APOCALYPSE OR TECTONIC SHIFT IN THE NATIONAL POLITICAL DISCOURSE?

Siyabonga Hadebe | 01.12.2018

In the Daily Maverick of Wednesday, 28 November 2018, a member of the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the national Parliament Toby Chance suggests that “a coalition between ANC [African National Congress] moderates and the DA will stave off tyranny…”

He further adds, “To avoid this unpleasant scenario, the ANC will need to split with the breakaway rational constitutionalists, forming a coalition with the DA and other like-minded smaller parties.”

Chance’s ideas correspond with those advanced in Leon Schreiber’s book titled ‘Coalition Country: South Africa after the ANC’. Schreiber argues that coalitions could become “the norm in South Africa, although they are not the only possibilities.” But Chance goes one further by openly suggesting a split of the ANC.

Basically, Chance appears to be dead worried about agitations for land reform in South Africa and perhaps all other resolutions that were taken by the ANC’s elective conference at the end of last year.

Chance refers to the push for change in South Africa as constituting “outdated ideology” which lead to some form of paralysis. In his view, the current posture with “EFF-leanings” (as he calls it) would result in a mayhem, e.g. reduced investment, higher unemployment, more government debt, existential threats to our financial system, etc.

Perhaps some people would question why one has to be concerned with what the DA thinks since the ANC preaches unity at every given opportunity.

Well, the contestation of ideas in the ANC have been there for quite a long time. Mervin Gumede calls it “the battle for the soul of the ANC”. Thus, my opinion is that tug-of-war over the direction that the ANC should take going forward has not been more pronounced as it is now.

Not discounting the battles over soul that started in the 1940s – that eventually led to the formation of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) – the present struggle is even more significant in that it goes beyond the ANC but it means that country also has to take keen interest.

The battle for the soul of the ANC also means that form and shape of the organisation that was forged over five decades ago will drastically change.

The DA appears to be standing on the pulpit delivering a sermon they think is key to dismantling ‘the broad church’. It is likely that the DA is not acting alone but its sentiments are shared by many inside the governing party.

The ideological divide within the ruling party seems to be more visible from space much like the Chinese Wall. It would be quite disingenuous for anyone to deny that even Isaac Newton would determine with a degree of highest accuracy the direction of forces in the ideology of the ANC.

The moderates see the ‘radicals’ within and without the ANC, e.g. the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Black Land First (BLF) and trade union movement, as threats to South Africa. There is a huge temptation to replay the Brazilian fiasco under the soon to be installed rightist regime.

In any case, it is safe to say that what we witness in the ANC is more like a repeat script in the South African politics.

Starting in the 1960s, the Nationalist Party (NP) and its support base, Afrikaner population, were divided over a number of issues pertaining to apartheid policies such as immigration, language, racially-mixed sporting teams, and engagement with black African states.

Coincidentally, the NP also experienced a major apocalypse when the emergence of the ‘verkramptes’ (conservatives or radicals) and ‘verligtes’ (moderates or liberals).

It was in 1969 that the “verkrampte” faction including Albert Hertzog and Jaap Marais, created formed the Herstigte Nasionale Party (HNP). The new party saw itself as “the true upholder of pure Verwoerdian apartheid ideology.”

Although the Herstigte Nasionale Party never really fared well in any elections, its sufficient numbers weren’t enough “to erode support for the government at crucial points.” The verligtes grew in strength in attempts by the NP to deal with international isolation.

The National Party internal politics could also be used to explain the proximity of the EFF, and even the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), to ANC radicals – ideologically speaking at least. This pertains more to the demands for radical change in the economy and the land question.

The 1969 split of the NP was preceded by the expulsion of Japie Basson, a moderate, over disagreements pertaining to the racial questions. Basson went to form his own National Union Party but would later rejoin the NP in the 1980s. Before this, he was also a member of the United Party and Progressive Federal Party.

The Progressive Federal Party was a precursor of the Democratic Party (now the DA), which could be described as Theo Gerdener’s “attempt its own verligte solution to racial questions.” Gerdener served as the NP interior minister from 1970 to 1972 and prior to this he was Administrator of the Natal Province (now KwaZulu-Natal).

The ‘preferred’ split of the ANC, by the DA and others, could resemble the shift of tectonic plates in the South African politics in that the ‘radicals’ could join hands with the EFF, BLF, NUMSA, etc.

The ANC-light could partner with liberal DA and similar parties to trounce the radical formation in the same way the verligte-NP managed to throttle, and even ostracise, both the HNP and the Conservative Party (KP) in the running of South Africa.

This coalition of liberals has been in the making for while since apartheid ended.

Firstly, the formation of Agang which later tried to forge a new partnership with the DA (remember the kiss of death between Mamphele Ramphela?), and the rapid rise of Mmusi Maimane in the DA are perhaps the two best examples of intensified effort to build a liberal party in South Africa.

Secondly, another attempt saw the formation of the African Democratic Change (ADeC) which was still born, after it was alleged that George Soros’ Open Society Foundation decided against funding the new party after Nasrec. Hungary banned Soros and his organisation from supporting similar initiatives in that country.

ADeC’s founder Dr Makhosi Khoza, an ex- ANC member of parliament, was shipped to the oppositionist Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA).

However, the strength of the ANC was a serious stumbling block. So, the post-Nasrec era is seen as an opportune moment to give the liberal project another try. The engineers of the project want the ANC to split in order to get the required numbers from the ANC carcass.

The strategy entails getting the liberals to control the soul of the ANC, and or formation of an alliance with the DA.

The strangulation of the EFF through court litigations involving the Afriforum is another elaborate attempt to silence leftist voices in the South African political stratosphere.

The lingering question is, who are the ANC moderates and what percentage do they command to gain significant numbers in polls?

It is interesting that the DA says nothing about white verkramptes like Afriforum, and other liberal NGOs such Open Society Foundation, Free Market Foundation (FMF), Afriforum, OUTA, etc., who think they have an upperhand over all arms of the state.

Just this week, the Afriforum applied to court to stop parliament from debating Section 25 amendments.

