The demise of President Jacob Zuma has exposed has far the ANC government of South Africa has fallen.
His mammoth corruption had been public knowledge for years. An investigation found $26 million of public money had been spent on his private home constructing a swimming pool, amphitheatre, cattle enclosure and security upgrades.
Zuma presided over widespread looting of state contracts, symbolised by his ties to the wealthy Gupta brothers. Their family connections to Zuma saw them gain influence over lucrative contracts and ministerial appointments.
As much as 40 per cent of the government’s $45 billion procurement budget was being lost to corruption each year, according to former Treasury official Kenneth Brown, who resigned in December.
Zuma was undermined by big business concerns that his cronyism was destabilising the wider economy. The growing scandals also threatened to damage the ANC’s chances in next year’s elections.
The ANC executive finally voted to remove him from office, forcing his resignation. But his replacement is little better. New President Cyril Ramaphosa is a former miners’ union leader who built a personal fortune of $550 million through a string of business interests including the South African McDonalds franchise.
He was a non-executive director and shareholder of the Lonmin mining company in 2012 when it engineered the Marikana massacre, where police killed 34 striking workers. Ramaphosa personally pressured senior ANC figures to intervene, demanding “action”.
Life after apartheid
The ANC under Nelson Mandela led the heroic struggle that toppled apartheid in 1994.
But they agreed to leave the economic power of the old white rulers essentially untouched, and accepted neo-liberal policies forcing cuts in government spending.
As a result, as Ronnie Kasrils, a member of the ANC national executive until 2007 puts it,
“In South Africa today the traditional economic power centres—mining, big agriculture, major industries—remain in essentially the same hands as they did under apartheid.
“Zuma and his acolytes, who weren’t going to challenge that economic structure fundamentally, feasted on the state-owned enterprises.”
A new black elite has used the reins of political power to build massive fortunes. Zuma and his cronies used the language of “black economic empowerment” to enrich themselves through the theft of state money and contracts.
But the black majority remains poor. An official report last year admitted that 56 per cent of the population, 30.4 million people, are living in poverty. Black unemployment is over 30 per cent.
Ramaphosa made clear in his first major speech that he wants to ensure “business confidence”, promising new “special economic zones”—areas with special corporate tax exemptions.
The ANC argued in 1994 that socialism, and the redistribution of the country’s wealth to the black majority, had to be postponed until after the fight for democracy.
In practice this has meant abandoning socialism in favour of working with business to manage capitalism.
Ramaphosa remains committed to the same failed policies it has pursued since the end of apartheid—and to the interests of South African capitalism.
South Africa’s workers have a magnificent history of struggle in the fight against apartheid. A number of union leaders have broken from the ANC and talked of launching a new workers’ party. A new force to take up the fight for socialism is urgently needed.
White farmers threatened with land seizures
In a piece of sickening hypocrisy Dutton has called for a special intake of white South African farmers due to threats to drive them off the land.
“They work hard, they integrate well into Australian society… and they’re the sorts of migrants that we want,” he said.
New South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to accelerate land redistribution. This is aimed at undercutting the demands of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party led by Julius Malema.
In 1994, over 80 per cent of South Africa’s land was owned by whites. Despite the ANC’s promise of land reform over the last 20 years the figure is still 72 per cent.
The land was stolen from the local black population through European colonialism.
A motion from the EFF calling for land seizures without compensation has passed parliament as a result of ANC support.
Ramaphosa has shunted it to a Constitutional Review Committee to report in August, since the move would require changing the constitution. He has also pledged that any change will be managed to ensure there is no reduction in agricultural production.
But Ramaphosa’s desire to safeguard capitalist interests in South Africa will get in the way of real change.
By James Supple