THAT IT would all go so horribly wrong for the African National Congress is best demonstrated by comments made by Moletsi Mbeki on national television. The ANC he says is really a conglomeration of competing, ‘factions acting in their own self-interest’.
What unites the party, aside from its competing sectarian and nationalist aims, is its avowedly ‘socialist character’. Problem is, wherever socialism has been tried in Africa, it has failed. Whether Tanzania under Nyerere, or Ghana under Kwame Nkrumah, South Africa’s experiment with socialism and the so-called ‘mixed economy’ under the ANC has fared no better.
While a successful roll-out of a social wage, has arguably made the ruling party, the envy of the rest of Africa, the word socialism itself, does not appear in the party’s constitution as such.
Socialism so far as the ANC is concerned, and as its policies demonstrate, has more in common with the socialism (or volkskapitalisme) under the former white Nationalist regime, than multifarious examples across the continent. In both instances, economic policies aimed at reducing inequality (in the latter example, the inequality experienced by poor white Afrikaners) ended up unfairly benefiting the party faithful — well-positioned insiders who sought to ‘take control of the commanding heights of the economy’, and who in turn created opportunities for graft, self-enrichment, maladministration, corruption and ‘state capture’.
“The reason why a socialist system can never work” saysi “is the trade-off that has to happen at the heart of it – individual liberty in exchange for more power given to the state.” The fatal flaw inherent to party centrism and a dominant government promoting statism, (read ‘economic intervention’ via ‘state-owned-enterprises’) — has been endless bureaucracy, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and a never-ending litany of corrupt officialdom.
The latest revelations from the Zondo commission paint an appalling picture of a socialist-leaning administration in which political bribes of well-known politicians, cabinet members and officials have become the order of the day, and not merely during the tenure of Jacob Zuma but also under current and prior administrations and thus grand larceny by, and on behalf of, socialists — ideologically-driven corruption which continues to manifest under the Ramaphosa government.
The Bosassa debacle comes after the revelations of the VBS bank saga, and the 2018 indictment of former president Zuma on corruption charges. For analysis of the impact on the economy, one need look no further than the corruption scandals plaguing South Africa’s SOEs in effect all ‘State-owned bureaucracies’.
Eskom on its own has created a massive and embarrassing debt bubble, which risks upsetting the entire economy, and whose economic fallout is still being bankrolled by consumers locked into demands for annual 15% pa rates increases. Latest figures, show a massive impending R100bn bailout by treasury.
The central party, unable to deliver coherent economic policy, hamstrung by unions hooked on fossil fuels, oil and gas cartels, and equally inept socialist partners, and compounded by the perceived need to reign in a boisterous far-left opposition grouping, has resorted to ‘lekgotla‘ after lekgotla‘, each one promising action.
A party plenary held over the weekend, promised to finally to breakup the state power supply entity into competing parts, all begging the question as to why a lot more was not accomplished in the past 25 year of ANC rule to boost efficiency, and at very least avoid the current dire situation?
TWO parties, each with contradictory and competing visions for South Africa’s future, hold centre stage. In the one corner, the African National Congress with its legacy of struggle against apartheid and nation building, that has increasingly come under the spotlight with revelations of corruption and state capture, and the failing economic policies and antics of its president Jacob Zuma
In the other corner, the Democratic Alliance, an opposition political formation with market friendly policies, but hampered by a troubling legacy, fraught because of its historic support from white capital versus the emergence of black capital under the ruling party, and yet presenting a different vision of reconciliation, inclusion, and equal opportunity.
So far as DA leader Mmusi Maimane is concerned, the struggle is about keeping the reconciliation project alive while creating an open and inclusive society in line with a constitutional vision that is the antithesis of the creeping totalitarianism and authoritarianism of the current administration.
Over the past months, the ANC has diverted itself from the proud nation-building of past administrations, towards an increasingly tribal vision of a society not unlike the Bantustans of the apartheid-era. A country defined by race, where domination of one group by another is the order of the day, and where expropriation of land without compensation is matched by the growth of state and tribal authorities.
And yet within the ANC itself, there exist competing visions to what has been broadly condemned by the investment community as “Zumanomics”, an unworkable recipe for economic disaster. Thus a lively debate on so-called ‘radical economic transformation’ has ensued at the party’s organising conference.
