisions, had led to people distrusting BEE; specifically, it had led to black people believing the slowness of economic transformation was white people’s fault, and white people believing Zuma’s political stronghold was black people’s fault. Divided, we are conquered and we cannot mobilise like Pravin Gordhan said to.

The fault line in both instances is that Zuma uses tools like BEE to fund a patronage network beholden to himself instead of accelerating real economic transformation. The reasons for racial mistrust were two sides of exactly the same coin. You can’t get rid of the one without getting rid of the other. Hence, #ZumaTradeOff.

Others have spoken of this. While Wilmot James was the Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry, he observed that the DTI would “increase the threshold of the value of equity previously held to qualify as a ‘new entrant’ from R20-million to R50-million”:

“The DA believes that steps must be taken to ensure that B-BBEE does not become a tool for elite enrichment — we therefore argued for lowering the threshold in the definition of ‘new entrants’ to R10-million and increasing the points that can be earned by involving new entrants and workers in empowerment transactions.”

Put differently, imagine disaster survivors being triaged for emergency medical assistance. How would we feel if the medical service personnel knew some of the victims personally, and decided to first give those spa treatments and pedicures before moving on to patients who urgently needed life-saving help?

The purpose of medical emergency intervention is to get people fixed enough so they can get their own spa treatments in the future. BEE’s purpose is to give black people a leg-up so they can someday go on to making their millions. Without a cap on the wealth an individual can make through BEE deals, we’ll never get around to benefiting those who aren’t politically connected. Someone with a net asset value of R49-million isn’t a new entrant; he’s an Ancient of Days.

What we have under Zuma’s watch is Bribe-Based Black Elite Enrichment. Zuma is not the way, the truth and the life without which none may come to radical economic transformation. He’s the broad and crowded gate to economic hell for black, Indian, coloured and white people.

Very simply put, if more black people step up to work for Zuma’s removal from the presidency, we’ll have an economy that works. If white people step up to drive lobbying for revisions to BEE, we’ll have an economy that works for black people as well.

One practical way this can play out is in the lead-up to Parliament’s no-confidence vote on Tuesday the 18th of April. We must publicise and discuss the #ZumaTradeOff to one another – and then fight for it like our country’s future depends on it. Because it does. We can’t win unless we’re clear on what we all stand to win.

By the 18th, our Members of Parliament must have heard of the scandal: in return for selling the country, our whole president would have been sold off to political slaughter for a pro-forma 30 pieces of silver he isn’t worth. We must not retreat until those members of parliament vote accordingly.

Please follow and retweet @SKhumalo1987

The hashtag is #ZumaTradeOff

That book is almost done working on me

Junk Status: The Gift We Never Wanted

On Sunday,  our shell-shocked country yet survived two pressers. The first was by the Parliamentary Speaker. Its late start bit into the official opposition’s airtime. The second was by the DA on the disciplinary actions against Helen Zille, and the march to the vicinity of Luthuli House.

The strange thing about these pressers was they had the same purpose — to press the anger right out of us. Afterwards, I asked myself, “What will it take to shake us out of our complacency?”

Yesterday, we were shaken by two earthquakes and a rating agency’s credit rating downgrade to Junk Status.

Why would the Democratic Alliance want to anger-manage us into complacency?

At its core, it isn’t a political party: it’s a well-run corporate whose mandate is to protect the interests of established business in post-apartheid South Africa. To do so, it needs to infiltrate the political world just enough to keep that boat from tipping too far left.

Insofar as it passes for a political party, it needs to grow, but never win. Winning would place it into administrative crosshairs to buffer the conflict between post-apartheid restitutions and the private sector that would subsidise said restitutions. There would be no more ANC to point fingers at for failures to manage the difficulties inherent in this task. It would all be on the DA.

At the same time, the DA must grow so as to not have its share of the vote absorbed by other parties. It scavenges the ANC’s victims. If said ANC got rid of Jacob Zuma tomorrow morning, the DA would lose all the voters who joined the DA to get away from Zuma’s ANC. This is why, in my cynical view, the party would want to anger-manage us and make the ANC retain Zuma.

When the DA announced it plans to march to the vicinity of Luthuli House (for the umpteenth time) on the 7th, they gave Zuma’s scenario-planning 5 additional days to develop. Incidentally,  “Zuma” can be interpreted to mean,  “To catch off-guard [in the night, his favourite time] and ambush, often sexually.” One of the things Jacob means is to supplant, replace, undermine or override. Gedleyihlekisa is the one who laughs while hurting you.

