In the article published on Business Day online on the 29th of October 2013, Tito Mboweni the erstwhile Governor of one of the few privately owned Reserve/Central Banks in the world, the South African Reserve Bank rushed in where angels fear to tread and proclaimed without much substance that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) is not a left movement.
The erstwhile Governor did so in disputing the thoughtful observation of one of the renowned thinkers and ideologues of the National Liberation Movement, Dr. Pallo Jordan who in the same publication had correctly argued that “The EFF poses an interesting dilemma, especially for those of the ANC’s critics who hate it for destroying the white minority’s monopoly on political power. The EFF speaks of the seizure of the economic assets, especially the land, now owned by whites, without compensation. If, as seems likely, the EFF wins a seat in the next Parliament, South Africa can look forward to an interesting five years. An ANC facing an effective opposition to its left might opt for more radical policies, realigning South African politics in directions that few will have anticipated”.
In disputing this obvious fact from Dr. Jordan, Mboweni made another hollow, but shocking proclamation that the South African Communist Party (SACP), whose entire serious leadership is part of the ‘instrument of capitalist class rule’, the South African State as senior Ministers, is a Left political formation. This is one of the most ludicrous proclamations ever made by an elected leader of any revolutionary movement since 1994, but understandable when viewed from the extreme Right, where Mboweni comfortably and proudly belongs. So from the extreme right, of course the SACP is on the Left (of the extreme right), but in reality and judging by all its actions and pronouncements in the recent past, the SACP, together with its ally the ANC, are neo-liberal organisations currently administering the South African State on behalf of the ruling Capitalist class. Now, this is scientifically true and no amount of emotion and exuberance can successfully argue that the ANC and SACP are not instruments of Capitalist class rule and cohesion, because they are.
These unsubstantiated proclamations are nonetheless not the major ideological, political, or should we say commonsensical blunders Mboweni commits. The biggest blunder Mboweni commits is his insistence that the former Liberation Movement, the ANC’s adoption of neo-liberal policies upon seizure of political power did not represent capitulation to capitalist interests and directives. Mboweni further disputes that the loan the Transitional Executive Council (TEC) took from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) did not have an ideological impact on the thinking of the former Liberation Movement (ANC), particularly its approach to economic policy.
Mboweni says, “Within the ANC, this matter (loan from the IMF) was handled by the ANC delegation to the transitional executive council and I presume that they consulted with their principals. It was not a secret deal as so loudly pronounced by Terreblanche and parroted by many these days…. There was no secret deal. If there was any, I should know about it as I was the ANC person who had the unenviable but informative task of editing the damn thing! So, please, let’s leave this matter alone if the bland facts of it fail to satisfy our hopes for political drama”.
In revealing this open secret, Mboweni is revealing the reality that those involved in negotiations with IMF for the loan and future economic policy did not do it secretly, but openly. So the selling out and capitulation to imperialist dictates was not a secret. Mboweni is basically admitting that the capitulation and selling out by the negotiating political elite was not a secret, but an open deal, whose consequences is the continued structural crisis of the South African economy and its inability to create jobs, address poverty and inequalities.
Even in its own admission, the ANC did retreat on radical economic policies such as Nationalisation of Mines during the transition negotiations and politics, because the balance of forces was not in favour of the forces of progressive change. It is only its 52nd National Conference in Polokwane (which was re-adopted in the 53rd National Conference in Mangaung) where the ANC adopted a Strategy & Tactics, which amongst other things says “Overall, since 1994, the balance of forces has shifted in favour of the forces of change. It provides the basis for speedier implementation of programmes to build a truly democratic and prosperous society”. A truly democratic and prosperous society is a Freedom Charter envisioned society where the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks, and monopoly industry should be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole, and such is not happening and not in the National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030.
The observation about the shifting balance of forces was made because in the preceding years, the ANC had observed in both its 50th and 51st Conferences in Mafikeng and Stellenbosch respectively that “the symbiotic link between capitalism and national oppression in our country, and the stupendous concentration of wealth in the hands of a few monopolies therefore render trite the vainglorious declaration that national oppression and its social consequences can be resolved by formal democracy underpinned by market forces to which all should kneel in the prayer: `everyone for himself and the Devil takes the hindmost!”.
