If SA were a house...

CityPress - - Voices - Our democ­racy is in trou­ble, be­lieves the re­spected in­de­pen­dent writer, re­searcher and lec­turer In this ex­tract from his new book, he de­scribes the ANC’s South Africa as a house di­vided by cap­i­tal­ism, and tot­ter­ing on rot­ten foun­da­tions

South Africa’s Cor­po­ra­tised Lib­er­a­tion: A Crit­i­cal Anal­y­sis of the ANC in Power by Dale T McKin­ley Ja­cana Me­dia 208 pages R214 at takealot.com

Pic­ture twen­ti­eth-cen­tury South Africa as a house. Hav­ing pre­vi­ously been built on foun­da­tions em­bed­ded in the sys­tem­atic eco­nomic, racial and po­lit­i­cal op­pres­sion of the ma­jor­ity of its in­hab­i­tants, in the form of apartheid cap­i­tal­ism, the house comes to be con­trolled by the Na­tional Party (NP) as po­lit­i­cal land­lords, in con­junc­tion with white cap­i­tal as eco­nomic land­lords.

Af­ter much strug­gle and then ne­go­ti­a­tion, there is a han­dover of po­lit­i­cal land­lords; the house has been “lib­er­ated”. The ANC re­places the NP and takes oc­cu­pa­tion of the state­room. How­ever, the eco­nomic land­lords are al­lowed to re­tain their pent­house suite and it is soon re­vealed that in the han­dover agree­ment, the ANC has agreed to leave the house foun­da­tions well alone.

Sub­se­quently, new house rules are adopted, some re­design­ing and con­struc­tion of ad­di­tional rooms takes place, and a new paint job is com­pleted. All of this makes the house look much bet­ter than be­fore and, in­deed, the newly avail­able rights, spa­ces and as­so­ci­ated liv­ing con­di­tions of the ma­jor­ity in­hab­i­tants are a def­i­nite im­prove­ment on the pre­vi­ous abode.

None­the­less, as time goes on the new (po­lit­i­cal) and old (eco­nomic) land­lords are slowly but surely up­ping the rent; charg­ing the in­hab­i­tants for ev­ery­thing (in­clud­ing in­ter­room toll fees); al­low­ing the peo­ple’s rooms to fall into dis­re­pair; chang­ing the house rules to suit them­selves; in­stalling spy cams and bugs all over the place; hir­ing more house se­cu­rity and erect­ing higher walls around the prop­erty; tak­ing all the best good­ies from the pantry; re­mov­ing much of the house cash and new rental prof­its out of the house; and, all the while, liv­ing it up in the con­stantly ex­pand­ing and bling-style state­rooms and pent­house suites.

Cru­cially, the land­lords con­tinue to ig­nore ever-clearer warn­ing signs that the house foun­da­tions are struc­turally un­sound.

Trans­pos­ing that metaphor into a crit­i­cal look at the re­al­i­ties of the last 20-odd years of South Africa’s jour­ney con­firms one thing be­yond doubt: there can be no mean­ing­ful lib­er­a­tion for the ma­jor­ity with­out a si­mul­ta­ne­ous as­sault on and strug­gle against, the ar­chi­tec­ture that con­sti­tutes the foun­da­tional root of South Africa’s prob­lems.

Plain and sim­ple, it is a cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem, over­laid by a his­tor­i­cal racialised con­struc­tion and divi­sion, whose core be­ing and prac­ti­cal pur­pose are the pur­suit of a troika of profit, ac­cu­mu­la­tion and en­abling power. Lib­er­a­tion turns out to be lit­tle more than a po­lit­i­cal and racially framed shift­ing of the cap­i­tal­ist bal­cony chairs with­out a cor­re­spond­ing trans­for­ma­tion of so­cioe­co­nomic foun­da­tions.

Yet, to fully an­swer the ques­tions as to why the ANC has done what is has and why things have turned out the way they have in post-apartheid South Africa, we need to link the “big” pic­ture to the “small” one, the po­lit­i­cal to the per­sonal. What­ever the struc­tural re­al­i­ties, what­ever the read­ing of the “bal­ance of forces”, it is those in po­si­tions of lead­er­ship and power within the ANC who have changed them­selves.

They have al­lowed them­selves to be lured by the siren calls of power and money, to be sucked in by the prize of “cap­tur­ing” in­sti­tu­tional sites of power, to be se­duced by the ego­ism and lifestyles of the cap­i­tal­ist elite.

