Guest Column

Who should have the monopoly on capital?

2017-03-05 06:10

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Tlangelani waka Rikhotso

We hear a lot these days about white monopoly capital (WMC), a phrase that confuses many people.

Yet the strongest proponents of the concept do not seem to be anti capital. South Africa has opted for a capitalist economic system, and capitalism is about the accumulation of wealth.

It seems that the issue is not about the monopoly of capital, but the whiteness of it.

To keep harping on about WMC denies the existence of a growing band of black capital owners. When is money that is currently in the hands of black people (blacks, coloureds and Indians) going to be called black monopoly capital (BMC)? And, is the cry against WMC actually a call for BMC?

To many opponents of WMC, Treasury – which controls the inflow and outflow of money at national, provincial and local government level – is part of WMC.

Indeed, money under the control of officials such as Ramaphosa, Motsepe, Maponya, Khoza, Gumede, Patel, Kiviet and others – even trade unions – is still viewed by these people as WMC.

The Oppenheimers and Ruperts of this country acquired their wealth using black people. The banks are custodians of billions of rands belonging to black people. I, together with millions of black people, am paying value-added tax, as well as personal and company taxes. Are we minimising the contribution of black people to this wealth if we still regard it as WMC?

It seems that this phrase is used to justify the mismanagement, plundering, looting and fruitless expenditure in government that the Auditor-General complains about year in and year out. Consequently, those who loot these entities, the argument goes, should not be punished because to call for their prosecution is to serve the interests of WMC.

Those who insist that proper procedures should be followed are viewed as protecting WMC, and are even punished.

An example of this is the recent case in the Labour Court, where two judgments were made against Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant for dismissing Johan Crouse as registrar of labour.

His offence? Trying to regulate the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union, which had failed to produce financial records for five years. We are talking about billions of rands’ worth of workers’ money, so it cannot be about WMC.

Another case in point occurred in 2014. It was amazing to see former friends and business partners Marcel Golding and Johnny Copelyn – both union stalwarts – at loggerheads, after having used R1bn of union funds as seed capital to start This was not WMC, but money from mainly black workers, who became impoverished after losing their jobs. So much for poverty alleviation.

Many other similar cases have been reported, with little recourse seen.

Money has no colour. So, I suggest we start using the phrase “South African monopoly capital” (SAMC). After 20-plus years into our democracy, how is it that we still see white money? How long did it take for other former colonised countries to stop seeing WMC? They may now define their capital as Korean or Ghanaian monopoly capital, and so on.

In some countries, there are harsh repercussions for stealing state resources. They guard these jealously. There should be the same will and legal action taken to protect SAMC. Those who ignore proper procedures so they can loot must pay back the money.

Mr President, for you to declare publicly – as you did last year – that you know who is stealing and will reveal names at an opportune time, is not good enough. You are our number one cop. Get those thieves behind bars, where they belong, now.

While we see and cry WMC at every turn, others are carrying SAMC away in cardboard boxes and suitcases out of Lanseria and OR Tambo airports, to become Dubai, Mumbai, Lisbon, Beijing and Lagos monopoly capital.

Uhuru (the Swahili word for freedom) dawned on us 23 years ago, when our doyen, Nelson Mandela, took the presidential oath to uphold our precious Constitution. He entered into a symbolic contract with South Africans, as well as the global family of democratic countries and local and international investors, that he and his successors would manage the country’s fiscus efficiently, without discrimination.

Recent service delivery protests were not prompted by WMC, but by our failure to deliver proper services to previously disadvantaged communities such as those in Soweto, Taung, Vuwani, Muyexe and Umhlabuyalingana.

I appeal to all officials – from the president to ministers, premiers, mayors, league leaders, chief executives of state-owned enterprises, private entities and union bosses – to start talking about SAMC.

WMC exists in Australia, the UK, France, Spain and other countries; we will not be able to lay our hands on it.

Let us protect that which is ours and use it properly for the good of everyone, not only the lucky few. Maybe then our builders may start to build proper houses and not shoddy ones, because they will no longer regard them as being part of WMC that must be stolen.

We need to respect and guard our SAMC, or the country may become a lost cause.

Rikhotso is a medical practitioner and a concerned South African citizen


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