Nonetheless, my view is that the liberal project is not very far from being realised. The media leads from the front in promoting it and also advances liberal agenda with one goal in mind, ostracising radicalism.

The strategy is devised in such a manner that radical elements inside and outside of the ANC are cornered via negative reports and singing praises for anyone who could be key in the implementation of the liberal project.

Different media outlets openly defend the likes of the DA chief whip John Steenhuisen, and endlessly attacks Julius Malema and others in what Chance calls ‘the EFF-leaning faction’ from Ace Magashule to NUMSA.

The DA would not be pronouncing on this preferred approach without having gauged the prospects of attaining some milestone through a coalition with ANC ‘moderates’.

It is therefore important to check from the loyal ANC supporters if they are agreeable to DA proposal. And, also it would be necessary to verify how many in the ANC see the impending reforms on land and economy as a complete waste of time.

Moreover, it is necessary to determine how many people prefer the split to fast-track the reforms in collaboration with like-minded EFF and BLF.

The challenge for the ANC is retaining numbers through ‘unity’ in supporting the present leadership to avoid the split, which will make it more difficult to pursue the transformative agenda without taking instructions from anyone.

A true national democratic revolution will not be possible in an event of a split, and efforts of leadership to guide the ship to safe waters will be severely undermined.

A strong and united ANC, with the support of like-minded forces, needs to be resolute in its efforts to attain the longstanding goal of a better life for all.

We are entering a very interesting stage of our politics.

See also ~ https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2018-11-29-a-coalition-between-anc-moderates-and-the-da-will-stave-off-tyranny/#.XAJlsgVluqJ.twitter

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THINKING ABOUT AN AFRICAN CARING STATE

Siyabonga Hadebe | 25.11.2018

Africa’s problems emanate from our inability to convert or change the large labour reserves, also called “states”, to become a true extension of our political wishes.

Whether one is looking at Sudan, Senegal, Nigeria or Mozambique, these labour reserves were created to loot resources and oppress people by subjecting them to hard labour as well as depriving them any sense of belonging.

The ultimate goal was to create very productive colonies that will perpetually support capitals in Europe, whether Sir George Grey or António de Oliveira Salazar is in charge or not.

All the financial and economic gains or progress were, and still are, exclusively for the benefit of the invaders and settlers, as well their sending countries in Europe plus their allies.

It is no surprise that even in the South African context we continue to argues among ourselves if monopoly capital is white or not. Clearly, the mark is permanent in the head and no one will delete it.

Nonetheless, the pain which came with colonialism, ruthless demarcations and brutal conquest meant any form of political organisation and systems in Africa were destroyed, together with their kingdoms, tribes, villages, and of course the people.

People were coerced into becoming part of a quasi-polity that was never meant for them.

Nobody, except for denialists like Helen Zille, would ever argue in favour of colonialism and its equally notorious siblings of apartheid and slave trade.

Depending on the depth of colonialism, people in these reserves were certain to be forever doomed. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the worst illustration of exploitation that doesn’t even hold a promise that it will end any time soon.

When colonialism finally “ended” in Africa from the late 1950s, all the hell broke loose.

People were suddenly expected to embrace these new states which were built on their blood and sweat, but now traded under a new name and with ‘better’ masters in charge.

For example, there was no way Algerian guerrillas would suddenly embrace the “new” state as their own, at least from a psychoanalytic point of view. The repressive system set up by the French and their local collaborators was not meant to uplift the Berber tribes, but to extend the French territory across the Mediterranean.

Serious political engineering was necessary to tame the angry local after ‘independence’.

Besides calling him a citizen with voting rights, and notwithstanding the fact that violence and brutality continued – something more decisive had to be done.

Even the early leaders noted this gap between the ‘old oppressed slave’ and the urgent need to foster some political unity. They sugar-coated the deep scars and also the visible cracks that characterised the supposed end of colonial rule in Africa.

Instead of deepening efforts to heal the pain as well as attempt to create a political entity with a true African identity, they simply changed a labour reserve into a state.

In this way, they opted for an easy, convenient resolution of retaining the colonial borders and artificial social hierarchies created by Europeans, based mainly on western education and master-house nigger relations.

Educated peasants rose to lead traditional upper classes as ‘Europeanism’ trounced African systems. African identity was buried with no hope of reincarnation some day in the future.

I guess the likes of Dr Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Modibo Keita of Mali, Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt, Sekou Touré of Guinea, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Ben Bella of Algeria, Emperor Haile Selasse of Ethiopia, William Tubman of Liberia, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya and many others never really envisioned what was still going to come.

The new state was characterised by violence, which be fittingly was always a weapon for creating the colonies.

Therefore, one can safely argue that a psychological barrier between the African state and local populace exists to this day. The end of colonialism has not brought any material and immaterial changes to those who matter, local people.

Master slaves (those annointed to rule the independent states) emulated their former oppressors by oppressing lower castes. In the eyes of the ordinary people there was absolutely no difference between the ‘old’ (colonies) and the ‘new’ (post-colonial states).

Post-colonial states were not tuned to change lives of citizens for the better.

At the heart of the notion of post-colonial statehood was the absence of a caring state, which is built on trust and common political vision.

Instead, post-colonial states became fiefdoms and personal properties of heartless rulers, called presidents for life, whose brute and forcefulness extinguished the African dream.

Today African resources that should be spent on improving lives of the people are safely stored in Swiss banks and other tax heavens across the world.

The problems do not stop there, the continent loses trillions of US dollars each in the form illicit financial flows, sometimes with the full knowledge of those who are supposed to safeguard interests of the people.

It appears that the end of colonialism took Africans by surprise. Or was it a bogus operation that was created to mislead and or to justify daylight looting and oppression?

As it was the case with the liberators, consecutive governments and intellectuals were equally lazy to think of new systems on the continent that would mark a total departure from repressive European regimes.

Francophone and Anglophone identities, for example, represent new colonialism dressed up in a new colourful suit.

Post-colonial states in Africa voluntarily elected to exist in the shadows of their former colonisers through the seemingly innocent structures like the British Commonwealth and La Francophonie.