The DA also sent out their nth petition. In South Africa, marches and petitions achieve much that is important, but they hardly ever get officials fired. They make us believe that spectacle, by itself, can retrieve souls and consciences from the hellacious clutches of corruption.

It is civil disobedience, not marches, that breaks rotten systems. It’s always been people who sat, ate or drank where the rules said they weren’t allowed to, or presented themselves where they shouldn’t have without passes they should have had so they could be jailed en masse and logjam the criminal justice systems that enforced those unjust laws. They rendered processes unworkable, or cut off opponents’ access to roads and other resources. We may be the first “oppressed” people in all history to think merely shaming the shameless will get them to see the light.

The DA’s proposed responses will help it take ownership of and deactivate anger that could have been channelled into civil disobedience. Granted, the DA can’t advocate civil disobedience, but it could step aside, let history run its course and help those who occupied or barricaded strategic points after the fact.

The other topic the DA had to address was Helen Zille and her tweets on colonialism, which will be investigated while Zille retains Premiership. I suspect the party is unsure what to do. This is a whole Helen Zille. What’s being investigated isn’t her tweets, which need little investigation as they aren’t encrypted secrets and the DA already said it doesn’t stand for colonialism. What they’re actually “investigating” are the political pros and cons of expelling her. Sure, the DA will pick up more of the ANC’s leftovers but it will alienate staunch Zille (and colonialism) supporters. The DA may be better off dethroning Zille as Premier than Zuma as President.

To retain the ideal number of National Assembly seats, the DA would need to speak as though it were possible to run this country without running into the tricky moral trilemmas the ANC fell to after 1994. This would help it attract the kind of voter it banks on: over racial politics (and therefore, fully immersed in racial politics) and lacking the stomach for hard conversations. That’s why the crowd it speaks to is so amenable to having its outrage defused. The problem isn’t that middle-class and white South Africans feel too intensely; it’s that they feel too little. It is emotional anaemia. Where is the response to ongoing systemic racism? What is Black Monday? Its critics are saying the initiative is utterly void of initiative.

The other presser was just as measured.

Baleka Mbete was late, as mentioned. What most twitter users thought of her responses to journalists’ questions was they were full of nothingness. She condescended without being overtly condescending. She painstakingly said, without quite saying, that there’s neither legal nor procedural basis for the outrage that’s followed the reshuffles. She was questioned about her feelings at seeing her minister colleagues being dismissed. Her responses, even then, can best be described by Eusebius Mckaiser’s tweet as “evasive, non-committal, uncertain of how to position herself, tactically incoherent. Put differently: She is being consistent.”

Her presser mirrored what she wanted to frame as the total insubstantiality of the current political outrage — our hypochondria. If President Zuma’s reshuffle devastated us, Mbete’s contempt numbed us down to a point where we can feel nothing and that nothing is our impotence to determine the conditions of a conflict we are avoiding. It smothered our outrage to a helpless smoulder. Her message was the Political Establishment is the Political Establishment and there isn’t a thing anyone can do about it because nobody has done anything about it.

Why, then, did she invite the media? She did it because she’s the sweet family doctor who comes to tell you the country isn’t sick. We can’t be sick because there’s no legally known basis for declaring us sick, and our symptoms must be imaginary or else we’d have taken to the streets long before she called her briefing. There wouldn’t have been a briefing. She and the rest of the NEC would be calling to the mountains and hills to  fall on them to hide them as Jesus returns in the form of public wrath.

By merely watching the presser when we should have been driving the fear of the living God into our public servants, we legitimised everything she was saying in her hypnotic drone. By merely summoning us instead of being summoned by us, the public servant reversed roles. And we let her because we always let them.

And this is why Junk Status is, hopefully, the Gift We Never Wanted — a wake-up call.

There’s a controversial technique for saving cardiac arrest victims. The precordial thump looks like a karate-chop to the sternum, a whack near the heart. Delivered correctly, it can bring the victim of cardiac arrest back from the brink.

It’s scary.  It’s dangerous. Like earthquakes. Like credit ratings downgrades. But in the long run, it may inoculate us from being taken off-guard by the one whose name spells out his modus operandi.

Please follow, share and retweet: SKhumalo1987

That book is working on me, and I’m nearly done. With any luck, it, too, is nearly done.

