Our lead­ers pay lip ser­vice to Marx­ism, parad­ing in de­signer rhetoric and en­joy­ing the fruits of cap­i­tal, while the most needy and vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety are nowhere near the cen­tre of power

CityPress - - Front Page - PHILLIP DEX­TER

As we limp through this pe­riod in our coun­try’s his­tory, we are re­minded daily of how the needs and in­ter­ests of the poor­est of the poor, the work­ing class, women, chil­dren, the aged, young peo­ple, peo­ple who are dif­fer­ently abled, refugees, gay peo­ple, peo­ple suf­fer­ing from men­tal ill­nesses, the un­em­ployed, black, coloured, In­dian, and poor white – to men­tion but the most ob­vi­ously marginalised and alien­ated – are nowhere near the cen­tre of so­ci­ety or gov­ern­ment.

From mine work­ers whose bod­ies re­main buried or are shot down in cold blood, to social grant ben­e­fi­cia­ries who live with­out know­ing if their grants will come. From small and mi­cro busi­nesses that eke out an ex­is­tence, to those cast away from med­i­cal care to die. From those hacked to death for speak­ing an­other lan­guage and dar­ing to open a busi­ness, to those raped to “cor­rect” their sex­ual iden­ti­ties and be­hav­iour.

These peo­ple, and many more, stand alone in a so­ci­ety in which social sol­i­dar­ity seems to have been killed off and where gov­ern­ment is mostly in­ter­ested in any­thing but their prob­lems.

This is not to say that ev­ery­one in gov­ern­ment or in busi­ness is bad or cor­rupt, but enough are greedy and cor­rupt for it to be a phenomenon that is sys­temic. We are con­stantly re­minded by crit­ics from all corners that the in­ter­ests of the gov­ern­ing party, those who run the coun­try and those in busi­ness are es­sen­tially bour­geois.


A shop ste­ward at a po­lit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion school once gave an anal­y­sis of the tran­si­tion from apartheid to democ­racy as be­ing one from apartheid cap­i­tal­ism to shosholoza cap­i­tal­ism. He ex­plained that, for him as a worker, al­most ev­ery­thing had stayed the same – wages, work­ing con­di­tions, the cost of liv­ing and ser­vice de­liv­ery. All but three things:

The first was that he was no longer racially abused by his bosses. In fact, they had joined the ANC, so they called him “com­rade”.

The sec­ond was that new man­age­ment speak had re­placed the lan­guage of baaskap so that he was no longer “a lazy k***ir”, but now his “pro­duc­tiv­ity” was not what the com­pany ex­pected.

Lastly, in­stead of be­ing al­lowed to stay home and rest on Satur­days and watch soc­cer on TV, he was forced to do “team build­ing” with his bosses, which meant go­ing to watch soc­cer to­gether at a sta­dium and singing Shosholoza.

This dry but hu­mor­ous tale de­scribes the re­al­ity for many. Whether we mea­sure un­em­ploy­ment, land own­er­ship, inequality, en­ter­prise own­er­ship, oc­cu­pa­tion of man­age­ment and ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions for most black, coloured and In­dian peo­ple – as apartheid clas­si­fied them – for most women and for al­most all marginalised peo­ple, lit­tle has changed in 23 years.

This does not mean that huge progress has not been made in terms of de­liv­er­ing es­sen­tial ser­vices and cater­ing for the ba­sic needs of peo­ple. But if we are to pat our­selves on the back for fi­nally giv­ing potable wa­ter and elec­tric­ity where there was none, and for giv­ing peo­ple food and shel­ter, we have missed the point of our rev­o­lu­tion com­pletely.

We fought to cre­ate a non­racist, non­sex­ist, peace­ful, uni­fied and pros­per­ous coun­try. It is plain to see that we have moved only one step in the right di­rec­tion on a jour­ney of 1 000 miles.

Yet in our na­tional dis­course, we talk as if we have made great strides as a coun­try. Some even talk about the need to end trans­for­ma­tion and em­pow­er­ment. This is bad enough. Then there is the cold, cal­lous in­dif­fer­ence of those in power, both po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic, and their will­ing­ness to use spin, eu­phemisms and down­right lies to try to dis­tract us from their fail­ings, short­com­ings, dis­hon­esty and, in some cases, their thiev­ing.

