Thursday, September 27, 2007

Floeytry... Poetry According to Floyd

September as a Heritage Month in South Africa has been dedicated to Poetry. In commemoration of our heritage, we re-publish the Poetry earlier published in the blog. They are not for comment.

The Juxtaposed Song of Azania

On this street
hand to mouth is their psalm
Ignorance their rhyme
and hunger their lullaby
yet in MISERABLE woebegone faces they sing
we will vote, and they, provide
cross the street
the dull lyrics fade
and dulcet ones begin
anguish’s is monotonous
destitution is dull tune
better sing richness and delight
serenade treasure
and hum majesty
then the streets intersect
at least they meet somewhere
for same leaders they cheer
common vote they cast
and in one name they are called
South Africans!

Contemporary Azanian Child

A child of about just over teen years
Strolling the streets of Jozi
Empty stomach, empty handed
Only 5 bucks for a taxi home
Home being a single roomed shack in township house backyard
A child full of unattainable ambitions
‘Wish I could own a BMW or Benza’
‘Wish I could buy a house in sub-urban Jozi’
‘Wish I could dine and wine from silver plates and cups’
‘Wish I could learn how to use silver spoons, forks and knives’
‘Wish I could wear Guess what? Palazollo pitti and fake chuck Taylor sneakers’
‘Wish I could jol a well-shaped, facially gifted lover with class’
‘Wish I could buy chicken feet to feed my empty baseless belly’
And also wish to get another 5 bucks for a taxi to Jozi
‘Maybe I will get a job’

Discussing the ANC Strategy and Tactics

Discussing the Strategy and Tactics

The essence of any revolutionary struggle is organisationally articulated through strategy and tactics, comprising the underpinning programmatic and methodological pillars guiding and sustaining revolutionary movements. It is against this background that the African National Congress has since 1912 had a set of tactics and a strategy, documented or otherwise. It was only in 1969 that the ANC Strategy and Tactics was written to fulfill the following tasks: summarise the strategic objective; identify and set out strategic and tactical methods towards the strategic objective; analyse the balance force; outline and define the motive forces and identify who the enemies of the revolutionary movement are. At formation, the central strategic objective in the ANC has been creation of a non-racial South Africa, which historically evolved to recognise that creation of a non-racial society could not be separated from a concurrent resolution the class contradictions and patriarchy—characteristic of South Africa’s Colonialism of a Special Type.

Now, the first on paper Strategy and Tactics was adopted in the First National Consultative Conference of the ANC in Tanzania, Morogoro in 1969. This was in the midst of decolonisation of Africa and rising strength of the Socialist forces worldwide. Recognising and somewhat inspired by the regional and global phenomena, the 1969 Strategy and Tactics was prologued by an observation that “the struggle of the oppressed people of South Africa is taking place within an international context of transition to the Socialist system, of the break­down of the colonial system as a result of national liberation and socialist revolutions, and the fight for social and economic progress by the people of the whole world” (S&T, 1969).

The 1969 Strategy and Tactics made what became the core of the revolutionary and distinct character of the national liberation movement in South Africa, the fact that “In our country - more than in any other part of the oppressed world - it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole… It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy” (S&T, 1969). The Strategic Objective was then summed up as “the complete political and economic emancipation of all our people and the constitution of a society which accords with the basic pro-visions of our programme - the Freedom Charter” (S&T, 1969)

The African National Congress was guided by these observations in the period post 1969--such that when analysing the Nature of South African Ruling Class in the Second National Consultative Conference in Kabwe in 1985, there was no question that the enemy of the National democratic Revolution is white monopoly capital. This was mainly premised on the historical recognition that national oppression and its consequences was a predominant feature, whilst class exploitation was a primary component of the Colonialism of a Special Type. This summation was understood in the context that “the aims of our National Democratic Revolution will only be fully realised with the construction of a social order in which all the historic consequences of national oppression and its FOUNDATION, economic exploitation will be liquidated” (Politico-Military Strategy Commission Report, 1979; emphasis added).

