Neo Liberalism: An Enemy of Black Power in Africa?

There are quite a number of definitions of what neo liberalism really means. Since German scholar Alexander Rustow coined the term in 1938, it has had a number of different definitions through the years until now. Broadly speaking, neoliberalism incorporates policies such as the elimination of price controls, a deregulating of capital markets, privatisation, a considerable reduction in state influence and control on the economy, etc. This means that protagonists of neoliberalism will usually push an agenda where the market is free to do what it likes without any state intervention. And more often than not, neoliberalism and capitalism are inseperable. Some scholars have even suggested that neoliberalism is ‘hyper capitalism’.

In South Africa, it is interesting to note that protagonists of neoliberalism are mostly white people who, ironically enough, are generational beneficiaries of state control during Apartheid and the colonial period. It is no secret that the Apartheid government in South Africa intervened to make sure that white people prospered and black people barely even participated in the economy. There are some white owned multinationals that exist today, that were actively assisted by the Apartheid state. Yet when the democratic government introduces policies such as BEE and EE, policies necessitated by the fact that black people were deliberately prohibited from participating in the mainstream economy, the same people call it reverse racism and too much state intervention. But, is neoliberalism really the answer to the problems of Africa? Or is it just a hedge that shields white supremacy and provides a barrier to the accumulation of black power?

Many antagonists of neoliberalism prefer a socialist flavour to policies, especially in Africa where we are dealing with a mass base of people, black people and Africans, who are previously oppressed and were deliberately banned from accumulating wealth. Africans have been living a life of legislated regression and deterioration for centuries. Indeed, I am one of the antagonists of neoliberalism.

Such antagonism is met with fierce critique of any thought patterns with socialist propensity. Everyday we hear about the failures of socialist states and policies. to protagonists of neoliberalism, one failed socialist state is a failure of all socialism. Conveniently, no one mentions the failures of neo liberalism in the world.

Scholars agree that the Great Depression of the 1930s, which brought about high unemployment and extensive poverty, was as a result of economic liberalism. Intellectuals were organised in Paris in 1938 to renew liberalism. Among them were Louis Rouger, Walter Lippmann, Friedrich von Hayek, and Alexander Rustow. While they agreed on the failure of liberalism, they did not move away from it. Instead, they proposed a ‘new kind of liberalism’. Interestingly, when we analyse failed socialist states, we never propose a ‘new kind of socialism’. We rubbish socialism in its entirety.

Post World War II, Chile embarked on neoliberal reforms, led by a group of students that were exposed to Friedman, Arnold Harberger, and Hayek. These included privatisation, deregulation, and a reduction in the role of the state. The policies resulted in widened inequality, a negative impact on wages and working conditions of Chile’s working class. Germany, while embracing neoliberalism, insisted on placing humanistic and social values on par with economic prosperity. They aimed for both market economy and social justice. Protagonists of neoliberalism were outraged, calling this ‘inconsistent aims’.

David Harvey described neoliberalism as a class project designed to impose class on society through liberalism. David M Kotz informed that neoliberalism is “based on the thorough domination of labour by capital”. Sociologist Loic Wacquant argued that neoliberal policy for dealing with social instability among economically marginalised populations following the retrenchment of the social welfare state and rise of the punitive workforce, privatisation of public functions, decrease in collective working class protection via deregulation, rise of underpaid labour is the criminalisation of poverty and mass incarceration in the USA”. And that “by contrast, it is extremely lenient in dealing with those in the upper echelons of society, particularly when it comes to the economic crimes of the priviledged class”.

Neo liberalism promotes, consciously or sub consciously (I believe the former), exploitation and social injustice. It increases inequality, which, in South Africa, is racial. It promotes self over social collective.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the most influential proponent of neoliberalism for over five decades, has also admitted the failures of neoliberalism in its article titled Neoliberalism: Oversold?.  In this article, the IMF concedes that instead of delivering growth, some neoliberal policies have increased inequality.