Who Is Fooling Whom? (On Current Political Sentiment)

What have

Cyril Ramaphosa

Helen Zille

Jacob Zuma

Julius Malema

Nelson Mandela

Thuli Madonsela

got in common?

They’re populist demagogues.

Lesson 1: Politics is Business

Getting people to buy into a governance vision package is more an expensive exercise than ordinarily expected.  It involves lobbying business, labour, church, environmentalists, civil society  and so on.  Law firms find their way into the mix.

So the politician’s deepest allegiance is to donors who fund the logistics of  schmoozing these prospective stakeholders until they think he or she is God’s gift to politics.  The costs vary wildly.  Mining bosses like expensive drinks; prospective voters like KFC.  The KFC packages for all the prospective voters who eat KFC probably total up to the same price as just one of the mine boss’s drinks.  And some people can drink.  So though campaigning involves telling voters that they’re the buyers, they’re the bosses, they’re actually the product being sold to funders; more fundamentally, they are slaves picking their own slave-masters with government as go-between through the ruling party.  You get said voters to agree to this transaction by having a “good story to tell” about how they’re the primary beneficiaries.

Politicians call this tweak of perspective, “campaigning.”  A little child, unfettered by the moral complexities of adulting, would call it “lying.”  Imagine if children got to vote…

Which leads us to the second point.

2.) Politics Is the Art of Brainwashing People While Convincing Them that Their Superior Control of Their Own (Impeccable) Thought Processes Make Them Impervious to Brainwashing

Think about how often you’ve heard the word “populist” bandied about recently.

It’s become an accusation by the middle class / “the learned” that Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma use frustrations instead of “the truth” to get votes.  The implication is that poor people are more impressionable.

But this allows the upper classes / “the educated” to locate the ultimate explanation for poverty in poor people themselves so they, the well-off, may absolve themselves of benefitting from systems that impoverish those poor.  Believing that the status quo and the rules upholding it are fair enough that everyone has a decent chance at life is how the rich sleep better at night.  The nice cotton sheets probably help too.

The implication is that the poor are to blame for their circumstances — perhaps because they vote in politicians who don’t uphold the Constitution as they should.  You also see identity politics not just critiqued but criticized as though the critics’ real intentions aren’t as obvious as the bigger suburban houses and cars they live in and drive.

Where do the educated / rich get these ideas from?  They get them when they believe that some politicians are demagogues while others are not-demagogues but noble, heroic “truth-tellers.”  They must believe this story to justify the lifestyles to which they have become accustomed, and then, to put the cherry on top, say it is the poor whose desperation makes them more susceptible to emotional manipulation.

The Housewives may have lived on Wisteria Lane, but they, too, were desperate.

3.) Politics is Theatre 

I don’t want to sound cynical, nor do I mean to trample on the great, heartfelt work done by our noblest “heroes of the day.”  But when someone is congratulated, thanked or awarded for serving the state well, he or she is being praised for maintaining the illusion that the status quo and the laws pertaining thereto are just and worth fighting for; that there is a system to put faith in.

The “impartial”  media is there to frame and communicate this drama of heroes and villains to us.  We buy into it, believing it is as real as people thought Ntsiki Lukhele from Generations was all those years ago when they attacked the actress who played her, Pamela Nomvete.  Or Cherel De Villiers Haines when they attacked Michelle Botes.  So Thuli Madonsela: good; protagonist.  Jacob Zuma: bad; antagonist.

But are we not just responding as the politicians’ primary clients (the 1% who own 50% of everything) want us to?  Look at the evidence.

ABSA was pulled into scandal with leaked Public Protector’s provisional report.  Report found State should have made Bank pay back undue benefit it gained in its acquisition of Bankorp, which was beneficiary of apartheid-era corruption.

Did this investigation not take this long to spill into broad public awareness because The System cannot have politicians telling their clients that they’re visibly implicated as the bad guys — as Ntsiki Lukhele, as Cherel De Villiers Haines — of the drama those donors commissioned the politicians to make in order to take attention away from their offstage existence?

It is like that time South Africans were more fascinated by the drama between Generations producer Mfundi Vunda and the cast of the soapie than they were by the storyline of Generations itself.

What we are seeing is the ANC blackmail white monopoly capital, so-called, with the prospect of exposing its role as producer / scriptwriter if it does not stop sending investigators after the party.

The political drama only works as long as the gentlemen’s agreement of not uncovering one another’s most damning sins is maintained.

