Ge­nius Maine, pull up a chair

CityPress - - Voices - Mondli Makhanya voices@city­press.co.za

Af­ter be­ing elected head of the ANC Youth League in Septem­ber and be­ing sub­jected to par­o­dies and mirth, Collen Maine needed some­thing that would make peo­ple take him se­ri­ously. Not even the #FeesMustFall up­ris­ing had given him any pro­file, as it sug­gested that the league was a force of the past and lead­er­ship of young peo­ple had moved to other, more dy­namic hands.

When he did pop up dur­ing that time, he came up with some ridicu­lous state­ments that were de­signed more to fight his Premier League spon­sors’ bat­tles with Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Blade Nz­i­mande than to give weight to the stu­dents’ cause. And, by the way, if any­body could really lend weight to those strug­gles, it would have to be him – he is hot on the heels of Khu­lubuse Zuma in the kilo­gram stakes.

Then came De­cem­ber and that in­fa­mous ax­ing of Nhlanhla Nene as fi­nance min­is­ter. Even be­fore the coun­try had felt the im­pact of the mar­kets’ re­ac­tion to the de­ci­sion, the ANC and its al­lies re­acted in a per­plexed fash­ion. The party is­sued a muted state­ment re­spect­ing the pres­i­dent’s pre­rog­a­tive, labour fed­er­a­tion Cosatu said it was “shocked and dis­con­certed” by the “ill-timed” de­ci­sion, while the SA Com­mu­nist Party merely noted the reshuf­fle.

As Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma was pum­melled left, right and cen­tre, no sig­nif­i­cant in­di­vid­ual came to his de­fence.

That was un­til Umkhonto weSizwe Veter­ans As­so­ci­a­tion leader Kebby Maphat­soe, whose way­ward ut­ter­ances be­tray his affin­ity for King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo’s favourite herb, piped up and said some­thing non­sen­si­cal in de­fence of Zuma. Ev­ery­one just laughed and dis­missed him.

Then came Maine, seek­ing ap­proval from the pres­i­dent and the big men of the Premier League. He dished out his su­perb un­der­stand­ing of eco­nomics as he ex­plained the mar­ket’s vi­o­lent re­ac­tion to Zuma’s de­ci­sion.

“Nene is not so spe­cial that the rand can fall be­cause of him. Who is he?” Maine told a News24 jour­nal­ist.

The sage con­tin­ued: “It’s not about Nhlanhla Nene; it’s be­cause of the re­ces­sion we are in that the econ­omy is not grow­ing … and there are prob­lems with the rand. He might be beau­ti­ful to oth­ers, but he’s not so beau­ti­ful that he can make the rand fall.”

His sen­ti­ments were shared by oth­ers in the gov­ern­ing party who, while dis­ap­prov­ing of Zuma’s ac­tions, were just as in­censed by what they re­garded as the bul­ly­ing ways of the mar­kets and the busi­ness sec­tor.

This was in stark con­trast to Cosatu, which over­came its so­cial­ist bent to recog­nise the power of the mar­kets and their aver­sion to un­cer­tainty.

“Min­is­ter Nene’s ten­ure was very short and the eco­nomic sec­tor does not cope well with abrupt and un­qual­i­fied changes, be­cause that creates un­cer­tainty. Our econ­omy is, un­for­tu­nately, glob­alised, and we can­not ig­nore the re­al­i­ties that come with op­er­at­ing in such an en­vi­ron­ment,” said Cosatu.

This was pre­cisely the point. Just be­cause your ide­o­log­i­cal pos­ture ren­ders cap­i­tal your enemy does not mean you must ig­nore its power. This is a les­son that an or­gan­i­sa­tion that in­vested so much en­ergy in past decades in mo­bil­is­ing cap­i­tal against apartheid must understand.

The ANC un­der­stood this much bet­ter than the PW Botha regime, which gave a mid­dle fin­ger to a dis­ap­prov­ing world in the 1980s. It is a les­son the ANC learnt first-hand when Nel­son Man­dela’s gov­ern­ment failed to sen­si­tise the mar­kets to Trevor Manuel’s readi­ness to take over the reins at fi­nance.

Thabo Mbeki’s ad­min­is­tra­tion was se­verely pun­ished in the early 2000s when some un­der­handed in­di­vid­ual leaked a draft min­ing­sec­tor-em­pow­er­ment pro­posal, send­ing the mar­kets into a tail­spin. Gov­ern­ment was forced to go back to the draw­ing board to draft more “ac­cept­able” pro­pos­als with the min­ing sec­tor.

Gov­ern­ments else­where in the world have been sim­i­larly pun­ished by the mar­kets when they make in­ex­pli­ca­ble de­ci­sions. Mar­kets are pow­er­ful and will con­tinue to be so un­til the so­cial­ist heaven ar­rives in a few thou­sand years’ time. Even the Com­mu­nist Party of China, the cur­rent high priest of mod­ern so­cial­ism, un­der­stands this and uses state-owned en­ti­ties to man­age mar­ket be­hav­iour.

This is the re­al­ity that ge­niuses such as Maine need to grasp. And it is a re­al­ity that cur­rent and fu­ture lead­ers of our repub­lic will need to grasp to avoid making even more stupid de­ci­sions.

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