Source: Daily Maverick
Carl Niehaus tables radical economic transformation plan ahead of Ace Magashule’s campaign for ANC president
By Ferial Haffajee• 14 March 2021
Expect this document to get a lot of airtime in the run-up to the National General Council, despite it being full of holes. It sounds more like 1921 USSR than 2021 South Africa.
ANC Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s lieutenant, Carl Niehaus, has published an eight-page document unpacking a vision of radical economic transformation (RET). It is likely to be tabled as a discussion document for the National General Council (NGC) where Magashule is expected to unveil his campaign to become ANC president.
The NGC is a midpoint ANC meeting between elective conferences where it takes stock of how the party is doing. The meeting is expected to be held this year.
Until he was suspended, Niehaus worked in Magashule’s office and ran his campaigns using the MK Military Veterans’ Association (MKMVA).
The governing party’s next elective conference is still planned for 2022, and it is becoming clear that President Cyril Ramaphosa will face a challenge from the secretary-general.
On Sunday, Rapport reported that Duduzane Zuma, the son of former president Jacob Zuma, had openly stated his wish to become South Africa’s president. The article did not say whether he planned to run on an ANC ticket or through another party.
The document titled Radical Economic Transformation: A Basic Document amplifies the theme of white monopoly capital and calls for the mass nationalisation of industries including mines, insurance companies, steel and chemical companies (Sasol, ArcelorMittal and Evraz Highveld Steel are named), cement and construction companies.
“This means that a few individuals should not own such companies, be they white or black – they should be owned by the state, for the benefit of the people as a whole,” says the document.
It is a document that will be used as a rallying point and a progress report on whether or not certain ANC resolutions taken at its 2017 elective conference at Nasrec, Johannesburg, have been achieved.
It says: “The ANC has passed resolutions along these lines, but there is no progress in implementation. The State Pharmaceutical Company and the State-Owned Mining Company, which should by now be owning at least 30% of all new mining operations in South Africa are examples.”
The document is written in comparison with the 1955 Freedom Charter, when socialism was still a viable dream and with the ANC’s 1969 Strategy and Tactics document. It is written as if the ANC has not been in power for 27 years, a full generation.
Written for the social media age of soundbites, Niehaus’s founding thesis is that nothing has changed in South African wealth and ownership patterns, which he argues are still white-dominated.
“The ownership of the South African economy is diverse, but it is dominated by white-owned and controlled companies.”
The state, run by the ANC for almost 30 years, is in fact responsible for roughly 30% of GDP and is the biggest employer, asset manager and land owner in the country. It has regulatory power in the economy through a plethora of black empowerment and black employment laws. It wields this power like a samurai wields his sword.
Listed companies have shareholdings dominated by pension funds owned largely by black South Africans, and the Public Investment Corporation, which manages the funds of government employees, is the biggest domestic asset manager and therefore shareholder.
The most recent research on the JSE is that foreign asset managers (largely pension funds from other countries) are the second-biggest group of investors, although this may have changed after South Africa’s investment grade rating was downgraded to “junk” status by the three major rating agencies.
The asset management industry is, of course, not diverse by employment or ownership of the major firms, but the document does not acknowledge that the ultimate owners of what it calls “white monopoly capital” are often black pensioners.
This is not reflected in Niehaus’s RET document, which advocates a mix of socialism and wealth transfer as the rallying point for a faction that is organising across South Africa and in ANC branches nationally. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has depressed the economy to its lowest level and unemployment to its highest in recent history, has created a fertile ground for the populist framing of the RET campaign. In this context, it uses race as an easy scapegoat for populist support-gathering.
Niehaus also uses statistics as damned lies. For example, one of the document’s points is that, “In terms of poverty, 56% of individuals lived in poverty [on] less than R1,000 a month.”
By income levels, that’s correct because of high unemployment, but it does not take account of the substantial social grants solidarity system which pays out 19 million grants to households, lifting household incomes.
The document says, “These vested white monopoly capitalist interests also dictate which resolutions of the ANC are implemented… In so doing, they work closely with comrades in our movement which, when they arrive in government, turn against resolutions of the movement, [frustrating] their implementation… (an example is the nationalisation of the SA Reserve Bank).”
In fact, the shareholders of the SA Reserve Bank shares earn a pittance in dividends and have no say in monetary policy. There is a widely held view that some are behind the lobby to nationalise to extort a higher price for their shares.
In modern populist political campaigns, soundbite politics are often devoid of fact or truth. That is true for the RET document, which uses painful legacies of the past as tools to organise on behalf of a faction feeling the heat of reform and which also wants to get its hands back on the levers of power.
ROB ROSE: The audacity of Ace Magashule (and friends)
The ANC is evidently so uncomfortable being in charge that it’s now pretending it isn’t.
The governing party’s agency dilemma was on full display when its secretary-general Ace Magashule marched with student leaders to the Constitutional Court last week to protest at how his own party had bungled the student fee issue.
This was so much more than just impressively audacious; it illustrates either a world-class lack of self-awareness, or some awe-inspiring chutzpah.
One of the most priceless moments came when Magashule addressed the media, after receiving a memorandum of demands from the students. “We should never wait to hear it, when they cry and when they fight, until somebody dies,” he said.
Rousing words. If only his party had been in charge of the education system and National Treasury for, say, the past 27-years. Maybe then someone would have listened, and something would have changed.
Still, Magashule was at least willing to put his considerable wallet where his mouth is too, adding: “I will be contributing myself — whatever little money I have”.
