Rajeshwar Maharaj, from the ACM, was speaking at a public lecture on “Unpacking state capture, white monopoly capital, radical economic transformation and the emergence of civil society protests” at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Howard College campus on Monday night.
The lecture, hosted by the College of Humanities and the Maurice Webb Race Relations Unit, included ANC provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala, Dr Lubna Nadvi of the School of Social Sciences, and Maharaj as panellists.
“One of our guiding principles is to partner with the government, but we will also act as a watchdog to ensure that promises made to the people are fulfilled. Corruption is the scourge that faces our country, and black capitalists form part of the corruption we’re talking about,” said Maharaj, naming a few local black business people as well as the Guptas.
He was critical of government officials for failing to “touch base” with the masses on the ground.
Nadvi identified structural corruption, state maladministration, abuse of power, misuse of public funds and tenderpreneurs as the causes of the recent countrywide protests.
“Dysfunctional government entities such as Eskom, SAA, Prasa, SABC and Sassa (are) a concern as these were meant to service the public. State capture, which is influencing government appointments is exacerbating the problem. Lack of service delivery, unemployment and social inequality are making our people unhappy,” said Nadvi.
She found that while there were more people accessing basic services than before, this was not enough.
“The government and the ruling party will have to decide whether to carry on with the current status quo or listen to the people,” she said.
She felt the criticism against white monopoly capital was legitimate, but questioned if the government and the ANC would change the economic policy to address these social ills.
“As a way forward, the ANC leadership and government have to create an environment that will be conducive to enabling debate and discussions about what happens next in the country instead of shutting down spaces and voices that they don’t agree with,” she said.
Students told the panel they were tired of the “rhetoric” and wanted action. Mlungisi Ngubane, one of the students, said the ANC should take the blame for the “crisis”.
“The Freedom Charter stipulates that the land belongs to all who live in it. How then are we going to take back the land from the minority white? The ANC must start by chasing away the white people in the party and then deal with the land issue,” he said.
Responding, Zikalala said the organisation had always valued the notion of servant leadership.
“The protests we have seen recently were led by people who never elected the leaders of the movement. Fiscal prudence and financial discipline is what we adhere to. One percent of the richest people in the country controls about R3.7 trillion of our economy."
“About 69% of white people still occupy top positions in the workplace, while black people are at the bottom. That 1% control the media which then tell people not exactly what is happening, but what the rich want the people to know,” Zikalala said.
He denied that the downgrading of the economy meant that the country was in crisis. On radical economic transformation, Zikalala said this was one of the issues that would be dealt with during their policy review in June.
On the land issue, he said: “We will be looking at expropriation of land without compensation. The state capture has always been in place in the country even during the apartheid regime. We must make it clear that the Guptas, Ruperts and Oppenheimer do not represent the interests of the ANC. The base of the ANC is among the rural poor and working class in townships.”