Let us not for­get that, while we have watched the Nkandla, Gupta and social grant dis­graces by gov­ern­ment, we have seen the con­tin­ued ex­ploita­tion, col­lu­sion, an­ti­com­pet­i­tive be­hav­iour, fraud and abuse by the pri­vate sec­tor. Our me­dia are not per­fect – they do not fo­cus as in­tensely as they should on the crime and cor­rup­tion of those in busi­ness – but that should not let those of us who be­long to po­lit­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions use this as an ex­cuse for what some in gov­ern­ment are do­ing.

If the me­dia is cap­tured by white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, the social-me­dia apol­o­gists for crony­ism, cor­rup­tion and state cap­ture are in the claws of the crim­i­nal state com­plex.


Some have posited an anal­y­sis that ev­ery­one in power has be­come part of the bourgeoisie – that they are all so rich, they have taken on the same in­ter­ests as the Ru­perts, the Op­pen­heimers, the Wiesers, the Mot­sepes and the other su­per­wealthy among our com­pa­tri­ots.

If there are those who work in gov­ern­ment, or even in the pri­vate sec­tor, and think so, well, shame on them. But it is doubt­ful that even those with a ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion do not un­der­stand that this sys­tem can­not hold. It is com­ing apart, yet we are con­stantly dis­tracted from the real is­sues and chal­lenges by the need to de­fend those who steal; those who lie; those who fake their con­cerns for the ma­jor­ity of South Africans; and those who are lazy, in­com­pe­tent and use­less. While this hap­pens, the rich get richer.

The social com­pact be­tween those in eco­nomic power and those in po­lit­i­cal power op­er­ates most ef­fi­ciently. It al­lows the talk of em­pow­er­ment, job cre­ation, ser­vice de­liv­ery, trans­for­ma­tion and so­cial­i­sa­tion while de­liv­er­ing next to noth­ing of the sort. This com­pact al­lows min­ing as usual, farm­ing as usual, do­mes­tic work as usual. “Usual” be­ing just like it was un­der apartheid – with­out the words ‘k***ir’ and ‘Hot­ten­tot’. These are now re­placed with the words ‘mak­w­erek­were’, ‘moffie’ and ‘im­pe­ri­al­ist agent’.


Is it the dis­trac­tion that causes us to fal­ter? For, while we are wast­ing time with com­mis­sions of en­quiry into the SABC, we are not hold­ing a com­mis­sion of en­quiry into poverty and its causes. While we are hold­ing those to ac­count for steal­ing from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, we are not hold­ing those to ac­count who steal from the work­ers.

While we are fight­ing among our­selves for po­si­tions that will place us in closer prox­im­ity to gov­ern­ment’s cof­fers and thus to the pri­vate ones as well, our en­ergy is not fo­cused on how we get eco­nomic and social re­dress for colo­nial­ism, apartheid and cap­i­tal­ism.

Those who should lead us in this re­gard are con­tent to tell us that there are fis­cal con­straints, that the global econ­omy stops us from grow­ing as fast as we should, and that the ne­go­ti­ated set­tle­ment means we can’t change the fun­da­men­tals of our so­ci­ety. Shame on them for telling us what we can’t do. Their job is to tell us what we must do to achieve the vi­sion set out in our Con­sti­tu­tion. Their job is to build the or­gan­i­sa­tions that will make that ob­jec­tive pos­si­ble.

In­stead, our unions and all of our or­gan­i­sa­tions, with few ex­cep­tions, lie in ru­ins. At the same time, the al­ready weak state we in­her­ited from the apartheid regime teeters on a few sturdy pil­lars that are, as of now, un­der con­stant at­tack by re­ac­tionary forces.


Does this make us all bour­geois? Not at all. But it makes us com­plicit with the bourgeoisie, no mat­ter how much we quote Karl Marx and blame en­emy agents or white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal.

Rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies are sup­posed to in­spire hope, mo­bilise for change and act as ex­am­ples of the fu­ture so­ci­ety we seek to build. No, we are not all bour­geois. In fact, we are not all work­ing class ei­ther. We are many things, but I sus­pect it’s the pe­tite bourgeoisie, who are in­tent on mim­ick­ing the big one, that will be the death of us all.

For it is they who sing Shosholoza loud­est of all to dis­tract us while grab­bing ev­ery­thing they can as the coun­try slides into a rat­ings down­grade and fur­ther social down­grades, and as our gov­ern­ment hur­tles to­wards com­plete fail­ure. After that comes a failed state. Will we all sing Shosholoza then?

Dex­ter is a mem­ber of the ANC

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