Indeed, I could be over simplifying the problem but something needed to happen. Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara, Egypt’s Gamal Nasser and a few others went for the high gear in an attempt to create different societies in their countries. Dogs of war were set on them.

Dream deferred.

It is either that Africa will never ever have “suitable” policies or countries will have to die a violent death in order for them to resurface in a new form, not decided by Europeans.

Governments remain a property that is not accessible to citizens but only accessed by pseudo-elites who unashamedly gobble the resources for their sole gratification.

It is perhaps only in Africa where faceless ‘things’ like ‘markets’ and ‘investment community’ have a stronger voice than citizens. But what exactly can be expected? The countries were never designed or created to advance interests of people, but aliens.

One is compelled to conclude that the design of an African state, in its present form, manufactures poverty and chaos. And also benefits others but Africans themselves.

Sometimes it is extremely difficult to argue that an African state exists at all. There is a paragon of continued mess, and heightened violence against people.

Only up until Africans create their own systems of governance – there shall be no peace. And, the labour reserves were always doomed to fail.

Africa needs a re-think.

Marta Szebehely and Mia Vabø refer to the Nordic welfare states as ‘social service states’ or ‘Caring States’ because they “offer a wide variety of services, including care services for children and elderly, to citizens of all socioeconomic groups.”

The notion of a Caring State, in my view, goes beyond the nominal or traditional role of the state, which is provision of goods and or services. Of course, the Nordic universalist welfare policy is exemplary in terms of what a state should do.

The philosophy underlying these welfare policies can certainly help us to create Caring States in Africa. But the African state needs to go beyond thinking that only providing welfare as the main goal, more needs to be done.

So, I see a notion of a Caring State to be a way of thinking as reflected in policies, institutions, social interactions and structures that constitute a state.

A Caring State does not see itself as provider or bully, but a guardian of those who live within and without it. Its internal and foreign policies put people ahead of all other interests, whether political or economic.

A Caring State also eliminates violence, abuse, classism and identities, as well as attempts to reconfigure our understanding of what constitutes physical borders in its operations.

To the contrary, the solution doesn’t lie in neo-liberal sponsored movements of goods and humans, as many people think. There is a need to strengthen individual units and to ensure that there is respect for life in states before we can even think about all else. Passports don’t feed people.

There is a wholesale of ideas on how a Caring State should be and carry itself. These ideas should at least be drastically different from an ordinary European-based Wesphallen state and its role in society.

Africa needs to follow its own trajectory in terms of political governance systems. Colonial structures and ideas do not help us; Africa needs caring states that prioritise lives of ordinary people.

Time to rely on donors and ‘good’ Samaritans as well as recklessness is quickly running out.

FEMINISM HAS FAILED ME…

Phapano Phasha* | 21.11.2016

It was never my intention as a woman to work and earn a salary or to be an entrepreneur. I understand that as a Human being I am equal to man but I am different, I am a woman.

My idea of success is not being an executive or “Go Getter” and since those who formulate laws have dictated that I should be an equal of a man I am personally subjected to inconveniences; I can’t be a woman as nature prescribed.

The materialistic nature of this society does not give me an opportunity to enjoy my womanhood and my role as a ‘Giver of Life’, as and when I give birth.

I am forced to abandon my children and hand them over to strangers who must take care of them.

And, when I marry the demands of a capitalist society forces me to work abnormal hours to also put wages in the table. Sexual favours become prevalent because I am told we are sexually liberated therefore prone to produce fatherless children and not taught to preserve my body.

As a woman I immensely contribute to the well-being of society by producing and giving birth to its vital workforce, a human being, yet I don’t get incentivised for this critical role instead I am expected to go and work after I give birth.

I am subjected to all sorts of humiliating money generating opportunities such as being a domestic worker, a prostitute and so forth to take care of this child. A child who will grow up to become something which will change human lives.

And, most importantly, my struggle is never rewarded for this contribution i have made.

I believe we must be given the chance to choose the character and content of gender parity.

By the way, not all of us are persuaded by the idea of gender equality, from an employment perspective of working under someone and generating wealth for the already rich where our labour is used for accumulating profit.

Staying at home should also be considered in terms of empowerment.

I am not persuaded by the ideals of feminism as postulated by our European sisters and legislated by our government, who said being a woman and liberated is defined by material gain and which, in many instances, is done to pursue capitalistic outcomes, where patriarchy and matriarchy both drive the capitalist agenda.

I am sure I will not make sense but the origins of the state and its custodianship over labour has turned us into machines and engineered us to believe producing work is a legacy driven decision.

*Phapano Phasha is a researcher and writer based in Johannesburg, Gauteng

THERE’S NO LINK BETWEEN SECULARISM AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE AFRICAN SET UP

Siyabonga Hadebe | 19.11.2018

One of the foremost paragons of liberalism in the global sphere World Economic Forum (WEF) claims that there is a direct linkage between religion and economic development. The study also appears in the Science Advances journal of 18 Jul 2018.

The research draws this rather tapered conclusion based on the statistical data which compared 109 countries, including the likes Great Britain, Nigeria, Chile and Philippines over a hundred 100-year period starting from 1900 to 2000.

Basically this WEF study states that more prosperous countries tend to be secular (less religious), and that secularisation should come before the economic development, meaning there is no chicken or egg argument.

At face value the study appears to have credence up until you read between the lines. After all, it is impossible to take anything seriously when it comes from organisations that occupy the apex of the world’s neoliberal economic system such as WEF, credit rating agencies, etc.

And one person was sold this dummy and went on to suggest that African countries can draw some lessons from the WEF findings.

Unfortunately, the WEF continues to parade untruths and false ideas in efforts to reshape and remodel the global neoliberal agenda, whether in politics or economics. The neoliberal agenda is in dire straits, with the rising inequality and social problems that are said to be a direct outcome of its economic thought.

The WEF is one of those organisations installed to pretend that neoliberal economics is being reformed, while its predominant actors disregard all else in pursuit of profits and dominance.

The WEF gets funded by the transnational corporations (TNCs) who benefit from the system which they often critique as unjust or unfair. The companies set up the WEF to be their parliament, which convenes every January in Davos, Switzerland.