Now, the central focus of Kabwe Conference was the nature of the South African ruling class; wherein there was no doubt that white monopoly capital constitutes the primary enemy of the progressive forces of change. It is instructive to note that a Draft Strategy and Tactics was presented in the Kabwe Conference and could not be adopted due to certain omissions in the Draft. Conference then mandated a Drafting Committee composed of the National Executive Committee and the Politico-Military Council to revise and strengthen the Draft S&T presented to Conference. Vivid in the omissions that Conference noted included were the role of the working class and emergence of the trade unions; the Bantustans and their changing nature; programme of action for rural areas outside the Bantustans; and the revolutionary alliance (Kabwe S&T Resolution, 1985). Whilst not avowed, the 1969 Strategy and Tactics remained the telescope and guide of the ANC post Kabwe Conference, as the Draft was not adopted.

The 48th National Congress of the ANC in 1991 did not make a substantive analysis of the balance of forces (which had substantially shifted with the collapse of the Socialist forces, symbolised by the fall of the Soviet Union), yet noted in the Strategy and Tactics resolution that despite the repeal of some apartheid laws, “the basic political, social, gender and economic relations of oppression and exploitation [remained] intact” (S&T Resolution, 1991). The 48th Congress recommitted to the elimination of apartheid and creation of a united, democratic nonracial and nonsexist state. Key features of the 1991 S&T resolution encapsulated a commitment to “strengthening of the tripartite alliance of the ANC, SACP and COSATU, as a fighting force at national, regional and local levels” and opened up for negotiations “in the context of intensified struggle on all fronts and in combination with other forms of struggle” (S&T Resolution, 1991).

An overall redraft of the ANC S&T was presented and adopted at the 1997 50th Congress of the ANC in Mafikeng. Certainly there was an unquestionable need for a new Strategy and Tactics to be adopted due to fundamental political changes that ensued, with South Africa entering the new millennium having achieved formal political liberation. In 1997, an honest and correct acknowledgment was made, diametrically different from the 1969 S&T prologue, that the defeat and end of apartheid “take place in a world in which the system of capitalism enjoys dominant sway over virtually the entire globe”… yet in “a world too in which the agenda of the working people and developing nations can find creative expression in pursuit of a humane, just and equitable world order” (S&T, 1997).

Recognising this reality, the 1997 S&T maintained that the essence of the NDR remained the liberation of Africans in particular and black people in general from political and economic bondage. Consistent with the 1969 revolutionary and distinct recognition, the 1997 S&T noted that “The symbiotic link between capitalism and national oppression in our country, and the stupendous concentration of wealth in the hands of a few monopolies therefore render trite the vainglorious declaration that national oppression and its social consequences can be resolved by formal democracy underpinned by market forces to which all should kneel in the prayer: `everyone for himself and the Devil takes the hindmost!'

The 1997 Strategy and Tactics contextualised the working class leadership of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR)… and said “South African capitalism gave birth to a collective of black workers whose class position and social existence placed it at the head of the struggle for freedom. By dint of its activism and organisation, this class won the respect of all the other motive forces as the leader of the NDR.” (S&T, 1997). The 1997 Strategy and Tactics went further to reward and inaugurate the emerging black bourgeoisie as a motive force for fundamental change, and asserted that “in the overall, the rising black bourgeoisie and middle strata are objectively important motive forces of transformation whose interests coincide with at least the immediate interests of the majority” (S&T, 1997). Vivid in the 1997 S&T was a reaffirmation of the Alliance, stating that the “Tripartite Alliance is therefore not a matter of sentiment, but an organisational expression of the common purpose and unity in action that these forces share, and continue jointly to define and redefine in the course of undertaking the tasks of the NDR” (S&T, 1997).

Proclaiming People’s Power in Action in 2002, the 51st National Conference of the ANC in Stellenbosch retained the key observations and outlining of strategic and tactical paths towards resolution of the class, gender and national contradictions; and creation of a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and united South Africa. The 2002 Conference appended an explanatory note (in the form of a Preface) to the Strategy and Tactics adopted in 1997, and emphasised that although it aided in defining the conjecture then, the whole S&T had to be read for a thorough comprehension of the tasks and pathways towards the Freedom Charter envisaged society; what constituted possible threats; and what the global and national objective environment was.