So far as ANC NEC member and Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa is concerned, “South Africans should focus less on the colour of monopoly capital and rather focus on contesting monopoly capital in all its forms”
“We shouldn’t be aspiring to change white monopoly capital to black monopoly capital. The uncompetitive nature of monopoly capital makes us raise an issue of contestation, whether it will be black or white,” Mthethwa told reporters during a media briefing this week.
It was party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa who thus also articulated a view that is in direct contrast to the DA faction under Helen Zille and seemingly the ANC under Zuma. According to Kodwa, “the new South Africa creates a clean break from our ugly past giving birth to a new nation with new prescripts. South Africa is not an improved version of the past or a case of taking our better past forward, South Africa is a new nation.”
Can the DA match its own rhetoric and the propaganda of the ruling party, with a victory at the polls? The alliance has seen major victories during the past general election in several of South Africa’s metro’s including Johannesburg, and Nelson Mandela Bay. As the ANC moves to reduce its opposition to the left, it invariably risks losing the middle ground, where the most votes in the next election are bound to reside.
Thus as the party erodes the opposition EFF base, whose red shirts are now ironically being deployed in support of the DA — the ANC policy conference and its adoption of far-left language, risks reducing the party’s central mandate as articulated by the NDP and will come as a blow to those arguing for moderation.
All good news so far as the DA is concerned.
ANYBODY remember the National Development Plan (NDP)? The economic initiative was the hallmark of successive ANC administrations. As late as January 2017 the plan was being touted as a vision for 2030, “the product of hundreds of interactions with South Africans, input from tens of thousands of people, extensive research and robust debate throughout the country”. When Pravin Gordhan was hastily recalled from London, whilst on an economic roadshow, it was the NDP, with its broad vision that he was selling to investors.
The markets were reassured by the long-term stability promised by Pretoria bureaucrats, and, after the Nene fiasco, (a foretaste of what was to come) not only was the economy in recovery, but the currency was even experiencing a bull-run, making the Rand one of the world-beating currencies of 2017, at least this was until President Jacob Zuma fired his finance Minister again, and then half-his cabinet while embarking on a course which took South Africa directly into the headwinds of currency volatility and the ire of ratings agencies. Within a short space of a week, the gains and momentum of the past 12 months were wiped out, as local banks lost heavily, and borrowing money on international markets suddenly became a lot, lot harder.
What happened? Can one put this down to the simple cult of personality surrounding the President? The Guptas and the intrigues of Nkandla and Pretoria, or BRICS? Here is one alternative version of events, and no doubt there will be others:
Frustrated by electoral inroads being made to the left and right of the party, the centrist ANC realised that something drastic needed to be done. Instead of meeting the official opposition the Democratic Alliance (DA) whose market-friendly policies and promise of renewal had resulted in astonishing gains at the polls, in both the City of Johannesburg and metros of Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay, NEC party insiders decided to quietly drop the NDP focus in favour of a new mantra — that of ‘Radical Economic Transformation’ (RET)
In effect, the ANC were now adopting the policies of the far-left Economic Freedom Front (EFF), promising massive changes in ownership, whilst debating expropriation of property without compensation, (an all too familiar bait and switch strategy) and thus a sure sign that groups such as Black Land First (BLF) were also beginning to dictate the ruling party agenda. Exactly what RET represents, is anyone’s guess. In all likelihood, it is mere code for a hodge-podge of incoherent leftist policies. If the ANC is to survive at the polls come 2019, it will have to enter into coalitions, and the dilemma remains that the DA and EFF are on opposite sides of the political fence so to speak.
The resulting drift to the far-left by the ANC under Zuma (even if by some accounts, simply empty promises) has had severe consequences. The fallout couldn’t get any worse than if Hugo Chavez had to suddenly arrive back from the dead, flogging the statist focus of big government and the anti-private property rhetoric which nearly destroyed Venezuela. So while ratings agencies were hammering the bond market, and the parastatals were still on life-support, we saw the travesty of Malusi Gigaba and the trillion-Rand nuclear debacle (read: expensive mega-projects) getting everyone in a tizz.
