Written by: Sara Gon
We South Africans have a blind spot. We are desperate to believe that our leaders don’t mean what they say. That sense will prevail.
Many commentators have referred to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s smarts in playing ‘the long game’ although we don’t know what his ‘long game’ is. Is it a ‘long game’ or a ‘I’m-going-to-keep-you-guessing game’?
Ramaphosa has repeatedly said what he thinks, but we’ve either ignored or disregarded it. His address at the Centenary Celebrations of the birth of Nelson Mandela on 18 July 2018 was unambiguous, however.
Those who thought that in Ramaphosa the future of business was secured may be wrong. Despite his extensive involvement in business, he is a dedicated, deployed cadre of the African National Congress (ANC) in the classical Marxist-Leninist mould.
The ANC deployed him to business to become one of a very few beneficiaries of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) deals, which aimed at creating wealth for the ANC outside its structures. The ANC entrusted selected individuals to gain access to substantial wealth and to ensure that such beneficiaries would donate substantial money to the ANC.
Consequently, Ramaphosa became extremely rich. As at February 2018, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at over R6 billion. Others posit R8 billion. Ramaphosa is also a brother-in-law of Patrice Motsepe, whom Forbes rates as being worth R26 billion.
Ramaphosa has declared to parliament ownership of 31 properties, including two plots at the base of Lion’s Head in Fresnaye, Cape Town which cost R30 million for 1,423 m2. This property has to be on one of the most desirable locations on Earth.
Forbes noted: ‘Although not a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Ramaphosa claimed that he was a committed socialist.’
Ramaphosa has certainly never referred to himself as a free marketeer or capitalist or ‘pro business’. Ramaphosa is a committed socialist and his Mandela Centenary Celebration speech made this abundantly clear.
‘A defining moment in his [Mandela’s] political development was when he was able to overcome his hostility towards the Communist Party of South Africa. Through hours of intensive engagement with comrades like Walter Sisulu and Moses Kotane, he came to appreciate the contribution of communists in the National Democratic Revolution. He came to understood the class content of the national struggle and the national content of the class struggle. This moment in the evolution of his political thought is instructive, because it demonstrates the extent to which even the greatest leader is shaped by the circumstances of struggle, by the movement and by those around them.’
Ramaphosa’s unabashed admiration of Mandela’s being cajoled into adopting an ideology that had been revealed as murderous and unsuccessful, is extraordinary.
Ramaphosa made no reference to the advice Mandela received from China at Davos, forty-odd years later, that a socialist economy would be a disaster.
Ramaphosa has frequently extolled the ongoing pursuit of ‘The National Democratic Revolution’ (NDR). The NDR’s roots lie in Lenin’s 1917 Theory of Imperialism. The theory was that the living standards of the working classes in industrialised Europe were then improving rather than deteriorating, but solely because the imperial powers ruthlessly exploited ‘the brown and black masses in their colonies’.
This didn’t quite describe South Africa, so, in 1950, the Communist Party of South Africa (CPSA) declared that South Africa had “the characteristics of both an imperialist state and a colony within a single, indivisible, geographical, political, and economic entity”.
In this ‘colonialism of a special type’, white South Africa was the ‘imperialist state’ and black South Africa its ‘colony’. Enterprise, skill or technological advantage had nothing to do with white success; success was derived solely from the exploitation and impoverishment of blacks.
The NDR, therefore, should create a society in which people are intellectually, socially, economically and politically empowered.
Seven decades later, Lenin’s theory remains central to the NDR today.
The problem with the NDR and the communism that invented it, is that it has failed wherever it has been practised. The Soviet Union lasted as long as it did because of its vast oil and gas reserves. When it inevitably collapsed, so did the NDR. It disappeared.
There are roughly 70 current and former socialist states or states run by socialist parties. The only remaining communist/socialist countries are China, Laos, Vietnam, Cuba and Venezuela. The first three are liberalising economically, Cuba is poor and under-developed, and Venezuela is imploding.
The article by Dr. Anthea Jeffery, Head of Policy Research at the IRR, on the destruction of the Venezuelan economy is well worth reading.
We just need to look at our failed socialist neighbours – Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – to be chastened about contemplating a socialist economic model. There is nothing to suggest that the ANC would succeed where all have so miserably failed.
‘To realise Madiba’s dream the 54th Conference of his organisation took forward looking decisions on how we can empower our people through giving them their land back through expropriation without compensation. This process in itself will lead to enhancing the growth of our economy and increase agricultural production and food security. The return of Land to our people will unleash enormous growth in our economy.’
Ramaphosa and some others in the ANC have said categorically that it would apply expropriation without compensation, ahead of the findings of the Consitutional Judicial Review Commission, which the ANC proposed, with success, in the National Assembly.
Ramaphosa has never acknowledged that incompetence, corruption, a shortage of funding and a shortage of judges for the Land Court by successive ANC governments are the real reasons for any lack of success in land reform.
Ramaphosa has contradicted himself on whether land ownership will vest in the state or in individuals.
‘To those who are fearful of the prospect of the return of the land to our people I say fear not because we are going to handle this matter in the usual way we solve matters in our country through dialogue and agreement. The restoration of land to our people will unlock the growth of our economy.’
Surely if the ANC/government is going to implement EWC there will be nothing to talk about?
The ‘unlocking of growth’ is an illusion. Being in possession (not ownership) of land alone will unlock nothing. Skills, access to capital and freedom of movement also have to exist.
Ramaphosa refers frequently to “our people” and not only in the context of EWC. However, the contexts clearly denote black Africans and excludes whites; the position of Coloureds and Indians isn’t clear.
At the Mandela Centenary Celebration, former American President Barack Obama quoted Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jnr. and Abraham Lincoln. Ramaphosa quoted Karl Marx.
Ramaphosa ended his speech with the once Marxist-Leninist Mozambican party Frelimo’s famous slogan: “The struggle continues – A luta continua”.
Ramaphosa says he’s a socialist – believe him!
Author: Sara Gon is a Policy Fellow at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a think tank that promotes political and economic freedom. If you agree with what you have just read then click here or SMS your name to 32823.