The battle for hearts and minds is still on
Christo Owen van der Rheede
THE SOUTH African political landscape is set to change dramatically with the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) from the ANC alliance. My guess is the country is heading towards a three-party state:
The Socialists who seek state ownership and a greater share of profits generated from goods and services produced; the Pragmatists who seek individual ownership and empowerment of the masses through the free-market system; and the Crony Capitalists who seek unbridled selfenrichment through state tenders and abuse of political patronage.
Plans are afoot to launch the United Front next month, a broad-based socialist movement committed to advance the interests of the working class. Socialists are of the view that workers are exploited and their talents at their expense are geared towards maximising profits for owners only. According to Irvin Jim, the secretarygeneral of Numsa, workers are “duped” into sharing information about what they do to improve productivity at the point of production. Such information is then used to reduce the number of workers without compromising volumes of production.
The central thrust of a socialist state is to mobilise the working class to advance their material wellbeing through the appropriation and redistribution of surplus value by the state.
While socialism is on the upsurge, a new free-market paradigm propagated by the Pragmatists is also on the rise. The National Development Plan (NDP) under the auspices of the National Planning Commission, a cohort of astute political, business and academic leaders, laid the foundation for this. In practice it takes on the form of a socio-economic plan to tackle head on the complexities of a highly unequal and fragmented society such as ours. Organised business formations and key political players embraced the plan, while it was rejected by socialist labour movements such as Numsa.
The central thrust of all arguments put forward in the NDP is that rapid economic growth is the solution to our social challenges such as poverty, inequality and unemployment. Economic growth is realised through a pragmatic approach.
The Crony Capitalists thrive on patronage and the trading of “inside” information for personal favours. Cosy relationships between those who seek business opportunities within the state and those in powerful government positions who seek financial rewards for their hand in securing it, is the hallmark of crony capitalism.
While the narrow sectarian interests that characterised the political landscape pre-1994 made way for national interests’ post-1994, it was soon replaced by self-interests and personal enrichment.
Crony Capitalists do not have an appetite for merit and democratic processes. It seeks to centralise authority and favours the appointment of cronies who will not question decisions by the powers that be. This state of affairs can easily plunge South Africa into civil conflict and is certainly in nobody’s interest, except those who thrive on chaos and looting.
Who will save South Africa from this downward trajectory of embedded corruption and economic stagnation?
I bet my money on the Pragmatists, because the militant mobilisation propagated by Numsa and the likes against owners of capital is in nobody’s interest. In an everchanging local and global economic and technology-driven environment, investments by entrepreneurs, talent optimisation, new ideas, innovativeness, competitiveness, modernisation, scientific research, high order skills, internet access, infrastructure development, continuous adaptation and strategic economic organisation should be encouraged not discouraged.
It is incumbent on the Pragmatists to convince Joe Public to opt for this route. Marketing the value proposition of a new free-market paradigm based on the NDP as opposed to what the old order unbridled capitalist system and its legacies of human and environmental exploitation has to offer, therein lies the crux. More importantly is the need to establish a new political formation consisting of Pragmatists from existing political formations that seeks faster growth, more efficient social spending and an inclusive and modern free-market system.
The battle is on for the hearts and minds of the electorate. Don’t expect a threesome.