Monday, February 23, 2015

Zuma's incomplete history lesson:

Zuma’s incomplete history lesson:

Floyd Shivambu

While responding to the debates of the 2015 State of the Nation Address, President Jacob Zuma went off script and gave a brief history lesson on the origins of the political territory known as South Africa today. In the history lesson, he correctly highlighted the key events and developments, including the many wars of resistance. He also illustrated the fact that the battle of Isandlwana was the most prominent of these wars, and acknowledged that in all the wars, the African majority were conquered.

President Zuma correctly highlighted that what was historically recorded as the Anglo-Boer War was actually the South African war, because all South Africans were involved and became casualties on both sides of the antagonistic forces. He correctly pointed to the reality that the settlement of the South African war led to the formation of the Union of South Africa, a whites-only State whose foundation was political exclusion of the black majority. Economic exclusion was, of course, characteristic of colonial conquest, even when the settlers came across (“discovered”) the mineral resources.

It is also correct that the formation of the South African Natives National Congress in 1912 (renamed the African National Congress in 1923) was in reaction to the Union of South Africa, and its primary and founding goal was to fight for inclusion into the Union of South Africa, hence the deputations and petitions to the colonial Britain by the founding leaders of the ANC to beg for inclusion. President Zuma is also correct to say that in the beginning the intention was not to fight, but was for inclusion into the colonised Union of South Africa. Petitions and deputations to the Queen in Britain was a form of acknowledging and legitimising colonial British’s authority over the Union of South Africa, which the educated and civilised black middle class and relative elites thought they should participate in.

The repression and exclusion indeed persisted for a very long time against the black majority and Africans in particular. Despite what was patently white supremacist suppression, oppression and segregation, the ANC adopted the Freedom Charter which says ‘South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white’. This principle of the ANC led liberation movement defined successive generations of its leadership, and as Zuma said, underpinned Nelson Mandela’s commitment to non-racialism despite his incarceration in prisons and safe houses, including Robben Island, for 27 years.

Now, President Zuma ended his lesson there, cogently illustrating and describing an ANC which upholds non-racialism as its core principle. Of course, the history lesson was meant to assure the white minorities, who had over-reacted to his reductionist January 8 statement that the problems of South African began with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck. In assurance, he repeated that the Freedom Charter’s clarion call is that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white.

Of course, the Freedom Charter says that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, but that is not the only thing the Freedom Charter says and that is not what the liberation movement merely fought for. The Freedom Charter also says ‘the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industries shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole”. About the Freedom Charter, Nelson Mandela, the very same one who fought against WHITE DOMINATION, and ‘black domination’ said in 1956 that “It is true that in demanding the nationalisation of the banks, the gold mines and the land the Charter strikes a fatal blow at the financial and gold-mining monopolies and farming interests that have for centuries plundered the country and condemned its people to servitude. But such a step is absolutely imperative and necessary because the realisation of the Charter is inconceivable, in fact impossible, unless and until these monopolies are first smashed up and the national wealth of the country turned over to the people[1]”.

Nelson Mandela said this to emphasise the point that ““The Charter is more than a mere list of demands for democratic reforms. It is a revolutionary document precisely because the changes it envisages cannot be won without breaking up the economic and political set-up of present South Africa[2]”. Whilst articulating what we, the contemporary Freedom Fighters conceptualised as the struggle for economic freedom, Nelson Mandela and the entire political and ideological literate of the liberation movement never used the concept of economic freedom in our lifetime. These Freedom Fighters however understood that political emancipation without economic emancipation is meaningless. The right to vote and assure minorities that they will not be driven into the sea is political freedom, but economic freedom is a struggle that seek to ensure that the wealth of our country is transferred and shared equitably amongst the people as a whole.

This notion was understood and internalised in the liberation movement, such that in 1969, the former liberation movement acknowledged in its 1969 Strategy & Tactics 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. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation”.

Simply put, this means that a South Africa whose economy continues to be owned and directed by those who did prior first elections is not a liberated country, does not represent even the shadow of liberation. In his own admission, Zuma indicated in the response to the SONA debates that less than 3% of the core of South Africa’s economy is owned by representatives of 80% of the population, the African majority. The only sound reason why such is the case is because the political elite, which is supposed to hold and exercise political power on behalf of the people is nothing but the executive that manages the common affairs of capitalists, who own 97% of South Africa’s economy.

Telling South Africa’s history and omit the reality that fundamentally, essence and pillar of white oppression and suppression was economic exploitation and exclusion of the black majority is treacherous. To tell the South African story and only end where it says “South Africa belongs to all who live in it” is reactionary. Ending the history of South Africa only with the non-racial character of the struggle is perhaps the major reason the country is in a crisis it confronts today, the crisis of continued black exclusion from the economy, such that government’s conceptualisation of economic activities in the township and rural communities is narrowly conceptualised as informal and small scale agriculture respectively.

Maybe South Africa should acknowledge and accept the fact that the original aim of the ANC, as emphasised by Zuma’s history lesson, was not to fight, but to participate in the political Union of South Africa. The reality is that the ANC lacks the ideological and political capacity to fight the struggle for economic freedom and dismally incapable of utilising legislation and other political power instruments to transfer the wealth to the people as a whole. Multi-national corporations continue to rob South Africa and the entire African continent of its natural, raw and now financial resources through unmitigated exportation of natural and raw wealth, and manipulation of the international trading systems through illicit financial flows, base erosion, transfer pricing, and profit shifting.

The ANC lacks the required sophistication to first understand these phenomena, and secondly, combat them in a manner that will lead to local beneficiation and industrialisation of raw and natural resources. The ANC lacks the capacity to curtail and stop massive illicit financial flows that rob our country of billions of Rands. There is only one movement that can do, and that movement is the Economic Freedom Fighters. Unlike all other political parties, the EFF is fearless, and rooted in the ideological commitment to economically emancipate the people of South Africa, Africa and the world through socialist development of the productive forces and socialised discontinuation of private ownership of exploitative capital. We are the ones you have been waiting for.

Floyd Shivambu is Deputy President of the EFF

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