What the hell is wrong with Jacob Zuma? Doing the rounds in Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek municipalities on Friday 20 August, he claimed to be shocked by the squalid living conditions of township residents in these areas which are regarded as top tourist attractions. You could guess that he expects the same sympathetic reactions he had from the public ahead of the 2009 general elections after similar incredulous exclamations of shock at the sight of poverty for poor whites in Pretoria.
Anyone with an introductory knowledge of the challenges facing transformation in South Africa should be well aware that the historical super exploitation of African workers and poor peasants is without measure. It is so deeply entrenched that it now appears ‘natural’ to both the beneficiaries and the victims. Poverty is poverty, Mr President; it is not black or white. Only racism defines it in those terms, with the mistaken belief that superior whites could not be poor and that inferior blacks should be pleased with their lowly station in life. In the lexicon of revolutionary Pan Africanists, Zuma’s interpretation is called colonial mentality of a special type.
The substandard dwelling places, the filth and lack of amenities in the ghettoes, the brainwashing mechanisms to keep everybody in their place, the divide and rule tactics based on ethnic, tribal and racial classification, and similar vices, all point to the man-made cycle of poverty entrenched over the years and pushed by successive government’s bureaucratic programmes – in the service of international monopoly capitalism.
The new political elites in government seemingly adopted the sub-culture of greed, corruption and selective memory to shut out the reality of poverty, social injustice and seething crime. The cosmetic changes undertaken by the ruling party elites, almost similar in form and content to the economic reform policies of the National Party elites, are conducted within the framework of the general crisis of international capitalism. They do not address the national question and the transformation of colonial conquest.
Jacob Zuma must understand that he cannot last forever in the seat of power if he depends only on the strategy of song and dance. The Azanian masses need much more than that. He should know better considering the objective conditions that led to his participation in the national liberation struggle and his own person rural background in Nkandla where hunger and poverty are still glaringly obvious. We have to ask again, what is really wrong with you, Mr President?
Using the euphemism of globalisation, the unbridled pursuit of super profits has created a crisis on a worldwide scale in which nation-states are crushed and crumbled, and the development of production systems are forced to practice the laws of the capitalist mode of production. Unsuspecting developing nations are sucked into this system and are then forced to govern by rules imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Lame duck politicians have taken to this route hook, line and sinker and they are fulfilling the roles of local managers for their foreign-based bosses. They have lost touch with the needs of the local citizens and their fellow countrymen.
South Africa with its black government and western style capitalist democracy is the gateway to the emerging markets for consumer goods in Africa. In reality, it is the last bastion of imperialism in Africa and it upholds the same values of exploitation cherished by the western world. Jacob Zuma knows this because he went around the capitals of Europe and the US assuring the private owners of big business that their interests are safe in his leadership of South Africa. He was in so doing taking the side of global capital in the crisis arising from the manifestation of a new world order led by the US and its allies.
There is a chronic agricultural crisis – sustained by the lopsided system of the World Trade Organisation – to which small farmers fall victim to cut-throat pricing factors. This crisis leads to shortages of food production and makes hunger a clear and present threat. The army of the unemployed increases its size and is swollen by the closure of farms and agricultural production in Southern Africa. That is why we have displaced persons of the SADC region flocking to the surviving farms in South Africa.
Globalisation has caused a phenomenal environmental crisis. The recent BP oil leakage in the Atlantic sea is a classic example of the catastrophe selfish capitalists will cause. They poison the air, water and soil with coal burning power plants, motor vehicles, industrial plants and heating systems. The chemical plants and mines – such as Aurora that belongs to the Zuma and Mandela dynasties – dump their toxic waste into the rivers at will. This effectively causes breathing ailments, cancer and genetic damage to human beings. The ruling party then insists on reducing their budget spending on quality education and quality health care system for the poor and the aged.
Predatory capitalism, such as the one practised and regulated by Zuma’s popularly elected government, is an inbred paradox heavily weighted in favour of the exploitation of the working people by the owners of private property and yet claiming to represent the wishes of the majority. They can delay the looming crisis, but cannot prevent it from happening. That is why they are not able to resolve the groundswell of discontent from the public sector employees over annual increases versus the negative impact of rising prices of consumer goods. The inherited system is inflexible and difficult to manage because it is held back by bureaucracy from addressing the human needs of the collective in the shanties of the townships and rural villages.
The government’s neo-liberal policies are designed to give free rein to global capitalism. The effect is chronic unemployment and underemployment. Eighty percent of the economically active citizens are most certainly trapped in high household debts and do not see the possibility of a way out and are gatvol. They understand the discontent of the workers when salary increments are negotiated. Twenty percent are lording it and living wealthy lives on the lap of luxury. Which side are you on, Mr President?
By Jaki Seroke