4.) Politics is Chess

If the ANC were sincere about reversing injustice for its own sake and not just keeping capital in check, its response to the provisional report would have underscored that Apartheid-era crime didn’t prejudice “South Africa” in the abstract; concretely speaking, many white people were enriched by it, and many black people harmed by it.

And if Thuli Madonsela could say she was not going to accept questions about whether the provisional leaked report had been tampered with (which says it was), then neither am I going to say if the ANC were sincere about reversing injustice for its own sake and not just holding capital hostage, it would have told Busi Mkhwebane to tamper with report findings (before arranging for its leak as though it were a sex tape or Hip-Hop single) to end with a stronger, more quotable, more sound-bitable reminder that the people prejudiced were black.   It did not end this way sufficiently to penetrate the media statements on the report.

ANC apathy towards black exploitation for its donors and stakeholders is wholly incompatible actual liberation.  For black poverty is not a problem to be addressed; it is a resource to be harnessed.  Desperate people (are supposed to) accept desperate wages.  Remember Marikana.

5.) Politics is About Stalling Justice

Cecil John Rhodes said UCT would be built “out of the Kaffir’s stomach” as would just about everything else.

It is the noon of apartheid.  A company has two labourers.  One is white; the other is black.  Job reservation says the white person has a more covetable job and higher salary than the black person.  Structured efficiently, this discriminatory labour practice makes the company more profitable, which, if there are enough companies run like this, makes South Africa look more investor-friendly (until the world decides apartheid is morally odious or economically unviable or both).

The State can also tax these companies or their employee incomes harder.  It benefits whichever way; it’s either selling its country as an investor’s dream, or using tax money to bail out banks that are funding white people things that otherwise would not  be funded.  The apartheid state gets to enjoy the thrill and patina of capitalism without doing away with the artificial mechanations of the communism it purports to protect its white voters and business stakeholders from.  Because your impeccable thought processes.

How else do you get the edifice of white supremacy built, unless white people who can’t afford suburban houses get loans from banks that are being bailed out; unless white people who have no capital are lent money to start businesses, at really low rates?

So when white supremacists tell you, “We white people built this country,” please paraphrase Jesus in your response: “Therefore you testify against yourselves that you are the children of them that used black blood, sweat and tears to build what you so eagerly take credit for having built.”

When we separate “good” politicians from “bad” ones in government, we’re saying that the laws we have in place are inherently just, they’re worth fighting for, there is a system to put faith in, and those politicians we’ve deemed “good” have fought well for it.  But is there such a system?

I’m going to make a #Scandal / #TheFixer reference, and yes, this blog will reference Shonda Rhimes’s series without warning.

On one episode, the Vice President was asked to sign a drafted bill intended to decrease the incidence of unarmed black men being shot by white police officers.

To everyone’s surprise, the Vice President insisted she’d have to read the whole bill again — not just the parts that had been amended, but the whole document, before signing it.

After reading it, she refused to sign it off.  Her reason?  “It’s a bunch of requests; it’s unenforceable.”  It was designed to give the impression that the issue had absorbed the government’s efforts.  But priorities and political will were split among too many conflicting interests for the drafters to actually solve the problem they were making a great show of solving.  Its intended end was a quiet death by a thousand compromises.  In the Vice President’s understanding, to quote a review I read long ago, “A bill that would effect no consequences would, in the long run, turn out worse than no bill at all.”

What if our Constitution was a bunch of requests?

What if its intended end was a quiet death by a thousand compromises?

What if, insofar as it speaks to racial inequality, its requests are unenforceable — and that, by design?

What if its purpose was to give us all the impression that somewhere in all the ceremonying and awarding and thanking, there had been found enough alignment along enough interests for a solution to emerge?

The ANC’s losses at local government elections last year weren’t a sign that the party is in decline or that it has to get rid of Jacob Zuma.  Rather, they were a sign that the ANC has used up every card it could play without sacrificing “white monopoly capital.”  The race card has neither expired nor is it exhausted; it remains valid for at least as long as apartheid ran or until the funds apartheid stole are transferred back.

Contrary to the white-populist narrative the DA would have you believe, you can still swipe the race card in South Africa.  Unlike a lot of other things here, it happens to still work just fine.

6.) Politics is War

Does the ANC have enough time to properly implement the BEE that could have possibly addressed public frustration at racial inequality?

Or will its survival lie in white Jesus’s atonement crucifixion?

Will the drama turn to action and the unreal into reality?

Whoever you are and whatever your race: if you have a God, start praying.