Much of the research from this Geneva-based organisation speaks in metaphors while at the same time cushioning rich countries and their TNCs.

In the cold Alpine weather, the world’s elected leaders bow before the capital clergy in black suits to beg them to funnel investments to their countries. The WEF meeting sets the economic agenda of countries using the backdoor.

Back to the topic at hand. What the developed Western nations, particularly the United States, never fail to remind the world is that they owe their economic success to Protestantism. Some notable politicians are not afraid to declare that ‘America is a Christian nation’, although its constitution “contains no mention of Christianity or Jesus Christ.”

The foundations of this argument that Protestantism leads to better economic outcomes comes from the work of Prussian scholar Max Weber called ‘The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ in 1905 wherein he argued that “the Reformation influenced European society by changing the values and ethics of people.”

Much more recently in 2009, in a study titled ‘Was Weber wrong? A human capital theory of Protestant economic history’, two economists Sascha Becker and Ludger Woessmann went at length to prove that the Protestant Reformation had a causal impact on economic outcomes.

Becker and Woessmann used econometric analysis to interrogate the data from 452 counties in 1871 Prussia. Their conclusion was that Protestants had significantly higher incomes than Catholics. The authors ascribed the success of Protestants to the Reformation.

It is therefore no coincidence that religion and colonialism are almost synonymous. Based on the notion of 4 Cs – Christianity, Colonialism, Commercialism and Conquer – Europe overcame the different parts of the world. In what today is usually referred to as the ‘Scramble for Africa’, historian Thomas Pakenham explains that the European powers carved up the African continent in order to create economic and political advantages.

Weber and others in Europe always believed in the strong correlation and economic success. Embedded in the neoliberalism philosophy, according to Roman Sheremeta and Vernon Smith, are “concepts such as ‘work ethic’ and entrepreneurial spirit of Protestants, were originally suggested by Weber, while others, such as religious freedom and education, are deeply grounded in economic theory.”

Now, the WEF wants to twists minds about the lack of intimacy between Protestant religious institutions and economic institutions.

This is beautiful craftsmanship after the beneficiaries of a brutal system that flourished over many centuries through colonialism, oppression and looting suddenly change the tune to almost denounce religion as a problem in pursuit for economic success.

This led to one person to comment that at the heart of Latin American economic miseries is Roman Catholicism. Hence, evangelical Protestantism has been pushed down the throats of people in Latin America and other parts of the world with a view of promoting the Weberian tradition, which connects Protestantism with a capitalist world view.

Empirical data drawn from a study conducted by the University of Washington’s Anthony Gill, however, fails to support this view. This is a signal that the religion is not a factor to determine people’s attitudes to consolidating “democratic capitalism” in the developing world.

The challenge of the WEF findings is that they are based on the old problem that discourages plurality of ideas and equality in the world, one idea has to be seen to be above others. For neoliberals, it is not possible to have different settings existing at the same time, be it capitalism and socialism, China and the US, Protestantism and Catholicism, or Christianity and Islam.

Another problem is that the majority of what is regarded as developing nations, or the Third World, do not even have a prescribed religion in their laws. But their economic challenges stem from protracted historical plundering and colonial legacies, that continue to persist with the assistance of a global economic framework that keeps them in the bottom.

I doubt if problems in some the world’s poorest nations like Haiti, Yemen, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan rank bottom in economic development standings due to the concentration of religion. WEF’s views are not only ahistorical but they are utterly condescending.

Now after many years pushing the Protestant work ethic as the only way to economic success, liberal thought favours secularism.

It could be that the WEF is taking a jibe at Moslem countries but the manner in which they go about their business is dishonest. Politics and religion are intertwined in a majority of countries that have Islam as the main religion. There are few instances where secularism is permitted.

The contribution of Moslem countries in the development of humankind is not oil and terrorism, as we are often told. It appears that these years Islam replaced Catholicism as a hated religion. However, it may be necessary to demonstrate how Muslim civilisation, which predated European civilisation, contributed to science and medicine.

The Islamic Golden Age spanned the 8th to the 15th centuries. This is at the time Moslems occupied southern Europe, the Iberian Peninsula and north Africa. It is during this time the oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world, the University of Karueein, was founded in 859 AD in Fez, Morocco.

The 10th-century physician Abu ‘l-Qasim al-Zahrawi, from Muslim Spain, for example, wrote a book that described surgical procedures and gave detailed illustrations of the necessary surgical instruments. According to Ingrid Hehmeyer and Aliya Khan, this work “had a profound influence on the emerging medical science in medieval and early modern Europe, where the author was known as Abulcasis or Albucasis.”

Another Muslim scholar, Al-Idrisi in 1166 created accurate maps, which included a world map that had all mountains and continents labelled. One doubts if the European crusades around the world would have been possible without this knowledge. Also, there is some evidence that link Moor connections to the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the Americas, after their expulsion from Spain in the late 1400s.

Present scholarship also belittles the contribution of the Islamic world, and tends to overly focus on the Greek era as if nothing happened in between. The same attitudes led to the demise of German as a language of science, philosophy and literary thought. Politics of the previous century resulted in the defeat of Germany in two wars, and its language.

Princeton University’s Rosengarten professor of modern and contemporary history Michael Gordin explains that in fact English was not the dominant scientific language in 1900, but German. Scientists from the German world such as physicist Albert Einstein and many others from the Third Reich era, who all moved to the US after the war, shaped scientific knowledge as we know it today.

It could happen that individuals have been discriminated based on religion as in Myanmar and elsewhere. Also, data shows that the majority of countries in the world do not have a ‘state religion’, religion prescribed by law. Besides mostly Moslem and Buddhist nations, highly developed jurisdictions such as cantons in Switzerland, Monaco and Liechtenstein as well as Scandinavian countries recognise some form of Christianity as their state or official religion.

WEF should have rather focused on race and ethnicity. large parts of the world find themselves where they are mainly because of the prevalence of these two variables, that shaped colonial policies for many years. For example, it is more policies that promoted racial supremacy that created economic exclusions in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere.

