South Africa's Dangerous Flirt with Socialism

OPNION – Themba Nolutshungu's compelling evidence of the genetic relationship between Communism and Apartheid is ground breaking.

He should know better, for he has lived in the worst of the two worlds – Apartheid South Africa under the blistering abuse by the Boers and of late African National Congress’ South Africa that pays little homage to transparency. At a time when the free world is commemorating the destruction of the Berlin Wall, his fellow countrymen housed in more secure walls at ANC’s Luthuli House, are obsessed with reconstructing the communist dragon. I suspect that the architects of ‘socialist revival’ may have been too young to taste the bitter pill of overzealous state control.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Zimbabwe’s flirtations with socialism received loud ovations from learned academics like Dr Ibo Mandaza and the then fugitive Kenyan Professor Sam Gutto.

These two intellectuals were at the forefront of fallacious and utopic debates on ZTV’s ‘Road to Socialism’, a program with nothing but praise for Africa’s autocratic socialist regimes. Back then, as Nolutshungu observes, it was fashionable for the likes of Robert Mugabe to be part of this ‘good’ socialist family fighting against the evil fascist Boer regime on the other side of the Limpopo River.

Then came the winds of change – Samora and Nyerere departed, Tanzania, Angola and Mozambique turned ‘capitalist’ while Nelson Mandela strolled off Robben Island to the soundtrack of ‘amandla ngawethu’. Meanwhile, Gutto ‘eloped’ to not-so-socialist South Africa while Dr Ibo sunk his fangs in ‘real’ capitalist gluttony. Mr Mugabe was left stranded, save for occasional lip service to Economic Adjustment Programs and dreary leadership Codes that never were.

Now, we all know what socialism does to minds, but poor South Africans, promised heaven by ANC; have their mouths wide open waiting for Pretoria to provide houses, jobs, transport and medical care. Arguably one of the biggest economies in the Southern hemisphere, South Africa’s dangerous flirtation with socialism is only one of the ways to join the rare club of LDCs. The other is to give trade unions too much say in business policy. It must be hard for Jacob Zuma, stuck with Communist Party baggage from the Stone Age and having to contend with populist rhetoric from Julius Malema!

Given this paralysing unison for government benevolence, one gets the impression that the average South African is lazy. With all that access to technology and innovation [no doubt created by a few liberal, diligent brains], why would thirty million healthy, able-bodied citizens expect Central Government to do everything for them? With so much access to credit – and most South Africans drive fancy cars – why not use that fire power to build own houses and start own businesses? How does COSATU and the SACP’s proposition to nationalise ‘strategic assets’ create more jobs? Says blogger Percy Ngonyama: "They seem to confuse ‘social democracy’ which argues for increased state intervention in development programmes and the regulation of markets with ‘Socialism’ which is a transitional society where the means of production, distribution and exchange are owed by a government of the workers, referred to in Marxist terms as ‘the dictatorship of the Proletariat’, necessary, for the advancement to a fully fledged equal, stateless ‘communist’ state".

The danger with socialist paranoia, like we experienced in Zimbabwe, is that it does not separate patronage from corruption. Those who are in charge of ‘nationalising’ assets use the opportunity to enrich themselves at the expense of the ‘weak’. Their rabid reference to ‘successful capitalists’ smacks nothing but of a sinister motive to rob Paul and pay Peter. The ANCYL has plenty sermons on why Patrice Motsepe, worth a whopping R14.2 billion, is the richest South African. In their blind frenzy for the wholesome adoption of socialism, they even argue for the nationalising of already existing state assets! Themba Nolutshungu warns that "nationalisation of productive assets doesn’t actually mean that they are owned and controlled by either the proletariat or the people and operated for their collective benefit. They are owned, controlled and managed by the state, which in reality means the elites or elite factions which wield power and control the state." That is my point! Zimbabwe’s minister for the curiously named ministry of indigenisation is currently raising a sandstorm around that BP & Shell assets in Zimbabwe want to be bought out by South African companies. Read in large typeface, Savours Kasukuwere’s gospel is meant for the benefit of ‘black’ Zimbabweans, but we are not easily fooled, for we have a keen eye for small print. Nationalisation and indigenisation of assets in South Africa and Zimbabwe is usually a euphemism for paying off ruling party cronies and their few greedy sympathisers.

Communist dictatorships are controlled by small, wealthy elite that live in obscene gluttony but campaign collective ‘good’. Their names are emblazoned in neon lights; therefore it is impossible for progressives to buy their propaganda. There are many private companies in South Africa that have successfully supplied motor-vehicles, food and furniture. If the government cannot effectively fulfil its core mandate – that of good governance – what makes ANCYL believe that bureaucrats can run business ‘for public good’?

Rejoice Ngwenya is Zimbabwean Founder of the Coalition for Liberal Market Solutions. He is an affiliate of AfricanLiberty.org