Please follow and retweet @SKhumalo1987

There is a book working on me; watch this space

Maybe, Just Maybe, It’s Time To Quit That Job.

Buckminster Fuller

I have been observing people and thinking out loud for some time now. This has been in my head that whole time.

If you love your job and the company you work for, you may want to skip this post. If you believe in what your organization is about and that resonates with you, this piece was not written with you in mind.

In this post I will discuss things as broadly and generally as possible; it is up to the reader to see how these ideas fit into his situation if at all. It might sound vague, utopian and unstructured. I am nervous that if I do not get this thought out, it won’t crystallize into what it wants to be. More people are saying this and maybe the winds of change will carry it where it needs to go.

The thing is, I’ve overheard too many conversations that go like this: 

“So yeah, I told them I’m resigning.”

“I’ve been dying to leave this hellhole too. You’re so brave. And lucky that you have an opportunity to do it.”

 “Yeah, I’m doing it. I’m leaping to my freedom and chasing my dreams.” 

“Awesome. Where are you going after this? You have found a job to go to, right?”

This is my issue:

What makes people think that changing jobs or companies resolves the problems they ran from where they were before?

What is “brave” or “lucky” about moving from a bad job to a somewhat better job – in other words, from one slave-master to a slightly more merciful slave-master?

What changing jobs does, at most, is move someone into the next honeymoon phase with the next company – before the reality of that work environment sinks in as well and people need to jump ship, again. And again. And again.

There are two types of people in the working world. There are those that fit well in the environment they are in, and there are those that do not. The biggest delusion we have bought into is that to add value to humanity, each person has to work in one of a few very narrowly defined fields. It is possible for people to exchange goods and services without locating themselves that strictly in a revenue-producing entity: the only stakeholder that would lose out is the government in bed with everyone except the man on the street (aka “We, The People” – remember us? They loved us voting season). So I am advocating for a very mixed type of economy.

It’s like relationships. Most people move from one to the next before they find a good fit or settle for an okay one – or remain single – but few are lucky from the start. And as in relationships, most people never openly talk about the backdrop paradigm that creates a lot of frustration. Instead, they let years slide by without deciding what they want. The reason people don’t discuss the backdrop paradigm is that they’ve never imagined a more authentic way the world could work. So they’ve never known a reason to question the way things are being done. Instead, they will accept that the defect must be within themselves and shut up about their misery. People of good conscience will feel guilty for feeling miserable, and observant psychopaths will milk that cycle for all its worth. Manipulators rely on people’s reliance on whatever they think is stable and safe, and they create systems and situations and environments where their prey can be exploited. I submit that much of the world we live in is precisely such a system writ large.

So if talented, smart people hate their jobs it’s probably because they work in toxic environments in toxic economies and toxic paradigms; they seek validation and stability in something that will give them just enough to make them stick around. Government s are run by humans everyone believe to be infallible but are not; economies are ruled by super-rich elites everyone think know what they’re doing but don’t always; all human power is in the hands of a few who seem to know best but don’t. If they knew – if they really knew – we would have more education than war, more nature flourishing than pollution and destruction, more peace than violence and more equality than discrimination. Those basics would be in place. But they’re not. So it has failed. Given centuries, what we have regarded as correct has failed to fulfill the promise of a better civilization. Civilization has not worked out well.

If anyone is going to have power, everyone must be empowered. The onus is not on the powerful few to surrender their power but on the many to take power up. 

The onus is not on the powerful few to surrender their power but on the many to take power up. 

The super-powerful cannot hear those under their feet either because they have no communication with them or because they do not care. At any rate, this is not about them; it is about each person becoming more of himself or herself. Far more important than changing jobs, then, should be changing the system and making it work, sustainably, for everybody, for good, for ever. If that cannot be our first project, we have failed as a collective.

For too long, the system has been the unquestioned, unshakable constant. It is protected by people’s need for security and stability. It promises a future the one day but eats that future out of people’s mouths and strips it off their backs the next. It divides. It has also been protected by guilt. People have been tacitly told that they have to stay in bondage because they deserve it. Because of that home loan they took and must pay off. Because of that better lifestyle they tried to afford. Of that spending spree they’re still paying off. That mistake they made. Those medical fees they have to repay. Because of those children they brought into the world and need to feed. Of the extended family that depends on their income. People have a thousand reasons to give pieces of their soul away, and lawmakers – not as individual persons but as unwitting agents of impersonal systems – serve to produce and protect the environment where people sell their minds, bodies and souls away. On the surface it looks like a fair deal. But as a species we can do better than that and if we are not trying to then it is a damning revelation of what we are plugged into. Putting food on the table cannot become first priority; if it were, then we would have to be okay with theft as a means to an end. A wise man said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God” which I understand to mean that if it comes to a decision between principle and survival, principle should get first preference. Bank on truth first, stick to your guns, and other people will (eventually) follow you because they will see their vested interest in doing so.