For obvious reasons, Mboweni will claim ignorance to these observations in the organisation he leads at a National Executive Committee level because to him, the ANC’s capitulation to imperialism through dictates of the IMF and the neo-liberal triumphalism that defined the transition period, are natural progression of ANC economic policy as government. Many of his seasoned Colleagues, such as Dr. Pallo Jordan will beg to differ because even the organisation (SACP) Mboweni sees on his immediate Left from an extreme right perspective, decried the neo-liberal degeneration and rightward shift of the ANC led Liberation Movement, now evidently because they were not ‘invited’ to the gravy train from the Union Buildings to nowhere.
From a neo-liberal, and extreme right perspective which refuses to even acknowledge these basic shifts, EFF policies will of course be ‘political adventurism’ or even blurred because Mboweni is miles away from the Left where EFF comfortably and proudly resides. But in actual sense, what is ‘political adventurism’ is the ANC’s adoption and celebration of neo-liberal policies such as the misnamed Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy and now the NDP. What is legendary ‘political adventurism’ is the ANC’s secret, now open capitulation to the dictates of the IMF on what should be economic policy post democratic elections, in exchange for a meagre loan from the IMF, and other class interests.
This ANC led ‘political adventurism’, which Mboweni says was not a secret, has led to the persistence of close to 40% of structural unemployment, therefore insoluble levels of poverty and inequalities. This ANC led ‘political adventurism’ led to Capital Flight and delisting of critical corporations from South Africa to London Stock of Exchange because the IMF, which was not met secretly, said South Africa should loosen exchange controls. This ANC led ‘political adventurism’ led to trade liberalisation which solidified the de-industrialisation of South Africa, weakened the internal food economy because South African industries have to compete with heavily subsidised commodities and food products from other parts of the world.
Indeed ‘political adventurism’ should refer to the political elite which is presiding over an economy for close to 20 years, yet recurrently failing to bring productive value out of the economy. Now, if the ANC led ‘political adventurism’ is allowed to continue, unemployment levels at 36% will worsen, with no immediate possibility recovering anytime soon. The promises of economic growth will remain promises and inequalities will worsen. These observations are not just made by the EFF, but by sources Mboweni will consider reputable and not childish. Despite making other reactionary observations and prescriptions, the June 1st to 7th 2013 The Economist edition observes that “as most of Africa begins to prosper, the continent biggest economy [South Africa] is faltering”.
Echoing the same view, the 7th to 12th June 2013 edition of the Financial Mail says, “Earlier in the year, the FM asked whether South Africa was on a slippery slope to becoming a sub-investment country. We concluded that though it would take deterioration over several years for SA to move from investment grade to speculative grade,…the country faced a slow grinding descent from mediocrity to marginalisation – or even worse. But though we were decidedly bearish, we didn’t expect things to unravel this quickly”. The FM then proceeds to quote Pan African Capital Holdings CE Iraj Abedian who correctly says, “The South African economy hasn’t been in such a rudderless state since 1994”. Now, these are candid observations from even sectors Mboweni would consider allies in economic thought.
Demonising Zimbabwe and using it as a scarecrow exposes the intellectual and scholarly weakness and dishonesty of the erstwhile Governor of the Reserve Bank. All reliable data and information currently available in the world, even from the World Bank confirm that Zimbabwe is not in crises which are figments of Mboweni’s imagination. As early as 2011, Zimbabwe’s food production and economy are stable, and thousands of indigenous Zimbabweans benefitting from small scale agriculture, because the huge commercial farms have been broken down to benefit as many Zimbabweans as possible.
Mboweni’s demonisation of Zimbabwe is also an out of fashion practice of white settlers and their Masters abroad, whom the people of Zimbabwe correctly took land from in the late 1990s and early 2000. Zimbabwe is confronted with various economic challenges, which are evidently worsened by sanctions imposed on the country by imperialist Masters who did not approve of the land reform programme driven by the people and correctly legitimised by the ZANU-PF government as the only means to ensure economic emancipation. But to demonise Zimbabwe and declare an economic non-entity as Mboweni does is intellectual dishonesty and opportunism.
