When Johann Rupert, in a rare showcase, appeared in December 2018 on Given Mkhari’s Power FM Conversations with the Chairman, a very interesting feeling about the strong existence of this group was exposed in public. Others were angry, while others were forgiving and embraced his sentiments on some non-essential issues. Photo: Nhlanhla Phillips and Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)
When Johann Rupert, in a rare showcase, appeared in December 2018 on Given Mkhari’s Power FM Conversations with the Chairman, a very interesting feeling about the strong existence of this group was exposed in public. Others were angry, while others were forgiving and embraced his sentiments on some non-essential issues. Photo: Nhlanhla Phillips and Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

“White” monopoly capital must open up to a new deal on economic restructuring

By Bheki Mfeka Time of article published Jul 6, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG – For almost seven years I served as a consultant and later economic advisor to the Presidency and observed the debates on economic transformation regressing as economic welfare indicators worsened and corruption in both public and private sectors spiked.

I saw complexities of the underlying economic systems of ownership and deprivation manifesting. With this complexity was the surge in artificial debates, endless litigations, violent protests, political mudslinging that leads to nowhere for citizens who want jobs and inclusive growth. I also saw how those with economic power have sophisticated tools and capacity to influence political and economic narrative and personalities involved.

From this experience and understanding South African political economic literature, nothing has sparked emotions than the connotation and debate on “white monopoly capital”. I’m convinced that with decency and proper engagements with monopoly capital there lies a potentially important ally of the people to resolving structural challenges in our economy.  

Skin colour prefix in the debate about monopoly capital is a political symbolism of an untransformed colonial structure of the SA economy, dominated by a few firms. The white folkbehind these firms are known and happen to have benefited from apartheid racial economy.

Isn’t high time that they come out and we embrace their identity in public and their intentions on how a post-apartheid economy, what President Ramaphosa calls “new economy”, should look like and their contribution to it. If we embrace them as patriots rather than calling them names like “Stellenbosch Mafia”, and seek a new consensus, we might score a significant traction on the restructuring of the economy and building of a non-racial society we so yearn for. 

When Johann Rupert, in a rare showcase, appeared in December 2018 on Given Mkhari’s Power FM Conversations with the Chairman, a very interesting feeling about the strong existence of this group was exposed in public. Others were angry, while others were forgiving and embraced his sentiments on some non-essential issues. It occurred to me when listening to Mr Rupert that these are South Africans who are passionate and have very strong views and influence on people in key sectors of our economy. They basically hold power. 

Much has been said about the monopolistic and oligopolistic nature of our economy virtually in all sectors, and how these have contributed to South Africa as literally having the highest inequality and unemployment in the world for decades. This is unsustainable.

Let’s avoid worsening of the situation with added covid-19 crises. Lets’ agree that the apartheid capitalist economy is not sustainable, and seek solutions as President Ramaphosa made an impassioned plea to honorable MP Mr Groenewald during the last President’s Q&A session in Parliament. 

Prof Sampie Terblanche’s account of the influence of the mineral energy complex in shaping post-apartheid economy and “a deal” with the ANC, shows how the monopoly capital held strong power to influence policy outcomes. There is no contrary evidence that proves they no longer have such influence in a similar way that the ownership of the economy hasn’t changed significantly in last 25 years.

We also know that their firms have amassed on their side the best lawyers, accountants, and other professionals money could buy, and are also supported by media they own, non-governmental organizations they sponsor, and organized business. This makes them far superior than what the government could afford, making the ANC lightweight in influencing real economic policy direction and outcomes. 

We must admit that transformation of the economy has not happened, in fact transformation has regressed. No matter how much noise or name calling politically can be made, those with economic power still call the shots on the direction of our economy. By seeking to resolve matters openly with their help, we could reach an amicable and sustainable solution on transformation key questions towards inclusive growth outcome. 

President Ramaphosa’s influence on monopoly capital, is well renowned and presents a chance to negotiate openely with monopoly capital (public and private) and its hold on the economy. This is critical because the president was leader in the negotiations of the acclaimed constitutional settlement; he is also adept in understanding the challenges facing the majority of the population. The ANC and its alliance partners must negotiate a sustainable solution of a New Deal of an inclusive a non-racial economy. Some of the key outcomes in those negotiations should be able to resolve the following:

  • land expropriation without compensation parameters and concrete program
  • identifiable key policy concessions on breaking of monopolies or oligopolies in key sectors of the economy such as agriculture, mining, telecommunication, energy, etc.; through 
  • supporting fiscal measures for quality education and infrastructure that increases drastically the scale of access for the majority of the population

In actual fact many economists have predicted the eventual collapse of the apartheid capitalist economy. As it was planned in a regulated fashion, its transformation can also be a “perfectly” planned and regulated for an inclusive economy.

Unlike the first transitional deal during President Mandela era, I do hope this one could be held in the open.

A chance to engage is necessary so we could move on as a society in resolving structural challenges caused by not only public corruption and monopolies in the form of SOEs, but by the private monopolies as well. 

Dr Bheki Mfeka, is the Economic Advisor and Strategist at SE Advisory; and former Economic Advisor to the Presidency.
Twitter: @bhekimfeka | Website: www.seadvisory.co.za | Email: [email protected]

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