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The spat over Tokoyo Sexwale’s report criticising Gwede Mantashe for not stopping the booing and humiliation of Julius Malema at the SACP conference in December is more important than it seems.

The direction a country takes (economically, socially and culturally) emerges from the interplay of too many factors to make the future even vaguely predictable. But it is always useful to look at the big bets being made by the most focussed and voracious players in politics and business. So, one way of understanding what is happening in the ruling alliance (and I accept there may be other ways) starts by assuming Tokyo Sexwale’s actions are always and at all times directed towards becoming president of the ANC in 2012 or failing that, in 2017 – not a weak assumption in my opinion. Becoming president of the ANC is the same as becoming president of the country (in 2014 or 2019 respectively).

Tokyo is placing himself – carefully and precisely – within the contest and conflict between “nationalists” and “communists” in the ruling alliance and he is doing so because he believes he can ride one side to victory over the other – and then ride that horse on to almost any destination he wants to hop off at. I am not sure that he can get what he wants this time around, but I would bet a considerable amount of money that these are his intention.

The conflict (which Tokyo hopes to exploit) between “nationalists” and “communists” is, in turn – and again in my opinion – also a proxy conflict, although one closer to, but still not perfectly reflective of, the real world.

(Please note that I am doing my own lumping of people below and – to some degree – I am using very loose definitions of “nationalist” or “communist”. The individuals hereby lumped would be unlikely to support my categorization or any of the implications I draw. I justify using the categories because right now there appears to be a significant overlap of both the language, actions and how individuals line up around the issues dividing the alliance within each group – giving the terms and/or concepts ‘communist’ or ‘nationalist’  particular force and effect for analytical purposes here.)

The nationalists

The nationalists include in their ranks those who believe the ANC must seek to represent all classes of South Africans and that the recent relative strength of the communists is damaging this endeavour. Here too are the anti-communists (for practical and/or ideological reasons) as well as the right-wing hang-em-high populists. The main component – and or the main hangers-on, depending on your perspective – of this group are the “TenderCapitalists” and those who otherwise hope to leverage their political access to take as much economic advantage of the state or quasi-state bureaucracy as possible.  Those in this broad category include Fikile Mbalula, Julius Malema, Billy Masethla, Tony Yengeni, Winnie Madikezela Mandela, Siphiwe Nyanda, Dina Pule, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, Nomvula Mokonyane.

This group and anyone trying to lead them, can draw on a rich intellectual tradition in the ANC that has always emphasised the dangers of the organisation adopting too narrow an ideology and thereby losing its ability to provide leadership to other classes (in the terms generally used in this and the communist traditions in South Africa these ‘other classes’ include peasants, the lumpen proletariat {i.e. the unemployed and the youth}, professionals and aspirant bourgeoisie and, more controversially, the actual bourgeoisie.)

At this stage the two organisations clearly dominated by this group are the ANC Youth League and the Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association.

The communists

The communists are less diverse, but probably range from those driven purely by ideology and an instinct for collectivism (or being rooted in collectivist organisations like Cosatu) to those genuinely motivated to get the best deal possible for the poorest South Africans – even if their economic theory is never going to deliver this result. Those within this group include Gwede Mantashe, Blade Nzimande, Jeremy Cronin, Zwelenzima Vavi  and a host of less well known individuals. Both Cosatu and the SACP are dominated by individuals from this group.

If the main show (politically) in town is actually, as I assert, the conflict between the nationalists (as described) and the communists (as described) then the outcome of the conflict can be in no doubt. The nationalists come closer to being an economic class or at least an extremely powerful group of people who have one overwhelming set of interests in common: their desire, preparedness and ability to use the state to get rich. The communists have a set of idealistic ideas and a trade union movement. They don’t have a hope of blocking the relentless march of those who have caught the heady scent of easy riches.