Somewhat more concrete and definitive of the envisaged society, the Draft Strategy and Tactics 2007 represents a conceptual divergence from what previous Strategy and Tactics documents outlined. The Draft S&T argues that to resolve the gender, class and national contradictions, we need to construct a National Democratic Society. The envisaged National Democratic Society does not seek to radically transform Property relations, but seek to mobilise all forces (including the hitherto contradictory forces) towards a common developmental goal. The Draft S&T 2007 argues that in constructing a National Democratic Society, the revolutionary movement should appreciate the reality that domestically, the balance of forces, are in favour of the forces of change. Caution should however be exercised in the conscious construction of an NDS due to existence of a Hyper Power and predominance of capitalism.

Vividly absent in the Draft Strategy and Tactics 2007 is creation of a society envisaged in the Freedom Charter (wherein mineral wealth beneath the soil, monopoly industry and banks shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole) and substantiation of the alliance as an organ of change and “organisational expression of the common purpose and unity in action that [the alliance] share, and continue jointly to define and redefine in the course of undertaking the tasks of the NDR”. The Draft S&T intends to create a class society disobedient of the social scientific observations that in any class society, contradictions between the ruling and the ruled class are inherent. Policy Conference’s emphasis was that surely monopoly capital cannot be an ally in the construction of an NDS and that the Freedom Charter remains our Strategic Objective, whilst retaining the ANC as a centre that holds.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

SA Developmental State?

The myth of a South African Developmental State
Nyiko Floyd Shivambu

Acknowledging the massive setbacks and crisis of unemployment and poverty that characterise the 13 years of democratic dispensation in South Africa, the new mantra in the African National Congress and government is that of building of a Developmental State. The ANC Policy Conference discussion document on economic transformation and its Draft Strategy and Tactics stand by the ultimate objective of building a development state, which supposedly requires an efficient a market as possible.

Despite an array of conceptualisations on what a developmental state is or should be; there are consistent elements that reappear in its definition. The consistent elements include the reality that firstly, a developmental state should have the necessary structural capacity to drive change, secondly, it should have the ideology of development backed by a mass movement and thirdly, the capacity to navigate through and direct contradicting class forces in society. A developmental state should in character have relative autonomy from capital and labour in order to suppress sectoral and narrow class interests in favour of national development objectives.

A developmental state should be able to manage and direct capital as well as labour in the interests of national development. The ANC economic transformation discussion document observes the reality that “in many international cases, the developmental state’s strategic capacity has been fostered in the context of a high degree of integration between business and government… [and] a powerful and dominating state apparatus, where democratic rights are often sacrificed at the altar of developmental priorities”. (ANC, 2007: 9).

Suppression of democratic rights of both capitalists and labour constituted the most vital elementary key to success of the archetypical developmental states in East Asia (Japan, South Korea and Taiwan). The historical examples that the South Korean State imprisoned all capitalists in order to foster and coerce them towards national development objectives and priorities illustrates that the liberal democratic rights and freedom were not priority over development objectives. Attached to a massive industrialisation process, the East Asian tigers came to realise high levels of economic growth and development and capital accumulation never seen in the 20th century.

Imperatively, it is vital to note that in East Asia before the developmental state, there was no strong presence of multinational monopoly capital and society was almost completely homogenous, with a relative political stability brought forth by the post World War II stability. The patterns of exploitation did not give rise to strong labour movement, capable of questioning the actions of the State. The national bourgeoisie in those countries was then subjected to national developmental objectives through consensus and repression, where consensus could not work.

The East Asian Developmental States succeeded in a bi-polar global environment and guaranteed support of the capitalist polar led by the World War II triumphant United States. The influence of institutionalised imperialism in the form of World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation was at configuration, and therefore virtually non-existent. Neo-liberalism was not a global compulsive reality in the formation of developmental states in East Asia.