There is no evidence to suggest that there is a positive correlation between underdevelopment in rural South Africa, among others, with religion. Secularism also does seem to help South Africa to escape the economic woes that trace their origins to racial discrimination. Perhaps the study was meant for other parts of the world, may be Europe.

I therefore dismally fail to positively link secularism and economic development in the African context.

SOUTH AFRICA’S ‘INVISIBLE ECONOMY’

Siyabonga Hadebe | 16.11.2018

It is quite a travesty when a mayor of South Africa’s biggest city shows glaring signs and deficiencies in his understanding of not only economics but social issues in an area where he is supposed to be in charge.

This week Mr Herman Mashaba boasted on Twitter that “I have just personally stopped this illegally act in our city. How do we allow meat trading like this? I am waiting for [Johannesburg Metro Police] to come and attend before we experience a breakdown of unknown diseases in [Johannesburg].”

And the poor police officers rushed to the scene to assist the mayor to arrest an informal trader.

The police joyously explained also on Twitter that Mr Mashaba had “just effected a citizens arrest.” The man’s problem was that he pushed a trolley down Harrison an Smit streets in the city center. His consignment were cow heads that were “not covered which is a health hazard.”

Mr Mashaba behaved like an alien from space. It is unclear if he had never seen that much of the city’s economy is informal, and that very few black businesses for that matter are listed in the JSE, or proudly occupy any of the glass buildings in Sandton.

Streets of Johannesburg have been buzzing with economic activity since days immemorial – men and women operate street stalls, taxis and other forms of businesses to make a living for themselves and their families. In fact, many people are important personalities and members of society today, thanks to informal trading.

At some point I once wrote that attitudes perpetuate what former President Thabo Mbeki called ‘two economies’ by pretending that economic activity only happens in the formal side of the economy. This sheepish approach leads to the belief that the majority of the black population sits and waits for hand-outs, and that they cannot do anything for themselves.

It is quite common to hear lamentations that blacks are good for nothing as they wait to cash-in on social grants and other freebies. The truth is that it is people like the trader whom Mr Mashaba ‘arrested’ who make even the clean economy -without diseases – to run.

The taxi industry moves millions of people not just in Johannesburg but countrywide to work in banks, retail shops, households, etc. Also, large businesses like MTN, South African Breweries, Standard Bank and Shoprite wouldn’t be as successful without the informal sector.

Spaza shops and shebeens are an extension of these companies’ distribution channels. Actually most liquor trade and airtime sales do not take place in Sandton, but in Thembisa, Snake Park and Mshenguville.

Hundreds visit Maye-Maye and nearby hostels to buy ‘inhloko’ and ‘mogodu’ as well as traditional beer and herbs each day. The hostel and street economies make more money than most business.

Maybe ‘izinduna’ need to extend an invite to His Worship to witness the music and dance on a Saturday morning. The booming market will captivate the city’s No. 1 citizen, that is guaranteed.

Of course, Mr Mashaba and those who think like him will be quick to point that these businesses don’t comply with municipal by-laws and that they don’t contribute to the fiscus.

That may be partly true but a cost-benefit analysis will assist to determine what could be desirable, that is, to see people doing nothing or it is better when they help themselves.

Money made in the informal economy re-enters the formal economy via value added tax and other ways. For example, this year the receiver of revenue collected around ZAR1.216 trillion, or U$D101.3 billion. The VAT contributed 25 percent to the this amount. It is fair to suggest that the informal sector accounts for a large portion of this figure, directly or indirectly.

Unfortunately, this calculation has not yet been done because the contribution of informal sector in the economy is largely neglected. For example, the unemployment rate is said to be in the region of 27 percent. One wonders if this is accurate if those employed in the informal sector are taken for ‘ghost’ workers.

Another point is that the country’s economic growth is often said to be hovering close to zero. Just a few months ago, there was an announcement that the economy was in a technical recession. But here again, the economic activity in the informal sector isn’t part of the national statistical calculations.

Louis van der Merwe says that the ‘invisible economy’ keeps “a large part of South Africa afloat.” A conservative estimation is that approximately 20 percent of all money spent within the country’s borders is spent in informal outlets, that is about ZAR46 billion per year. The taxi industry possibly worths more or less the same.

South Africa could be falling behind compared to the rest of the world. It is almost unfathomable that we speak about the ‘future economy’ when we fail to see the obvious.

The informal sector drives the South African economy, literally and otherwise. It should therefore be accorded the respect it deserves – economists of the future will hopefully help to achieve this.

Perhaps even our erudite mayor isn’t even aware that organisations like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) recognise the importance of the informal sector across the world, and particularly in developing economies such as South Africa.

The OECD estimates that about 1.2 billion (40 percent) of the world’s population is employed in this sector, compared to 1.8 billion (60 percent) in the formal economy.

On the other hand, the ILO in June 2015 adopted the ’Recommendation concerning the transition from the informal to the formal economy’ strategy, or simply R204. Basically, R204 provides a roadmap for policies to facilitate move by businesses from the informal to the formal economy, but from a labour market regulation perspective.

What goes beyond the public’s awareness is that economies in Africa, Latin America and Asia are largely informal.

Closer to home, the figure for the informal sector is quite high in countries such as Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Mozambique compared to South Africa, eSwatini and Mauritius.

But South Africa is going through economic difficulties, with most companies planning to retrench thousands of workers. For example, Standard Bank will cut 800 IT jobs, BCX 800, SABC up to around 2,000, Goldfields 1,500 and Lonmin about 12,000 employees.

Where will all these people go? In all likelihood they will become part of the informal sector, the self-employed.

After pulling Trump-sque moves, Mr Mashaba apologised not only for the ‘citizen arrest’ but also for anti-foreign tweet about Ebola.

Whether His Worship was playing political gimmicks or not, he certainly over-stepped the line. He cannot treat informal sector as invisible because it isn’t.

