The South African Federation of Trade Unions has noted with alarm President Ramaphosa’s comment at the Investment Conference on 26 October 2018, that “it is time for South Africa to do away with vilifying businesspeople and that the label ‘white monopoly capital’ should be discarded once and for all. We should treat our entrepreneurs as heroes”
This shows why SAFTU, from the outset, saw that billionaire businessman, Cyril Ramaphosa, the 16th richest man in South Africa, is firmly ensconced in the ruling capitalist class and would continue to follow policies in the interests of his fellow classmates and ‘heroes’.
SAFTU will defy his instruction to expose white monopoly capital and campaign even more aggressively to condemn the exploiters and profiteers who have led South Africa into an economic catastrophe and inflicted misery on to the poor majority.
They are the class enemies of the almost ten million who are unemployed, the 30.4 million people who are living in poverty, the 26% of South Africa’s population who are hungry every day and the 50% who do not have sufficient access to affordable, nutritious and safe food to meet the basic health requirements
Ramaphosa’s outburst however is only the most blatant and frankly honest statement from an ANC leader. The federation is equally opposed to all the ANC leaders who have mouthed left-sounding slogans while collaborating with these same capitalists implementing the same capitalist, neoliberal policies.
Some of them, including many in the ANC leadership, opportunistically hijacked the term ‘white monopoly capital’ while at the same time implementing exactly the same polices as the very people they pretended to be opposing – policies dictated by big business, international financial institutions and their credit rating agencies.
This is particularly true of the succession of finance ministers, including the present one who have imposed austerity budgets dictated by these class enemies. These have led to the calamitous slump in the level and quality of service delivery in our schools, hospitals, the police service, public transport and all other basic services.
It has increased the vast gap between the minority who depend on such services and the rich minority who can buy all these services from the private sector and insulate themselves from the crisis facing most of their fellow South Africans.
‘White monopoly capital’ is in fact a term with a long history in the national liberation struggle and is still relevant today.
Evidence that South Africa is ruled by a capitalist class was on view at the Investment Conference itself, at which the elected President was forced to beg and cajole business leaders to invest money into the economy.
Big local and international corporates took turns in pledging to invest R290 billion in South Africa. They included AngloAmerican (R71.5bn), Vedanta (R21.4bn) and Mercedes Benz SA (R10bn).
As journalist Ferial Hafferjee comment: “It was a throwback to ancient days in some ways — as if they were merchants of old making offerings to an emperor.”
He who pays the piper calls the tune! And it is a shocking that an ANC president has had to admit that the only way out of the economic crisis is to turn to the very capitalist class which has caused it in the first place.
It begs the question of why these ‘heroes’ failed to make such investments long before, during their long ‘strike’ of capital. And in any case R290 billion a tiny fraction of the R1 trillion in ‘idle’ cash which Fund manager Darryn Faulds says SA businesses are sitting with and which they have been refusing to invest.
Hafferjee adds that “not all the investment announcements are brand new. Mercedes-Benz has announced the R10-billion ramp-up of its C-Class manufacturing facility a few times. Anglo-American’s R71.5-billion sounds huge, but an expert says a lot is repackaged investments and a lot of it is sustaining capital. Sappi’s R7.7-billion investment had been announced in March.
“Vodacom promised a R50-billion rollout of a new, super-fast 5G network, but if you look carefully, the telecoms giant has been talking about that for a few years. The new investments are often tied to incentives. The car manufacturing plants get excellent subsidies and Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies is handing them out left, right and centre to other manufacturers.”
What is so appalling about this charade is that the ANC government is looking
for a bail-out from the same ‘heroic’ capitalists who have been been dodging taxes or involved in the transfer of capital out of the country, 80% of which is estimated to be composed of the proceeds of tax evasion, laundered corporate transactions and drug trading, racketeering, counterfeiting, contraband and terrorist financing.
In a recent article economist Neva Makgetla of Trade & Industrial Policy Strategies revealed that “About 600 companies, out of 700,000 registered for tax, account for two-thirds of all company income, measured by paid tax. On the stock exchange, 20 companies hold 80% of listed assets. All except four are primarily in mining or finance.
“The extraordinary size of the top companies relative to SA’s economy lays the basis for deep differentials in earnings from work and investments. But it also empowers managers and shareholders to make decisions that largely shape the economy. Because big businesses are large institutions, their ownership and control are multilayered and hard to understand… The huge sums involved are difficult to comprehend. And it’s harder to track actual control than to quantify legal ownership.”
How can this be defined as anything other than a monopoly system?
She could have added the succession of companies hauled before the Competition Tribunal and convicted of tender collusion and price fixing of bread, dairy products, pharmaceuticals, construction projects and others. And the rapidly rising number of ‘heroes’ whose names feature in the scandals being investigated of the Guptas, SARS, VBS and Steinhoff.
We should not ignore what Nelson Mandela said in the old New Age:
“The system of White supremacy has its roots in the cheap labour need of the major economic groups in the country. South Africa’s economy is dominated by giant monopolies in the gold mining. Industry linked with big financial and farming interests whose tentacles reach also into secondary industry.
“These groups… determine the basic structure of the South African state … If tomorrow every discriminatory law on the statute book were repealed, but the mineral wealth, monopoly industry and financial empires were not transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole, the system of white superiority would in its basic essentials be perpetuated for many generations.”
Anyone who thinks this is now no longer true must look the at the 2018 City Press Wealth Index, which showed that the 50 richest people in South Africa are worth R323 billion collectively, and are largely white and male, and that in the past 10 years the dominance of white men has increased rather than fallen.
According to the index, In 2008 there 13 black people listed on the top 50 wealthiest executives and board members of JSE-listed companies while now, ten years later in 2018, there are just five!
Black monopoly capitalism is no solution to the crisis, butt it is outrageous that such indefensible levels of white superiority and domination remain in the boardrooms of big business.
The worst feature of the praise for the president and his business cohort, at what was little more than a public relations exercise, is that the ANC leaders and the fawning media ignore the reality that all this wealth being donated by companies would never exist but for the labour of the working class who create the surplus value which is expropriated by their employers.
Not only do the employers pay a fraction of the wealth produced to their workers in wages, they are constantly looking for ways to cut their wage bill even further through pay cuts, casualisation, part-tine and temporary employment, the use of labour brokers and retrenchments.
And they demand that government and state-owned enterprises must do the same to their employees to cut jobs and and lower wages in the public service, making conditions for the majority worse still. This is to deter the government from raising the money needs to pay a living wage to public servants and to improve service delivery by taxing the rich.
These tycoons, in the world’s most unequal society, could easily afford to pay more though wealth and solidarity taxes, but will resist any such move which will eat into their huge profits.
Ramaphosa’s tirade will only make the workers, community members, small businesspeople and informal traders who came together at the Working-Class Summit in July even more resolute in their battle to build a mass working class movement… and… build working class power in every workplace, every community and society in general, to defeat the system of capitalism that has pauperised the working class across the continent and created the widest inequality in the world.
SAFTU is proud to be involved in such a broad-based mass movement and will continue with action at the workplace and on the streets to demand a fundamental change in the economy and society to shift wealth and power to the workers who create that wealth and the communities who need that wealth to be spent on transforming the lives of all the poor majority of South Africans and not to make greedy and parasitic capitalists even richer.