Now, the primary tenets of ANC economic transformation discussion document and the Draft Strategy and Tactics seem to suggest that the South African developmental state should be constructed within, consistent with and integrated into the current neo-liberal global economy. Part of what is envisioned in the South African developmental state is “an economy that is connected to the world, benefiting from the vibrant trade with North and South, in a fair and equitable global trade regime…” (ANC, 2007: 3). Besides, this envisaged State, “requires a market that is as efficient as possible, a market that is shorn of the racial and gender exclusions that characterised apartheid colonialism and freed from the barriers of entry and competition that the economy endured under colonial capitalism” (ANC, 2007: 9).

With a strong multinational monopoly capital, lack of social cohesion due to apartheid capitalism, institutionalised imperialism, and a strong labour movement, the dream to build a developmental state in South Africa shall remain a dream. The dream will permanently be such, unless social relations are fundamentally altered through discontinuation of private ownership of the key means of production, logistics, transport infrastructure, and energy production. The Freedom Charter envisaged such sort of a developmental state by asserting that “the mineral wealth beneath the soil, banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; and all other industry controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people”.

When discussing a developmental state in the coming policy conference, ANC members should be reminded that in South Africa, there is a very strong white monopoly, multinational and unpatriotic capital with interests wider than creation of jobs and poverty reduction. Members of the ANC should remember that the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions (COSATU) exists as a revolutionary labour movement, with an unforeseeable possibility of capitulation to brutal exploitation, whatsoever is the justification. A South African developmental state, which will not be in control of the key means of production, logistics, transport infrastructure, and energy production, is a myth.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

YL Leftwards

The ANC Youth League indicating Left

The recent statements and pronouncements by the African National Congress Youth League (ANC YL) should be given the consideration they deserve in the youth movement. At formation, the Youth League was the first to accept Colonialism of a Special Type characterisation of South African colonial oppression, and essentially recognised the reality that in South Africa, national oppression, patriarchy and class exploitation are inseparable. This was characteristic of the Youth League, which influenced and played a central role in the Defiance Campaign, which indisputably invigorated the ANC into a revolutionary National Liberation Movement.

Post Defiance Campaign, the ANC Youth League was characterised by robust and concerted mass campaigns and ideological dispositions, which were predominantly Left orientated. With the emergence of democracy, the ANC Youth League militancy was somewhat shelved, whilst its outlook was associated with the emergent, yet predominant bourgeois philosophising of poverty, inequality and poverty in South Africa, clad in the seize the opportunities of democracy rhetoric. The Youth League was silent on critical policy and ideological issues in the ANC and the broader Mass Democratic Movement, and lamentably rushed in defence of the neo-liberal Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) adopted by government in 1996, as workers raised fists against privatisation.

Notable however, are recent pronouncements of the ANC Youth League on vital ideological questions, which the ANC had somewhat abandoned or rhetorically flashed to hide the strategic shift characteristic of the ANC post the democratic breakthrough. The ANC Youth 2007 May Day statement correctly characterised the alliance and emphasised inter alia, “the evolution of apartheid capitalism dialectically unified the struggling masses of our people, hence the alliance amongst the ANC, the South African Communist Party and the workers movement, the latter now represented by COSATU. The alliance was therefore not a marriage of idealism but was born out of the realities that faced our people, that they were oppressed as a race and as a class”.

Post 1994, the class perspective had in the ANC been submerged under the rhetoric of national unity, deracialisation, building a modern economy, resolving the national grievance. Largely, this was placed in contradiction to the resolution of the class contradiction, which is historically understood as the primary contradiction to be resolved by realisation of the Freedom Charter assertions. This historical assessment was made quite buoyantly in the ANC Strategy & Tactics, adopted by the first National Consultative Conference in Tanzania, 1969, “In our country - more than in any other part of the oppressed world - it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy”.

Summarising its observations on the 2007 ANC Draft Strategy and Tactics, due for adoption /rejection in the 52nd National Congress, the Youth League notes “The present draft does not make a clear analysis of the evolution of the strategy and tactics with regards to the role of the ANC, and as such it makes fundamental distortions, through omission, on the ideological disposition of the ANC. The document is very quiet about the role of monopoly capital which has always been characterized as the enemy of the revolution”. The very correct assertion by the Youth League that monopoly capital should still be viewed as the liberation movements’ strategic enemy is not very far from the observation in COSATU House (SACP, COSATU and the YCL) that a new class consensus of the elite had emerged, seeking to restore capitalist profitability and consolidation of the capitalist system, whilst in the first ten years of democracy, the biggest beneficiary of our democracy has been white monopoly capital—our strategic enemy.

