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#ZumaTradeOff: Golden Opportunity

Siya Khumalo writes about religion, politics and sex. He is the author of ‘You Have To Be Gay To Know God’ (Kwela Books, 2018), which won the Desmond Tutu-Gerrit Brand Literary Prize. Follow him on @SKhumalo1987 (Insta and Twitter), or like his Facebook page With Siya Khumalo.

South African labourers are prepared to give Zuma up, but business has to show them why. The best defence against state capture is a good offence.

The Tripartite Alliance is unravelling because the ANC never liberated South Africa but was recalled from exile at the National Party’s behest. The economic implication of the 1994 lie is presumably why the EFF broke away from the ANC.

It’s also why Cosatu President Sidumo Dlamini flip-flops on the federation’s position on Zuma: he’s picked up Cyril Ramaphosa-eque aspirations that put the lie to the pro-poor election campaign rhetoric the ANC has been spewing since the liberation it never achieved. The handful of black billionaires that the negotiated settlement created indicates that the Alliance they came through is a ladder to bring voters to the feeding trough to keep the snouts of those at its top deep in the gravy. The Worker’s Day Rally booings were Karma’s bitch-slaps across the party’s face. On its good days, the Alliance is a marriage of convenience; on its bad days it exists in name only.

This problem began before 1994. A friend lent me a book titled Mbokodo by Mwezi Twala. It details how Umkhonto weSizwe leaders in Lusaka lived well but cadres “underfed, suffering from malaria and other tropical diseases” were not allowed to complain about their deplorable conditions. “If you so much as point a finger at the ANC leadership,” intelligence boss Mzwandile Piliso is quoted as saying, “we will chop off your whole arm.”

The same friend travelled the world prior to 1994 and discovered that everyone abroad thought he was part of the oppressive regime. “Aren’t all white South Africans in the government?” he was asked. This led him to a scandalous conclusion. “If people in other countries didn’t know what was happening in South Africa — that it had white citizens, not just a white government — how could the exiled ANC know?” It couldn’t, unless the party’s Intelligence and Security were powered by a force beyond the party. So neither Zuma’s rise to the presidency nor his regime’s paranoia on “western powers” and “regime change” are new: South Africa’s invasion and “capture” through the ANC have long been in the pipeline. And didn’t the apartheid government warn us that die Rooigevaar was a thing? As it turns out, the devil isn’t always a liar. The Russians have been eyeing us.

Is there a way out?

This weekend, I was graciously invited by Lotus FM for a live radio discussion. Two callers pointed out that although we have the tools to exorcise our Zuptas, we never seem to have enough people using those tools. Another caller said that even if we exorcised our Zuptas, we’d simply replace them with others who’d pilfer state coffers in the name of BEE. My answer to both comments was that we have to amend the law so it never allows the politically connected to be incentivized to give the country over to a Gupta again. How does this work?

Imagine I were a politically connected black person. Businesses could get bonus BEE points for having me as a shareholder until I had a net asset worth of R50-million (as the law currently says it can get, beyond which, it still gets points but not bonus points). I could be a shareholder at many different companies and they’d never have to practise “broad-based” black economic empowerment. While that’s innocent enough, I could also use my political connectedness to ensure those companies got government contracts and that those government officials handing out the contracts got kickbacks for giving them to those companies. Real South Africans would be excluded from this economy. They’d never see any reason to break this chain of corruption by unseating the benefiting politicians until someone (you!) lobbied for the law that previously enabled this corruption to instead enable real people’s empowerment. This is the premise of the #ZumaTradeOff.

Addressing these economic issues would require a 360º awareness on business’s part. In a talk by Training and Leadership Consulting titled Lean into the Future, Grant Davis spoke of businesses slowly realising they need people-centred growth — to focus on what interests the people in their vicinity.

BEE Novation’s MD Lee du Preez (who was part of a group Gwede Mantashe accused of attempting “regime change”) recently referred me to an SAfm interview with Econo BEE’s CEO Lianne Levenstein. The topic was that only 50 of 400 JSE-listed companies and organs of state reported on their B-BBEE to the BEE Commission. The interviewer asked Levenstein whether she thought the punitive approach considered by the Labour Minister (barring designated businesses that don’t comply with Employment Equity from doing business with government) would help accelerate transformation. She replied, “The way that things are going, there needs to be the stick, and it needs to be forced upon people to not only comply — not only a certificate, but also a good score.”

Du Preez added, “Transformation isn’t just a moral nice-to-have; it’s strategic. People will only defend an economy if they’re implicated in its tussles. Transformation gets everyone in the same boat. When you have workers booing Zuma and Mbete, it’s a golden opportunity to sway the discussion towards a trade-off. South African labourers are prepared to give Zuma up, but business has to show them why. The best defence against state capture is a good offence.

The devil was correct about die Rooigevaar. But this time, it won’t be a political alliance saving us but the private sector — if it can read the times and see the opportunity. DM


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