He also said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?” Read into that what you will. If we allow systems to continue as they are, they will deteriorate further. If we stand together for what we know to be right, true, just and equitable, the system will have to adapt itself to our commitment to our values or die and be replaced by something else.

The only thing that should keep people in jobs they hate is their not knowing what they’d rather be doing instead. This isn’t to mean people shouldn’t leave their jobs until the next one is lined up – that reasoned, unreasonable hesitation is precisely what I’m arguing against – but it is to say that people shouldn’t leave their day jobs until they have a fair idea of who they truly are and what they’re about. Some people need to be immersed in what they are not so they will figure out what they are. Clarity is key.

Feeling inadequate and obliged within this very responsible-sounding paradigm, people will surrender their best years and energy to jobs and paradigms and relationships and religions they don’t fit into. Because they do not know themselves. For a pay that often does not cover all their bills. Men will sacrifice hours they could have spent doing something more meaningful because the definition of manhood they’ve been given tells them this is the necessary sacrifice. Because they do not know themselves. Women will do the same. Because they do not know themselves. Armies of young people will spend decades paying off study loans because that’s the price of a “good education.” I believe in education, but for decades the best education in the world has led the most educated people in the world to believe that there was something just about inequality in the world. What kind of education is that?

“Education” has been wrong about many things; empathy has seldom been wrong. We bought into a bad, bad deal and we are still recovering from the effects of moralism and many other counterfeits of goodness. The very people who remind us of our obligations from pulpits and from across desks of power have often broken theirs. It is important to meet obligations but it is more important to add concrete value into the lives of people around us and be authentic – not line the pockets of an elite few shareholders in super-rich companies that make their money out of the little man’s stomach. And right now, more of us are just meeting obligations than adding value. That is a slave.

You cannot create value if you do not know who you are and you cannot know who you are if you have acclimatized to a paradigm of inauthenticity. And somewhere along the line, many of us were taught that the way we fundamentally are is wrong, while another way of being in the world is right. We masked up and forgot we were wearing masks; we dressed up, and forgot we had been born naked. When everyone around you is wearing clothes, you don’t see it. It becomes the normal, and everyone becomes terrified of the alternative. Reality becomes our greatest fear while illusion promises us our biggest protection. It’s really the other way around: reality sets free while illusion enslaves.

Shakespeare has Polonius say in Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” You need to know the hill you would die on. Know thyself. Know yourself relative to history and the world and – if applicable within your worldview – know yourself relative to God.

Some companies and businesspeople are wonderful. Others only appear to be. Deep down inside you know the difference. If you haven’t got the guts to act on the difference, you have sold your soul and have a far bigger problem than your lights being out and your table being bare: the light of your consciousness is off, and your soul is starving. If saving face is more important to you than being authentic, then there is nothing behind the face anyway.

There is a time to get a “normal” or “real” job and work at it. There is also a time to recognise that the system upholding these jobs is fundamentally flawed and unequal – and that we must work on fixing that instead.

The thing is, we do not need everything that money can buy, nor is everything we need only obtainable through money. If enough people decided to drop the ball at the same time – if enough people told advertisers and banks and the whole system that it does not own them – then the one side would be less likely to take the other for granted. Because so long as we need the system, its brokers can call out any price for any essential service it can render. Vast numbers of people are enslaved and need to be set free.

It comes down to authenticity. The world is starving for it. But you’ve got to make the first move towards it. If not you, then who?

Isn’t it time to take a leap of faith?

I am just observing people and thinking out loud.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment and share.

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex.

Follow @SKhumalo1987

Contact SKhumalo1987@gmail.com

Power From, By And To The People #Eskom

Don’t tell me no, tell me how

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I asked which private companies were ready to take the baton from Eskom. Respondent said we should use crowd-funding for each province, and the more each province crowd-funded the less it needed to pay for power.

Yes, I know, State-protected monopoly…

Look, do we wanna be free and do we want reliable power at reasonable prices, or not? It really comes down to that.

So how?