Opinionista Jackie Shandu 21 February 2013

Ramphele: ‘A Gang’ indeed. Same script, new cast.

I yearn to live in a country led by an intelligent and compassionate black woman who is genuinely committed to social justice and real transformation, but Ramphele has nothing to offer in this regard. I crave to live in a truly nonracial, non-sexist, democratic and egalitarian South Africa in which neither colour nor gender will be a point of reference for anything, but this is not Ramphela’s agenda.

Ramphele says nothing about Land Reform, nothing about reparations for Apartheid and nothing about wealth redistribution. Not unlike Nelson Mandela, Ramphele has been propped up and resourced by imperialism to rescue the interests of the latter. She brings changeless change. Wall Street has lost faith in the ANC and has found a new client. They are trying with Ramphele what they failed to achieve with Morgan Tswangirai in Zimbabwe. Ramphele is our Moise Tshombe, our Alassane Outtara. History does not repeat itself; it rhymes. Liberation movements who attain nominal independence, for various reasons, quickly fall out of favour with former colonisers and the latter move fast to topple the former and force regime change from outside. The marriage is over between the ANC elite and Western powers, and a new bride has been has identified.

That said, I am infuriated by the morally and intellectually bankrupt dead wood of the ANC who feel at liberty to condemn and criticise her adventure. With or without Ramphele, the ANC has succeeded with flying colours in making South Africa another African post-colonial failed state, characterised by corruption, impunity of the political elite and increasing poverty and sustained marginalisation of the victims of colonialism and Apartheid.

One thing is crystal clear: the deeply entrenched inferiority complex in the psyches of the black populace renders them completely unprepared to partake in a political programme that will bring about social and economic emancipation. The blacks remain, by and large, in a nervous condition, and thus highly vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation by the ruling elites – as 19 years of ANC rule have emphatically demonstrated.

What is to be done?

Social movements centered in black communities, with active participation of the marginalised blacks, remain the most effective terrain of struggle. There will be no Messiah, it’s clear. Mandela failed us and we should never ever again allow the suffering of a people to reside in the figure of an individual, his/her credentials, charm and charisma notwithstanding. For once I agree with Obama: Africa does not need strong men or personalities; it needs confident, conscious and active citizenry which will define and direct the process of change and liberation.

Whilst it would be naïve to wish away the existence of capital and its participation, power and influence in the domestic and global economy, it would be equally delusional and totally self-defeatist to pin our hopes for poverty eradication on trappings of a free market economy. It would be even more absurd to anticipate a neoliberal capitalist economy that South Africa currently is to reduce economic inequality. We are the most unequal society in the world, thanks to Thabo Mbeki’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) macroeconomic strategy, which some correctly dubbed the ANC’s self-imposed structural adjustment program.

It is unforgivably patronizing, therefore, for Ramphele to be so vague and noncommittal as to say “the mining industry needs to change the way it does business”. No, our people need to benefit directly from the proceeds of our mineral wealth, both as workers and as well as citizens. Secondly, we should cease to rely on a clique of racist Afrikaners for food security, and that means we must fast-track the land reform project and produce competent black commercial farmers with a proportional market share in the agricultural sector. For them to succeed the state will have to make all the financial, technological and technological assistance available to them. The United States of America and most European Union countries continue to do the same with their farmers, even though they make hollow claims to open and competitive market in the World Trade Organisation platform.

African countries with high real GDP growth rates, such as Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Niger, have failed to produce a notable corresponding socio-economic emancipation of their respective citizens for a number of interrelated internal and external reasons. Chief among these is the continuing inability of almost all resource-rich African countries to process their raw materials and convert them into ready-to-sell finished products. Western forces keep the prices of these raw materials significantly below their actual monetary value so that they can buy them cheap, ship them to Western Europe, USA or China, add value to them and send them back as finished products in the lucrative African market at over-inflated prices. African countries, including South Africa, keenly cooperate in this diabolical arrangement because all the ruling elites steal the lion’s share of the proceeds from these grossly underpriced commodities, from the poorest of the poor. As a result, Africa has very wealthy presidents, ministers, and chief executives, but shockingly poor citizens.

Mamphele should have listened attentively to Steve Biko when he said:

“..if we have a mere change of face of those in governing positions, what is likely to happen is that black people will continue to be poor and you will get a few blacks filtering through into the so-called bourgeois and our society will be run almost as of yesterday. For meaningful change to occur, there needs to be an attempt at reorganising the whole economic pattern and economic policies within this particular country. BCP (Black People’s Convention) believes in a judicious blending of private enterprise, which is highly diminished and state participation in industry and commerce especially on industries such as mining, forestry and complete ownership of land. In that kind of judicious blending of the two systems we hope to arrive at a more equitable distribution of wealth.”

Watch: Biko speaks

Ramphele should not now be offering us the same fatally defective political product, the fancy decoration and seductive packaging notwithstanding. When a vehicle stops running due to a faulty engine, its motion cannot be resumed by fixing its body parts. Mamphele should know better. DM


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