Also, neoliberal economics have a negative distributional effect. In a country like South Africa that has a mass base of people that still have to ‘catch up’ economically, and a white and elite minority that enjoys a bulk of the wealth unjustly, the playing field will never be level if we continue to insist on the current neoliberal capitalist agenda.

Furthermore, in South Africa, where deregulation still exists to an extent, the private sector refuses to transform and transfer skills and wealth despite the albeit weak regulation system we have. I do not want to imagine the fate of the poor and working class in a completely deregulated South Africa.

Maybe it is time people rethink liberalism. Our right to self determination is at stake.

Linda Sidumo is a BCom graduate, a public servant, and chairperson of the Education Access Campaign (www.educationaccesscampaign.org). Views expressed are strictly his views and do not represent the views of any organisation or group of persons.

 

Mandela Day and The Politics of Absolution

What would the children of the rich do with themselves without the poor?

An interesting question.

As we are nearing the 18th of July, the birthdate of the world’s most loved statesman, Nelson Mandela, and International Mandela Day, all sectors of South African society are busy, none more than the private sector. Orphanage homes are going to be painted, groceries are going to be bought and sent to poor households, one day soup kitchens will be run, parks will be cleaned, and more. The day is usually eventful, as we will probably see on social media and company websites, television, we will even hear about it on radio. For one day in 365, the citizens of South Africa and the world will be ‘helping the poor’. Its the ONE DAY the world goes crazy in public displays of compassion.

The actual impact of this day, however, in my opinion, is grossly exaggerated. Especially when one weighs the resources that are available against the actual impact achieved. Very few of the acts and deeds performed on Mandela day are sustainable. And I refuse to believe that this is an oversight on the part of Mandela Day philantropists. So, why is Mandela day, and all it comes with, so important to those in power, especially the rich?

The answer lies in the history of South Africa, and also the class dynamics and relations between the haves and the have nots in neo liberal capitalist South Africa.

The country we see as South Africa was built on the backs of cheap black working class labour. The foundations of our country were cemented with oppression. The walls of the buildings that tower over our cities were plastered with the desperation of poor black migrant labourers. Centuries of oppressive white rule engineered a white supremacist system so sophisticated that even 22 years into democratic rule we are still living with the inequality and poverty that were the core of anti black Apartheid ideology.

Poverty_SA(Aidc_org_za)

South Africa currently tops the world inequality rankings. We are the most unequal society in the world. And the inequality of South Africa is racialised, that is a point we must never get tired of emphasising. Where there is inequality, within a framework of neo liberal capitalist politics, there is bound to be exploitation. And we need look no further than the private sector to witness such exploitation.

Exploitation is so ubiquitous in South Africa that in some industries it has become a pandemic. The working class literally lose their lives working to create wealth they will never taste. A case in point would be the silicosis issue in the mining, construction, ceramic, and other industries, where those who die get peanuts while the corporates continue making billions. These workers have to threaten war just to get a 5% salary increase, while managers and the upper echelons of corporates give themselves salary increases well above any inflation. Our people battle just to receive a living wage. Is it not a wonder, that they are still alive? That is the reality of the relationship between corporates and workers in South Africa, all through the year, year after year.

Why am I saying all this? I don’t really know, but somehow I think Mandela day and exploitation are linked in a way.

Picture this for a moment, and ask yourself if it makes sense. A corporate that exploits workers and gives them wages that are just enough to get them to work every shift, goes out and gives groceries to a poor woman and her children and does all the things that gives us butterflies in our stomachs on Mandela day, and then the very next day goes back to its modus operandi: exploitation of the man who is the husband of the woman and the father of the children who are recipients of the oh so generous gift of groceries. The thought certainly does something to my stomach, and I am not sure I want to call it butterflies.

poverty_is_not_a_disease

Mandela Day is an opportunity for the exploiting class to give themselves a sense that they have been absolved of their exploitive practices. It is an occasion that gives corporates a platform to mitigate the very inequalities that their presence compounds.

