Moeletsi Mbeki. Picture: Herbert Matimba.

Durban - The only way South Africa could get out of the “hidden civil war” it was experiencing was by deepening Western values and reconfiguring the political elite to drive investment instead of consumption.

Speaking at the Hilton Hotel in Durban on Wednesday night, author and political economist Moeletsi Mbeki told an audience of about 100 people that in KwaZulu-Natal, this “hidden civil war” could be seen in the conflict within the ruling African National Congress. “

Sometimes we have to have a hard look at what is going on in South Africa and we have to have solutions. There is nothing wrong with telling a good story, but we must address challenges,” he said.

South Africa was ruled by the political and economic elite, who were in conflict, he said. The economic elite had the capital, the political elite had the decision-making power and controlled the State; and both were suspicious of each other.

Mbeki said that the country's massive inequality could be understood by looking at figures produced by the statistician general, which showed that those who controlled the State and production (the elites) only numbered 105 000.

“The elites are those who earn R60 000 per month or more. There are only 105 000 of them in South Africa. This upper class is racially integrated,” he said.

“Even though politicians always talk about white monopoly capital, black politicians are also part of monopoly capital. We should start talking about white and black monopoly capital as it is these elite who make the political and economic decisions.”

He said South Africa was preoccupied with race, and that if he didn't break down the figures by race “nobody will believe you”. The middle class are those who earn between R11 565 and R60 000 per month and make up 9.79 percent of the nation's population.

Blacks make up the majority of the South African middle class in the public and private sector, with whites coming in second. Mbeki said that blue-collar workers (lower middle class) were those who earned up to R11 500, and made up 38 percent of the country's population. But it was the “underclass, the unemployed”, making up 49.7 percent of South Africa's social structure, that bore the brunt of inequality and were suppressing the country's earners.


“Families from all social classes are subsidising the unemployed and underclass. This supresses the standard of living of people who are working, no matter what their income,” he said.

Government also had to subsidise this group through massive social welfare programmes. Those who pay taxes also have to subsidise the large population who are not working. “Put all of this together and society is in deep crisis, which is why we have our high murder rates.

The struggle for resources is so ferocious that it starts at the family level and works up to the social level,” he said. Of the 14 740 service delivery protests South Africa had in 2014, 20 percent were violent. “Thirty two people per 100 000 are killed in South Africa. The global murder rate is five per 100 000. We have the highest number of violent deaths in a country that is not at war. Syria is at war. Their war will end and their murder rate will drop. South Africa's murder will continue,” he said.

“South Africa's murder rate is six times the global average. We are a country in very, very deep trouble,” he said.

He said that South Africa had the highest unemployment rate in the world, despite the government's “changing” figures. South Africa's youth unemployment rate was 57 percent, while other countries in sub-Saharan Africa had youth unemployment rates of 11 percent.

He said, while South Africa was an old economy, it was not a modern economy. “Our economy was set up by the British and still operates in the same way, where we utilise migrant labour from previous homelands. The South African economy and society are in urgent need of modern innovation.”

He said it was erroneous to say that the country's economy wasn't growing because of organised labour, when only a third of blue-collar workers belonged to unions.

“Unions in South Africa are not strong. The average wage for blue-collar workers who are unionised is in the vicinity of R3 000 per month.”

Mbeki said the decrease in investment was because of the conflict within the economic and political elite for control of profit and surplus in economy. The political elite survived by taking profits from enterprises through taxation.

He said Eskom was a good example of this. “Eskom makes huge profits but throws the country into darkness. It doesn't promote economic development, it is a tax centre. All of this tax money goes to the public sector, which in South Africa is one of the highest paid sectors in the world, with civil servants earning more money than their colleagues in the private sector. This is then used by the political elite to enrich itself and its support systems.

“When there is conflict within the political and private elite, the first casualty is investment,” he said.