LEARNING FROM ESTCOURT, BUILDING A NEW MODEL FOR ECONOMY AND BUSINESS

Siyabonga Hadebe | 11 November 2018

The American-owned company Masonite dominated the economic landscape of Estcourt, a small KZN midlands town, for many decades. It, together with Nestle’s first plant in South Africa and Eskort, provided employment to citizens of this once thriving town until very recently.

Launched in South Africa in the same year that the National Party came to power, Masonite is one of the companies that did not divest in the 1970s as a result of global economic sanctions against the apartheid government.

Located on the banks of Umtshezi (Bushmans) river, Estcourt had been flagship agricultural town since early days of British colonial occupation. Many wars were fought between the British and local AmaHlubi kingdom over the fertile land on which the town and many farms nearby are installed.

Much of Estcourt’s industry is directly linked to the farming communities covering the foothills of the Drakensberg mountains from Bergville to Balgowan. For example, meat and polony firm Eskort and Swiss giant Nestle depend on cattle and other farms that make the region’s scenic beauty alongside the N3 highway and in freezing cold areas perched on the rolling mountains.

Profile of Masonite and local economy

And Masonite itself owned thousands of hectares of land (22,548) in seven locations such as in the westernmost parts of Estcourt, close to Ntabamhlope mountain, and in diverse jurisdictions like Greytown, Harding and Ixopo. Masonite plantations included wattle, gumtrees and pine trees.

The company’s backward integration meant that it possessed the land and plantations as well as the logistics component. In terms of the latter, it maintained a fleet of trucks that linked its forestation and the factory in town. Its export business and corporate headquarters were located over 200 kilometers away in Durban.

In the same way, but at a more smaller scale, like the Fruit Company in Guatemala, Masonite and fellow companies operated an economic empire with the assistance of farmers. They all presided over a brutal system that oppressed the defeated and landless local black population. For example, workers at its timber plantation earned low wages and did not have much protection for many years.

Masonite was a successful and profitable business that ran for many years producing hardboard, soft board and door panels for local and export markets. It was until a few years ago that the company ran into financial troubles and was then split into its forestry and milling businesses. That was the beginning of the end for company. It was sold off.

The new owners Evowood announced in May 2017 that scores of workers, many of whom performed semi-skilled jobs, were going to be laid off. Those who remained or got re-hired were given no option but to accept a twelve percent pay cut. The majority feared that they were not going to find new employment in an area whose economy has been declining without a pause for over twenty-five years now. They relented.

It is now claimed that the forestry side of the company was taken over by another forestry giant Mondi, or the R&G Group.

The speedy ruralification of Estcourt and neighbouring Ladysmith, among others, is a quick reminder of the poor state small and rural towns in South Africa are deteriorating without any cogent strategy to save them.

Local economic development plans to revive these towns are nothing and worth less than the paper they are written on. Perhaps there is a thing or two that can be learned from a small, semi-rural country like Mauritius. The island relied on sugarcane for many decades as a source of foreign income. But in a very short space, it has diversified its economic to include tourism, manufacturing, and finance.

Nevertheless, it is worth noting that poverty and lawlessness grip these once mid-sized towns. The death of one company irrespective of size, as in the case of Masonite, is just one company too many, it does not matter whether it paid decent wages or not.

With so much effort trying to save a sinking ship, Masonite hit an iceberg and sank to the seabed like the Titanic. The company formally closed its doors and left thousands without jobs. What remains in Evowood is a pale shadow of a once multi-billion rand, listed firm.

The shareholder-primacy model

Nonetheless, the sad story of Masonite helps to draw a very disturbing picture about the overall conduct of most investors, who normally get away with murder because they provide jobs. The job-creation narrative insists on jobs at all costs and pays less attention to other factors.

Hence, there is an emerging trend in economic development circles which proposes that business practice must not only be about the bottom line. This so-called shareholder-primacy model stubbornly puts the short-term interests of shareholders above all else. It favours the idea that companies should re-invest profits into buybacks of their stock and also to focus on short-term business decisions that are only geared towards pushing up the value of the organisation.

The shareholder-primacy model is said to disregard the interests of workers, the environment and the community at large. Hence, those calling for change argue that if a company wants to measure its success it must include a number of indicators such as initiatives that directly benefit the community within it exists, skills development and protection of the environment.

To understand why the shareholder-primacy model is considered terrible for both society and business itself, one doesn’t need to look further than the Masonite case.

Replicate effect from investments

First, the biggest concern with foreign direct investments, and even local ones, is that their business model is more inward looking or shortsighted, and is not at all interested in broader socio-economic issues. If one has to look at major companies in Europe, they are an integral part of local, regional, national and continental economic development plans and priorities.

Masonite failed the community of Estcourt and surrounding areas while its shareholders pocketed millions of rands over time. Arguably, the company never really invested in local communities to be economically sustainable in the event the company closed down.

For example, no single enterprise may be said to have grown out of Masonite’s value chains, be it in forestry, pulp making, logistics and or sales and marketing. This appears to be case in economies that are dominated by monopolies from Michigan to Orkney. At one point a town is bustling with activity and enjoys almost full-employment but once they are gone, creepy ghosts takeover.

To counter this phenomenon, companies like Airbus, Mercedes-Benz and Nestle have very strong linkages with the institutions of learning, research bodies, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and governments, from Brussels to tiny communities all over Europe. The aim is to create social and economic spinoffs from having large companies in their midst.

Airbus is a truly pan-European company with operations in various locations in Western Europe. It also enjoys strong supports of all governments and the European Union (EU). Before China, Washington accused European governments for promoting ‘non-market’ behaviour with their huge subsidies they give to the company.

Universities and SMEs have close cooperation with companies, particularly in areas of research and development. Since R&D and innovations come at a huge price, companies decided to use the capacity of researchers and small businesses to engage in innovation and product development.

So, it makes sense for Europe to talk about SME development because large corporations release some of their productive capacities to encourage entrepreneurship and growth of new high growth businesses in nanotechnology, mechanics and robotics. There is no need to guess why Germany is amongst the foremost innovators in the world.

In South Africa, the problem lies in resistance to change. Socio-economic costs as a result of lack of economic transformation will weigh in hard on companies as they will on communities. It is therefore pointless to talk about the ‘future economy’ when we still fail to recognise that we seriously need to change the face of the economy. Sharing will not take anyone’s power but will ensure that all get to be part of the economy.

