Strikes, job losses, damages to private property, increases in crime and an overall growth of impatience and dissatisfaction is sweeping the country, our country, South Africa. The cliché of the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer has never been truer or more distasteful.
Looking back through history, which we never do, we can see that such dissatisfaction opens the door for racial divide. When we are unhappy, we must blame someone – that someone is someone else, someone “different”. Not to disregard other races in South Africa but the issue boils down to black versus white.
More and more we are hearing a growing discontent among black South Africans. Valid? Yes. Why? 20 years into democracy, of the liberation party, and the people are not liberated. Rather than gloating in liberation, we are faced with stark realities. Farm workers are striking for a meager R150 a day – while some buy a R150 bottle of wine. Miners are striking for R4000 a month – while some buy a gold chain worth R4000. Here we see the inequity within our country – here we see the cause of the discontent.
Before I am branded as self righteous / self loathing / ignorant / et cetera, let me state the obvious. There are rich whites and blacks. There are poor whites and blacks. However, let’s not focus on the outliers but rather the reality we face.
Does the term “white capital” mean anything to you? Does the fact that the gold/platinum/fruit/wine that is mined/harvested by black labour and ultimately benefits only white capital mean anything to you? If it doesn't, it definitely means something to those farmers and miners, the black labour, who are fighting for their share.
Here, we see the great divide. Here, we see the beginnings of something perverse. Here, we see the beginnings of a revolution. As dramatic as a revolution may sound, we just need to consider the amounts of deaths due to crime, striking, looting, xenophobia, et cetera. It may not have all the hallmarks of a revolution just yet but the death and unrest caused by this festering social discontent are enough to be characterized as such.
The revolution is, however, now characterized by other examples of hatred. The revolution is showing its face in the intense anger and racism that is entrenching itself in our people. Let us not call ourselves the rainbow nation, for we are not. Let us not say that we have reconciled, for we have not. Yes, a revolution may force this reconciliation but more violence shouldn't be the answer.
So, now, the reflex action is to take a side. “It’s the white capital who is unwilling to relinquish its privileges”. “It’s the government who are only concerned with self-enrichment”. “It’s the whites”. “It’s the blacks”.
Yes, there may be some truth here and a little truth there. However, our historical perspective is bound to be self-centric. In South Africa, everyone feels like a victim – white and black. We harbor these ideas of resentment and victimhood and this is ultimately what is holding us back; holding us back from a peaceful evolution. We must be forward looking and look to find solutions; instead, our empty rhetoric leads to a reactionary attitude rather than being proactive.
Let me explain. We have a problem where farmers are heavily underpaid. Instead of being proactive and formulating a solution, we are reactive and have to deal with strikes and looting. Reactive will lead a violent revolution while proactive will lead to a peaceful one.
So, white capital and black government. What can you do? Painfully, we need only look at our neighbors Zimbabwe – although, not in its entirety! Ignoring the past decade, draw your focus on the recent landmark deal struck with Zimplats. For those not in the know, let me explain the foundations upon which this landmark has been created.
Zimplats is owned by Implats; Implats are white capital. So, the proactive solution? The people ofZimbabwe will buy half of Zimplats in order to benefit from their platinum rich land. But, how can the poor afford to own half of Zimplats? Herein in lays the solution. Zimplats will loan the people ofZimbabwe the money to buy half their company; at an interest rate of 10%. When Zimplats declare dividends to their new owners, the same dividends will be used to pay off the aforementioned loan. Simple. Genius.
If we look even further, the new stake in Zimplats is to be split as so: 10% to a community trust; 10% to an employee trust and 31% to the government in the form of a ‘National Indigenisation & Economic Empowerment Trust’. The new ownership allows the appointment of directors onto the Zimplats board; albeit in a skewed ratio. This may be the master class stroke as it allows management of the Zimplats to remain (although to a lesser extent) in the hands of Implats. Do you know what this means people of South Africa? This means we can avoid the nasty ‘n’ word altogether – nationalization.
What effect does this all have? Firstly, it is a much needed redistribution of wealth. However, there is no loser as Implats have effectively sold half their shares on loan. Secondly, due to no ‘n’ word, Zimplats has a renewed confidence in Zimbabwe and are now looking to expand their mining operations – creating more jobs. Redistribution of wealth is vital but can only work if coupled with foreign investor confidence as we do need experts to extract the platinum.
Lastly, the desired effect will lead to satisfaction among the people. There can be no dissatisfaction among the miners as they are co-owners, reaping the benefits. There can be no dissatisfaction among the communities surrounding the mines as they are co-owners, reaping the benefits. And, finally, there can be no dissatisfaction among the people of Zimbabwe as through their government, they are co-owners and will enjoy the benefits.
If we bring this model of wealth redistribution, or a variant, into the South African context, we can bring satisfaction to our people. We can have our revolution. A peaceful revolution. But, in order for this to happen, we need our black government and white capital to be proactive.
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