This cheap propaganda in favour of Ramaphosa’s candidature deserves to be consigned to the rubbish bin,writes
ON NOVEMBER 3, Standard Bank senior political economist Simon Freemantle published a report, The prospects for and implications of an NDZ win. The format in which the report is written is calculated to make it appear at first glance as if it is objective.
However, the further one reads the more the mask of academic pretence drops and questions arise.
The research is weak and shallow. It appears to be mostly a cut-and-paste job from biased newspaper articles that were written as anti-Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma smear pieces.
One cannot help but wonder why a senior political economist would produce such shoddy work. Was Freemantle under pressure from his employers at Standard Bank to deliver a document that could be used to de-campaign Dlamini Zuma?
Was he given instructions on what the conclusions of his so-called research should be?
This flimsy document certainly has all the appearances of Freemantle abusing his academic credentials in order to create the fake impression of academic objectivity, while it is a piece of biased pseudo-academic propaganda.
Is the report really intended for Standard Bank clients? It purports to be for internal use only, Standard Bank and its clients – and not for public distribution – but within hours after it was internally released, it was posted in PDF format all over social media networks.
A concerted effort was made to distribute it as widely as possible and to reach the biggest possible audience. Not only does the document display all the traits of a propaganda piece, but the manner in which it was distributed – with the clear intention to reach and influence the widest possible audience – also seemed like propaganda.
As far as “servicing the client base of Standard Bank”, the report must be seen as of little value to the clients since it is based on hardly any scientific grounding for business forecasting. For example, regardless of the outcome of the ANC’s national elective conference next month, the rating agencies might downgrade South Africa.
It is a fact that Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s will decide not only on their biased political interpretations, but also based on international economic trends, which the government has little control over, to downgrade South Africa. Markets are well aware of this and have started to factor that into their planning.
Freemantle refers to the narrative of “fiscal downslide” if Dlamini Zuma wins. However, in contrast to the leaked recommendation of the Heher Commission on free tertiary education, that it is not feasible from an economic/fiscal perspective, Cyril Ramaphosa in his campaign – similar to the strong position Dlamini Zuma has taken in favour of free quality education – has indicated that “students need free education”.
This is in contrast to the leaked findings of the commission that it is not affordable. It must be noted that the commission’s finding is controversial, that it is disputable and needs further research and political consideration. It is certainly not a “proven economic fact” that free tertiary education will lead to a fiscal downslide.
Despite being a senior political economist, Freemantle ignores this and in a biased manner treats it as a so-called fact.
He uses this to argue that her strong policy position in favour of free quality education will lead to a fiscal downslide.
Furthermore, he uses the narrative that policies “such as this will deliver a message to the market of political and patronage continuity, rather than the decisive economic and institutional re-gearing”.
The fact is that radical economic transformation goes back to the initial, Freedom Charter-based, commitment of the ANC for a fundamental restructuring of the economic relations in favour of the majority (especially black people), with “re-gearing” being a necessity to ensure long-term political stability in the country.
To argue that Dlamini Zuma will specifically deliver an unpalatable message to the market is simply an opinion of Freemantle and those he represents; it is not at all based on market dynamics.
In fact the markets would like to maximise profits. Dlamini Zuma’s policies in favour of radical economic transformation will maximise profit and efforts towards poverty alleviation.
Freeman’s main arguments can therefore be criticised as follows:
1. “The damaging preservation of the status quo”: Radical economic transformation is not the status quo.
This is a fact Freemantle ignores. Radical economic transformation will prevent South Africa from sliding into political instability.
In September the latest statistics showed the untenable poverty situation in the country – facts Freemantle ignored in his interpretation.
Furthermore Ramaphosa also indicated that the “land question” must be resolved. Freemantle ignored this fact. Somehow Freemantle argues that the markets would prefer Ramaphosa. This is not based on any scientific study.
Furthermore, he does not acknowledge that markets will always protect imperialistic outcomes and will try to postpone maximising poverty alleviation.
The question should be asked: is this sustainable? How long can that be maintained before a downslide to political instability and violence?
2. “Public Sector wage increases”: The fact is that Cosatu opposed Ramaphosa’s views on the national minimum wage. Ramaphosa’s election will not necessarily render the negotiation process with trade unions less complex. To argue in this way makes it a biased opinion, with the intention to promote Ramaphosa as Standard Bank’s preferred candidate, not based on any scientific argument.
3. The rationalisation of key state-owned enterprises: Ramaphosa said recently that “we cannot just throw away SAA”. The fact is that even if he wins, he will not rationalise key SOEs as Freemantle indicates. Freemantle’s “selective sale” of state assets is more complex than indicated and it is not ANC policy. To what extent will Cosatu and the Federation of Unions of South Africa accept this?
4. Nuclear: Nuclear is not a one-year project as nuclear expert Chris Yelland indicated; it is a 10- to 12-year project. Who can say with certainty that enough electricity will be available in 2030? Is coal and diesel sustainable to generate electricity? These arguments do not form part of the report. Thus they must be seen as opinions.
Against this background Freemantle wrote a report based on his own opinions and guided by CR17 campaigners and Standard Bank’s bias in favour of Ramaphosa’s candidature.
This report was never meant to be an “academic piece” to objectively be of service to Standard Bank clients. It is hardly of any academic or scientific value.
It is cheap propaganda that deserves to be consigned to the rubbish bin.
Standard Bank and its senior political economist should be ashamed of themselves for intervening in this manner in the internal politics of the ANC and for trying to influence the outcome of our national elective conference. Fortunately they have done it in such an amateurish and ham-fisted manner that it was from the start doomed to fail dismally.
Niehaus is a former member ANC NEC member and an Umkhonto we Sizwe veteran.
His articles can also be found on his blog, Carl’s Corner: www. carlniehaus.co.za