Investments, alien invasive crops and dry rivers

Secondly, the area where Masonite had its plantations is a source of many water streams that go on to feed large rivers in Kwazulu-Natal province including Tugela and Umngeni. Sipho Kings of the M&G (9 November 2018) penned a beautiful piece of how foreign plant species “are taking over land and using up water.” The top five five of these species includes black wattle, gumtrees (eucalyptus), pine trees, triffid weed and cacti.

It is quite disturbing that Masonite planted black wattle (Australia), gumtrees, and pine trees (Europe and North America). The new owners of the plantations, be it Mondi or R&B Group (Forestco), will have to answer for environmental destruction of their predecessors.

The impact of this visible in a small communities of Kwa-Bhekuzulu and Ephangweni who have potentially lost over six waterstreams throughout the years that Masonite has been planting these water guzzlers on wetlands and sources of the rivers such as Mavunga, Msuluzi One and Msuluzi Two.

These rivers have not dried up due to global warming but Masonite is directly responsible for engaging in an dangerous business model over an extended period of time. Not only that, but fertilisers and other chemicals to grow the trees contaminated the land and aquifers in the area. The impact of this still needs to be validated to assist the communities to lodge a reparation claim against the company.

Investments and land use

Thirdly, it is likely that Masonite’s operations also impacted land use especially for agriculture, stock grazing and other purposes. The sudden and inexplicable drought and many ‘dead’ farms could be attributed to wattle, pine and gumtree plantations in upstream locations, which has forever left communities indigent.

The Status of Biological Invasions and Their Management in South Africa’ report compiled the South African National Biodiversity Institute explains that the invasive plants species, about 775 of them, have a “major or severe impact on biodiversity and/or human wellbeing”. Furthermore, the report estimates that 1% of South Africa’s territory is now under control of invasive foreign aliens, thus preventing over 115,000 large animals, such as cattle, the space to graze.

Indeed reparian communities in Estcourt that derived their livelihood from the small rivers in the past are left without water resources. This includes farms that were handed back to the affected communities as part of government restitution programme. It is thus possible that the state bought land that cannot be adequately developed as a result of not only overuse but also severe water shortages.

The report notes that it costs the country approximately R6.5 million to fight the invasion by foreign species, both plants and animals. Unfortunately, the plants now cover 80000 square kilometres and continue to gobble about 7% of the water. The Eastern Cape and Western Cape are said to be the worst affected areas. Desertification of South Africa will be complete before we know it.

Now that Masonite has closed its doors, the communities feel the brunt and harshness of the company’s abrasive investment model. Not only are families hungry because breadwinners are jobless, they have no economy, no water and no land to turn to. While much of the focus has been on former mining towns like Dundee and Carletonville, the company’s legacy will forever haunt Estcourt for the present and future generations.

As sad the case of Estcourt may be, my view is that it provides South Africa will with a living testimony to see the effects of investments that went wrong. In order to balance jobs and growing the economy, a template is available to at least attract investors that understand the downside of profiteering.

Also, business practice should be slowly moving away from traditional accounting methods that dogmatically elevates profit-making over everything else. It would be pointless for any country to follow examples of ravaging the environment and disturbing settlement patterns of communities in the quest to grow the economy. South Africa needs growth and jobs but social factors should form the cornerstone of financial statements and reporting by companies.

Pine trees were introduced in South Africa around the 1930s as a source of fast-growing timber. They were also a bedrock of Estcourt’s economy and created jobs. But the fact remains they “choke our rivers,” and now they have to be eradicated.

Besides the need for Masonite and shareholders, past and present, to perhaps compensate Estcourt communities for strangling their livelihood – the Estcourt economic hardships present the world a chance of building a new model for the new economy and business practice.

CAN YOU LEARN CHEMISTRY IN ZULU OR PEDI?

Siyabonga Hadebe | 21.10.2018

The domination of other people is achieved through wars and ideas.

All the time we are told that certain people like Ganges Khan, Christopher Columbus, Shaka Zulu, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Adolf Hitler conquered other nations using power and grit.

However, there is generally less emphasis on ideas, culture and other “softer” issues, which also formed an integral part of their strategies and tactics.

Almost all history books tend to dwell more on wars fought between nations using guns and spears. There are never stories about cultural, language or religious conquest as a form of genuine war.

American author Jared Diamond in his 1997 book ‘Guns, Germs, and Steel‘ attempts to answer a complex question on how Europeans managed to dominate peoples of other continents.

Diamond gives a glimpse of what made Eurasians dominant; he doesn’t just limit to war and weapons. For example, he says while others had spears and boomerangs as well as walking on foot, Europeans had horses and guns.

The Ottoman empire annexed the whole of Middle East, parts of east Africa and the Iberian Peninsula to make economic gains and to spread their religion Islam, which went on to alter culture and the way people lived.

Today, the religion of Islam spreads from Morocco, through Tanzania and Pakistan, all the way to Indonesia. Lives of people were changed without their consent – that is the poor of subjugation.

Nonetheless, my interest is how ‘powerful’ states and other entities utilise ideas to subjugate or even kill the human spirit of other peoples.

As it is known, European expedition abroad can be defined using five elements or the ‘5Cs’ – i.e. Colonialism, Commercialism, Civilization, Christianity and eventually Conquer, to cap it all.

Transatlantic slave trade and colonialism did not take place as an accident but commercial interests of European powers (commercialism) were a primary motivation. France to this day still reap rewards from its former colonies in West Africa and Haiti.

Transatlantic slave trade and colonialism created the early foundations for global capitalism that we witness today, which will forever be in favour former colonialists, with fewer exceptions.

Taking another one element of Christianity, European settlers converted millions to their religion and left a thousand of nations empty, without soul. Amen should bring tears of sadness rather than spiritual fulfillment.

The European penetration to cover every inch of the African, and even the Americas, entailed propaganda and telling people wrong stories. One such was hallucinating people to worship a foreign god who will take them to a mystery place called heaven. Many to this day still hope to go to heaven.