For pure ideological opportunism, Mboweni ignores the progress in Zimbabwe because he believes that people are frightened by what happened or is happening in Zimbabwe. The approach towards Zimbabwe is entirely problematic and dishonest, and surely South Africa’s Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi will agree because he recently remarked in his address to the SADTU National General Council that “we may be able to learn something from the agrarian model adopted by our Zimbabwe neighbours – essentially breaking down large scale farms and promoting more intensive small scale farming”. Although Nxesi was not entirely honest in acknowledging that the ‘agrarian model’ in Zimbabwe came as a result of thoroughgoing and decisive land reform programme, he is correct. The Zimbabwean agrarian model which Public Works Ministers covets was never going to be possible if the people of Zimbabwe did not take decisive action to redistribute land.
Mboweni further quotes the current contributions of Mining and Agriculture to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with the hope that we in the EFF will be frightened into believing that these sectors are not important and therefore not worth investing our political muscles and mass power on. What Mboweni does not say is that the declining significance of Mining and Agriculture in the South African economy is due to the reality that these are trapped in the neo-liberal shackles Mboweni and the TEC negotiated openly (not secretly) with the IMF.
Rescued from the neo-liberal shackles, mining can be the biggest contributor to the GDP, and the biggest employer through downstream and upstream industries, which are virtually non-existent in the South African mining sector. Beneficiation and industrialisation of South Africa’s more than 54 precious and industrial minerals and metals can create millions of sustainable jobs. Under the current regime, such will not happen because the political elite is happy to eat the crumbs from under the table of Mining Capital, and can only be co-opted as Shareholder Capitalists, adding no productive value to the Mining sectors and its industrial prospects.
Mboweni further fails to acknowledge that the reason why agriculture only contributes 700 000 jobs and 3% to the GDP is because South African agriculture is exposed to competition with subsidised agricultural products from other parts of the world. South Africa currently imports more than R100 billion worth of food products from Brazil, US, UK, Israel, and parts of the European Union. This happens when South African agriculture does not have a coherent State-led support mechanism to even guarantee food security. This happens when the South African government is only trying to figure out how much agricultural land is available for whom 20 years into democracy. Agriculture should be rescued from neo-liberal competition, land shared amongst those who need it, small scale farming intensified, and the industrial capacity to process food built, and then this sector will meaningfully contribute not only to the GDP, but to sustainable food security.
EFF’s vision for economic emancipation is that of the industrial and economic development of our nation to be counted amongst the Now Developed Countries (NDCs) in the world within the 20 years post 2014. Our vision is to develop South Africa to be on the cutting edge of technological production and innovation, cutting edge industries, growth and development of science and technology which seek to improve the living conditions of our people. Our vision is to guarantee food security for all South Africans, Africans and all people of the world. Our vision is to create sustainable jobs for all people in South Africa, Southern Africa and the African continent as a whole. This will bring total stability, reduce crime, and make sure that we all contribute meaningfully for generations to come.
As we argued elsewhere, for South Africa to achieve all these noble aspirations, certain things should be done to redress the imbalances of the past. Central amongst the things that are sine qua non (pre-requisite) of a sustainable developmental vision and programme for South Africa is equal redistribution of land. Currently, land ownership in South Africa is terribly skewed. The skewed ownership and control of arable land in South Africa is not only a black and white issue (which it vividly appears to be), but an intra-white unequal reality where less than 2% of the white population are in ownership and control of vast tracts of South Africa’s land. So we still have millions of white South Africans that still do not own the land, because it is owned by few white individuals. Without equitable access to land, we cannot and will not be able to develop the South African economy. Even for technological expansion and innovation we need land. That is not called ‘political adventurism’, it is called a cogent LEFT vision for the future.
Floyd Shivambu is EFF Commissar for Political Education, Policy and Research[subscribe2]