South Africa is currently confronted with complex questions to resolve – the questions of race, class, xenophobia and ethnic resurgence. With political nuance at the heart of these questions, Democratic Alliance is not a solution either the Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF). These issues need to be treated with ideological and organisational diligence due to their complexity; they are not for the provocateurs and populists such as Julius Malema and Mmusi Maimane.
The former President of Ghana Kwame Nkrumha in his seminal book titled Class Struggle in Africa 1970, invoked the debate on race and class. The dual analysis of class and race was not new at the time as the Bandung Conference of 1955, in which 29 countries from Asia and Africa convened, attempted to resolve the same issue. Nkrumah succinctly pointed out that the problem with most African countries is racist-capitalist economic structure.
In his article published at Daily Maverick on 28 August 2018, Mmusi Maimane argues that DA is a solution for South Africa’s problems of inequality. However, Mmusi neglected to annunciate the terms class and racism in his article, not to mention that he believes that in South Africa peace can be ushered without resolving the issue of economic property ownership. It is disillusioned to propose that in a country where much of the wealth is packaged within land, mineral resources and agricultural produce it is possible to rectify inequality without fair redistribution of these resources to the deprived majority.
One has to commend the ANC for attempting to unite South Africans and hold different ethnicities together under a national identity since the democratic dispensation. Meanwhile, white conservatives like Helen Zille continue to obliviously defend the crime of colonisation whilst Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu attempt to tear our envisaged national democratic society with their race reductionist and narrow nativism comments – such as the recent claim that majority of Indians are racists. Here, DA and EFF are in the same category – trying to divide South Africans to a gain votes in 2019 national elections. Both the political parties fail to articulate a clear strategic and tactical vision on how we build a better South Africa packaged in non-racism, non-sexist and equitable democratic society.
The repeated cases of DA Western Premier Helen Zille praising colonisation as a vehicle which helped South Africa to civilise is repugnant. It is fundamentally false to claim that all South Africans continue to benefit from colonialism, because colonialism as a system was not created for the benefit of the colonised Africans – it was resource extraction project. The minimal infrastructure developed in colonised nations such as South Africa was either needed for the extraction of resources or created for the benefit of the settler colonial capitalists who oversaw the plundering. For instance, Cecil John Rhodes did not donate the land that the University of Cape Town was built on with the intention that black students would one day attend that institution, in fact the imperialist would roll in his grave at the knowledge that such a thing was happening.
Helen Zille is continuing the tradition of European modernity and renaissance theology of trying to justify colonisation and stealing of African mineral resources by metropolitan states such as British, Belgium, and Portugal coloniser as civilisation process. Mmusi Maimane could not decisively address the question of colonisation raised by his predecessor in DA and the legacy of apartheid racism today.
It is undeniable, that racism continues to exist side by side with inequality in South Africa and has imbedded itself within structures of South Africa’s economy. Conversely, Mmusi Maimane simply argued that he desires to do what has never been done in South Africa – to unite South Africans along their race. It is troubling that he does not mention the racialised class system’s roll in South African racial conflict. As he contends:
“I have a different vision, one I am willing to fight for no matter how unpopular, and no matter how much resistance I face. For me, South Africa’s road to unity and prosperity lies in bringing together people of all races to right the wrongs of the past while simultaneously building a thriving, growing, diverse country for all. I am not oblivious to the enormity of the task; indeed, we are trying to do what has never been done in South Africa’s history. That is, bring together a fractured, divided society on the basis of shared values.”
It is troubling that Mmusi Maimane believes that he can unite South Africans of all races to rally behind the objectives of building united society based on neo-liberalism. This is a fallacy; his vision completely fails to recognise that the biggest divider in our society is the economic inequality between the black and the white population.
At this point the ANC has attempted to radically deal with inequality adversities since the democratic transition establishment of the social transfers, providing free health care, free primary and elementary school with feeding scheme and recently introduced the free high education in the university. I can attest as the beneficiary of the aforementioned state social intervention. But still South Africa is still divided along class and race.
The DA should admit that does not have a vision to confront the issue of race and its bedrock of class in our society and they are incapable of solving such race and class. South Africa racism has found itself entrench behind ownership patterns, in the case of land, it was only 2% of the white families owning about 80% of the land in South Africa. This further displays itself in the inequality patterns, black South Africans earn on the average of about R2600 a month contrary to their white counterparts who earn an average income of about R11 700 a month (According 2016 statistic South Africa figures). This further goes to the inappropriate numbers of high institution graduates, in this case between 2002 to 2017, black Africans who graduated in 2002 were 2,9% of the total graduates and 2017 they were a mere 3,4% whilst white graduates in 2002 were 15,5% and 2017 18,0% of the total graduates. Surely, these numbers are hiding complexity behind them and the complexity is that race and class continue to be the real problem in South Africa.
Mmusi Maimane does not have a vision to deal with the racialised inequalities because liberal democrats who take neo-liberal economic positions always think dialogue can be panacea for our complex problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality. The reality is that in a society such as South Africa racism will never end without dismantling the capitalism and replacing it with democratic socialism. As under apartheid, black people continue experience double-exploitation on the basis of class and colour of their skin. This was not only condition existing in South Africa it exists in Caribbean, USA, Latin America, and Brazil etc.