With certain levels of ideological inconsistencies, the overtures and observations of the ANC Youth League should really be appreciated and consolidated by all revolutionary movements in the alliance and the ANC in particular in ensuring that the strategic vision and role of the ANC is not permanently bourgeoisified and governmentalised. Possibilities of ossifying the bourgeoisification and governmentalisation of the ANC are very high, and this is reflected, amongst others, in the propositions made in the 2005 National General Council and some of the Policy discussions documents for the 52nd National Congress. Progressive forces should unite to recapture the ANC from elements, which seek to distort its historical mission, that of liberation of Africans in particular and blacks in general through resolution of the class, national and gender contradictions.

Floyd Shivambu

Monday, April 16, 2007

SA Media

Some Lessons from Sunday Newspapers
Floyd Shivambu

South African media has in the past few months been correctly blamed within South African society, particularly as it relates to the so-called succession debate in the African National Congress and Tripartite Alliance as a whole. There is a variety of media creations and constructions, which are non-existent in the real world. South African Media sought to redefine South African society through perspectives and information from mainly faceless sources, who would purportedly sneak out of formal political structures to connive with scribes for whatever reason. This was largely reflected in Sunday Newspapers, infamous for their character assassinations and elevation of imaginations to scriptural reality. Sunday Newspapers have perfectly reflected the correct Left theoretical observation that in a capitalist society, media is a non-cohesive force with a primary role to re-inscribe the ideas of the ruling class.

Noting this background, it is vital to note particularly the perspectives of Sunday Newspapers comments/editorials on the 15th of April 2007. The comments/editorials of Sunday Times, City Press and Sowetan Sunday World somewhat defied their primary role of re-inscribing the ideas of the ruling class. As a very rare practice, the Newspapers identified, questioned and deplored the South African mode of capitalist accumulation post apartheid. The Sunday Times’ Editor, Mondli Makhanya observes after his long diatribe on Danisa Baloyi:
“Elected representatives are getting involved in business, clearly in violation of the ethos that those who enter public service are supposed to espouse. Public servants ignore conflict-of-interest directives and sign deals every other day. The ruling party abuses its control of the levers of state and ensures that friendly businessmen get contracts in parastatals, government departments and municipalities. Businessmen substitute hard work with palm-greasing”.

Makhanya’s counterpart in City Press, Khatu Mamaila deplores Trevor Manuel for speaking the long overdue and obvious sentiments on Black Economic Empowerment, and correctly notes:
The first point to make is that while the emerging black bourgeoisie is used as a punching bag for all BEE criticisms, the truth is that the real beneficiaries of BEE are banks, which are predominantly white entities. A person given a stake in a company in order to get the BEE figures right is unlikely to embark on any action that may militate against the interests of his benefactors. It is not surprising to find a black person suddenly speaking on behalf of the mining giants against royalties on revenue. There is a popular myth that BEE was meant to benefit the black majority. The truth is that BEE is achieving exactly what its designers sought – co-opting the black revolutionary intelligentsia to safeguard the interests of capital. It should not be surprising that many of the beneficiaries have strong political connections with the ruling ANC. The reason every big company desperately wants to find a partner who is also a big shot in the ANC is because of what political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki describes as insurance. If, for instance, the ANC’s national executive committee is dominated by people who handsomely benefit from the windfalls of BEE, it is unlikely the same people will advance policies that will reverse their gains. Big business knew of their polecat status in the eyes of the ANC and the broad liberation movement at the rendezvous of freedom. They also knew of ideals to nationalise the commanding heights of the economy, as articulated in the Freedom Charter. They realised they needed to adapt or face extinction. They opted for adaptation. They offered the revolutionaries of yesteryear a piece of the pie, turning them into moderates who have become staunch defenders of the system. Capitalism is in safe hands. Its lily-white face has been darkened. The masses live in hope that they too will one day benefit. People like Manuel continue to keep the hope alive.

