Temba Nolutshungu’s compelling evidence of the genetic
relationship between socialism and apartheid is ground breaking. He should
know, for he has experienced the worst of two worlds – Apartheid South Africa
and Post-apartheid South Africa, which incrementally
seems to be paying little homage to transparency. At a time when the free world
is still commemorating the destruction of the Berlin Wall and Fidel Castro is
doubting his own ideology, some of Temba’s fellow countrymen
are obsessed with rebuilding the communist dragon. I suspect that’s because the present day architects
of ‘socialist revival’ may have been too young in the 1980s 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 utopian debates on Zimbabwe Television ‘Road to Socialism’, a programme 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 neo-socialist
Apartheid regime on the other side of the Limpopo River.
Then came the winds of change – Samora Machel and Julius Nyerere departed, Tanzania and Mozambique turned ‘capitalist’.
Meanwhile, Gutto went to not-so-socialist South Africa and Dr Ibo sank his fangs into the ‘real’ capitalist economic pie, investing in the private Southern Africa
Political Economy Series political think tank that offers Masters qualification
in political science; the now defunct Daily Gazette and several lucrative
hunting safaris. Mr Mugabe was left
stranded, save for occasional lip service to Economic Adjustment Programmes and
a dreary Leadership Code that never saw the light of day.
Now, we all know
what socialism does to the mind. Poor South Africans, promised almost
everything free at taxpayers’ expense (though politicians do not readily acknowledge this, if they
do at all), are still waiting with their mouths wide open for Pretoria to
provide houses, jobs, transport and medical care. Arguably South Africa is
still one of the biggest economies in the
southern hemisphere, but socialism is one way for it to join the rare club of
Least Developed Countries. Another is to give trade unions too much say in
business policy. It must be hard for Jacob Zuma, stuck with SA Communist Party
baggage from the Stone Age, to have to contend with populist rhetoric from
Given this paralysing
unison of the ANC youth league, COSATU and the SACP for government benevolence,
it is not surprising that the impression gaining currency throughout Southern
Africa is that the average South African is lazy. With all that access to
technology and innovation, why would thirty million healthy, able-bodied
citizens expect central government to do everything for them? With so much
access to credit – many
South Africans drive fancy cars – why would they not use that financial
firepower to build their own houses and start their own businesses?
In any case, how
will ANCYL 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 owned 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 dogma, like we experienced in Zimbabwe, is that it does not
separate patronage from corruption. Those in charge of ‘nationalising’ assets use the opportunity to
enrich themselves at the expense of the ‘weak’. Their rabid reference to ‘successful
capitalists’ smacks of nothing but a sinister motive to rob
Paul to pay Peter. In their blind frenzy for the wholesale adoption of
socialism, ZANU-PF zealots and their sympathisers even argued for the
nationalising of already existing state assets!
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
Zimbabwe’s minister for the curiously named Ministry of Indigenisation raised a
sandstorm around the fact that BP and Shell wanted their assets in Zimbabwe to be bought out by South
African company ENGEN. ZANU-PF apologists and the usual suspects of plunder
meanwhile have organised themselves into ‘indigenous consortiums’ to
lobby for ‘local control’. At face value, Zimbabwe Minister for Indigenisation
Saviour Kasukuwere’s gospel is meant for the benefit of ‘black’
Zimbabweans. But progressive Zimbabweans and South Africans are not easily
fooled. ‘Nationalisation’ or ‘indigenisation’ of assets are merely catchphrases
for paying off loyal ruling party cronies
and their greedy sympathisers.
historically evident that communist dictatorships, without exception, are
controlled by small, wealthy elites that live in obscene gluttony but campaign
for the collective ‘good’. I would not, for one moment, be convinced
that Dos Santos of Angola, the late Samora Machel or Julius Nyerere were
exactly living below the poverty datum line! Private companies in South Africa
have always successfully supplied the people with motor vehicles, food and
furniture. If the government cannot even effectively fulfil its core mandate – that
of good governance – how can ANCYL believe that bureaucrats will be
able to run businesses effectively and ‘for the public good’?
Rejoice Ngwenya is Zimbabwean Founder of the Coalition for Liberal Market Solutions. He is an affiliate of AfricanLiberty.org. The views expressed in the article are the authors and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Free Market Foundation.
A version of this article was first published by www.AfricanLiberty.org on 30 November 2009
FMF Feature Article / 19 October 2010