Unless Pretoria figures out a way to print money without encouraging further Rand depreciation, the big bucks flagship projects and renewable energy procurement touted before the downgrade are all but DOA. The only questions remains: Can the NDP be saved (or scaled back?), or will it take a defeat at the polls to realise, that when it comes to economic policy, nothing in South Africa is cast in stone? That the ANC is unlikely to be in power come 2019, with a workable NDP or not, is slowly dawning. Some 100 000 people from across the spectrum, marched on Friday while calling for the President to resign.
SHOULD South Africa “undo Mandela’s economic deals”? Is Mandela’s economic miracle a chimera? Political economist Patrick Bond certainly thinks so, unfortunately alongside other critics of the Mandela era, he also appears unable to explain exactly what those compromises were and how Mandela himself was involved. There is no evidence that Mandela personally benefited from any alleged “deals with the devil” financial or otherwise, instead Bond provides a policy grab-bag, which he disingenuously calls the “dozen devils”.
His piece could more appropriately be titled, “if I could build a time-machine, this is how I would have run the country”. At the outset, one should state that Mandela was not an economist but rather an attorney by profession.
As a politician and founder of modern South Africa, he was responsible for ushering in an era of democracy and also signing off on the Bill of Rights, no mean feat considering the terrible period which had come before.
His administration and the subsequent Mbeki administration, presided over the longest post-war boom in South African history. A period which came to an end in 2009.
Bond lists the following “dozen biggest devils” that he claims, hobbled Mandela’s economic legacy, to which I attach my own [comments], please feel free to draw your own conclusions.
- “The repayment of the US$25 billion apartheid-era foreign debt. This denied Mandela money to pay for basic needs of apartheid’s victims.” If you were one of the supporters of the Jubilee campaign against apartheid debt, campaigning alongside the late Dennis Brutus for the annulment of the apartheid regime’s accounts, like me, you would have been very disappointed. Mandela’s hands unfortunately were tied by international bankers, since a pre-requisite for accessing capital markets and finance, like any business, was repaying the loans taken out by the previous owner or regime. South Africa was not granted any leeway here, so strike one on a simple point of fact.
- “Giving the South African Reserve Bank formal independence. This resulted in the insulation of the central bank’s officials from democratic accountability. It led to high interest rates and the deregulation of exchange controls.” Bit of a red-herring if you ask me (excuse the pun), there are really three parts to this assertion. Firstly independence does not mean absence of state control, rather, it stems from the idea of a separation of powers, in this case independence from interference by the executive. Do we really want an executive with keys to the treasury printing money whenever it feels so inclined? The latest debacle surrounding the appointment of the finance minister by the president provides a good case as to why the Reserve Bank and Treasury should not be beholden to any particular branch of the state, not least the party. Second, high interest rates are a factor of the currency, not simply policy, as we see today. We currently have the same repo rate as Papua New Guinea. All nations with higher interest rates such as Brazil and Russia are performing badly. Should our interest rates come down, Investec’s Brian Kantor certainly thinks so. Thirdly deregulation of exchange controls was an absolute necessity in order for finance to flow back into the country, luckily it did, and we experienced the longest post-war boom period in South African history, which came to an abrupt end in 2009. Was Mandela involved in any of these policy decisions? More likely it was Thabo Mbeki.
- Borrowing $850 million from the International Monetary Fund in December 1993, with tough conditions persisting for years. These included rapid scrapping of import surcharges that had protected local industries, state spending cuts, lower public sector salaries and a decrease in wages across the board. So far as the IMF loan is concerned, I couldn’t agree more, but then where else would the country have borrowed the money? South Africa’s finances were in a precarious state in 1993, the IMF loan is arguably a factor of the interim administration under FW de Klerk. So far as the big bang opening up of our economy to international competition is concerned, nobody expected the sanctions-era to last forever, and not all surcharges were scrapped, we have only begun eliminating them, as the Agoa trade war confirms. Did the state cut spending? This allegation isn’t backed up with empirical data, on the contrary it would appear spending was ramped up, South Africa under Zuma currently spends 40% of its budget on salaries, so no Mr Bond, you’re demonstrably wrong. Decrease in wages? This one is debatable with the rand depreciation, wage value also decreases.