Stressing Maimala’s observations, the Sowetan Sunday World Editor says:
“Manuel says it (that BEE has benefited very few black elites) as if his statement were original, leaving the impression that a few more black cats need to become millionaires before any concrete steps will be taken to level the playing field. But BEE has done more than make a few coconuts rich, it has in fact morally bankrupted our struggle”.

These observations from Sunday Newspapers are reflective of what South African capitalist society has become. There is perhaps a need for more emphasis that the delusion that capitalism can ever restore morals, improve the poor’s living conditions and build a nation is a delusion. Capitalism in South Africa impoverished majority of the population the revolutionary struggles sought to liberate, and will for years to come, if ownership of production means is not fundamentally altered. Maybe Sunday Newspapers have a sense of what is happening, and not trapped in some planet of imaginations as I thought.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

SA democratic?

South African Democracy Revisited

By Nyiko Floyd Shivambu

Concepts, euphemisms and terminology are observably very important in politics, not because they linguistically explain and obfuscate certain matters, but because they have substantive, profound and systemic potential to guide and/or misguide policy directions and positions. The South African democracy and developmental trajectory has in the recent past employed the concept of “first and second economy” to explain the vast South African socio-economic inequalities and disparities. The concept is ubiquitously utilised, despite the fact that it means different things to different people, circumstances and scenarios, depending on who uses it for what purpose.

The recent observation associated with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) that South Africa could be drifting towards “dictatorship” is one observation and importantly terminology that cannot just be dismissed as “fulminations of the imagination”. The observation calls for a thorough and conscientious debate and analysis of South Africa democratic structure, with specific focus on participation and development. A conscientious debate and analysis of South Africa’s democratic structure should not be linked and confused whatsoever with the omnipresent reference to the succession debate and/or the Thabo Mbeki/Jacob Zuma rift, if such indeed exist. This is despite the fact that in the recent past, the succession debate and/or Mbeki/Zuma rift have become some sort of ideological lenses through which political commentators see South African society—which is very dangerous for critical political thought.

One does not need to totally agree with COSATU and the South African Communist Party (SACP) to realise that we indeed need a robust and vigorous debate about South Africa’s democratic structure, its institutions and systems. The government Imbizos, the Peer Review Mechanism and public hearings on legislations indeed requires a closer assessment and analysis in understanding the extent to which these forums and systems deepen the democratic order. Bill Cooke and Uma Kothari (2001) observed in a book entitled Participation: The New Tyranny that “participatory development has often failed to engage with issues of power and politics and has become a technical approach to development that, in various ways, depoliticises what should be an explicitly political process”.

There is certainly a plethora of scenarios in South Africa, which although participatory and democratic in government’s view, explains the nucleus of a “new tyranny”, and this requires a fair, honest and careful debate. The fact that there are apparent participatory structures and systems, does not necessarily entail that there is indeed meaningful participation. This is not to suggest anyhow that government should always seek consensus from stakeholders on developmental programmes, since such would be quixotic and unworkable, but to suggest that all spheres of society should at least own up to a national programmes, and mainly those that deal with developmental issues.

The adoption of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution macroeconomic framework by the South African government in 1996 set the tone for a “top-down” approach to developmental ideology, process and policy. This conspicuously caused unprecedented damage politically, giving rise to many of the political challenges in the tripartite alliance currently, and the labelling of “neo-liberal” and “ultra-left” taking centre stage. The process that led to the adoption of GEAR effectively pulled the carpet from under the feet of labour, civil society and the tripartite alliance, since they were made to believe by the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) process for instance, that they are at the core of developmental policy formulation in South Africa. We all know the successes and failures of GEAR and the bequest it left for South Africa in the second decade of political democracy.