What is depressing is that the communists had an inkling of the dangers they would face after they had successfully allied with the nationalists to oust Mbeki at Polokwane. This from The SACP and State Power – The Alliance Post Polokwane – Ready to Govern:

A negative scenario in which the left fails to hegemonise the post-Polokwane reality, and instead (and particularly after national elections in 2009) a new alliance of “1996 class project floor-crossers”, “compradorists” and “fugitives from justice” coalesces around a programme of awarding influential posts, tenders and contracts to themselves, while the factional destabilisation (and not democratic transformation) of the state, including the criminal justice system, persists.


So back to the original premise. I think it is becoming clear that Sexwale, having made his money through Mvelphanda after being stopped in his tracks by Mbeki in the late 90’s, is back in the running and he has chosen the steed he hopes to ride to the presidency.

Can he pull this off? I think he is tainted by how rich he is and will be more so as accusations emerge that he is using his wealth and Mvelephanda contracts to reward certain factions and king-makers he hopes to woo.  I don’t know if the accusations are true, but they are certainly being bruted about. I think a run for the presidency by Tokyo would be formidable – especially now that Mbeki is no longer there to stop him like he was stopped in the 90’s.

So the long and the short is: he could make it, he’s got the wiles and the stamina and the financial muscle. But a post-Polokwane ANC president with a silver spoon in his mouth is a real stretch and Tokyo Sexwale’s bid will be up against it, no matter how skilfully he rides his powerful but ugly horse.

Could someone please guide me here.

Has every hick journalist and political cartoonist received privileged notification that the Presidency is on the verge of jointly pardoning Shabir Shaik and Eugene De Kock? In a sort of tit-for-tat?

I cannot work out which gallery would be being played to and for which purpose.

Are we to understand that in his overwhelming desire to pardon and reward his former financial advisor, Jacob Zuma would release the Apartheid mass-murderer to keep possible critics happy?

The idea is absurd and I cannot bring myself to believe that it hasn’t been made up by journalists of various hues looking for a story beyond the endless and tacky conflict in the ruling alliance.

The precedent for a similar equation of evil is F W De Klerk’s 1992 release of Wit Wolf spree killer Barend Strydom as an apparent quid pro quo for the release of Robert Macbride commander of the cell that carried out the Magoos bombing.

Strydom had gone on a rampage killing as many black people as he could while walking through the streets of  Pretoria in November 1988. Macbride had done a number of things as commander of an uMkhonto we Sizwe cell including take the ANC perilously close to targeting civilians in the bombing of the Magoos  Bar in 1984 in which 3 people were killed and 69 injured.

Both Strydom and Macbride had been on death row when capital punishment was suspended in 1990 but that is about as far as the comparison goes.

We can, at a real streatch, understand that De Klerk was satisfying two distinct constituencies in the 1992 releases.

But what possible constituencies need to be satisfied in the pardonings  of Shaik and De  Kock. White people want De Kock pardoned and Black people want Shaik pardoned?

I don’t think so –  the suggestion is ridiculous, even for the Zuma presidency.

Here is something along the same lines, or at least in the same universe of sartorial symbolism, as the ANC leather jackets story. You couldn’t have failed to read about the stab-proof protective vests being marketed to soccer fans who hope to visit South Africa during the World Cup. You can get yours in your team’s colours. Yaaay!

Click on the image below to get whisked to the website so you can purchase something for yourself; or perhaps not. It’s a steal at $69.95 plus bag and free delivery. But that’s not all: with every purchase the company will donate a dollar to a charity to combat knife crimes.  How can anyone contain themselves?

The South Africans are fuming at the insult. Even the Democratic Alliance’s shadow Minister of Tourism Greg Krumbock is “dismayed” at the “alarmism” – I know it sounds like I am making this all up – including that name – but I am not.

While you are on the Protektorvest website, be sure to go to the thoughtful link to the SAPS crime report for 1 April 2008 – 31 March 2009. Most helpful of the knife-proof vest manufacturers, don’t you think?

I have covered similar World Cup scare issues more seriously here and with a lighter touch here and here.

