South Africa’s intellectual virtuoso Mr. Julius Malema and the ANC Youth League has consistently called for the nationalization of mines. Different theories have been bandied about by their detractors as to their “conscious” motive for the call ranging from possible bail outs of the so called BEE “entrepreneurs”, tenderpreneurs or whatever term is used to describe them. The fact that the ANCYL President and his crew are known for extravagant lifestyles and conspicuous consumerism and materialism is not helping matters either.
However I want to venture that there is a side to this equation that is not explored. My submission is that one of the overt but driving motives of the so called nationalization is intrinsically linked with the so called tenderpreneurism that is engulfing this country at such an alarming rate. The said motive is the same one that has reduced many black people to virtually beggars irrespective of their class, status or position in society. The very same motive is found in every aspect of societal life from an RDP house to a CEO of a state parastatals’ office, Ministers, Director Generals and their Deputies all the way to teachers in schools, mayors, municipal managers, professionals (lawyers, accountants, engineers) and the rest. And that motive is WELFARISM.
Blacks, I mean people of my race, have become welfare cases feeding on government resources. This takes a variety of forms which this space is not sufficient to explain in detail. But in order to avoid being labelled an alarmist I will, by way of illustration, indicate but just a few instances, on top of the subject of this piece: nationalization.
Before I do so I deem it prudent to first locate nationalization within the context of welfarism. The starting point is that the ANC (my party) has been in power for many years. It is also prudent to note that the Freedom Charter was drafted and adopted in the 50’s. And that Nelson Mandela, who “our intellectual giant” Julius Malema – as one of our journalists refers to him – quotes time and again as the modern day leader who endorses or endorsed nationalization, was the first President of the democratic South Africa and said virtually nothing about nationalization during his reign.
The above points having been made I will now turn my attention to how our affliction with welfarism is fuelling the so called nationalization debate and is virtually destroying any chance of producing a new cadre of credible black graduates, professionals, future leaders and producers of wealth.
After 1994 but somewhere during the Mbeki era a new tendency developed. That tendency was and is an overwhelming feeling of “welfarist” entitlement amongst blacks and more particularly members of the ANC and its associate organizations.
Suddenly, and may be it could be argued that the euphoria of a new dawn was dissipating, blacks felt that by virtue of they being in the majority and mainly by virtue of having some or other association with the ANC (whether real or imagined) they were entitled to steal and loot state resources.
One needs to dispel the following myths with regards to this looting:-
1. that only blacks who are in politics do it;
2. that every time black people are doing business with the state they are accused of corruption.
This is just convenient rubbish. I have never heard of a situation where ALL black businesses have been accused of being corrupt or parasitic. But truth needs to be told that many of the so called “revolutionary entrepreneurs or tenderpreneurs” are indeed in the main corrupt and get their deals in a crooked way.
In the same vein one had the privilege of dealing with real black entrepreneurs and in fact they are constantly complaining about being compromised by BEE and the former group of individuals. Questions are being asked, rightly, as to since when did political office, the proximity thereto and or political influence make one a business person.
What is the role of welfarism in the whole nationalization equation? When the white man created the South African version of BEE to protect their financial and business interests from the new barbarian regime that was coming they knew one human weakness will aid if not drive their cause: the love of free money and or things. That is welfarism in the classical sense.
We all know who were the beneficiaries of the so called early stage BEE deals and how many of those have since unravelled. In the confusion that ensued after the so called BEE became a fashion item what did the white conglomerates, most of which were pillars of the apartheid system do: they moved their primary listings to London, New York and other places to protect their ill-gotten wealth.
But the black person had tasted free money and the next logical victim or carcass to feed on had to be the state. The reasons for the target are straight forward: we were and remain in charge and we could influence the awarding of state contracts. Walaa! The word tender became fashionable and politicians and their cronies became businesspeople OVERNIGHT.
Sadly in the quick transition no time was taken to even learn the basics of business and this explains why it is only those entrepreneurs (and I mean real black entrepreneurs) who are able to have sustainable businesses. The rest live from “car boot” to mouth and are not, in the main, aiding the very state that they are looting in making a difference in the lives of others by creating jobs at all and or sustainable jobs.
Instead they are living from one tender to the next and equally one expensive car to the other. But you see state resources are finite and can only cater for so much “businesspersons” at a given time. The other dimension is that since the advent of camps in the ANC if you are associated with a camp that is not in power you suddenly find your access to state resources rationed or cut off completely.
In fact one shudders to think where this country would be if it were not for one particular state institution whose effectiveness is beyond comparison: SARS. You see these politicians and their tenderpreneur cronies are not that stupid.
They can see that the state resources are limited and need augmentation. Nationalization then comes handy. To feed of the resources of private capital they reckon that they must first be nationalized so that they can be easily accessible.
Contrary to the slogans used on political platforms about changing the lives of “our people” nationalization of the mines (as it is currently advanced) is aimed as securing the resources to buy more Range Rovers, Aston Martins, X5’s, Johnie Walker Blues’, Glenfiddich’s and all that makes these super humans tick.
So the welfarist tendencies that sprung from entitlement are now escalating and taking a “sophisticated” nature in the form of nationalization of mines.
The writer is a member of the ANCYL and the CEO of Empowerment Dynamics, a corporate legal consultancy based in Pretoria.