Political economist Moeletsi Mbeki. Photo: Herbert Matimba

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema was asking the right questions about how the government and big business were running the country into the ground, which was why he had been unfairly shut up through disciplinary action, says leading political commentator Moeletsi Mbeki.

Addressing a meeting of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry business leaders in the city this week, Mbeki said while he did not necessarily agree with Malema’s views on the nationalisation of mines, it was “certainly legitimate” for Malema to criticise the way the economy was being managed.

The brother of former president Thabo Mbeki lashed out at the lavish lifestyles of the black political elite.

He said he too was facing the wrath of the president of the ANC for his political commentary.

He was in Durban to promote his books, Architects of Poverty and Advocates for Change - How to Overcome Africa’s Challenges.

“Why are they (Malema and his allies) being expelled? Because at least they are saying - ‘what are you going to do with the national resources you are sitting on?’ It is certainly legitimate for them to criticise the government and big business for the way they are running the economy and our country into the ground with the way they are managing our economy,” Mbeki said.

He said it was unfair that a chairman of the disciplinary committee, Derek Hanekom, who had previously expressed views about Malema’s controversial comments, had been appointed as the judge of the youth league leader’s fate.

“I think it is very clear that there was an unfair process,” Mbeki said.

Mbeki said the economy needed to be turned from a consumer-driven to a production-driven model.

“Our country is sitting with 35 percent unemployment and we are saying that we are a successful economy? In America they want to get rid of Obama because they have nine percent unemployment. We sit in South Africa with a third unemployment and we are saying that our economy is a success?” Mbeki said.

“Economic policy has been to drive the consumption of the black middle class, the black political class and the black elite. Policies have been focused on driving a consumption economy and the reason is because they are wallowing in being victims and using its economy to compensate for this victimhood they have lived in for the last 100 years,” Mbeki said.

In 1066 the Normans had invaded England and to this day the land remained in the hands of its conquerors’ descendants, Mbeki said. He said he used this history lesson to advise his friends who were worried about “the Boers owning land in South Africa” and who wanted to redistribute it without compensation.

“If you want property go and buy yourself a piece of land. It’s no use going and crying about the Boers owning the land, you can go and sit there, and in 1 000 years the Boers will still own the land. We are sitting with this black leadership that is wallowing in its victimhood so instead of driving production they first compensate themselves,” Mbeki said.

“Seventy two percent of GDP is directed at private consumption and a huge part is by the black elite in the public sector who pay themselves phenomenal salaries and the second part is driven by those living on social welfare grants. Instead of creating jobs we give them their pathetic little social grants,” Mbeki said.

“We are consuming our GDP, buying phenomenal cars and paying ourselves huge salaries,” Mbeki said. However, he said the private sector was also at fault for overpaying its executives.

A CEO of a Chinese factory with 10 000 workers earns R300 000 a year, compared to a South African executive who would earn between R6 million and R10m a year, Mbeki said.

“And if you are the head of a parastatal you would earn even more than that even if your trains are de-railing and your water supply is not there and the electricity has packed up. When Eskom ran out of electricity former Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga said he wanted (R85m) settlement payment. We have a mindset of the elite in this country and economic policies that are totally out of touch with reality,” Mbeki said.

Solutions to turn the economy around in Mbeki’s view included:

l Raise the level of maths and science education and introduce private operators to the education sector.

l Re-engineer the structure of GDP to focus on investment rather than on private consumption and dispel the myth that we can’t compete with China.

l Introduce private sector operators into the railway and power generation sectors that are now state-owned. More than 50 percent of our exports still come from mining but the sector cannot grow because the logistics system is so badly managed.

l Black economic empowerment, an invention of Anglo American and not the ANC, Affirmative Action and Employment Equity must be scrapped because they are a disincentive and do harm to black people. - Saturday Argus