This was necessary to maintain their dominance and to exercise power through conquering the mind.

As part of the big ‘onslaught’ on those who were colonised, amongst others, missionaries not only introduced the Bible but also translated it into different indigenous languages to make sure the message was more authentic, and super genuine.

The history of the Xhosa Bible began in 1833 when the first book of the Bible (Luke) was translated in Grahamstown. The first complete Bible followed in 1859 but was only published in one volume in 1864.

The first complete Bible in the Zulu language was published in New York in 1883, and Southern Sotho Bible in 1878.

Besides colonialism and its brute, Christianity is now probably the most important export out of Europe to date. Europeans managed to create subservient and tamed people who could be easily controlled.

In this regard, examples of the forced conversion of the African population to Christianity ranks amongst the worst in the universe.

The Pedi impis who fought the Portuguese incursion, then the Boers and finally the English were compelled to adopt the Bible to keep themselves entertained.

Instead of fighting endlessly with white settlers, their energies were exhausted in dancing ‘mkuku’ at the Zion Christian Church (ZCC).

The same applies to all-conquering Zulu men who ‘accepted’ Jesus by starting the Shembe congregation.

Proud Zulu soldiers were turned into silly rickshaws in the streets of Durban. They were like donkeys or horses, who had to carry smiling white ‘tourists’ on their backs.

Pedi men were first indigenous people to be ‘recruited’ to work as cheap labour in the gold mines around 18700.

For both the Pedi and the Zulu, the revolutionary spirit was gone just like that.

Europeans decided to only translate the Bible and not other great books in science, commerce and philosophy.

Religion is an old tested tool of mental oppression but other forms of learning too have proven equally effective too. Formal education was a ‘soft conquest’ as it forever changed the way Africans and others looked at themselves.

There were options of delivering a number of books and knowledge in indigenous languages: Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations”, works of philosophers like Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Karl Marx and Thomas Aquinas as well as great discoveries of Albert Einstein or Hans Tropsch.

This was not going to happen. Europeans wanted to create people who were forever going to be dependent on them in terms of ideas – in science, economics and other areas of human endeavour.

Local populations were only good as cheap labour to service their industrial and commercial enterprises. Education was paraded as a route to move up the economic ladder as if the locals would own the means of production one day.

The locally trained doctors, lawyers, teachers and administrators help to reinforce the European systems and oppression of local people. Education did not free the mind but it only gave the educated a false sense of worth. This phenomenon still holds true to date.

What was also very tragic in all of this was that the oppressed and religious peoples were told that their languages were not suitable for scientific thought.

Therefore, it would be impossible to teach science, mathematics, economics and technology in Venda, Nahuatl, Chichewa or Kikuyu. If a language like Zulu Swazi and related Nguni dialects have been spoken for centuries, surely there is nothing that could prevent them to deliver science and or intellectual thought.

To perpetuate stereotypes about blacks and knowledge, one silly person once said, “The best way to hide something from Black people is to put it in a book.” Probably what they do not say is that the book is written in English.

But how come a Black child is expected to learn in other people’s languages, be it English, French, Spanish or Portuguese?

Another imperialist decided to declare English an “international” language to discourage teaching in indigenous languages. We know that the French, Japanese, Chinese and Russians don’t even speak a single word of English.

Why bother about English when your mother tongue has carried you since birth?

Suspiciously, almost all European ethnic groups learn in their mother tongue. Swedish and Polish have fewer speakers than Zulu, Yoruba or Lingala. The issue of numbers and cost is rarely brought up.

Zulu Swazi and related Nguni dialects have more speakers than speakers of Finnish, Swedish, Danish, Polish, Hungarian, Latvian, and Estonian combined. But each of these have a better standing in the global hierarchy of languages.

Also, their children are taught pythagoras theorem, chemistry and sociology as well as accounting in these languages.

The truth is that the situation wasn’t always like this in Europe.

Ottoman Muslims were in eastern and southern Europe for almost 1,500 years (an area significantly larger than the British Empire at its peak). The imperial invaders brought with them science and technology as well as mathematics, astronomy and medicine.

Europeans learnt from the Ottomans, not that all their languages, perhaps with the exception of German, Russian and few others, were ready to be “languages of science” by default.

Then it means that it is also possible to do the same in Africa in order to make scientific knowledge accessible to everyone. Any language is ready to adopt science, accounting and chemistry without problems.

Afrikaans, for example, was “kitchen Dutch” for many years until it was standardised and adopted as a language of Boers.

Today a large population of South African whites learn engineering, math, biology, architecture and finance in their home language starting from primary school all the way to university.

Using examples below, consider how simple it really could be to teach chemistry in Zulu or any other indigenous language.

The term for oxygen (O2) in Afrikaans is “suurstof”, probably borrowed from German word “Sauerstoff” or Dutch word “zuurstof”. The word means “sour dust”, in isiZulu it would be “umlotha omuncu”.

The English word “carbon” is the same in Spanish but in German is “kohlen” and “koolstoff” in Afrikaans. In Zulu the same word means “ilahle”. Then “carbon dioxide” (CO2) is “Kohlendioxid” or “Kohlenstoff”, which literally means “umlotha wamalahle”.

Water (H20) is “amanzi” (in Zulu) or “metsi” (Sotho).

Thinking about decolonisation of science? Then it means that we need to escape shackles of mental slavery.

As we argue about White Monopoly Capital, we must remember that it is possible to learn engineering in Zulu, Chichewa, Shangaan, and Kiswahili.

The decision to make Kiswahili as a second language in South African education system isn’t enough if the language also doesn’t open the doors to science and other forms of tertiary learning.

To conclude, to discourage what is argued in this post the educated natives and their friends will immediately ask: Since (South) Africa has so many languages, which one do we choose? Oh Zulu is only spoken in southern Africa, why bother making a language of science? How will we afford to do all of this?

Language is not a competition but a tool to help you read, communicate and learn. Yes, you can learn Chemistry in any language including Zulu, Pedi, Xhosa, Tswana, Shona and so forth.

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