BEE = Black Elite Enrichment = rapacious material accumulation
Some say that the Mangaung Conference later this year will be a battle for the soul of the ANC. I wish it were true, but I think it may be too late for that. The ANC sold its soul long ago, and I suspect that if there is any battle at Mangaung, it will be a battle for the spoils.
In this article Oyama Mabandla puts it in a nutshell The ANC is a vehicle for rapacious material accumulation | City Press:
To say the ANC is at an existential crossroads would be trite. But the tenets and values that defined the gallant organisation of Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela are no more.
In their place is a brutal and corrupt ethos, driven by those seeking personal enrichment. The ANC’s new siren song is: it is time to eat.
And Mabandla goes on to say, “The cause of the ANC’s moral implosion, in my view, was its embrace of black economic empowerment (BEE). “Empowerism” is at the core of the organisation’s new identity. Being rich supplanted liberation as the theme and gospel of the new South Africa.”
I disagree with Mabandla on one point, though. BEE was never about black economic empowerment. As this cartoon from Sowetan LIVE shows, it did not and was never intended to empower those living in the shack. It was all about enriching the elite, and the issue at stake at Mangaung is which elite will be enriched.
The problem is, if the ANC has sold out, what is the alternative?
The second biggest party in parliament is the Democratic Alliance, which was formed as an alliance of the Democratic Party and the right-wing rump of the New National Party, which was in turn the rump of the old National Party which had introduced the discredited apartheid policy. In the 1999 general election the Democratic Party made an unabashed bid for the support of the white right. After five years of democracy they appealed to voters who were gatvol (fed up) with democracy to vote for them, and to “fight back”. They succeeded in that aim, outstripped and absorbed the New National Party, and introduced the undemocratic system of crosstitution to cement their alliance, and then complained about it afterwards when it worked to their disadvantage.
For a while I had some hopes for the Independent Democrats, but then they sold out to the DA.
Perhaps the most desirable thing would be for Cosatu (the Congress of South African Trade Unions) to break from their tripartite alliance with the ANC, and form a Labour Party of sorts, that would be a left opposition to the Thatcherist ANC.
But one only has to look north over the Limpopo to see the dangers of that — the MDC in Zimbabwe has much the same class roots as Cosatu in South Africa, but Zanu-PF has managed to neutralise them by intimidation bordering on terrorism, rigging elections and the like.
And as elections draw near, the Cosatu leaders fall back into line, and go back to supporting the status quo.
But in recent months a left opposition has begun to emerge, and it opposes Cosatu as much as it opposes theb Thatherism of the ANC. Vavi warns socialists behind strike wave | City Press:
The organisation coordinating strikes across South Africa’s mining sector, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), is preparing to form a political party.
The organisation, run by a five-member executive committee, is building what one of its leaders calls a “mass workers’ party”.
And if its work in the past few months has been part of its preparations to hit the campaign trail, the organisation seems to be gaining ground.
If that gets going, it will be too late for Cosatu, because the new movement will probably draw away much of Cosatu’s traditional support, which will drive them to cling even more tightly to the skirts of the ANC. But one could still support the DSM, couldn’t one?
The DSM seems to be a bit of a mengelmoes of Trotskyist movements, and Trotskyists have a tendency to crawl into their cocoons and then emerge as full-fledged neocons.
Perhaps the real hope for the future lies in local politics. If all the people engaged in service delivery protests would pool their resources and work together to contest local elections as independents, they might be able to make a real difference. The ANC was undermined by people who saw that local party branch committees were the way to lucrative business deals if the ANC controlled the local municipality (Thabo Mbeki expressed concern about this at the Polokwane conference four years ago, and it was those very people who deposed him). But if local people would contest local elections as independents, they could take back the municipalities and fix the service delivery problems themselves. And they would be more accountable to the people who elected them.
But I doubt whether it will happen in my lifetime.