Historical injustices continue to muddy the country’s socio-economic ambitions and redress must happen.
There are some realities that are unequivocal in South Africa – white people continue to own most of the land, essentially control the stock exchange, and white companies generally escape wider scrutiny when it comes to their dealings with the government.
Apartheid created an unequal society. Unsurprisingly, statistics in post-apartheid South Africa show year after year that black Africans remain the poorest and most disenfranchised demographic.
So where does monopoly capital fit into this socio-economic and political landscape?
And why are so many averse to its reality? Some have called it a smokescreen to hide the pilfering within government.
You see, even when it comes to alleged corruption, black or brown people are viewed more sternly by the media and the public. Corruption is corruption but clearly some are more equal than others, even those who are tainted with the spectre of corruption.
We vilify some and others get a free ride. Some are punished and it gets swept under the carpet. The perpetrators are usually fined by bodies like the Competition Commission and carry on their merry way after paying fines – examples of these are the bread cartels and the construction companies found to have colluded in building a World Cup Stadium in 2010.
The companies who do deals with State-owned Entities are dealt with in the same vein – some escape closer scrutiny while others are pilloried in the media and by opposition politicians.
Example: a whopping 73% of Eskom’s R100-billion spent on coal destined for BHP, Anglo and Exxaro does not grab headlines, nor does it engender the kind of public fury reserved for others who have struck deals with Eskom.
Not to mention the sweetheart deals negotiated by these companies with State-owned Entities like Eskom which stretched over several decades.
The other not-made-up statistic is the fact that the Johannesburg Stock Exchange’s top 25 or so listed companies are in the hands of white people who, combined, also happen to control more than 80% of the shares.
So whatever one wants to call it – white monopoly capital, entrenched capital, historical capital – it exists and continues to do so almost entirely devoid of an acknowledgment that it must play a role in alleviating joblessness and poverty in South Africa.
The truth is that historical injustices continue to muddy the country’s socio-economic ambitions and redress must happen.
White capital is in a position of immense power and influence, and may be devoid of the brashness of the Gupta family, but operates with a perniciousness that continues to be counter to the growth and developmental goals of South Africa. The World Bank describes South Africa as “a dual economy with one of the highest inequality rates in the world, perpetuating both inequality and exclusion”.
In a report released in January 2017 Oxfam said that the total net wealth of just three billionaires in South Africa is equivalent to that of the bottom 50% of country’s population.
The absurdity is quite depressing given our levels of poverty and inequality.
The country was still one of the most unequal in the world, said OxfamSA economic justice manager Ayabonga Cawe.
The report, titled An economy for the 99%, showed that the gap between rich and poor was far greater than feared.
According to Oxfam, in SA the richest 1% of the population has 42% of the total wealth. As wealth has largely been in the white domain given the history of colonialism and apartheid, the power base has largely remained intact despite a democratic political dispensation, the Transvaal accord essentially still exists – with the British owning the majority of the mines and whites owning the majority of the agricultural land.
So call it what you want – monopoly capital, white monopoly capital – it does not detract from the fact that a system exists that has existed for way longer than democracy in South Africa.
Trying to dismantle this construct or getting them to, well, play nice, is going to require an exercise in both patience and shrewdness.
The wealthy and powerful within this movement will not show anyone who threatens their dominance any mercy.
A recent example of this is media ownership in South Africa. Fake news or conjecture was allowed to become popular (un) truths when a black man with a struggle history bought the largest English newspaper group in the country. The attacks on this media group’s integrity have been pointed – you can’t trust black people to not have sympathy with a largely black government looking to uplift mainly black people out of poverty.
Monopoly capital will continue to run roughshod over process under the guise of respectability. DM
Nomvula Mokonyane is Minister of Water and Sanitation and an ANC NEC Member
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