So, what I am saying is, the sincerity of the efforts of corporates on Mandela day are questionable. Sure, if their aim is to give a poor person a grocery pack for one day in a year, then they are on the right track. But if their aim is to contribute to ending inequality, fighting poverty, and building a more inclusive economy, then its going to take more than Mandela day orphanage painting activities. It will take them dismantling the structural, institutionalised, and systemic racism and inequality which are the basis of all their decisions, individual and collective.

It will take corporate SA realising that workers are co creators of the wealth they (corporate SA) enjoy. It will take white CEOs realising that transformation is not reverse racism, but a method to correct the injustices and inequalities their (white CEOs) forefathers engineered. It will take them realising that human life, black human life, is more important than profits. Mandela day means absolutely nothing without structural, institutional, and systemic change in South Africa. Surely we cannot attempt to change the material conditions of the poor by painting their homes for one day and go home to Sandton thinking that we have made a difference in the lives of the people of Alexandra. What the poor need is not Mandela day, what the poor need is a lifetime of living within or above a certain quality of life deemed proper for humanity.

I am not saying Mandela day is bad. No. It is always a good thing to do good. But when the rich perpetuate poverty and inequality and pacify the poor under the guise of Mandela day philanthropy, it becomes a big problem.

Before we take as granted the sincerity and genuineness of the efforts of corporate South Africa on Mandela day, let us ask ourselves: What will the rich do with themselves without the poor?

Linda Sidumo is a BCom graduate, a public servant, and chairperson of the Education Access Campaign NPO. Views expressed are strictly his own and do not represent the views of any organisation or group of persons.

 

Herman Mashaba and the DA’s Battle for Voters Who Are Black, Like Me

What if I presented to you, the reader, a man who is black but does not want to be called black? What if I then presented to you a man who has benefitted from Black Economic Empowerment deals, yet now condemns BEE as racism? What if I then proceeded to ask you who, among these two men, is being more hypocritical than the other? Wait, before you answer, let me make this task easier for you, the reader, and reveal that these two men are actually one and the same man. His name is Herman Mashaba, a man famous, ironically, for owning hair care brand Black Like Me, and is now DA candidate for Joburg City Mayor.

With local government elections nearing in South Africa, political parties are strategizing on how to maximise on the mobilisation of the electorate. The DA is no exception, as we see them chase after the ever elusive black vote. And the black vote will continue to elude them because, simply put, the DA just does not understand black people and they fail to acknowledge and properly articulate the black condition. They seem to think that merely putting forward black faces for leadership positions will do the trick. It will not. Positioning the likes of Herman Mashaba, who speaks against transformation and black empowerment, as one of their faces will further frustrate their efforts and attempts to rake in the black vote.

Herman Mashaba has had a lot to say in the preceding weeks, particularly about race, black empowerment, and transformation. He has come out publicly and said that he does not want to be referred to as black. Ironic that he chose the words ‘Black Like Me’ to name his product offering. All this in a time of the revival of black radical politics and consciousness in South Africa. He seems to think that black people do not love and embrace their blackness. Well, we do. Bantu Biko, in 1978, said “being black is not a matter of pigmentation- being black is a reflection of a mental attitude”. The same giant of Africa’s liberation, in the same year, said “The essence of Black Consciousness is the realisation by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression – the blackness of their skin…”. In the context of Biko’s words, maybe Herman Mashaba truly believes he is not black and resents being labelled or referred to as black. The DA, by positioning Mashaba in their leadership structure, have proved once again that they do not understand black voters. Black people will always rally around the cause of their oppression, as Biko says, for as long as they feel oppressed, which they are. They will not rally behind a party that does not acknowledge the black condition and its historical context.

Herman Mashaba prefers to be called South African. He prefers everyone to be called South African. That is noble, but that pattern of thinking fails to acknowledge that South Africa still is divided along racial lines, especially in terms of wealth and priviledge. It fails to acknowledge that the economy is in white hands. It fails to acknowledge that the land is still in white hands. It fails to acknowledge the South African private sector’s blatant disregard for transformation. It fails to acknowledge the racial nature of inequality in South Africa. It fails to acknowledge the structural, institutional, and systematic racism that exists in South Africa. It fails to acknowledge that white South Africans and Black South Africans are just not equal. These injustices are all perpetuated along racial lines, so it logically follows that redressing them should be done along racial lines. This requires identification of the race that is adversely affected by these injustices with a view to bringing about social justice, and that race is black.