Therefore, DA’s visions of building united South Africa at the centre of neo-liberal economy cannot close the gap of racialised inequality and eradicate poverty. The only strategic framework that can end racism is by building a socialist economy. In this case, DA has to face reality and concur with Ghana revolutionary struggle icon Kwame Nkrumah when he succinctly contends:
“A non-racial society can only be achieved by socialists’ revolutionary action of the masses. It will never come as a gift from the minority ruling class. For it is impossible to separate race relations from the capitalist class relationships in which they have roots”
He further argue that: “It is only the ending of capitalism, colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism and the attainment of world communism that can provide the conditions under which the race question can finally be abolished and eliminated.”
This is not irrelevant to contemporary South Africa, a society which the former President Thabo Mbeki characterised as having two nations, one nation rich and white and the other nation black and poor. So it is wrong of Mmusi Maimane to say that the ideology of the National Democratic Revolution is not an answer to South Africa’s challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment. It is clear that race and class are intertwined in our society – one can not address the former without addressing the latter. This is the duality which most democratic liberals such as Mmusi Maimane fail to understand – they want to address the social racism without addressing racialised inequality and poverty. Under a post-colonial capitalist society such as South Africa and the Brazil, the working class will remain overwhelmingly black because the overwhelming majority of South Africans are black.
The DA fails to acknowledge that, even though, the political white supremacy has been ended in 1994, the large portion of the structures of racial capitalism continue to be in place, with it, the concentration of the large economic power and privilege is still in the hands of very few white people. Indeed, Mmusi Maimane hesitantly agrees that race from apartheid to today remains the biggest network to access opportunities in South Africa, especially in private sector like Banks. It is clear that if the DA ever ascends to power, the transformation process will remain stagnant as long as the economic power and wealth that is accumulated through the racial structure remain unchanged. Today white people still control 90% of South African wealth. For example, Rupert’s Remgro, with different companies under Remgro group they have shares in more than seven of the top 25 JSE-listed companies.
In attempt to problamatise state capture, Mmusi Maimane’s critique considers the phenomenon at face-value and shows a lack of understanding regarding the nature of the capitalist society and the state. The capitalist society is one where the state depends on the collection of tax revenue to function and to provide services such as social grants, paying public servants and executing service delivery. At this point, the state must make the environment conducive for businesses to invest in South Africa to create jobs. Acquiring investment comes with conditions from private sector and conditions on policies of the state this can happen through World Economic Forum meeting or BRICS summits. It is clear that if the state fails to acquire investment to create jobs the unemployment will increase and that could lead to electoral loss for the governing party.
Mmusi Maimane failed to critically engage with the ANC’s strategic and tactic framework and its emancipation vision. In this case, the ANC 54th National Congress last year December 2017 has resolved in building the Developmental State, for industrialisation through active industrial policy such as Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) by Department of Trade and Industry while at the same time implementing policies to redistribute social income to promote education and achieve other social goals, like South Korea and Singapore. The ANC objectives of developmental state are as follows:
- Enhance and Speed up economic growth, National Development Plan (NDP).
- Build capacity for growth and development, advance local products and revive local manufacturing.
- Advance state policy such as IPAP.
- Build the state capacity to be able to authoritatively, credible and legitimately discipline the capital through building state institution to monitor clear coordination of state policies and extend powers of Competition Commission Act 89 of 1998 powers.
The party that Mmusi Maimane is leading even opposed to the expropriation of land without compensation, including the currently tabled motion in parliament of amending the Bank Act of 1990 to create a state bank and allow it to compete with main stream commercial banks. The state bank that can assist poor people, predominately black people from rural areas and township because will not be driven by narrow motive of profit interest. Still, DA member of the Finance Committee Gwen Ngwenya opposed this motion arguing that:
“We think this is incredibly reckless especially when you mentioning things like extending vehicle finance to really what we are talking about as the poorest of the poor because when you are talking about the unbanked, you are talking about those people which private sector banks clearly with their risk profile, have seen that they would not be able to extend credit services to…”
It is clear that the DA does not have a clear vision to help poor people – its mandate is to maintain the status quo of inequality. Surely, if Mmusi Maimane believes the DA is the future he would be concerned with the monopoly of the main stream financial institutions that are untransformed. For instance, it is not right that about 80% of the deposit, credits, and loans for businesses, cars and houses are still concentrated into only the “big-four” banks, FNB, Abasa, Standard Bank and Nedbank. Clearly, there is need for state bank to dismantle this white monopoly capital in the financial sector.
The DA is not the future for many South Africans and Mmusi Maimane is wrong to think that DA can solve South Africa’s complex challenges. The ANC government has tried and continues to try to resolve South Africa’s burning challenges such as unemployment, poverty and inequality. Since the democratic dispensation, the black middle class numerical is slowly surpassing the white middle class and with the social welfare initiatives from government such as social grant and free education our society is progressing – and that is the only paragon that can unite South Africans. I have to attest that I am the huge beneficiary of the ANC government social transfers including free primary and second school education with feeding schemes, social grants and NSFAS funding. Mmusi Maimane must face the reality that the neo-liberal DA is not critical to the future of South Africa.
Ashley Nyiko Mabasa
YCLSA Wits Branch Secretary