The border re-alignment process, in Khutsong in this instance, is one factor that could have been handled quite differently by both authorities and important role players in the matter. Against a very vociferous and vigorous resistance of the Khutsong communities to be incorporated into North West, the SA central government went ahead to “provide leadership” by passing a bill on cross border municipalities, in effect disregarding the voice of Khutsong communities. The central government did not only pass the bill, some of its senior members called community leaders “drunkards”, who are misleading the Khutsong community, causing many of us to shiver and wonder over the imagination that almost everyone in Khutsong could allow to be misled by “drunkards”. Of course central government is entrusted by the Constitution and the present democratic structure and systems to take such decisions, but the fact that virtually everyone in Khutsong resisted such incorporation is just sour grapes. It really confirms that there is a structural possibility in South Africa’s “democracy” to take decisions against the will and aspirations almost everyone.

The development of Gautrain was objected not only by labour and civil society, but by a parliamentary portfolio committee on transport, yet cabinet endorsed its establishment for reasons best understood by them than communities it intends to benefit. Gautrain endorsement process was indeed procedurally correct as per the democratic structure, but did the people of Gauteng want it to solve the public transport problem in the Province? Did they even know that there are alternate means to address the public transport system?

In the recent past, security guards, who are mainly employed in the informal sector, embarked on an industrial action, which basically called for humane working conditions and sufficient remuneration. The industrial action went on for more than 30 days, and the most vigorous intervention government could make on the action was condemnation of the violence, which was indeed and evidently abominable. However, the democratic structure and systems could not allow government to intervene on behalf of workers whom we all agree need better working conditions and sufficient remuneration in a genuine democratic order. A legislation entrusting the Minister of Labour to make such necessary intervention and labour regulation of the informalised security industry are long overdue. As a result, the SA democratic structure and systems, without a doubt failed the security industry employers, employees and the general public.

At the beginning of 2006, the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative (ASGI-SA) was ushered in as a “national development initiative” intended at halving poverty and unemployment by 2014. ASGI-SA will certainly define the socio-political and economic life of South Africa in the coming years, and requires the broader society to meaningfully participate in its programmes and projects. Although well intentioned, ASGI-SA has been bombarded by responses, inputs, critiques and perspectives from labour, civil society, student movement and so on, which could have been addressed and incorporated into the initiative by an unbiased and organic participatory process in its formulation. A national development initiative should indeed be owned up by the broader society, and such could only happen if all sectors of society are sufficiently given space to meaningfully participate in its formulation. Nonetheless, government exclusively “provided leadership” on this national developmental initiative and requested other sectors of society to own up to the initiative at a subsequent stage.

Juxtaposed to other democracies, say in Europe, South Africa’s is not organically participatory and/or deserving, as per a different conceptualisation, to be “new tyranny”. In 2005, the French peoples successfully rejected the adoption of the European Union Constitution, despite the political elite’s vigorous endeavours to have the Constitution passed. Other countries in Europe followed suit, despite what their democratically elected parliaments said. Recently, French students and workers mobilised against a controversial labour policy, which sought to informalise young workers, and the French government conceded despite its highest court approval of such policy. This was in recognition of the fact that participation is not merely a technocratic, but political process, which does not only happen after every five years. In South African democracy, a consensus in Cabinet over a policy or strategic matter is a national consensus, despite different and differing perspectives from labour and civil society. This is not to suggest whatsoever that there is no political commitment in the current government to a democratic order and principles, but to highlight the fact that South Africa’s democratic structure has its own inadequacies, which should be openly debated.

Democracy should indeed go beyond casting votes once every five years. Democracy should mean that people are able to impact on decision-making processes, mainly on issues that affect them. If the people of a country are able to meaningfully input into the way decisions are made at different levels of governance; that begins to give the term democracy meaningful content. Are majority of South Africans sufficiently equipped and strategically located, in the present democratic structure, to could meaningfully input into the ways decisions are made at different levels of governance?

Most importantly democracy is about people maximising their collective and individual creative energies to eradicate social ills that afflict society—poverty, hunger, unemployment, disease, environmental degradation, homelessness, ignorance, unemployment, oppression and exploitation. This is not to burden democracy, but to deepen it, thereby freeing it from neo-liberal shackles.

