The win­ner in this bat­tle must be the poor

The Star Early Edition - - INSIDE -

IN THE light of the out­come of the past meet­ing of the ANC Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee (NEC), it is safe to pre­dict that Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma will con­tinue to win ev­ery in­ter­nal bat­tle in the run-up to the party’s elec­tive con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber.

De­spite this, the Ramaphosa/Gord­han group is still likely to win the war around state cap­ture, which has be­come the defin­ing is­sue of both the ANC’s fac­tional fights and South African pol­i­tics as a whole.

The vic­tory of the Ramaphosa/Gord­han group car­ries dif­fer­ent risks for the poor and the work­ing class than that of the Zuma group.

The dan­ger of the Zuma group is clear. Their vic­tory could in­sti­tu­tion­alise anti-poor cor­rup­tion and un­der­mine the re­course built into the cur­rent sys­tem. This is the po­lit­i­cal ba­sis for move­ments of the poor to call for Zuma to go.

Vic­tory for the Ramaphosa/Gord­han group poses a threat that the neo-lib­eral sys­tem and white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal get a re­newed le­git­i­macy and state cap­ture is de­fined as a prob­lem when it af­fects cap­i­tal­ist and state elites, while cor­rup­tion af­fect­ing the poor is nor­malised.

A re­cent City Press ar­ti­cle il­lus­trates this. Ti­tled “Work­ers earn peanuts, con­trac­tors make mil­lions in fence projects”, the ar­ti­cle ex­plains how busi­nesses con­tracted by the Lim­popo de­part­ment of agri­cul­ture to put up fences raked in mil­lions of rands through charg­ing clearly in­flated prices, ac­cord­ing to the DA in the prov­ince. Work­ers in the projects were paid be­tween R75 and R92 per day.

In this story, it is the work­ers who are di­rectly dis­ad­van­taged, so it does not fea­ture promi­nently in the state cap­ture con­ser­va­tions con­structed by the Ramaphosa/Gord­han group.

For them the tone was set by the State of Cap­ture re­port, where the dis­ad­van­taged “per­son” was the mega-rich cor­po­ra­tion Glen­core.

The rea­son the Gup­tas are so hated by this group is be­cause they want to dis­place cor­po­ra­tions like Glen­core as the fore­most ex­ploiters of the black work­ing class in the min­ing-en­ergy-fi­nan­cial com­plex.

The Ramaphosa/Gord­han group is part of a broad front de­fend­ing the le­git­i­macy of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal by deny­ing its ex­is­tence, while at the same time defin­ing state cap­ture and cor­rup­tion as a cri­sis when it af­fects this group.

The Zuma group has pushed back hard against this de­nial of the ex­is­tence of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal. But they are un­able, be­yond hol­low de­nials, to do the same when it comes to state cap­ture.

They are cer­tainly un­able to lead a strug­gle for a re­def­i­ni­tion of state cap­ture that puts, at the cen­tre, work­ers who sweat in the sun all day for R75 while their bosses make mil­lions.

The rea­son for this is sim­ply that they are im­pli­cated in this kind of anti-poor state cap­ture, which they are do­ing in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, as the so­cial grants cri­sis demon­strated.

They are forced to side­step the is­sue of state cap­ture and put for­ward a vague call for rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion.

Malusi Gigaba’s stint so far as fi­nance min­is­ter il­lus­trates what hap­pens to a rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion agenda when it is led by a group of black cap­i­tal­ists and state of­fi­cials deeply in­volved in the ex­ploita­tion of the poor.

Rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion quickly be­comes “no change in pol­icy” as the global cap­i­tal­ist elites re­mind the Zuma group that their wealth de­pends on the same neo-lib­eral sys­tem re­spon­si­ble for the fan­tas­tic growth in wealth of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal.

The true pa­ram­e­ter of the bat­tle is set as about the size of the pay-off white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal­ists must ad­vance for their re­newed le­git­i­macy.

The most likely sce­nario is that the pay-off will be made and the neo-lib­eral sys­tem in ser­vice of white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal­ists and their black ju­nior part­ners will re­ceive a re­newed le­git­i­macy through the mech­a­nism of an im­posed def­i­ni­tion of state cap­ture that looks af­ter the in­ter­ests of big cap­i­tal­ists.

Only a con­certed ef­fort by the move­ments of the poor and the work­ing class can avoid this sce­nario by mo­bil­is­ing a bat­tle to de­fine state cap­ture and cor­rup­tion in the na­tional con­scious­ness in ways that pri­ori­tise the in­ter­ests of the poor and push back against both dom­i­nant fac­tions in the ANC.

The bat­tle is to change the way the strug­gle against state cap­ture is un­der­stood – from a strug­gle in de­fence of Glen­core and other busi­nesses “un­fairly” de­nied state con­tracts, to a strug­gle in de­fence of the ex­ploited fenc­ing work­ers in Lim­popo de­nied de­cent work­ing con­di­tions and liv­ing wages.

The ANC are forced to side­step the is­sue of state cap­ture

Ron­ald Wesso is Re­search Head at Ox­fam South Africa

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