It can never be emphasised too much that our history necessitates transformation. Transformation is an absolute pre requisite for any genuine reconciliation. It baffles me, therefore, that anyone would think that transformation, BEE, and Employment Equity are just another form of ‘legalised racism’. It is even more incomprehensible that someone such as Herman Mashaba, himself having benefitted from BEE deals more than once, would now come out and call for a complete scrapping of all affirmative action laws. He is being a hypocrite, in spectacular fashion. If he believes that all affirmative action laws must be scrapped then the first thing he must do is to forfeit any and every asset and economic benefit accrued to him because of BEE and other affirmative action laws, if he wants to be taken seriously. Surely he cannot accept and keep wealth built on what he calls racist laws and premises.

Black people in general, and workers and the poor in particular, constitute the majority of citizens in South Africa. Their exploitation as workers and their poverty as the poor is not a mistake or freak of nature. It is something that was engineered deliberately in our history. Ours now is to un-engineer it along the same lines that were used when the initial engineering was happening. Workers and the poor, and black people in general, must have increased access to everything in this country. The class and social mobility of black people, which was deliberately slackened to almost a halt during Apartheid, must be a priority under a government based on the will of the people. It therefore stands to reason that these majority people cannot vote for a party whose representatives call for the scrapping of laws that seek to transform society and transform their lives for the better.

We have seen, and are aware of, this cappuccinoism that is replacing true and genuine transformation, where one or two black faces are put forward as faces at the top of organisations and corporates, with the rest of the decision making apparatus remaining white within those organisations and corporates, and I and those who think like me reject it. Also, I and those who think like me reject gradualism and the politics of patience. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Mayibuye!!!!!!

 

Linda Sidumo is a BCom graduate, an employee in the transport industry, and chairperson of the Education Access Campaign. Views expressed are strictly his own and do not represent the views of any other organisation or group of persons. Follow him on twitter @TshaweNkosi

Of Race, Blame, and Entitlement

You’re damn right I’m writing about the race issue again!

Interesting to note that what started the whole race furore just after new year (lets say that’s when it started) is a woman who got frustrated when she saw a large number of black people on one of South Africa’s beaches. Ironic, considering the historical context and the arrival of Dutch settlers in the Cape in 1652. Really? Did she really want to take us back to the ocean? That beautiful and majestic entity of nature that gave fluidity to the enslavement of the African people, for it is the ocean from whence our oppressors came. Whose ocean is it, anyway?

What is it about the colour of a man’s skin? What is it about the colour of a man’s skin that determines intelligence, leadership, capability, ability, wealth, prosperity, power? What is it about melanin that condemns an entire people to subjugation, poverty, enslavement, and oppression? Is it colour, or is it race, that brings about this superiority/inferiority complex, and the hate that accompanies it? It seems that the human race is fighting itself. The human race is at war with itself, with more questions than answers. To me, the past is a good place to start (although some would rather have us ‘get over’ the past) in an attempt by the human race to answer these questions, especially in the context of contemporary South Africa.

The race problem in South Africa requires of us, individually, as groups, and collectively, to be honest first and foremost. Unfortunately, South Africa’s identity is intrinsically linked to racism, white power and white supremacy, and black suffering. The only way to deal with racism, especially as a microcosm of, and tool for, colonialism and slavery, is to confront it in an honest way without any mischief or propaganda. What we know as universal and undisputable fact is this: it is white people who came from Europe and enslaved Africans in general, and black people in particular; it is white people who, upon setting up and legitimising minority ruled governments in Africa, excluded the native Africans politically, socially, economically, academically, legally, and geographically using violence. It is these minority ruled illegitimate white governments that violently dispossessed the African people of their land; it is white leaders in South Africa that, upon revolt and struggle by the black masses, imposed martial law, detained without trial, and murdered the black masses. In all of this, the black man and woman had one sin and one sin only: being black. These wrongs and unprovoked, unjustified crimes against black humanity must be acknowledged and recorded.

