BEE has evolved into a family affair: ZEE

2010-09-04 09:12

There was cautious optimism among many leftists in the ANC that the ousting of Thabo Mbeki in Polokwane might mark a shift towards a much more egalitarian economic policy, including Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

Instead, BEE is increasingly becoming too narrow, amounting to ZEE – that is, Zuma Economic Empowerment.

The recent ­multibillion-rand Arcelor-Mittal BEE deal involving Duduzane, President Jacob ­Zuma’s son, is another example of how BEE has become too narrow.

To crown it all, the president’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, seems to have suddenly become an African imperialist, amassing oil resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

ZEE is not only an assault on the Young Communist League and South African Communist Party (SACP) resolutions – which called for the nationalisation of ­monopoly industries – it amounts to a burial of the Freedom Charter.

Only a few can be misled to believe that there is no link between ­Zuma’s rise to the presidency and his ­family’s rise to riches.

One’s leadership position in a political ­party, particularly the ANC, allows one to gain and/or retain access to the institutional power that makes one the preferred ­candidate for white business to select to be part of its established enterprises.

These politicians rely heavily on the control of ­organisational power to generate wealth. ­Access to the state provides politicians with leverage to select those who can acquire shares in white-owned firms.

South Africa’s political system is based on a multiparty electoral democracy.

Access to state institutional power is achieved through elections.

Consequently, many politicians are interested in party politics.

Since they ­rely on organisational power for wealth accumulation, potential and actual entrepreneurs find it rational to contest directly or indirectly for political organisational leadership positions as an entry point to the state and its economic resources.

However, not every political party matters.

Because the ANC is backed by the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions – not to mention its history in the national liberation struggle – it is highly supported by the electorate and, therefore, matters.

Individuals acting within and through the state have the power to decide who gets state-owned resources.

However, the fact that individuals in the state have this ­institutional power does not mean we will know ­beforehand which black politicians will secure access to these resources.

This is mediated by a dominant political party in government.

The BEE model is structured favourably for politically connected politicians and their proxies to enter into business through the state.

The state owns key economic resources ­required by business that can only be ­accessed with state permission. The state acts as a purchaser of services from the ­private ­sector.

Through its financial institutions, the state acts as a money lender.

It is also a grantor of licences for, among other things, mining rights. Through privatisation, it acts as a seller of its assets.

Business can gain access to state-owned resources through a BEE criterion that ­requires black people to be owners and managers of enterprises.

White businesses can use black people who are politically connected to gain access to these resources – and more recently, as a means to deflect ANC Youth League calls for nationalisation.

This explains why certain black millionaires associated with the liberation movement have been cherry-picked by white businesses.

The BEE model has promoted ­competition among politicians for access to institutional power and co-option by white business.

This competition finds expression in political conflicts within the ANC and the state.

We are indeed on the wrong economic ­redistribution path.

BEE has become a ­family affair.

Children whose parents are not politicians will have to lift themselves out of poverty by their own bootstraps.

The youth’s cynical acquiescence of ZEE may find concrete expression in ­non-participation in political activism, ­including voting.

After all, why vote if voting means empowering politicians to empower their children.

» Masondo is chairperson of the Young ­Communist League

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