- “Reappointing apartheid’s finance minister Derek Keys and Reserve Bank governor Chris Stals, who retained neoliberal policies.” Bond may have a point here but these appointments were really short-lived, since the ancien regime was quickly followed by Trevor Manual and Tito Mboweni, two home-grown black politicians. The main allegation could be better stated — Why did Mandela with very little political room, fail to make a clean break from the ancien regime, instead choosing a slow segue into the new era? This undoubtedly was a tough compromise which came out of CODESA. Did all this translate into retaining neoliberal policies? Not if one looks at the dirigiste economy, the many failed command-style, statist policies kept on by the ANC to the country’s detriment, one has only to look at the fate of SAA, Telkom, Eskom and other state (public-private partnership) monopolies, arguably worsened by listing on the market.
- “Joining the World Trade Organisation on adverse terms, as a “transitional”, not developing economy. This led to the destruction of many clothing, textiles, appliances and other labour-intensive firms. ” I can’t argue here, how were the terms adverse and what does Bond mean, would appear to be nothing more than a semantic quibble attached to the same gripe under point 3, since we still get preferential treatment in terms of tariffs and trade via Agoa, as a developing nation. How is Mandela responsible for the World Trade Organisation?
- “Lowering primary corporate taxes from 48% to 29% and maintaining countless white people’s and corporate privileges.” This one is a real chestnut, should the ANC have maintained high corporate taxes which would have further exacerbated capital flight? Lower rates resulted in an influx of corporate business, what would a better rate be, 35%? That the ANC protected the interests of various white persons and their corporate interests is one of life’s minor tragedies, I have only to point to the ongoing problem with Naspers. So plus 1 for Bond.
- “Privatising parts of the state, such as Telkom, the state-owned telecommunications company.” Privatisation without elimination of the underlying monopoly is the real sin. The State via the PIC maintains a major shareholding in these entities, thus the correct phrase would be ‘partial privatisation’. Yes, the sorry tale of Telkom and SBC Malaysia is really an example of what can go horribly wrong when you have ‘too many chiefs and not enough Indians’.
- “Relaxing exchange controls. This led to sustained outflows to rich people’s overseas accounts and a persistent current account deficit even during periods of trade surplus, and raising interest rates to unprecedented levels” South Africa now has more assets abroad in terms of value than inside the country, a result of relaxing exchange controls, the results can be seen in positive dividend inflows from abroad which fund business and contribute to the country, despite the economic climate. As for the deficit, running a deficit has been a policy of the ruling party for over two decades.
- “Adopting the neoliberal macroeconomic policy Gear. This policy not only failed on its own terms, it also caused developmental austerity.” If providing citizens with RDP homes in terms of Gear is a “neoliberal policy” then I am all in favour of neoliberalism, Bond once again demonstrating that he can’t see the wood for the trees. Is Gear responsible for “developmental austerity”? Would appreciate if Bond could expurgate on this point, since it appears to be a contradiction in terms.
- “Giving property rights dominance in the constitution, thereby limiting its usefulness for redress.” If Bond could supply us with a working alternative then by all means, but how does one create a legal system without property law and without removing the necessary distinction in law between those with title deeds and those without, and what about the pickle of stolen goods? There is nobody who seriously thinks the way forward is outright theft, though many would want to see greater redistribution of wealth. How to achieve this, if not via a social wage, rent stabilisation, income equalisation and a generous housing allowance?
- “Approving the “demutualisation” of the two mega-insurers Old Mutual and Sanlam. It was the privatisation of historic mutual wealth for current share owners.” Bond merely demonstrates he doesn’t understand insurance, a mutual fund is for the mutual benefit of its members, when a fund demutualises, members receive a lump sum payout, usually with an option to invest the proceeds in another scheme, this has nothing to do with public money, Bond is thus wrong once again.
- “Permitting most of South Africa’s ten biggest companies to move their headquarters and primary listings abroad in the late 1990s. The results are permanent balance of payments deficits and corporate disloyalty to the society.” Comes down to a question of loyalty, should corporates be allowed to move their headquarters? Does it matter if a stock is primarily listed in rands or in a foreign currency? Stock in foreign currency strangely acts to help our balance of payments, the more so when our currency is devalued because of bad leadership and policy issues. None of the businesses one would assume Bond refers to have actually left the country. Building a Berlin wall isn’t conducive to business, if we can’t keep corporate headquarters here, we need to ask ourselves why, instead of bemoaning the fact that like many East Germans, corporates find life in the West preferable to living under a Marxist dictatorship. Again, all surely a question of corporate governance, and nothing to do with Mandela’s legacy?
