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South Africa: Communist youth leader -- `Black economic empowerment becomes Zuma economic empowerment'

By David Masondo, Young Communist League chairperson

September 5, 2010 -- City Press -- There was cautious optimism among many leftists in the African National Congress (ANC) that the ousting of Thabo Mbeki in Polokwane [the ANC's 2007 national conference] might mark a shift towards a much more egalitarian economic policy, including "Black Economic Empowerment (BEE).

Instead, BEE is increasingly becoming too narrow, amounting to ZEE – that is, Zuma Economic Empowerment.

The recent ­multibillion-rand Arcelor-Mittal BEE deal involving Duduzane, President Jacob ­Zuma’s son, is another example of how BEE has become too narrow.

To crown it all, the president’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, seems to have suddenly become an African imperialist, amassing oil resources in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

ZEE is not only an assault on the Young Communist League and South African Communist Party (SACP) resolutions – which called for the nationalisation of ­monopoly industries – it amounts to a burial of the Freedom Charter.

Only a few can be misled to believe that there is no link between ­Zuma’s rise to the presidency and his ­family’s rise to riches.

One’s leadership position in a political ­party, particularly the ANC, allows one to gain and/or retain access to the institutional power that makes one the preferred ­candidate for white business to select to be part of its established enterprises.

These politicians rely heavily on the control of ­organisational power to generate wealth. ­Access to the state provides politicians with leverage to select those who can acquire shares in white-owned firms.

South Africa’s political system is based on a multiparty electoral democracy. Access to state institutional power is achieved through elections. Consequently, many politicians are interested in party politics.

Since they ­rely on organisational power for wealth accumulation, potential and actual entrepreneurs find it rational to contest directly or indirectly for political organisational leadership positions as an entry point to the state and its economic resources.

However, not every political party matters.

Because the ANC is backed by the SACP and the Congress of South African Trade Unions – not to mention its history in the national liberation struggle – it is highly supported by the electorate and, therefore, matters.

Individuals acting within and through the state have the power to decide who gets state-owned resources.

However, the fact that individuals in the state have this ­institutional power does not mean we will know ­beforehand which black politicians will secure access to these resources.

This is mediated by a dominant political party in government.

The BEE model is structured favourably for politically connected politicians and their proxies to enter into business through the state.

The state owns key economic resources ­required by business that can only be ­accessed with state permission. The state acts as a purchaser of services from the ­private ­sector.

Through its financial institutions, the state acts as a money lender. It is also a grantor of licences for, among other things, mining rights. Through privatisation, it acts as a seller of its assets.

Business can gain access to state-owned resources through a BEE criterion that ­requires black people to be owners and managers of enterprises. White businesses can use black people who are politically connected to gain access to these resources – and more recently, as a means to deflect ANC Youth League calls for nationalisation.

This explains why certain black millionaires associated with the liberation movement have been cherry-picked by white businesses.

The BEE model has promoted ­competition among politicians for access to institutional power and co-option by white business.

This competition finds expression in political conflicts within the ANC and the state.

We are indeed on the wrong economic ­redistribution path.

BEE has become a ­family affair. Children whose parents are not politicians will have to lift themselves out of poverty by their own bootstraps.

The youth’s cynical acquiescence of ZEE may find concrete expression in ­non-participation in political activism, ­including voting.

After all, why vote if voting means empowering politicians to empower their children?

[David Masondo is chairperson of the Young ­Communist League, the youth organisation associated with the South African Communist Party. This article first appeared in the Johanessburg-based City Press.]

Young lions must be at forefront of struggles of the poor

By Castro Ngobese

September 9, 2010 -- Sowetan Live -- Karl Marx warned that: "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as a farce."

Recent attempts to isolate and embarrass the national chairperson of the Young Communist League, David Masondo, after his article in City Press [above] requires critical analysis.

Masondo's article -- attacking the manner in which family ties and connections have been utilised to secure lucrative BEE deals for those related to President Jacob Zuma -- offers an honest and refreshing analysis.

In fact, on closer reading of the YCL statement one notices that no substantive reasons have been tabled by the so-called national office-bearers of the YCL that require the organisation to distance itself from the views expressed by Masondo [see comments below].

It seems communists had different conceptions about the role of working-class formations during the post-Polokwane period.

When former president Thabo Mbeki used the ANC to secure deals and pave the accumulation route for those close to him, the YCL was among the first to condemn this.

The bourgeoisification of the ANC leadership was regarded as a threat to the working class and the poor in this country.

It was this bourgeoisification of the ANC that invited so much anger after the organisation was used to secure deals for the likes of Smuts Ngonyama in one of the country's most powerful parastatals -- Telkom.

During the post-Polokwane period, we expected working-class formations to engage in a process of rebuilding, of deepening their independence and fighting for a reconfigured alliance as well as ensuring that the working class fared better under Zuma.

Instead, what we see is a criminalisation of dissent, subjugation of working-class organisations such as the YCL and certain individuals and the prioritisation of participation in the state over and above building a mass base for working-class organisations.

Instead of demobilising criticism and telling the working class to hold its tongue until they reach the promised land, the YCL should be actively taking part in the struggles against labour brokers and high unemployment and HIV-AIDS prevalence that affect poor young people the most.

The YCL should be visible in the picket lines when workers are waging an assault on capital.

The league should be fighting all those who utilise the state and our organisations to secure lucrative tenders and narrow BEE deals for self-enrichment.

In all corners of the country there is a serious disillusionment with the manner in which leaders are driving the latest luxury cars, are swimming in extravagance, and the way in which communities in Diepsloot and Orange Farm must struggle to eke out a living in crowded shacks while shopping malls and golf estates are being constructed at an accelerated rate.

The working class knows that it is not a matter of coincidence that those who are related to Zuma have suddenly become instant billionaires!

These are realities we should remember as we ponder on questions relating to alliance unity and cohesion.

Choosing which horse to bet on during the coming congresses must always be a tactical consideration.

This being so, betting on a certain horse should not mean that that horse must have unlimited space to pour dust and grass in the eyes of the working class and the poor in this country.

[Castro Ngobese is a former national spokesperson of the Young Communist League of South Africa. He is also spokesperson for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa. This article was written in his peersonal capacity.]

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