'White monopoly capital - what is that?' asks Mbeki

14 July 2017 - 10:15 By Penwell Dlamini
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki. File photo.
Former South African President Thabo Mbeki. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images / Sunday Times / Alaister Russell

Former President Thabo Mbeki has warned leaders and society to refrain from being driven by popular slogans that are not based of facts.

Speaking on Power FM on Thursday night‚ Mbeki said leaders have to think of the reality of the current situation and how they want to change it in the future.

The talk took place before an audience that included former finance minister Trevor Manuel‚ Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa.

“Avoid being driven by what appears to be popular opinion and sexist slogans. You have to look at the reality that you have to deal with. We are here today and we want to be there tomorrow‚ how do we get there?” Mbeki said.

“[You need] to avoid being caught by fashion. You must be able to justify the steps you are taking. Not on the basis that you are going to get a very good newspaper headline but because what you are going to say is going to produce positive results that you need.”

He then took his time to challenge the use of the slogan “white monopoly capital”.

“You’ve got some people talking about white monopoly capital. What is that? It is an abuse of a phrase‚ a term‚ a concept which was used in scientific economic literature [and] which talked about monopoly capital. In this sense …at the beginning of a capitalist system you have many firms‚ many small capitalists‚” Mbeki said.

“There is not any one of them who is so big as to influence what happens on the market … Economics textbooks will also tell you that it is in the nature of capital to swallow others. Inevitably‚ a capitalist system is going to have concentration and centralisation of capital. Out of the thousand firms‚ you will ultimately end up with six. That is what is then called monopoly capital.

“Then somebody here somewhere adds the word white and then they quote famous names that you have heard as examples of this white monopoly capital. Which turns this into a political category.”

Mbeki also used the platform to explain some of the mistakes that have been made by President Jacob Zuma’s administration.

“When we were in government‚ we have always had a strategic reserve. In case there is some emergency‚ somewhere there must be public funds which you can use to address an emergency. I read a couple of years back that they had raided the strategic reserve in order to pay salaries of civil servants and wiped it out. It is wrong‚” Mbeki said to a shocked audience.

Mbeki then dealt with what he believed was one of the reasons companies in South Africa kept themselves at high liquidity levels and did not invest in the economy.

“A lot of your owners of capital‚ since 1994‚ have always thought that transition [to democracy] was too good to be true. [They felt] that it was inevitable‚ that after all South Africa is yet another African country‚ something is bound to break at some point and I might have to run. You can’t pick up a factory and run with it. But you can pick up a briefcase with cash and take it to Dubai or some place.”

Mbeki then explained how people in the ANC were fed lies in order to vote him out in the 2007 Polokwane conference‚ including Malema‚ a former ANC Youth League leader.

“A lot of what happened at the conference in 2007 was based on lies. Lies were told to Juju (Malema) here by people whom Juju had no reason to disbelieve. Quite correctly‚ he believed them and acted accordingly. He discovered much later that he was lied to.”

Then his host Given Mukhari asked if he had at any point been called by government for any advice.

“No‚ they wouldn’t. They told me in 2008 that I was useless. I was not wanted. I don’t think they have changed their minds‚” Mbeki replied.

Mukhari then asked if some of the ministers called in for advice secretly.

“No. When some of them speak to me they say‚ ‘Chief‚ you don’t know how difficult it is.’ I tell them that I know.”

Listen to the full interview here: