Johann Rupert has no business lecturing the ANC on radical economic transformation or even suggesting that it is a form of looting when his obscene wealth serves to entrench poverty on a daily basis, writes THEMBANI MAKATA
The ANC has had incomparable and monumental successes in its 23 years in charge of governments in South Africa. Our success on the advancement of human rights, social stability, and economic growth has lifted millions out of poverty and built almost 6 million strong black middle class whilst making sure that such successes are not a zero-sum game. Those with old wealth have had their assets quadrupled in value and their wealth skyrocketed on the back of a stable country and inclusive and friendly policies to both businesses and labour.
Despite these great strides, however, the public mood and disposition, particularly in the second decade of government, has been gripped by a great sense of ANC inadequacy and failure. This sense of failure speaks to the established network of the white cabal, which has been able to tap into the unlimited resources of corporate sponsors and their wealth to create a network of think tanks and media outlets to preach a different message; one of failure and incompetence.
The official opposition, the Democratic Alliance, has been highly aided by this network, buying state-of-the-art technology for the task of mobilising their base, and centralising power in the Federal Council in order to enhance discipline. They understand the threat the ANC has always posed to their vision of a long-term conservative majority, which explains the vehemence with which they have gone after both former President Thabo Mbeki and the current incumbent Jacob Zuma. It also explains why they have gone extra hard on Zuma because the revival of Black radicals in the ANC needed to be reduced to size and Zuma’s own personal lapses in judgment proved the perfect gist for the conservative base.
With enough repetition, looseness with facts, Zuma’s personal lapses, real government failures, all this has been made to embody the very black stereotypes of incompetence, corruption, lack of capacity, that have always been a roundtable discussion in white homes to now be transferred into black homes. That there have been ANC representatives who have grown fat and complacent and do not realise the fight we are in has aided the conservative cause. Money and Media have been efficiently been used to poison the political atmosphere.
The biggest task for the white conservatives post-94 has been to use all efforts and resources to portray the black government as a big failure with the hope that this will wash away their own sins. Even at the height of this country’s success, with economic growth at above 4.5% year on year, this white establishment managed to sell both an imagined political risk and BEE as risks to the white stronghold on the wealth of the nation and a reason to ring-fence their wealth in overseas markets. The energy and resources that have been deployed in ensuring that even the successes of the country under ANC are twisted and turned and portrayed as threats to the future of this country speak to the enduring racist attitudes of white money which would rather portray a failed state than accept to be led by blacks.
Here are the facts. Oxfam, an international NGO working in 94 countries worldwide to find solutions to poverty and what it considers as injustice around the world, told us in 2016 that two South Africans, Johann Ruppert and Nicky Oppenheimer, own as much as the bottom 25.6 million South Africans. That is half the population of this country. For Rupert to then turn and say efforts to transform this unjust and immoral situation (since their wealth was not by allocation of talent) is equivalent to the ANC looting, is treacherous and against the new South Africa that we must all be committed to building.
Rupert and his cabal are mischievously misdirecting the country away from what is really ailing our people. Widespread poverty and inequality have left many countries in crisis and if we do not face it head on as a country, we are going to head straight to the edge of the abyss. According to Stellensbosch university, new tax and survey data suggest that 10% of the South African population owns at least 90–95% of all assets. This share is much higher than in even advanced economies. That is what Radical Economic Transformation seeks to reverse. This wealth gap does not only have implications of what is happening in our country today, but wealth is also of particular concern for long-term inequality.
Unlike Rupert, the ANC and all experts know that high inequality has unfavorable political and economic consequences, which is why ANC policymakers are increasingly concerned about it and have strongly pushed for Radical Economic Transformation to go beyond lip service and to not merely be just a policy imperative.
Unlike Rupert and his team of thugs, others have found that South Africa’s poor, including the ultra-poor, have responded positively to government interventions and indicate higher levels of satisfaction with improved delivery of services. The reduction of poverty and inequality underpin the stability of the new democracy and this government will spare no effort, will step on the toes of the ultra-rich to ensure that the future of the country is not threatened by extreme wealth on one side (Rupert and his friends) and extreme poverty on the other side and that the country is stable.
Rupert must share the country’s vision or take his money where it is not threatened.
Makata is National Secretary General of the South African Students Congress (SASCO) and Deputy Secretary General of the South African Youth Council