FOR A DEPUTY-PRESIDENT who likes to claim responsibility for drafting a Secular Constitution and Bill of Rights that includes Gay Rights and other freedoms associated with the LGBT community, a visit to Iran must present a number of awkward problems. Chief of which is the Iranian Penal Code.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Iran face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal. “Homosexuality is a crime punishable by imprisonment, corporal punishment, or by execution. The punishment for lesbianism (mosahegheh) involving persons who are mature, of sound mind, and consenting, is 50 lashes. If the act is repeated three times and punishment is enforced each time, the death sentence will apply on the fourth occasion” — Iranian Penal Code.
On January 23, 2008, Hamzeh Chavi, 18, and Loghman Hamzehpour, 19, were arrested in Sardasht, in Iranian Azerbaijan for homosexuality. An on-line petition for their release began to circulate around the internet. “They apparently confessed to the authorities that they were in a relationship and in love, prompting a court to charge them with Moharebeh (“waging war against God”) and Lavat (sodomy).”
At least 146 cases of executions of individuals charged with a “homosexual act” have been documented since 1979. A leading Iranian actor was forced to apologise earlier this year, after coming under pressure over a tweet he posted in support of an historic US supreme court ruling on gay marriage.
Bahram Radan, who is known as the ‘Iranian Brad Pitt’, created controversy in the country “when his tweet hailed a verdict, which made same-sex marriage a legal right across the entirety of the USA.” Same-sex marriage has been legal in South Africa since the Civil Union Act came into force on 30 November 2006. This year’s US ruling thus arrived nearly a decade late.
Iranian High Council for Human Rights Secretary-General Mohammad Javad Larijani has slammed homosexuality as a disease. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously said “there were no homosexuals” in Iran in response to a question from a student.
Ramaphosa’s visit comes as secularism remains under threat in his home country, South Africa. If it isn’t the ANC’s Mathole Motshekga disputing the entire scientific theory of evolution, and implicitly endorsing the “super-natural, “creationist” view of our origins”, then it is Halton Cheadle, attacking Progressive Jews for not conforming to the Orthodox version of the Talmud.
Several tracts issued by alliance partners have put paid to the notion that the ANC is on a secular path. The party recently hosted Hamas leader Khalid Misha’al — the leader of an organisation that is involved in an armed struggle to reclaim Jerusalem and the Levant on behalf of an Islamic State.
On June 6 1995, South Africa abolished the death penalty. Capital punishment was rejected by the late Nelson Mandela’s government, as a “cruel and unusual form of punishment”. The twenty-year anniversary of the first constituent assembly which drafted the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing freedom of sexual orientation, will be next year.
The party has no plans to celebrate. The Zuma administration considers the Bill of Rights, an embarrassment, since the foundation document accords artists freedom of expression. Ramaphosa’s visit could therefore signal the return of apartheid-era prohibitions. The end of the ruling party’s experiment in personal freedom. A number of left-wing parties, including the EFF are campaigning for the end of individual rights in South Africa.
[Published in Cape Times, Op-ed 10 November 2015]
EXACTLY how is the country to going pay for free education? This is the question foremost on people’s minds, as the country sobers up to the events of the past weeks, which saw the unprecedented storming of parliament and storming of the Union Buildings.
Surprisingly, South Africa, ( as previously alluded to in part 2), already has a ‘sovereign wealth fund’ with a massive R1.5 trillion rand invested, and certainly the youth need to be tackling finance minister Nhlanhla Nene and education minister, Blade Nzimande on why they are suffering in the face of so much wealth.
Instead of a Public Investment Corporation (PIC), benefiting one privileged generation who just happened to be in power during the 90s, let’s make the public investment more inclusive of all citizens, and all generations, and let’s call the PIC what it deserves, by the term Publica, since the ruling party appears to have lost the distinction between what is public and what is private — funding Nkandla, and government pensions for party insiders. Publica should rather be redirected to funding a social wage for all citizens, one which includes education, health insurance and childcare grants. Instead of a party wage, we could have a social wage reducing the worst affects of poverty and mitigating the coercion inherent to the job market, even one that is Internet-enabled, while providing free education.
