A revolution is commonly defined as a fundamental change of a government or social order to a new system. Unlike reform, which refers to quantitative changes to certain, often external aspects of the system, revolution relates to a change of the entire system. Whether a revolution is progressive or otherwise, it must be characterized by a change of the system from within. If the above is not the case, such a process will be referred to as a reform, rather than revolution.
Before 1994, South Africa’s political, social, administrative and legal system was based on the principle of Apartheid, which ensured the systemic oppression of black people in general, Africans and women in particular. Through the use of a complex web of laws and policies, the Apartheid system was so entrenched that it could be felt in every little corner of South Africa.
Within the system of Apartheid, the state, the economy and society in general was organized along racial and patriarchal lines. The nature of the system was that of total racial segregation. Services provided by the state, be it education, culture, basic as well as other services were packaged along racial lines with whites, who were and still are the minority, got relatively better services compared to their black counterparts.
As a result of a sustained struggle to overhaul the system, in 1994 a new system, which is different from the Apartheid system I mentioned above, was born. Thanks to intensive political and military work of liberation movements led by the ANC, the system had succumbed to severe internal and external pressures which made the running of the state in particular too awkward for the Nationalist Party.
The Apartheid system was replaced with the system of democracy. In this state all South Africans, black and white, enjoy the freedoms contained in the Constitution equally. Unlike in the previous system, where only whites were allowed to vote, every South African 18 years and above is allowed to vote for his or her preferred representatives, and everybody is allowed to contest freely in the elections.
Every South African is allowed to run a business anywhere in the country, and there are no jobs which are reserved for any racial group. The judicial and legislative arms of the state are designed in a way that the executive does not impose control over them. There are powerful institutions, established in terms of Chapter 9 of the Constitution that ensures accountability and fairness of the state. So in short, the Apartheid system has collapsed.
Despite the collapse of the system, many South Africans are yet to attain economic freedom. This is because nothing in nature is constant and South Africa is part of the globe, but not an island. The other reason is that South Africans do not have the same vision in terms of the kind of South Africa we want in line with the ANC’s National Democratic Revolution (NDR). Many South Africans still believe that wealth accumulation by a select few is justified and can assist South Africa to move forward.
South Africa has the 5th biggest pay gap in the whole world. On average, a South African CEO earns 140 times more than the average salary of his or her employees. In fact, research shows that in a certain instance, there is a CEO whose salary is 725 times higher than some of the employees in the same company.
Despite policies and laws that are in place, the South African economy remains in the hands of few wealthy men, mostly white. The wish that all South Africans will automatically embrace our vision of a country where all share in the country’s wealth seems to be just that; a wish. The large, monopoly firms, with strong international connections, remain at the helm of the South African economy.
These monopoly firms are so powerful that they sometimes control governance matters. The most recent example is when the President was forced to replace a minister of finance because the so-called markets were in disagreement with the President’s choice of a minister. This in itself, is a dangerous situation. It equals to a situation where people go to the polls and elect their representatives, only for some clandestine “markets” to micro-manage the state.
This white monopoly is not interested in the attainment of the National Democratic Revolution. The primary interest of white monopoly capital is to ensure that profits are maximized at all costs. White monopoly capital receives its mandate from Wall Street in the US, in the main, and it is very powerful.
Just like Cuba, which has had two revolutions so far; one in 1868 to overthrow the Spanish colonizers, and the socialist revolution of 1959, South Africa needs a second revolution. Given our own unique material conditions, we might not require a military struggle to wage this second revolution. But, no matter what shape it takes, South Africa needs a revolution to crush white monopoly capital. Any hope that the revolutionary movement led by the ANC can negotiate with this powerful force is an illusion. White monopoly capital must be weakened or the county will face a storm.
Rather than isolate or criticize social formations fighting against white monopoly capital, like the #FeesMustFall movement, the revolutionary movement must educate and organize these formations and groupings and ensure that they help us achieve a National Democratic Society, which can only be achieved through revolution. And this must be a revolution driven by, and for the people.