SA’s Unbalanced Economic Order
The continental economic powerhouse, South Africa, received the rawest deal in history at the CODESA negotiations, in Kempton Park, east of Johannesburg, in the early 1990s.
It was as recent as then, when the unbanned African National Congress (ANC) with its alliance partners negotiated their way forward to democratic elections and into the corridors of government in the Union Buildings in Pretoria in May 1994.
The negotiations between the two parties to end colonial-apartheid – between the outgoing apartheid-National Party on the one hand and the new African National Congress on the other – took place on two parallel tracks that more often than not intersected.
One was political and the other economic, with the political talks hogging the limelight and the public’s emotions.
The meetings between ANC President Nelson Mandela apartheid’s President FW de Klerk received all the attention.
It also meant that the important economic negotiations were not in favour of the incoming indigenous, non-racial majority under the ANC banner.
The economic negotiations had a much lower profile.
Former President Thabo Mbeki, who headed the ANC’s economic negotiation team, said: “There are two South Africas – one rich, white minority living alongside a poor black majority.”
Nelson Mandela commented then, “What the National Party was trying to do was to maintain white supremacy with our consent.”
“South Africa’s then colonial-apartheid president FW de Klerk’s strategy in these negotiations was to preserve as much power as possible.
“He tried everything – breaking the country into a federation, guaranteeing veto power for minority parties, reserving a certain percentage of the seats in government structures for each ethnic group – anything to prevent simple majority rule, which he was sure would lead to mass land expropriations and the nationalising of corporations (and so were his local and international Western backers, this writer),” as Naomi Klein summed it up in her book, “The Shock Doctrine”.
“The party of South Africa’s elites (the racist, colonial-apartheid National Party) began pouring its energy and creativity into the economic negotiations”, documented Naomi Klein in the chapter, “Democracy Born In Chains” in “The Shock Doctrine”.
FW de Klerk, and his team had a two-fold strategy.
Naomi Klein explains it thus: “First, drawing on the ascendant Washington Consensus that there was now only one way to run an economy, it portrayed key sectors of economic decision-making – such as trade policy and the central bank – as ‘technical’, or as ‘administrative’.
“Then it used a wider range of new policy tools – international trade agreements, innovations in constitutional law and structural adjustment programmes – to hand control of those power centres to supposedly impartial experts, economists and officials from the IMF, the World Bank, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the National Party, anyone except the liberation fighters from the ANC.
“It was a strategy of balkanisation, not of the country’s geography (as De Klerk had originally attempted), but of its economy.
“This battle was successfully executed under the noses of the ANC leaders, who were naturally preoccupied with winning the battle to control Parliament. In the process, the ANC failed to protect itself against a far more insidious strategy – in essence, an elaborate insurance plan against the economic clauses in the Freedom Charter (of the ANC) ever becoming law in South Africa.”
Former Governor of South Africa’s Reserve Bank under the colonial-apartheid regime and reappointed by the ANC government under President Nelson Mandela, Chris Stals, said: “There is no evidence that the present model for monetary policy, which has served this country well, should be changed or abandoned.”
The aforementioned history would come back and bite the new ruling party, the ANC and its alliance partners in the not so distant future and cause disruptions nationwide.
A new form of colonial-apartheid had entered South and Southern Africa, “neoliberal class apartheid”.
University of KwaZulu/Natal Professor Patrick Bond argues in his book “Elite Transition, From Apartheid to Neoliberalism in South Africa” that the historical left claims, “Neoliberal macroeconomic and microeconomic policies are implemented, orthodox monetary policy is maintained, liberalisation of trade and finance proceeds apace and corporatisation of state enterprises speeds up.”
Respected journalist, researcher, author and filmmaker, Professor John Pilger, comments on South Africa’s change to a new, non-racist democracy in his book, “Hidden Agendas”, under the headline, “The View From Dimbaza”, “The most important ‘historic compromise’ was made not with the apartheid regime, but with the (rightwing, neoliberal ‘architects of apartheid’, also known as ‘oligarchs’, this writer) forces of Western and white South African capital, which changed their allegiance from FW de Klerk to Nelson Mandela on condition that their multinational corporations would not be obstructed … and that the ANC would drop the ‘foolish promises’ in its Freedom Charter about equity and the country’s natural resources ‘belonging to the people’.”
I am here attempting to explain the developments since the economic negotiations up to 1994 and the acceptance of accommodating the “sunset clauses” to be nullified by Parliament next year.
• Udo W Froese is a political and socio-economic analyst and columnist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. You can follow him on Twitter: @theotherafrika, or visit his blog: theotherafrika.wordpress.com