By do­ing so, and in the most di­rect of ways, they have en­sured that the ANC, con­sti­tuted of both in­di­vid­ual lead­ers and the or­gan­i­sa­tional col­lec­tive, has played a cen­tral role in neg­a­tively (re)shap­ing the land­scape of po­lit­i­cal and so­cioe­co­nomic pos­si­bil­ity, of col­lec­tive and per­sonal so­cial re­la­tions, of what it means to be an ac­tivist and pub­lic ser­vant, of the en­tire con­cept and prac­tice of “serv­ing the peo­ple”.

Ba­sic ethics or val­ues of hon­esty, re­spect, hu­mil­ity, ac­count­abil­ity, em­pa­thy, re­spon­si­bil­ity, sol­i­dar­ity and gen­eros­ity that in­formed the huge per­sonal sac­ri­fices for, and col­lec­tive moral power of, the lib­er­a­tion strug­gle in South Africa have been largely “for­got­ten” and cast aside. In the process, the “lib­er­a­tion” of post-1994 South Africa has been turned up­side down.

Dis­hon­esty and in­com­pe­tence are ei­ther re­warded or sim­ply ig­nored and repli­cated, while those who ex­pose and con­front the truth, who raise the alarm and who try to up­hold col­lec­tive, so­cial as well as per­sonal ac­count­abil­ity are con­sis­tently pun­ished, marginalised, la­belled and made to feel like out­cast spoil­ers who do not be­long. It is as if those ba­sic ethics/val­ues have come to be seen as just another set of com­modi­ties, whose re­al­i­sa­tion only has mean­ing and ap­pli­ca­tion in the con­text of a self-ben­e­fi­cial ap­pli­ca­tion or com­mer­cial trans­ac­tion.

What the ANC has truly for­got­ten is that how one lives is much more mean­ing­ful and im­por­tant than where one lives, how much power and money one has or what in­sti­tu­tional and so­cial po­si­tion one holds in so­ci­ety.

Sim­ply put, the ANC has not prac­tised what it has preached. No amount of re­vi­sion­ist his­tory, dis­cus­sion doc­u­ments, con­fer­ence res­o­lu­tions, elec­toral man­i­festos, laws, or any other ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tions have changed, or are go­ing to change, that re­al­ity and the sub­se­quent shap­ing im­pact. What the ANC in power has with­out doubt achieved, though, is to car­i­ca­ture and gnaw away at the dreams and de­sires of in­creas­ing num­bers of the ma­jor­ity.

They have done so by at­tack­ing not only the ma­te­rial bases for the pos­si­ble prac­ti­cal re­al­i­sa­tion of those dreams and de­sires, but also through the ne­olib­eral em­brace, the ide­o­log­i­cal and philo­soph­i­cal bases for hav­ing them at all. Many would ex­pect the kind of choices made and sub­se­quent be­hav­iour shown by the ANC to be a nat­u­ral part of the world of cor­po­rate cap­i­tal, whose rai­son d’être is the pur­suit and ac­cu­mu­la­tion of power and money through ex­ploita­tion, ma­nip­u­la­tion and in­vet­er­ate per­sonal, as well as col­lec­tive cor­rup­tion.

In­deed, prior to 1994 and in the first decade or so af­ter its ac­ces­sion to power, there was a wide­spread ex­pec­ta­tion that the ANC and more es­pe­cially its se­nior lead­er­ship would not aban­don those ba­sic ethics/val­ues and when they were vi­o­lated would act firmly to stamp them out. This was not only be­cause of what was per­ceived as the per­sonal moral con­sis­tency of some of its lead­ers, but be­cause the ma­jor­ity ex­pected a rel­a­tively seam­less lin­eage be­tween the broader ethos that in­formed the strug­gle for lib­er­a­tion and the ANC’s un­der­stand­ing and ex­er­cise of demo­cratic power.

Those ex­pec­ta­tions have turned out to be il­lu­sions. Pos­si­bly more than any other com­po­nent of the cor­po­ra­tised “model”, the dash­ing of those ex­pec­ta­tions has re­sulted in a gen­er­alised dis­il­lu­sion­ment along­side the in­creas­ing loss of pop­u­lar sym­pa­thy with, and ac­tive sup­port of, the ANC. It has also opened wide the door to a range of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal prac­tices and be­hav­iour that now pose se­ri­ous threats to the very vi­a­bil­ity of the ANC it­self and to South Africa’s democ­racy.


IN­EQUAL­ITY IN FULL VIEW De­spite gen­eral ad­vances, SA re­mains vastly un­equal, with a small group re­tain­ing the eco­nomic power, con­ve­niently ig­nor­ing their im­pov­er­ished neigh­bours

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