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This is why Ramaphosa is committed to his corporatist path. It may even get him through the 2019 elections. But it is bound to fail. The real question is what happens then. One way of answering that question is to realise that in the situation Ramaphosa now faces the logical thing to do would be to call in tbe IMF, apply for an emergency loan and then take the tough medicine imposed by IMF conditionalities. This is, however, anathema to the ANC not only because of the loss of economic sovereignty it entails but because of the public admission that ANC government has failed. But one senses that sooner or later this is where we shall end up. What it boils down to is that the political system, sunk in its parochial fixations, its past historical resentments, and its outdated ideology is incapable of carrying out indispensable reforms itself and that they will happen only when they are externally imposed. Much as the end of apartheid — another outdated ideology — was brought about to a large extent by sanctions, boycotts and international pressure.

South Africa became a democracy in 1994, fully 30 years after the rest of Africa and many of its problems now are simply a re-enactment of where most of Africa went wrong. Everywhere the continent is governed by a bureaucratic bourgeoisie which is almost wholly unproductive and parasitic. Someone had to pay for the salaries and privileges of this new bourgeoisie — since it produced nothing itself — and inevitably that had to be the 80 or 90 per cent of the population that were still peasants. This meant a perverse redistribution from the poor to the rich, with a consequent increase in inequality. This siphoning-off of resources from the peasantry saw one African country after another plunge into dependency on food imports.

Exactly the same process has occurred in South Africa, with the difference that in this case the transfer of resources to the new bourgeoisie is mainly from the tiny white tax base and the immiserated urban poor. The consequent increase in inequality has made South Africa into one of the two most unequal societies in the world. Here, of course, white farmers still produce almost all the food in the shops — the farms redistributed by land reform to Africans have had a 90 per cent failure rate — but the trend is the same. The number of white commercial farmers has decreased dramatically and the large agricultural surpluses of the pre-liberation period have fallen back into a situation where exports merely balance imports.

Most African states chose either “African socialism” or “scientific socialism”: both were uniformly disastrous. They not only achieved little economic growth but the extension of public ownership that this involved invariably ended up with large, loss-making, overstaffed entities which were — and still are — a byword for nepotism and corruption. Indeed, it is hard to see how public ownership can work in countries where the extended family system makes it obligatory to help family members get jobs, where political elites insist on pushing their cadres into key management positions and where the general urge for primary accumulation is so strong that corruption is ubiquitous. Public ownership even in Europe and North America is a difficult business but there are sociological reasons why this can’t work in Africa now. Inevitably, the tentacles of patronage and corruption lead into the private sector as well.
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April 16th, 2018
9:04 PM
While Thabo Mbeki deprived black South Africans of retroviral drugs the Apartheid regime caused a much greater genocide. Its rule resulted in millions of black South Africans, mainly infants and children, dying of starvation because they were deprived of food.

April 13th, 2018
3:04 PM
There is much truth in this piece but it gives white South Africans a free pass.They have white Messiah Syndrome deeply embedded—most senior positions in companies are held by whites not because they are more competent but because most whites have refused to change and embrace meritocracy. The decisions are made in secret white laager committees—so nothing has changed from Johan Anthoniszoon "Jan" van Riebeeck’s days.

April 9th, 2018
5:04 AM
This article did not cover the other aspects in all this. Julius Malema...he is the greatest danger to peace.

Eddie Goldschagg
April 8th, 2018
8:04 AM
R W Johnson.There are a lot of people who certainly will not like what you said, but you hit the nail on the head. Thank you. I will follow you with interest.

April 8th, 2018
7:04 AM
As a South African I ask. What is the next step?

Craig Schweitzer
April 6th, 2018
5:04 AM
Att: R.W. Johnson I am a South African, am a third generation citizen and spent my entire life living in Johannesburg. We get bombarded with political opinions from numerous sources. People comment of current affairs from various perspectives, and often with differing agenda's. I read your article with interest, and was captivated from your first sentence. You have so succinctly documented exactly what is happening in South Africa (and Africa) right now, that I feel your article should be used as a reference point in understanding the political and economical situation of this country before continuing with a political direction. I feel that the reality, which you have described, should be understood, and the course of our future altered to fix our future outcome, not for the benefit of the quarter million only. Thank you for writing this article, I will certainly share it far and wide, and intend following your future commentaries.

Johann Fourie
April 6th, 2018
2:04 AM
A most interesting summary of events of the past 20 + years, albeit alarming at times.Full marks to the authour.

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