The South African Federation of Trade Unions has noted the results of the African National Congress’s leadership election and reaffirms what it said before the event – that the working class and the poor majority of South Africans have no reason to celebrate.
None of the major problems facing the majority of South Africans will be any closer to a solution as the leadership is placed in the hands of a multi-billionaire who has been reported at one stage to be sitting on boards of over 100 private companies.
The immediate positive response of the money markets and business leaders is a clear indication of who will be celebrating today. Big business has one of their own at the head of the ruling party. They will see more of the same market-friendly economic policies as the National Development Plan which he has championed.
This may persuade the ratings agencies to soften their recent decisions to downgrade the economy to junk status, but nothing to persuade workers and the poor that we are going to see more jobs, less poverty and a more equal society.
On the contrary Ramaphosa, the architect of the poverty nation minimum wage of R20 an hour, is more likely to respond to calls from the ratings agencies, World Bank and International Monetary Fund for their usual medicine for a country facing economic crisis – austerity, public spending cuts and moves to further limit the rights of trade unions.
By far the biggest reason not to have any trust in Ramaphosa was his role as a director of Lonmin when 34 striking mineworkers were shot dead in Marikana in 2012, after he had urged the police to take “concomitant action” to end the strike.
Even on the one area where people might have hoped to see progress – that the new leadership would move to speed up the prosecution of those implicated in corruption and the looting of state resources – is now in question.
This follows the election of two members of the ‘Premier League’ – David Mabusa as Deputy President, and Ace Magashula as Secretary-General – and the re-election of Jessie Duarte as Deputy S-G.
Mabuza was exposed in 2014 in Mazilikazi wa Africa’s brilliant book “Nothing Left to Steal” as a ruthless provincial warlord, linked to a series of scandals including being accused of complicity in the alleged murders of political opponents.
Magashule has been embroiled in one corruption scandal after another. In 2015, he received R8-million of public money for an aesthetic upgrade of his Free State residence. The Free State government said that Magashule needed a new swimming pool because his existing one was “too large and unnecessarily deep”.
He then emerged as one of the key figures in the #GuptaLeaks emails. AmaBhungane and Scorpio detailed how the Guptas lavished Magashule’s sons with gifts and financial rewards in exchange to opening doors to the Free State government for them.
It was under Magashule’s watch that the Guptas were given a free piece of Free State land and R184-million of taxpayers’ money to start a bogus dairy farm, and then used some of this money to pay for the infamous Gupta wedding in Sun City.
Duarte has been one of President Zuma’s most consistent supporters, and has opposed any move to pursue charges of corruption against him. SAFTU must also condemn the fact that Duarte is now the only woman in the top six!
Even if Ramaphose, and the other two NOBs – Gwede Mantashe and Paul Mashatile – wanted to prosecute those facing prima facie evidence of corruption and other crimes, these other three could cause a deadlock and block any united action to enforce such a move. How can this top six be expected to wage a serious fight against corruption?
They have even been handed an incredible excuse for doing nothing about corruption by ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini, who asked, in an interview with News24 why, if South Africans were able to forgive apartheid, is it difficult to forgive state capture?
She was responding to a question about the lack of consequences for people who have been implicated in the controversial leaked Gupta emails, such as ANC national executive committee member Carl Niehaus and Free State chairperson Ace Magashule.
She reportedly said citizens must practise forgiveness relating to state capture, in the same way they forgave apartheid. “South Africans, why are they not forgiving? They always want to label people… if we were able to forgive apartheid, why is it difficult to forgive someone else, and ensure there is remedial action on some of the issues?”
This outrageous suggestion is fundamentally wrong from the start because South Africans have never “forgiven” apartheid. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was just a deal to to trade immunity for information about apartheid era crimes. It never implied “forgiveness” for the atrocities committed under apartheid.
On the contrary South Africans never did and never will forgive those who stole our land, denied us all basic rights and jailed, tortured and murdered those who opposed them, and shot down school students in the streets.
Dlamini’s only true statement was that state capture did not begin with the Guptas, President Jacob Zuma’s benefactors: “Where does state capture start?” She asked. “Are they [the Guptas] the only ones that are involved in state capture? They are not the only ones”.
That is something that SAFTU too has been saying. Private businesses are becoming more and more implicated in “state capture” and indeed that is where it started. Monopoly capital captured the state in the days of colonialism and apartheid and it has controlled it ever since, including during the 23 years of ANC rule.
That is a not a reason for taking no action against Zuma and the Guptas, and “forgiving” them, but for taking strong action against all those in the public and the private sector who are equally guilty of robbing the people of South Africa.
This brings us back to the central problem with this new ANC leadership. How will Ramaphosa, whose fortune comes from the private business sector, be likely to take serious action against not only two of his fellow NOBs, but against KPMG, McKinsey, MultiChoice, Steinhoff and all those other capitalist concerns found guilty of criminal corruption, illegal transfers of funds and money-laundering when these are just the sort of companies he led and which made him rich?
Long before this conference the ANC abandoned the policies outlined in the Freedom Charter and the Morogoro Conference resolution, for the transfer of economic wealth and power to the majority, and adopted the very opposite pro-capitalist police like GEAR.
As SAFTU General Secretary Zwelinzina Vavi wrote about the ANC’s economic programme in the Daily Maverick,: “It laid the basis for the crisis of today in which more than half of South Africans live in poverty. Millions go to bed hungry. Unemployment at 36.8% is six times the global average.
“It entrenched an economic apartheid with two-tier service delivery, with world-class healthcare and education for the rich while the poor had to use dilapidated and understaffed hospitals and schools, which have one of Africa’s worst records in teaching reading. Inevitably it led to Esidimeni crisis where 143 died at the hands of the government, with 59 missing in its care. There are countless other similar deaths that have become the reality of the poor not on medical aids!
“We are now the world’s most unequal society, inequality that is still racialised and reflects the dominance of whites within the ruling capitalist class.”
While delegates at the Nasrec conference were spending three days electing their new leaders, politics was barely discussed. There was no attempt to grapple with the crisis the country, which is affecting ANC voters in particular.
There was plenty of empty talk about “radical economic transformation” and challenging “white monopoly capital” but no attempt to explain why, after 23 years of ANC rule, nothing has been done to implement such policies, and why they elected a new president who comes from within the ranks of monopoly capital and stands squarely behind the very opposite business-friendly and definitely untransformative policies, as enshrined in his National Development Plan.
The time has come for workers and the poor to accept that the leadership of this once mighty national liberation movement has degenerated into a gang of factional wolves, fighting over the quickest way to enrich themselves, their families and their cronies at the feeding trough.