South Africa facing moment of truth
Tererai Danga Correspondent
South Africa is currently engulfed in political and economic storms, whose magnitude is threatening to tear the governing Tripartite Alliance apart, over and above the threat to the tenure of incumbent president, Jacob Zuma. At the centre of the political troubles are loud calls for President Zuma to step down following his perceived failure to manage the economy and various corruption allegations.
Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet in late March, and axed the darling of Western capital, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who was replaced by Malusi Gigaba. There has been a lot of noise on the replacement of Gordhan despite the fact that several other ministers were affected by the reshuffle.
Relatedly, Standard & Poor International Rating Agency then downgraded the South African credit rating to junk status, a development that gave ammunition to Zuma’s political rivals to intensify calls for his resignation.
What appears to be at the centre of the upheavals are issues to do with control of the economy following spirited campaigns by the ANC and opposition parties like the Economic Freedom Fighters, (EFF), that the political freedom attained in 1994 has not translated to economic freedom. The majority of South Africans remain on the fringes of the economic powerhouse, which remains tightly controlled by imperial capital through local whites.
Zuma is seen as a populist president who was gradually beginning to threaten the interests of white monopoly capital through his rhetoric on “real transformation” and the need for the majority of South Africans to partake in its prosperity.
Zuma appears to have learnt from the observation by former president, Thabo Mbeki that South Africa was “one country” made up of “two nations”, being the black and white South Africa.
On his part, President Zuma has not been too forthright in his relationship with the wealthy and influential Gupta family which has led to complaints of “state capture”. This has strengthened President Zuma’s rivals who have conveniently used the economic downgrade to call for his resignation.
President Zuma could be under this sustained attack for his move to tackle the monopoly financial system. His new Minister of Finance Gigaba has boldly declared that the South African economy should be radically transformed to cater for the interests of all its citizens.
It should be borne in mind that South Africa has postponed taking painful, but necessary decisions to radically alter its economic ownership structure.
Firstly, the new government of the late President Nelson Mandela conveniently chose to ensure political stability by avoiding tackling monopoly capital soon after freedom in 1994.
This earned Mandela international accolades. In reality, Mandela was praised as he did not threaten international monopoly capital and its stranglehold on the economy.
Attempts by Zuma to accelerate the land reclamation exercise and growing influence by the EFF have forced a realisation by white capitalists that their land ownership, mines and wealth are no longer guaranteed under the Zuma administration.
This has resulted in the current paradoxical situation where political parties such as the EFF, the Democratic Alliance and the labour body, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) have surprisingly found a common enemy in President Zuma.
The EFF and Cosatu could be hoodwinked into believing that the issues centre on poor economic management and corruption by President Zuma while the common man in the street is more concerned with bread and butter issues.
All these are at the expense of future strategic interests that revolve around ownership of the strategic infrastructure of the economy, i.e. the land, mines, media, banks and control of the public discourse on the empowerment narrative.
South Africans have to a large extent been naïve to equate political independence with economic empowerment.
The majority of South Africans positively view the land reclamation exercise implemented in Zimbabwe, though that country’s white controlled media has consistently portrayed the exercise as chaotic and a failure.
The real reason behind such characterisation has been the fear of a contagion effect of Zimbabwe’s land reform on South Africa. Seeking to postpone the inevitable!
The political storm facing President Zuma should therefore be understood in the context of a spirited attempt by white imperial capital to forestall the inevitable radical transformation of the structure of the economy. Replacing Zuma with a puppet of white capital will only delay the process which might eventually be achieved in a violent manner.
It is in the interest of white capital to share the wealth and prosperity of South Africa with all South Africans to guarantee stability, as everyone would be part of the economic production system. The hype of a “rainbow nation” was used to mask the graphic inequalities, and in the process, created a fake illusion of a nation at peace with itself.
The greatest betrayal of South African blacks was when the late Mandela was jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with the brutal enforcer of apartheid, Frederik Willem De Klerk in 1993. The hidden effect of the joint award was to bring down the struggle for independence as personified by Mandela from its high moral ground to the same level with apartheid which was personified by De Klerk. This had the effect of rehabilitating apartheid in the eyes of the international community.
South Africans did not read between the lines. Political and economic stability in South Africa can only be guaranteed through shared ownership of the means of production. Zimbabwe has almost achieved that feat.