Could IBM, Fujitsu, Ford, General Motors , Rheinmetall and Daimler be guilty of “knowing participation in and/or aiding and abetting of the crimes of apartheid; extrajudicial killing; torture; prolonged unlawful detention; and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment”?

Should they be tried for this crime in a US federal court?

If they are found guilty should they jointly pay billions of dollars to a group of black South Africans who have brought the class action suit under the peculiarly named Alien Tort Claims Act in the New York federal court?

Here is a copy of the ‘Second Amended Complaint’ including a list of plaintiffs and defendants that is available on the Khulumani Support Group (an Apartheid victims support organisation) website. It spells out all the ways in which the plaintiffs believe each company or category of company became guilty of a crime by  bolstering, arming or funding the Apartheid regime. Note that since this time the list of defendants has been narrowed to those mentioned in the first paragraph of this post.

An interesting aspect of this fascinating drama is that Thabo Mbeki’s government openly opposed this case on the grounds:

  1. it threatened South Africa’s sovereignty to try such a matter in a  US court, especially because the much praised domestic negotiation  had agreed that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was the binding forum and chosen process;
  2. it would discourage foreign investment.

Jacob Zuma, on the other hand, has removed government’s objections to the process and last year had Justice Minister Jeff Radebe write to the American court and tell it the South African government believed the US court to be “the appropriate” place in which to resolve the matter.

The Zuma regime was surprisingly joined by the Obama regime in endorsing the US court as the appropriate place for the motion to proceed. The amicus curiae brief the US government sent to the court is a useful summary of the facts of an extremely complicated matter and can be read in full here – I found the link on Simon Barber’s excellent “American Notes”  blog.

The go-ahead for the US court to hear the matter from both the US and the South African government is based primarily on the fact that while amnesty would have been the result of full participation in the TRC process, the defendants – and, in fact, most businesses operating in Apartheid South Africa – never participated in the process. Thus there was relatively minimal disclosure (at the TRC anyway) of business’ dealings with the Apartheid regime and hence no amnesty.

The founding myth of the Rainbow Nation is that we have dealt with the past and go into the future with knowledge and forgiveness. The case in the US federal court challenges this assumption and asks some extremely difficult questions that have consequences way beyond South Africa.

Here are some of the questions as I see them:

  1. The TRC process failed in a number of ways; will cases like this one help redress the failure, or will they undo the few successes – with regard to reconciliation and forgiveness – the TRC did have?
  2. The TRC process created a collective victim group and a collective perpetrator group in a way that allowed single people (including legal persons) to avoid carrying the can or receiving any significant compensation for Apartheid human rights abuses. Won’t legal processes with more clearly defined defendants and plaintiffs redress this?
  3. Won’t raking the muck of the past continue to cause conflict and division, especially between black and white South Africans in the present and the future?
  4. How does a publicly owned company that has operations across the globe assess risk associated with politics in the countries in which it operates – especially when oppressive governments are its direct clients and customers? Recent examples might include Nestle in Zimbabwe and Google in China.
  5. If the domestic government is not a customer, it still sets a regulatory environment that might make the company guilty of an offence if it complies with the law. Yes?
  6. Is disengagement from a particular country dominated by an oppressive government always the right approach?
  7. What does this say for domestic businesses?
  8. Should aspirant black business men and women have refused to accumulate capital in Apartheid South Africa – except as criminals?

The list of questions could probably go on ad-infinitum, but that will do as a start.

One thing you may have noticed I left off was the Mbeki government’s first objection based on the fact that such cases might deter foreign investment. Such cases might place more onerous due diligence requirements on any company that operates across borders and in countries where governments might become guilty of human rights abuses. No company is specifically going to punish an ANC led, democratic South Africa if a US court finds it culpable of bolstering the previous NP led Apartheid South Africa. It’s not logical and it is not in the company’s interests.