Publica, unfortunately, like so many self-aggrandising programmes run by the ANC, appears to have evolved and deformed into a strange facet resembling one of the pillars of the previous regime, the apartheid equivalent of cadre deployment.
The Independent Development Corporation (IDC), cooked up by apartheid cronies Anton Rupert, Chris Stals, Nico Diederichs and Owen Horward, was really nothing more than an efficient scheme to create bantustans. Escaping international sanctions by moving state capital into Swiss offshore bank accounts for the exclusive benefit of the politically-connected. In reality, a state-within-a-state, a fund that was part-and-parcel of the covert government which created apartheid and the oligarchs, technocrats and apparatchiks, that existed, hand-in-glove with the state’s volkscapitalisme.
The missing apartheid millions are all documented by news journalist Sylvia Vollenhoven, but her documentary ‘The Spear’ was banned by the SABC, as no doubt any similar investigation of the fiscus under Zuma would also be.
An investigation of the corporation we may now call Publica, i.e the massive state corporation created out of public funds drawn from the public purse over the past two decades, would undoubtedly uncover a lot more than the Nkandla millions. These funds need to be returned to the people.
The youth of today, deserve free education, and they deserve connectivity, to be online. But in saying this, we want a youth who are able to grasp the many opportunities that exist, at the same time as they are cushioned from the worst forms of economic exploitation, inequality and poverty. This can only come about through a social wage that includes free education.
IN 1994, the ruling party charted an economic course born out of the Interim Constitution and the Codesa negotiation process. Essentially, it involved embracing a ‘mixed economy’ approach, in which a market economy would exist side-by-side with a “dirigiste” economy, that had, as its antecedent, the ‘volkscapitalisme’ of the former National Party.
Thus the country’s industrial base was given new life, with local conglomerates such as South African Breweries emerging into global entities. The once fiercely nationalistic beer cartel, is now a thriving international business called SAB-Miller, which, as it turns out, is in the process of merging with another beer giant, AB inBev. A testimony to South African can-do attitude and the country’s ability to embrace internationalism.*
State industries such as SASOL and ISCOR were privatised, while others like Telkom, Eskom, and Transnet remained in government hands.
SASOL went on to repeat the success of SAB, while ISCOR under Mittel, faired a lot differently.
The ruling party thus presided over a long boom, which lasted approximately 15 years, coming to an abrupt end in 2009. The economy has been running in fits and starts ever since, and it is not simply because the global party of low-interest rates and easy finance has come to an end.
Arguably, more South Africans were pulled out of poverty under the administrations of Mandela and Mbeki, than under several decades of National Party rule, but under Jacob Zuma, the economy has been on the skids.
Now with talk about another credit ratings downgrade, jitters over the Rand, and looming threat of junk status for the nation’s debt, the question needs to be asked: What exactly went wrong?
For starters, the “dirigiste” economy took on a tragic life of its own.
Not only did we witness a massive expansion in state enterprises, but with the exception of Transnet, state enterprises today, operate under the illusion that annual bail-outs from central government are sustainable, that a de facto command economy, is the norm.
The effect on the nation’s fiscus has been dramatic. The public service wage bill under Zuma, (R61Bn and counting), has swelled by 80% and shows no signs of abating. Coupled with a massive bureaucracy that has produced the largest cabinet and government ministry in the world (64 ministers and 64 deputy ministers), the country has began looking a lot like its former self, under the National Party.
As the slowing down of GDP and growth to 1.4% (2015)**, has shown, growth in the private sector is not enough to accommodate a bulging public sector. Areas of the economy which could have provided benefits, face massive obstacles from central government.
Red-tape and statute inflation (too many laws) has dramatically affected tourism, impacting small-and-medium businesses. The recent opening of the economy to Independent Power Producers, and likewise, the entry of wireless companies into the home fibre and cable market, has come a decade too late, for meaningful economic growth to benefit the class of 2015.
- * The SAB part of the equation however, is ironically on the decline, a result of the much diminished Rand.
- ** With a bit of luck could increase to 2.4% in 2016, projected by Deloitte.