Which, on balance, is probably good for the students.
If, as prosecutors say, he was able to a swing a R255m asbestos tender for his mates in the Free State, it’s probably nice to know he’s on your side. And, if he got kickbacks of up to R10m as alleged, that “little money” could translate to quite a few bachelors degrees.
Soothing platitudes aside, it’s like the manager of a power plant announcing job cuts, then picking up a placard to join the workers outside the gates to protest. Only, in this case, the CEO has also been accused of stripping the company to line his own pocket.
S’thembiso Msomi, the editor of the Sunday Times, writes that the ANC should spend more time in parliament interrogating the budget for solutions “instead of taking to the streets with students as if it were some powerless NGO”.
The ANC as the so-called ‘leader of society’ “appears to be more comfortable leading marches, sometimes even against itself, than doing what millions of South Africans elected it to do: govern.”
You can, of course, see a messy logic in this: if something is so broken and you don’t know how to fix it, make out like someone else did it. Like, for example, if the country has run out of cash, but you’ve also promised free university education …
Redi Tlhabi, in a column on News24 which eloquently sets out the context for the students’ fee protests, points out that 27-years is a long-time to be in government and fail to provide the things you claim to care about. The narrative, she says, “tells you who this government values, and whom it regards as expendable”.
It only makes it worse that, as Justice Malala writes, there’s so little money to finance education precisely because politicians supported by Magashule robbed the country blind.
Malala points out how poorly this reflects on “student leaders”, who seem simultaneously unaware of Magashule’s own corruption case and the fact that the Constitutional Court has exactly zilch to do with the fee problem.
“The person who should be doing something about their plight is Magashule. He is one of the most powerful people in SA. He does nothing for these students except use them to score political points. For this, the students sing and dance with him,” he writes.
For Malala, it makes a profound point: not only is the current crop of leaders morally destitute, we need to worry about future generations too.
Pandemic of scapegoating
Msomi argues that it would be “a huge mistake to single out Magashule for this kind of opportunism, and leave out the rest of the party.”
And it’s certainly true that there’s been a lot of scapegoating going around recently.
This weekend, water and sanitation minister Lindiwe Sisulu lamented how the Zondo commission is an “expensive way of dealing with corruption” — especially since “there is absolutely no guarantee of consequence”.
This seems embarrassingly helpless, considering that any “consequence” is within the ambit of the law enforcement authorities, under the stewardship of her political party. But this is a party which in 2008 voted to disband the Scorpions, which boasted a conviction rate of between 82% and 94%.
Self-righteously, Sisulu says: “the only way is good governance”.
Well, yes. But had the government practised that, we wouldn’t really have needed the Zondo commission in the first place, would we?
You’d think Sisulu would know this. Since 2001, she has headed seven ministries, including intelligence, housing and international relations. There are few politicians whom you could honestly say has seen the deterioration from the inside at closer quarters.
The ANC’s agency dilemma was also evident last week when police minister Bheki Cele argued that the death of the 35-year old Mthokozisi Ntuma — shot by police near Wits University, leaving a clinic — happened because someone “just went crazy”.
Au contraire, Mr Cele; Ntuma’s death is entirely in lock-step with the state-sponsored violence that we’ve seen repeated time-and-again in recent years.
The ever-incisive political analyst Eusebius McKaiser wrote on Facebook that Cele’s language is an attempt to evade moral, legal and political accountability.
“It is no bloody different to trying to imply that assaulting and killing Collins Khosa inside his own yard during the lockdown is not a callous and unlawful killing, but the result of a ‘crazy’ action’,” he said.
Don’t be fooled by Cele or Magashule, says McKaiser. The reality is, this government is perfectly capable of killing citizens in broad daylight and then marching against itself to the Constitutional Court in a “pretence that it is not responsible for the malaise”
Revisionism on steroids
If you’re inclined to read this as an indication that politicians aren’t always entirely honest, you’ll probably want to read Mondli Makhanya’s hard-hitting column in the City Press yesterday.
There, he shreds President Cyril Ramaphosa’s hagiography of King Goodwill Zwelithini, the eighth Zulu monarch and descendant of King Cetshwayo, who died last week at the age of 72.
Ramaphosa had described Zwelithini as a “visionary”, while the Thabo Mbeki Foundation had praised his “commitment to nation building”.
“All lies,” writes Makhanya. Rather, he describes Zwelithini as “a useful idiot in the hands of the apartheid government,” detailing his role in the four years of violence, and hundreds of deaths, leading up to democracy in 1994.
Chris Barron, SA’s finest obituary writer, also wrote an unvarnished account of Zwelithini’s life in the Sunday Times. It includes the King’s description of foreigners as “parasitic fleas” in 2015, which some saw as the spark for the wave of xenophobic attacks that followed, as well as his indefensible reference to gay people as “rotten”.
Barron also describes how Zwelithini used the Ingonyama Trust, which owns 29% of the land in KwaZulu-Natal, as a “giant piggy bank, extracting huge and escalating rents from more than 5-million mostly rural farming people”.
These two bracing articles stood in stark contrast to the far more polite histories you’ll have read in recent days.
So, it was no surprise then that last night, the Zulu royal family described both those articles as “vulgar lies” — even if the family didn’t say what was inaccurate.
It shows how alert South Africans need to be for those seeking to revise history dishonestly. As the Magashule example reveals, we also need to guard against those revising the present too