Radical Economic Transformation is needed for the benefit of the majority of poor South Africans who are languishing in poverty. The proper question that should be asked is whether RET can co-exist with capitalism.
During the global economic recession which struck the world economies in 2008, the country under the ANC-led government was able to invest in social, infrastructural and developmental programmes for her citizens and serviced the debts religiously. The country did not fall into the hands of the loan sharks, who with their exorbitant interest rates, would have milked the coffers of the state dry. Despite the contradiction of a jobless economic growth which seems to be the only preoccupation of ardent ANC critics, it is a the credit of the ANC that positive economic growth served as a buffer between the citizens across the social strata and the devastating effects of economic recession. Simply imagine what would have happened to us and government’s capacity to deliver services had the country experienced negative economic growth during a period leading to a global economic recession. Some of us would have been rendered insolvent and homeless by callous establishments of white monopoly capital.
Nonetheless, poverty, unemployment and inequality persisted to rear its ugly head amongst blacks. This situation was compounded by low to negative economic growth after the recession. This period was characterised by rising levels of the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality and correlated government’s social expenditure. Hope to arrest the devastating effects of a global recession was recently dampened by the credit downgrade of South Africa to junk status by two of the three major credit rating agencies. This might haemorrhage further the country’s revenue generating base due to poor investor confidence.
I am confident the rise and fall of economic growth within 23 years of democracy, which is not long vis-à-vis the time taken to create colonialism and apartheid legacies, provided enough concrete lessons for the ANC to turn the situation around and forge ahead with its vision of a National Democratic Society (NDS). This requires all hands on deck and maturity across sectors of society and political divides rather than populism, casting of suspicions, emotions and anger. These tendencies do not only contaminate and trivialise the necessary national debate for Radical Economic Transformation (RET) but also reduces it to an ANC decoy for self-enrichment. This line of thinking entrenches the status quo of inequality, unemployment and poverty, and holds the development of the country to ransom at the expense of the poor. But the views such as “taking up arms for RET” from the likes of Professor Chris Malikane remain reckless populism in its worst form. The Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba has done well to distance government from this. It is a shame that these views are coming from a professor who is supposed to have the intellectual capacity to provide guidance on policies that would encourage progression. Such views would be forgiven coming from the attention seeking Andile Mngxitama and Mzwanele Jimmy Manyi and others.
All of the emotionally charged views and paranoia have muddied the intentions of RET and can only serve to polarise the country. RET is needed for the benefit of the majority of poor South Africans who are languishing in poverty. The proper question that should be asked is whether RET can co-exist with capitalism? In answering this question, people who blindly rely on Marxism-Leninism school of thought would argue that even during the period of highest performing economic growth, capitalism did not create jobs but led to high Gini co-efficient, therefore it cannot help to achieve RET. Granted, capitalism is to be blamed for creating white monopoly capital, but I submit that with decisive government interventions to deal with the sins of white monopoly capital such as oligopoly, collusion, price fixing, and exploitation, the very same system can be used to the advantage of blacks. This should be accompanied with a relentless vigour to deal with the sins of the incumbency and the strict monitoring for compliance of government transformative interventions. Surely, this is too much to ask for the DA, but not for the ANC which is a proven mass democratic movement.
The disastrous effects of the egoistical implementation of Marxism-Leninism political and economic theory have not only been proven by failed economies elsewhere in the world, but also by failed liberation movements in Africa who inflicted great socio-economic sufferings on the citizens, resulting in tons of refugees. Countries like China with astronomically inclusive economic growth have proved that left leaning policies can co-exist with capitalism for the economy to grow. In support of this view, President Thabo Mbeki conceded during the launch of National Foundations Dialogue Initiative (NFDI) that in 1970 China used an open policy for its economy to thrive. It is worth noting that up until now, the proponents of contrary views have failed to provide persuasive examples of alternatives that had not collapsed the economies of countries where they have been tried, especially in our neighbouring countries. South Africa would do well to learn from her neighbours in order to avoid a repetition of the same mistakes, the devastating effects of land grabs for instance. Remember? DM
David Vakalisa Ka-Ndyalvan is an ANC member at Akaso Branch and he writes in his personal capacity