Fast forward to the early 1990’s and the release of some political prisoners, whose face was Nelson Mandela. The early 1990’s was an era that saw the struggle for liberation in South Africa come to a crossroads: Do we fight on for total emancipation, or do we negotiate and come to a compromise. Prominent leaders of the time, most notably Nelson Mandela, chose the latter, and a social pact between black South Africa and white South Africa was entered into. In a nutshell, the social pact entailed power sharing at national government level (GNU) for a stated period of time. The black government promised that minority rights would be protected, that black people would not retaliate or seek revenge for the crimes against their humanity, that white people’s jobs in government were protected and there would be no termination of any white person’s employment, etcetera. White people promised to commit to redistribution and transformation, since the economy and the land remained in their hands in a democratic “rainbow nation”, and a transfer of skills that black people were deliberately prohibited from acquiring.

Black people, and the government they voted for, stuck to their part of the pact and kept their promises. In fact, Nelson Mandela went out of his way on many occasions to “allay white fears”. White people, on the other hand, have not kept their end of the bargain. The land is still firmly in their hands, so is the economy. The private sector workplace is untransformed. To make matters worse, they (white people) have developed a mentality and rhetoric that clearly shows that they are not at all committed to any transformation. We see that everyday in arguments such as “BEE, employment equity, and affirmative action are all just reverse racism”. It baffles me how redress and transformation are now reverse racism, yet it was mutually agreed that our history necessitates transformation. Transformation must and will be effected along racial lines, precisely because the injustices we are attempting to redress were along racial lines. This necessitates, therefore, that the class, social, and economic mobility of the previously oppressed people be prioritised, just as the mobility and prosperity of white people was a non negotiable priority for centuries under white rule, at the expense of the black natives. Under white rule, the labour of the many (blacks) was used to build for the few (whites). Now, the labour of all is used to build for the previously oppressed majority without oppressing the minority, towards an equal and just society. That is the idea. What is so wrong about that?

Now what of entitlement? Hell yes black people are entitled to a few (lets say a few) things! We are entitled to get our land back. I think we have forgotten that the bone of contention between the oppressive governments and liberation movements was the land. There is an undeniable, but denied, nexus between land and liberty. We are entitled to transformation and redress. Not only because it was agreed upon, but also because it is a moral necessity and a requirement for a just and equal society. And yes, we are entitled to state assistance where the state can assist and where it makes sense to do so. When the apartheid state was assisting white people, it was called nation building, or building a country. When black people are being assisted by a democratic government, it is called “fostering a culture of entitlement”. Double standards if ever I have heard of any.

It needs to be instilled in the minds of all those who are previously oppressed that freedom from colonialism is decolonisation, period. Anything short of decolonisation is piecemeal freedom that really does nothing but pacify the previously oppressed. Urgency must be attached to the decolonisation of our spaces, institutions, and learning. And we cannot be told by our former oppressors how to embark on the decolonial project.

My name is Linda Sidumo, and I am entitled to my freedom.

 

Linda Sidumo is a BCom graduate, an employee in the transport industry, and chairperson of the Education Access Campaign. Views expressed are strictly his own and do not represent the views of any other organisation or group of persons. Follow him on twitter @TshaweNkosi

Sparrows and Fallists: Lessons of the New Year

A rapper once said “this shit is for the birds, and the birds fly South”. I do not know what this statement means, I do not know why I am even mentioning it, but somehow it sounded relevant to South Africa and the events of the early days of 2016. One thing is for sure, in reference to both the rapper’s statement and the events of early 2016 in South Africa, if birds were racist, then South Africa is the South they should be flying to, for there is no country where racism thrives in Africa than in the country that lies in the southern-most tip of Africa. Our very own beloved South Africa.

