ANC chairperson in KZN Sihle Zikalala Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/Independent Media
The unadorned truth is that almost all delegates who attended the ANC’s fifth national policy conference agreed that the behaviour and conduct of monopoly capital was contrary to the values of the National Democratic Revolution (NDR).

Thus it was reaffirmed that “there is much in the nature and behaviour of private monopolies that has the effect of constraining higher rates of growth and skewing development, including monopoly pricing and other forms of rent-seeking, selfish import parity pricing, barriers to entry in some industries and a value system based on greed and crass materialism”.

“However, the relationship between the national democratic state and private capital is one of unity and struggle, co-operation and contestation” (ANC Strategy & Tactics, 2012:47, P114).

This characterisation reaffirms the position of the movement that defined the enemy of the liberation Struggle as: “The system of white minority domination with white community being the beneficiaries and defenders of this system. These in turn were made up of workers, middle strata and capitalists. Monopoly capital was identified as the chief enemy of the NDR.” (ANC Strategy & Tactics, 2012:37, P96).

Monopoly displaces capitalist-free competition and replaces it with transnational companies, as Lenin once pointed out. The contemporary socio-economic system, throughout the globe, is dominated by monopolies who set the agenda for various governments and impose themselves on the domestic affairs of other countries.In defence of white monopoly capital, we are coerced to accept that we should not distil form from the content. We are told that the content is the only determinant factor, therefore elements that constitute its character are of less importance. 

According to Marx and Engels, it is necessary to trace the genesis of various forms and to understand the various stages of the real process by which forms are created, while taking into account the objective subordination of content and form. Monopoly remains a global phenomenon that cartelises industries, fixes prizes and applies uncompetitive practices. In South Africa, largely because of the persistent legacy of apartheid the form of such monopolies is white-oriented.

Another misleading effort aimed at shielding white monopoly capital is the advancement of a strange and distorted narrative that seeks to suggest the movement has never characterised its enemy based on racial lines. Over many decades, the ANC has defined its cause as a revolutionary struggle against white domination. Clearly, this is a characterisation of a racial system that was designed for the oppression of the black majority.

The fundamental meaning of white domination has always been known and understood to represent political and economic dominance. Accepting and affirming the character of monopoly in our country does not represent a negation of our commitment to build a non-racial society.

The ANC argued that over time, the policies of government and the tactical sensibilities of some white monopolies have precipitated a situation in which some of the black propertied classes are expanding their positions within the important sectors of the economy (ANC Strategy and Tactics, 1997). 

While the SACP observed that: “The SACP, in evaluating the first decade of our democracy, came to the conclusion that in economic terms white-dominated monopoly capital was the single biggest beneficiary, at the direct expense of the working class, which experienced casualisation, a job loss bloodbath and outsourcing. Therefore the first decade of our democracy, in economic terms, became the decade of the white-dominated bourgeoisie, joined by a small elite.” (The South African Road to Socialism).

The myth that the liberation movement has never used the concept of white monopoly capital is not just born out of nostalgia, but is a distortion informed by false consciousness wherein leaders arrogate to themselves divinity rights of telling anything assuming that, we, the followers, will ingest any information without thinking.

The question remains why, today, there is a strong denial of the existence of white monopoly capital and that our characterising must only be limited to content and disregard the form. The answer to these questions can be derived from what Karl Marx said: “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness”. 

The democratic dispensation has opened opportunities for various comrades to participate in the economy, including those in leadership positions while at the same they have benefited and continue to benefit, through BEE or co-option by the same white monopoly.

Some of our leaders serve on boards and enjoy benefits such as sponsorships from the same white monopoly capital system. The living conditions of these comrades make it difficult to characterise this phenomenon correctly. As the saying goes: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

Another question that needs to be answered is why we are raising the matter of the white monopoly capital so strongly. The fact remains that the structure of the South African economic ownership and pattern remains intact and controlled by a tiny minority at the expense of the majority languishing in abject poverty. The unemployment rate is stubbornly high. All these are resultant from apartheid economic structure. To find comprehensive response to these challenges, we need to examine and review the economic structure that has persistently sustained poverty, inequality and unemployment.

Former anti-apartheid activist and economics professor Ben Turok makes the point: “What are fault lines in the economy and where do these fit in the overall structure of the economy? Once there are certain fundamental cleavages in this country, which maintain the status quo, only then can we understand where incremental reforms fit into the overall structure. Unless we change the overall structure, we will be in the same situation forever.”

The above expression calls for a thoroughgoing analysis of the structure of the economy so that proper interventions can be developed. We equally need to resist temptations of conformism wherein revolutionaries get co-opted and absorbed by the same system they ought to transform.

It becomes even more necessary to know companies monopolising the food industry in the country. The affected companies are:

Pioneer Foods, which produces Sasko that also produces Blue Bird, Uncle Salie and Natural Harvest;

Tiger Brands, which produces Albany; Premier Foods Genfoods, which produces Blue Ribbon and BB; and

Foodcorp, which produces Sunbake.

Unfortunately all the four companies, together with their subsidiaries, have their ownership pointing to the Rupert family, which happens to be white, thus legitimising the concept of white monopoly capitalism in South Africa. Further, in all parts of the private sector of the economy, the pattern of a few giant companies persists.

One effect is persistent price-fixing by cartels, exposed in sectors ranging from concrete to bread, by the Competition Commission. These large private firms - mainly rooted in the pre-1994 period - are correctly termed white monopoly capital.

In the mining industry monopoly, two of the world’s largest mining companies have their origins in South Africa. BHP Billiton was the result of a merger between South Africa’s Billiton and the Australian BHP Group. Anglo American Plc, with a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange and secondary listing in Johannesburg, owns many major subsidiaries, including Anglo Platinum, Anglo Coal, Impala Platinum and Kumba Iron Ore. The whiteness is too glaring.

The financial sector of South Africa’s economy is composed of the Big Four banks - FirstRand, Standard Bank, Barclays Africa and Nedbank - and insurance houses- Old Mutual, Liberty, Sanlam in the main. As is the case with the mining sector, insurance companies are listed in the London Stock Exchange.

The argument being proffered that black ownership of shares in some of the major white monopolies renders the characterisation of white monopoly capital an inaccurate depiction is further from the truth. The government pension funds that are invested by the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) are a sizeable amount of money to be tempted to dismiss the dominance of white monopolies in the South African economy.

However, it is only by analysing the complex web of interconnected activities by white monopolies that one begins to holistically appreciate the amount of control they wield in the economy.

A complex challenge facing the movement is how to implement its programme of radical economic transformation if this means ignoring the structure of the economy, institutions and patterns of ownership without confronting the reality and challenges posed by monopolies.

The general conduct of monopolies remains a real threat to this. As we argue against white monopoly capital, equally our hindrance to progress and fair distribution of the economy is prevalence of corruption. As we confront the tendencies of white monopoly capital, we must also confront the endemic challenge of corruption. This includes the state capture which is, in essence, a very dangerous emergence of arrogant parasitic bourgeoisie.

We remain steadfastly opposed to any monopoly irrespective of its form and content.

* Zikalala is KwaZulu-Natal’s MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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