Some things just have to been seen to be understood. While preparing the review article “While we were away” I checked through the ANC website and was delighted by the pictures of a range of leather jackets the ruling party is selling online. Here is as much as I could get from a poor quality screen shot, but click on it to visit the site to see these garments in all their high definition full-colour glory… and perhaps you might feel brave enough to purchase something for yourself; perhaps not.

I am not sure whether this has anything to do with political analysis, but I know there is an excellent metaphor in here somewhere, I just can’t quite think of it.

Having  just returned from an idyllic holiday, I am forced to take stock of what I missed …

The Communists versus the TenderCapitalists

A “TenderCapitalist” is not an over-sensitive entrepreneur. It is a South African person, much loathed by the communists,  who uses his or her  race and/or political connection to win tenders from the state or from private companies hoping to fulfil their BBBEE requirements or just hoping to suck up to the ANC. The South African Communist Party has made it clear it thinks the ANC Youth League president Julius Malema is the ring-leader of this faction in the South African political economy.

The SACP conference and the booing of Julius Malema brought things to a head and throughout December and early January there has been something of a toing and froing between Julius Malema and Blade Nzimande.

The spat continued at the Slovo memorial in Soweto on Wednesday 6th of January when Nzimande said that “narrow African chauvinism” threatened Slovo’s non-racial vision and that the slogan: “liberation of blacks in general and Africans in particular” should not be “corrupted into a narrow anti-white African chauvinism” – quoted in Independent Online.

A few days later at the ANC 98th birthday rally in Kimberley Julius Malema suggested that there were “super-revolutionaries” that wanted to “co-govern” with the ANC. On Sunday, in a statement apparently coordinated with Malema, Jacob Zuma said in an SABC interview that the ANC does not “co-govern” with any other party. In response Blade Nzimande, quoted in The Times, said:

I don’t know who coined the term. It’s people’s figment of their imagination. This issue is manufactured by people who are anti-communists.”

The stage is set; let the theatre commence.

The death of Tshabalala Msimang

Manto Tshabalala Msimang died on December 16 of complications from a liver transplant. Msimang was minister of health from 1999-2008 and presided over a period of health policy uncertainty that began with Thabo Mbeki’s insistence that there was no evidence that HIV causes AIDS. A committed revolutionary who went into exile in 1962 under orders from the then banned ANC, Manto Tshabalala Msimang died as government policy and practice around the HIV/AIDS epidemic finally started to achieve traction.

Matric pass rate drops – again

On Thursday last week education minister Angie Motshekga announced the matric results which showed a two percentage point decline in the already dismal pass rate to 60.6. This is the sixth successive year of drops. The figures are, on closer examination, even worse than they first appear. The science pass rate (those who got above 30%)  dropped about 15 percentage points to 36.8 and the maths pass rate remained unchanged at 46 percent. Nothing is better predictive of future prosperity than improving education outcomes. Nothing (obvious) is more predictive of future troubles, on a number of fronts, than the converse.

Attack on Togo soccer team at CAF in Angola

On Friday January 8th the bus carrying the Togo soccer squad to CAF fixtures into the Kabina enclave in the extreme north of Angola. Several officials and players were injured. Rebels in the Kabinda enclave have been at war since the early 60’s (firstly against the Portuguese and later against independent Angola which has insisted that the oil rich territory stay incorporated as part of the country).

The South Africans have insisted that any suggestion that the security situation in northern Angola is in any way similar to that expected to obtain at the World Cup in South Africa later in the year is ludicrous and possibly racist. However all national security officials will have been reminded how easy it is to target an international sporting event to get maximum coverage for your cause, as I argued here. Watch this space …

President Zuma moves (way) up in the popularity stakes

Sapa reports (on South Africa – The Good News – and in many other places) that Jacob Zuma has increased in popularity amongst all groups but most notably amongst Indians, Coloureds and Whites since last April’s election. It’s a surprise, but mostly a good one.

I am a political analyst focusing on Southern Africa and I specialise in examining political and policy risks for financial markets.

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