It is therefore within this context that an observation of South Africa drifting towards “dictatorship” should not merely be dismissed as “fulminations of the imagination”, but a conceptualisation that requires a thorough and conscientious debate and analysis of South Africa democratic structure. The Peer Review Mechanism could have fulfilled such role, but it is not entirely dissimilar from a government top-down technocratic process, which will not give a true reflection of South African society.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Create Jobs and fight Poverty

South Africa must industrialise to create jobs and fight poverty

February 2007

The ideological supposition and expectation created in South Africa’s political economy discourse in 1996 when government adopted the Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy was that high levels of economic growth would address the poverty and unemployment challenges. Various and at times dissimilar statistics continue to indicate that although the productivity of the South African economy has somewhat increased over the past 13 years, poverty and unemployment continue to ravage South African society.

Despite the poverty and unemployment, which South Africa’s growing economy unceasingly fails to address, the ideological supposition that economic growth should precede redistribution, poverty alleviation and job creation continues to be predominant in government economic planning. For instance, the Accelerated Growth and Shared Growth Initiative (ASGISA) is prefaced on a supposition that the rate of growth needed to allow government to achieve social objectives is around 5 percent on average between 2004 and 2014. The government presupposes that this rate of growth could contribute to halving poverty and unemployment by 2014. Certainly, the economy should grow, but it should not be narrowly viewed as a basis for employment creation and poverty alleviation.

The unproven supposition that economic growth can lead to poverty alleviation and employment has seemingly filtered down to provinces. Gauteng Provincial Government premised its Global City Region strategy on a supposition that pursuit of economic growth will address the social challenges that Gauteng is facing. This is largely derived from the National Spatial Development Programme (NSDP), which proudly sets “rapid economic growth, as a pre-requisite for the achievement of other policy objectives”. Where does South Africa’s virtually sentimental belief that growth will lead to development, poverty alleviation and employment creation come from? Perhaps the question should be which developing country has successfully addressed poverty and unemployment by pursuing economic growth first?

South Africa’s unemployment problem cannot be de-linked from the poverty levels, as creation and provision of quality jobs could be the most effective way of alleviating poverty in a sustainable way. I reckon that the most viable option for South Africa to effectively address joblessness is vigorous industrialisation, particularly on areas that South Africa can provide the natural and primary products. Instead of exporting virtually all the mineral wealth, which South Africa produces, the country could beneficiate minerals in a very effective and productive industrial process. Certainly, industrialisation is brought about by various pre-conditions, including labour and tax laws, and the propensity of industries to massively profit.

As a political intervention, which will disallow super-exploitation of labour, perhaps the South African government should consider nationalisation of all mineral wealth, in order to lay a firm basis for vigorous industrialisation. Nationalisation of mineral wealth as a basis of industrialisation is highly justifiable in the face of the massive poverty and unemployment challenges that South Africa faces. Besides, minerals are natural resources that are largely produced by South African underpaid labour, whilst benefiting very small cliques of white and lately black owners of production means. With ownership of mineral wealth, the State could provide incentives to particularly labour-intensive industry.

Indeed opposition to nationalisation will be wrongly premised on the basis that it is a communist project. Apartheid sustained oppression overtime because the State was in ownership of more than 300 economic activities. Many capitalist states are in ownership of various key components of their economies.

The massive public infrastructure investments intended by ASGISA will certainly benefit big business; mainly in the Construction industry, but will never create quality and sustainable employment opportunities. Construction companies mainly employ majority of its workers on a casual basis, and paying low salaries. This does not suggest whatsoever that public infrastructure is not a necessity, but dispels an expectation that it could be basis for employment creation and poverty alleviation.

The wealth that South Africa has on mineral resources is excessive and could be effectively used as a primary basis for employment creation and poverty alleviation. The almost zero unemployment rates and high levels of economic growth in Malaysia, Japan and South Korea is a consequence of massive industrialisation. South African economy is still predominated by production of primary commodities and a very low labour intensive tertiary sector, and if such continues, unemployment and poverty will not easily vanish. South Africa ought to industrialise to address the unemployment and poverty challenges. The skills shortage which government harps as the basis for unemployment should be addressed concurrent to industrialisation.