Wednesday, May 9, 2007


From the Socialist Banner blog.

Interesting read from Alec Russell, the southern Africa correspondent of the Financial Times, in the New Statesman.

The economic policies of the African National Congress have moved to the right, embracing capitalism with such relish, particularly through "Black Economic Empowerment" (BEE), a key part of the government's policy to level the economic playing field.

Even President Thabo Mbeki, the very man who unleashed this capitalist fervour, is expressing unease. Last year he used the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture to castigate those for whom "success and fulfilment means personal enrichment at all costs and the most theatrical and striking public display of that wealth".

Moeletsi Mbeki, the president's younger brother, one of the government's more trenchant critics is appalled by the Black Economic Empowerment policy. It is, he says, just a cosy arrangement between white business and the black elite.

Many "struggle" veterans have appreciated that after years of fighting the good fight they do not need to stay poor. What is more, it is rather easy to become rich, given the desperation of white businesses to prove their commitment to the new era by finding a black partner, and, in many cases, any old black partner.

"We [black South Africans] must have business role models," says one of the better-known members of the ANC billionaire elite, who has had dozens of directorships handed to him on a plate primarily because of his "struggle" credentials.

"Are you denying us the right to make money?" says another. "This is banker heaven"

For the past two years the economy has grown at about 5 per cent. Consumer confidence is at a 25-year high; the Johannesburg Stock Exchange's top 40 index has gone up nearly 250 per cent in the past three years.

House prices are up more than 125 per cent since 2003.

New car sales soared by nearly 16 per cent to an astonishing 714,000 last year. There are 55 BMW dealerships in the country (plus one Rolls-Royce and two Porsche showrooms).

According to figures quoted by the business magazine Finance Week, the number of "super-rich" (those earning more than four million rand - £285,000 - a year) has risen by 50 per cent in the past five years. 16% increase in number of dollar millionaires in 2005. There are 3 South African billionaires on Forbes's 2007 Rich List.

While blacks, Asians and people of mixed race accounted for less than 25 per cent of this category in 2001, they now account for 34 per cent; that figure is expected to rise to over 40 per cent by 2011.

After ten years of ANC government, income differentials in South Africa remain the second widest in the world. Fully half of South African households are classified as poor, earning less than R355 per adult per month [about £28 or US$52]. This poverty is not confined to any one race group but is concentrated among blacks - 61 percent of Africans and 38 percent of Coloureds are poor, according to Julian May of the University of Kwazulu, Natal. He also points out that the poorest 40 percent of households account for only 11 percent of total income while the richest 10 percent of households, making up only 7 percent of the population, accrue 40 per cent of total income.

Indeed, that is the crux of the question. For a few to achieve riches, the rest of us must remain in poverty.

As the Socialist Party prophetically said in a pamphlet on Racism from 1988:-
"South Africa will become another developing African capitalist state (perhaps one of the most powerful and influential) where the ruling class are predominantly black . . . [The people of South Africa ] will have thrown off the shackles of apartheid to become 'free' workers. The chains they will then have will be those of wage slaves all over the world".
Alan Johnstone

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