Today’s cadres and the struggle for material gain

2012-09-29 10:37

South Africa has no shortage of talent.

The problem with the organisational framework that underlies the political economy of the country is that the structure of the political class and the rules of the game look as if they were specifically designed to preclude the possibility of choosing the best team for any project of national importance.

In recent years, complaints against the policy of cadre deployment have been so loud and consistent that even the ANC has admitted the mistake.

Before I am accused of disrespecting our struggle icons, let me hasten to add that the younger members of the class of “cadres of the movement” are too young to have made any contribution to the struggle.

They joined the movement at a time when leaders such as Thabo Mbeki were already complaining about a new tendency to join the ANC purely for personal gain.

Mbeki was referring to the generation whose familiarity with dangerous situations is confined to action movies.
They have also listened to numerous stories about the adventures and escapades of the likes of Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu in their younger days.

Such stories induce in these youthful cadres a serious condition that can be best described as “heroism envy”.

In their delusions of grandeur, they imagine that conditions still exist to give them an opportunity to outdo the
heroes of old.

At the core of the struggle of the older generation was a duty and mission to “seize control” of the country and hand it back to the majority.

They were perfectly justified to blame the oppressors, who had absolute control, for everything that was wrong with the country.

In their quest for heroism, the new generation are still looking for something to grab from someone else. They still blame someone else for everything that is wrong with the country.

Indeed, no one planted the minerals beneath the soil and therefore they belong to the nation.

But while minerals remain beneath the soil, minerals are not wealth. At best, they are only potential wealth.

Otherwise, the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be among the richest on earth.

It takes a combination of capital and know-how, which is a lot more than revolutionary rhetoric, to get those minerals out of the ground cost-effectively.

However, the ambition to merely extract minerals from Africa for sale on other continents is nothing to be proud of.

This is precisely what the colonial agenda was all about: ship raw minerals from Africa to the colonial countries and sell them back as expensive finished products.

Mining corporations have always
been central in advancing the interests of colonial powers in this manner.

Superficially, South Africa appeared to be the exception so that even the liberation movement described apartheid as “colonialism of a special kind”.

The assumption was that the colonial agenda was driven by South African whites who wanted to develop South Africa as their exclusive home. The colonial capital was considered to be within.

The liberation movement’s main gripe was that the racist regime sought to exclude black people from the benefits of the economy.

It was assumed that after liberation, the former adversaries would cooperate in developing a common motherland. This turned out to be a dangerous delusion.

However, the suspicions of the post-1994 South African authorities were not aroused even when a number of large corporations used every opportunity to export capital, suddenly requested permission to move domicile to foreign capitals and to list on foreign stock exchanges.

These corporations were making the clearest possible statement that their only remaining interest in South Africa was access to the minerals to be used for the benefit of foreign countries.

Anglo American went so far as to move its mining engineering office to London. South Africa was just another colony.

The trouble with South Africa is that the political classes do not coincide with the intelligentsia.

Long before the political leaders were unbanned in 1990, they were expressing admirable sentiments such as the need to expand the manufacturing sector by beneficiating South African minerals.

However, such sentiments were little more than slogans, a strong point of politicians.

The intelligentsia, who were indispensable as part of the national conversation and who had the skills to produce implementable plans and to carry them out, were excluded.

The result is that, instead of a national conversation which ought to have been carried out a long time ago, there is now a din of sloganeering by aspirant revolutionaries.

The whole purpose of slogans has always been to reduce complex matters into monosyllabic utterances
for the benefit of the laziest thinkers among us.

Unfortunately, this is a tried-and-tested technique for winning the support of the masses and the hungrier
the people are, the easier it becomes to sell them bogus ideas.

University students, who constitute the new generation of the intelligentsia are also excluded from any thinking about the future of the economy.

Yet these are the people who ought to be choosing careers on the basis of their potential to enable them to maximise their contribution to the national project.

All that is left for our youth to dream about is an empty lifestyle of opulence without any ambition of substance.

» Mdlalose is an applied mathematician who works as an independent consultant

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