Time for tangible economic benefits for Africans, not fancy concept papers

In southern Africa, the past months saw intense debates around the issues pertaining to what is white monopoly capital, state capture and radical economic transformation. The debate centred around what the concepts really mean and which is worse for the people of the region.

Since the debate originates from South Africa, we will focus most of this editorial around what is happening in South Africa. After all the country is the region’s economic powerhouse.

The oversimplified meaning to the concepts have been looked at such that “state capture” is synonymous with the controversial Gupta brothers who allegedly run South Africa by controlling President Jacob Zuma, through his son Duduzane, who is in business with the Guptas. The Guptas then use this control and power to amass wealth for themselves and the Zuma family.

While “white monopoly capital” was a concept allegedly coined by a UK-based public relations firm Bell Pottinger to counter what their client called a concerted conspiracy to tarnish their image.

Their message, to the South African population, was simple: don’t listen to those exposing wrong deeds committed by the Guptas or government officials. Those exposing these misdeeds are agents of “white monopoly capital” that does not want black South Africans to benefit from the country’s resources and government contracts.

The problem is that each side wants to claim they are the lesser evil in this fight.

Last week, South Africa’s Public Protector Advocate Busiswe Mkhwebane made adverse findings against the South African central bank regarding the way the bank handled the issue of a R1 billion bailout to apartheid-era failed bank, Bankorp, which then later became Absa bank. Mkhwebane went on as far as recommending that the country’s constitution be changed to amend the central bank’s mandate.

The anti-Zuma camp obviously came out to accuse the Public Protector of having ulterior motives and that her assessment of what transpired with Bankorp was incorrect. The problem is that both concepts are born from patronage networks. It is true that the pre-and apartheid eras ensured that blacks in South Africa do not participate in the economy. It also ensured that their God given natural resources are exploited by those who were mere settlers at the time. And if Mkhwabane’s findings have an iota of truth and or accuracy to them, regardless of her motives, then those responsible should also be held to account.

The problem here is that ordinary hardworking South Africans are not the beneficiaries of either “state capture or white monopoly capital” and those who deliberately aid the exclusion of the masses should be brought to book.

Now we move on to the radical economic transformation concept. The irony here is that the South African government is only coming up with this concept now, while it was supposed to have started it 23 years ago. One then wonders whether this is a genuine attempt by the government to finally start addressing the structural imbalances brought about by as a result of apartheid and colonialism or whether it was just a diversionary tactic aimed at hoodwinking the voters to believing that their leaders actually want to affect real economic change.

We believe it is about time African leaders stop playing these smoke and mirrors game with their citizens and effect real transformation that is tangible to the citizens’ day-to-day lives.

How different is this concept to black economic empowerment? In Zimbabwe we have been talking about “indigenisation”. In Namibia, government is now talking about the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (Neeef), which is a concept replacing Transformation Economic and Social Empowerment Framework (TESEF) policy, which started in 2005 and was never implemented. Neeef also appears to be in danger of just becoming a pipe dream.

This is not unique to southern Africa as the rest of the continent battles with ensuring that Africans become the real beneficiaries of their wealth.

We challenge the African leaders to show what have they done for their people since 1957. For about 60 years, Africans have had to put up with economic concepts which have failed to yield the promised prosperity, while leaders have consistently kept using such impressive concepts to divert attention from their malfeasance.

Africans deserve their share of the cake.

July 2017
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