The race card & nationalization: two tools to steal from the poor - iLIVE
In recent years we have become accustomed to ANC efforts to amplify racial divisions, to focus our attentions on the wrongs of the past and so diverting them from the wrongs of today.
Inequality within the black population has increased massively since 1994. Given such changes, it is wise for those who have benefited hugely from the new dispensation to keep attention off their wealth. Allowing the problem to be cast as one of rich and poor would be disastrous for the new elite. Rather focus attention on how whites still have a disproportionate share of income and wealth.
White South Africans, as a whole, do still control a vastly inequitable share of the country’s wealth, but this does not mean all whites are rich. Moreover, the share of wealth controlled by whites has been steadily falling. So, some white people are not rich, and some black people are hugely so.
The elites, both white and black, happily work together to continue to amass more than their share, while the poor and middle classes still see things in terms of colour. So long as we allow racial divisions to dominate, we will leave ourselves open to exploitation – from e-tolls to substandard service delivery.
The injustices of the past mean that race (or rather ethnic group as in the end there is only one race, the human race) is still a major factor in South African life. To say that we must forget about race shows a profound lack of appreciation of the scale of harm done, and the potential for this harm to perpetuate itself long after the laws and institutions that produced it have gone. But to focus exclusively on race is to provide the cover for the new black elite to steal wholesale from the poor of this country.
The race story is an old one, but those who seek to benefit from such cover appear to have a new idea – strategic nationalization.
Again, under the banner of redressing past wrongs, a small elite appears to be setting themselves up for a windfall.
Now I cannot say for sure that strategic nationalization, a possibility according to recent reports, will follow this path, but it seems likely. Here is how I think it will go.
In consultation with mining companies (with black, white, foreign and local shareholders), the government will identify marginal mines that the companies would be happy to be rid of. Using tax payers’ money, the government will buy these mines at above their market value (which is very low given that they are only marginally profitable). This could lead to a few kickbacks and some profit taking for shareholders. Then the government will appoint high level boards and managers. They will, of course, have to be paid large salaries to ensure competition with the private sector. These positions will be filled with friends, family and loyal supports. The mines will then likely run at a loss – they were marginal with good management, how well will they do with friends and family at the wheel? But not to worry, government loans and such will keep them going – maybe financing a few additional tenders to some more friends, you know, to improve profitability.
I cannot see strategic nationalization as leading to anything more than the establishment of yet another way for the elite to divert funds, which should be spent on service delivery, into their own pockets. Surely the benefits from running Eskom and other fund channeling organizations propped up by the rest of us should be enough for them, but I guess not.
Poor people in South Africa are angry, and well they should be. It is unacceptable that after so many years of democracy the majority of people in our country still live in poverty. Tapping into that anger with stories of continued race based inequity and ownership of the means of production is all too easy. It is also immoral, and must be stopped.