No amount of champagne, cakes or booze-fuelled parties can mask the reality of the what the ANC has become.
Scattered clouds. Cool.
PW Botha. Picture: Die Burger (File)
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song dedel’abanye (make way for
others), reverberated at a marquee at the University of Limpopo in December
2007, it not only served as a pointed message to President Thabo Mbeki to make
way for Jacob Zuma. It also triggered tectonic shifts in South African politics.
got his way. And what a way it is!
is the unwitting author of the new shifts that have taken place in many aspects
of South Africa’s social, political, moral and economic life. Of all the
shifts, one is a striking reminder of our past: the political role of the
When Zuma –
obviously with a strong mandate from Saxonwold – fired Finance Minister Pravin
Gordhan and his deputy Mcebisi Jonas, people took to the streets. Business
supported the move. In an untypical move from a sector that usually complains about
strikes, companies offered to release employees to join in the anti-Zuma
protests led by opposition parties and civil society.
belatedly decided to add its voice of discontent recently, it was not short of
moral support from business.
Business Leadership SA, an umbrella body
representing some of the top local and international companies, continues to be
vocal against Zuma and state capture.
business people who don’t applaud anti-corruption activism are those who don’t
know the pain of creating wealth; all they do is pilfer the taxes paid by those
who generate wealth.
Business Leadership SA, an organisation of genuine
businesses, has gone to the extent of expelling those among its ranks who are tainted
by allegations of corruption and state capture.
organisation has signed a public pledge to uphold the laws of the country and
to fight corruption. Triggered by the Zuma corruption, this initiative and the
calls for him to step down are changing the political landscape of the
country. Their impact will be felt for many years to come.
government and his party, the ANC, should consider reading a bit on the history
of South Africa. There is consistency about the role of business in politics:
when the economy is in decline, poverty is on the rise and business profits are
under threat, it has always been business who, using its resources and
proximity to government, would appeal for change.
negotiations between the National Party and the ANC were made possible partly
by the economic squeeze that business was feeling. The consumer boycotts and
international sanctions made it difficult for businesses to operate. As the
wave of economic globalisation was sweeping over the world economy, South
Africa was left behind, isolated.
National Party government, ever convinced of its God-given right to oppress the
majority of citizens, would have continued with its perilous policies even as
the country became increasingly ungovernable due to intensification of the
struggle against apartheid. But pressure from the business community, feeling the heat of the anti-apartheid protests itself, hastened change.
government knew that a weak business sector inevitably meant a weak government.
So, business leaders spoke out about the dire situation. Although business
leaders have always supported exploitative policies that enabled them to profit
more, the support was not permanent. Once their interests were threatened, they
were the first to revolt.
When Prime Minister
Dr Hendrik Verwoerd’s policies were wreaking havoc and the isolation of the
apartheid regime intensified, business people met and adopted a resolution
calling for his resignation. Some of them called it a patriotic revolt. They
demanded political reforms. Verwoerd and his cabinet were forced to quit.
unemployment soared, poverty rates increased, farm produce was rotting because of
sanctions and the voice of the business community became louder, he had no
option. His successor Dr Johannes van Wyk blamed the ravaging poverty on the
failure of the international community to understand the imperative for racial
discrimination in South Africa. He announced meaningless cosmetic changes to
enforce the homeland system to appease the international community.
irrational refusal to embrace fundamental change led to the intensification of
the struggle against the apartheid system locally and internationally. Years
later, when PW Botha showed his intransigence the business community pressed
for change. And change eventually came.
By 1994, the
country was technically bankrupt. The apartheid government bequeathed the
democratic government a huge debt. The Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki
administrations fixed the finances, reformed the South African Revenue Service,
corporatised the Public Investment Corporation and improved the nation’s credit
In a way, the
private sector reaped the fruits of their protest. Business boomed. Tax
collections shot up. The fiscal deficit turned into a fiscal surplus. A huge
middle class sprung up. Social grants were expanded. And companies even
publicly donated money to political parties when we celebrated 10 years of
democracy. The lion’s share of the donations went to the ANC. It was a huge
applause of the manner in which the governing party had managed the economy.
poverty among black people needed more than that. Fundamental structural
reforms had been slow. Poverty and unemployment among black people continued.
Many continued to rely on the state for support. Aspirant black entrepreneurs
looked to the state to assist.
The last thing
South Africa needed was capture of the state by foreigners who steal from
genuine South African entrepreneurs using state institutions as thieving
business leaders would have none of it. As it has happened in the past, they are
advocating for political change. We are back to the past – albeit in a totally different
- Mkhabela is a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation (GovInn) at the University of Pretoria. Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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