Racism has been rearing its ugly head in this country for almost four hundred years now, with black people being on the receiving end in that entire period. And contrary to popular (or hopeful) belief, racism was not defeated in 1994, and neither was Apartheid. Yes Apartheid is not “legal” anymore, but its devastating legacy lives on in South Africa, with the black majority suffering the most as a direct consequence of that legacy. Segregation in South Africa gave rise to structural discrimination and prejudices and material disadvantages for the black majority. And as if that was not enough, degrading names and terms were given to the black majority by the white minority: kaffirs, monkeys, baboons, savages, barbarians, the list is endless. This was not a mistake, it is part of a genius and deliberate plan that sought to ensure that inferiority in terms of race and material conditions is a solid black identity surpassing all other alternative African identities. Racism in South Africa is a centuries long indoctrination. For centuries, white people have been indoctrinated to hate blacks, and black people have been indoctrinated to hate themselves. The difference in material conditions of whites and blacks gives rise to white arrogance, which is a contributing factor in the race complex we have in this country. That is why we have the Sparrows of this world who have the arrogance to go on social and public platforms and call an entire indigenous and majority group of people monkeys. That is why we have the Harts who have the arrogance to say black people hate white people. Uhm, excuse me, but were we not the ones who were quick to forgive crimes that were never acknowledged in the first place? Maybe my logic is too simple, but mine tells me that if we hated whites there would be no rainbow nation. It would not exist even as the myth that it is. This arrogance is why a white news anchor consciously or sub consciously expected a black minister to pronounce an English word perfectly; the EPITOME of white supremacist thinking.

Enter the fallists. In my own humble definition, fallism is the idea that any injustice, whether it be of a social, political, economic, or other nature, and any person or persons participating and/or perpetuating such injustice, must fall and cease to exist. In my view, fallists are heroes. They do not tolerate injustice. They would rather have nothing than have anything built on injustice. And fallists are everywhere: in the branches of different political parties, on the streets, in government, in the private sector, in civil society, on facebook, on twitter, on instagram, everywhere. In fact, fallism cuts across political organisational boundaries. When the agenda is fallist, people unite. Penny Sparrow, Gareth Cliff, Andrew Barnes, and Chris Hart, to mention but a few, have proven not to be immune to fallist wrath. Their fall may not necessarily signal the fall of all racism, but it does signal the intolerance of South Africans to racism. We have had more than enough. Enough was enough a hundred years ago. Racism, and its lieutenants, must and will fall. Now those who dislike fallists will say “but you always want things to fall, you never build”. Well, by calling for the fall of racism and racists, they are actually building a non racial nation. They are building human dignity for black people; human dignity that was stolen together with the land.

Black people are starting to realise that, although they are poor, their numbers are power. You see that when they rally behind a cause for the fall of injustices. That power must be centralised and leveraged for the total emancipation of black people here and in the whole of Africa. It must be leveraged to support ideas such as #BuyBlack towards the realisation of  what I call the black economy, because it is my view that the only way to change the material conditions of black people, and hence rid society of structural racism and white arrogance, is for black people themselves to be active participants in their own wealth creation and class mobility. No one will do it for us. We cannot complain of white monopoly capital, and in the same breath buy everything we want to buy from the same white monopoly capital. It is good for racism to fall, but if the black faced poverty of our country does not fall together with racism, racial arrogance will always be a problem in our country (and in our beaches!).

One thing can never be denied: black people are tired of being the scum of the world. They are tired of being the wretched of the earth. Our humanity has been trampled on for far too long, it is time we get it back, and if things must fall for us to achieve that, then they will fall.

My name is Linda Sidumo and I, in the midst of all that is happening, call on South Africans to #BuyBlack and help change the material conditions of black people in our country. If we do not, our own fall is inevitable.

 

Linda Sidumo is a BCom graduate, an employee in the Transport industry, and chairperson of the Education Access Campaign. Views expressed are strictly his own and do not represent those of any other organisation or group of persons.