Of the brace of new books available on the new South Africa, only two or three are remarkable for their insights and penetrating political analysis. More recent biographies of ex-President Thabo Mbeki (Gumede and Gevisser), present President Jacob Zuma (Gordin) and former ANC MP 'Mac' Maharaj (O'Malley) provide a look into the inner workings of the ruling African National Congress.

I can recommend the following works. In his study of corruption in the ANC in government, 'Eye on the Money: One Man's Crusade against Corruption' (Umuzi, Johannesburg, 2007), the anti-apartheid banker Terry Crawford-Browne writes that the 'arms deal' is 'central to the succession crisis that dominates the ANC', while Andrew Feinstein's 'After the Party: A Personal and Political Journal Inside the ANC' (2007, 2009), is in fact an 'insider' expose of the wheeling n' dealing behind the 'arms deal', "which has poisoned the whole political system".

The latter quote is from R. W. ('Bill') Johnson's tour de force of 646 pages, 'South Africa's Brave New World - The Beloved Country since the End of Apartheid', on the last page in fact. The cover blurb says it all: "(this) new book tells the story of South Africa from the magic period from 1994 to the bitter disappointment of the present ... At the heart of the book lies the ruinous figure of Thabo Mbeki, whose over-reaching ambitions led to catastrophic failure on almost every front ...

As Johnson makes clear ... Mbeki may have contributed more than anyone else to bringing South Africa to 'failed state' status, but he had plenty of help." Johnson, a Durban-born Rhodes scholar and Oxford tutor, was a correspondent for the London Sunday Times and a prolific commentator on South Africa. This book is the result of many of those acerbic commentaries over a 15-20 year period.

Chapter 2 "Godfathers and Assassins" breaks new ground and presents a 'Liberation Movement' that as soon as it came into power prostrated itself at the feet of Johannesburg's white corporate capital, not only its more respectable face in Gavin Relly of the mining and finance giant Anglo-American, or the insurance magnate Donny Gordon of Liberty Life Foundation, but the likes of hotel, retail bottle store and casino magnate Sol Kerzner and late Afrikaner rebel mining hustler Brett Kebble. Soon ANC notables were involved in the gambling, casino, crime and prostitution penumbra.

A new African kleptocracy was being born while "Die Stem" was still hanging in the air! The rest is history, as they say. Sleaze, undercover operations and character assassinations (and 'real' ones) became part of the ANC's modus operandi in power. "Ideology" and the once professed goals of poverty amelioration and a "Better Life for All" (the ANC's election slogan of 1994), was soon pushed aside as monetary "self-interest", or plain "greed", took its place as "an (African) nationalist bourgeoisie was simply replacing an old (Afrikaner) nationalist bourgeoisie at the helm of the state" (p. 17).

Central to this new orientation was 'bra' (Brother) Joe Modise, gangster, boxer, truck-driver, football player, Mandela's chauffeur and co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, later being its Commander-in-Chief and later Minister of Defense in the new South Africa. He was thus a central figure in the 'arms deal' scandal, allegedly getting an R 10 million bribe for his facilitating role. He died a very rich man with a contested Estate.

But he was also a police spy and double-agent. "The big question about Modise was whether, like so many in the ANC, he was actually a spy for the other side. Or other sides, for once an ANC activist had decided to pass intelligence to 'the Boers', it usually followed that he was ready to make similar deals with the CIA, MI5 etc. The evidence against Modise is overwhelming ... [p. 31]. Everything about their life in exile and Modise's post-1994 career also suggests that Modise and [T] Nkobi were both informants for the apartheid security police. Certainly, when I (R W Johnson) interviewed operatives of the old apartheid security police (some by then in Mbeki's employ), I found they universally agreed that Modise had been a police informer."

His career in many ways throws light on the unwritten history and trajectory of the African National Congress in exile and Johnson ironically names him as "The Father of the New South Africa" (pp.46-48). Fellow gangsters like Thomas Nkobi and Alfred Nzo were also to have highly placed positions in the movement, while KwaZulu Natal Stalinist "hardliner" Harry Gwala and his protégé Jacob Zuma were to put their own militaristic stamp on the armed struggles of the youth in the late 1980s.

Now with Zuma as President, will the pendulum swing in the direction of dictatorship and a 'hard line'? There had always "co-existed" many political ideologies and class trajectories in the ANC. However, there was only one force that held "real" power and dictated "policy" in the years of exile since the early 1960s: the South African Communist Party (SACP). This became clear when the "exiles" returned home and put their indelible "stamp" on the proceedings. The UDF was soon disbanded.

In the preceding 20-30 years inside South Africa, and especially during the United Democratic Front period from the early 1980s, democracy was a process of constant practise and renewal, of recall and election, of negotiation between the leaders and the led, of constant checks and balances. This led to a culture of endless consultation and a living memory of 'grass-roots democracy', 'inclusivity' and above all, non-racialism.

It was primarily Nelson Mandela who symbolically represented the non-racialism of the earlier generation of the 1950s - of continuity with this now geriatric generation of the Freedom Charter and of its universalistic and 'inclusive' ethos. And this was what the whole "progressive world" cheered on and politically and materially supported "unconditionally".

The 'exiled' ANC was a totally different animal. The ANC-in-exile was above all keen to maintain "monolithic unity". This included a mix of East European Leninist-Party undemocratic Bureaucratic Centralism (bequeathed to them by their political mentors in the NKVD/GPU/KGB and Stasi), coupled with liberal 'charm-offensives' adapted for their North European social-democratic and liberal middle-class supporters, through blandishments and exhortations, selfless idealism and self-sacrifice from (expendable) foot soldiers, who worked unceasingly but with a blinkered focus. Few critical questions were ever raised about the conditions in the ANC/MK camps and "re-education" centres in Angola and Tanzania in the 1980s.

But when the 'exiles' returned, and especially in the Mbeki presidency from 2000-2008, this 'reflex Leninism' and its version of "Party-substitutionism", and its undemocratic closed and secret world, and the ANC's "cadre deployment" policy became the hallmark of the Mbeki-era's presidential style. Mbeki's later quite open paranoia and vindictive skulduggery against opponents, primarily Jacob Zuma, came out into the open in his second term when he used the National Prosecuting Authority and various "spook" units of the National Intelligence Agency under his control.

Johnson presents an array of facts and figures, as well as powerful arguments which support his central theses. He brings new facts to light in his analysis of "the Plague", the HIV/Aids pandemic, and shows that it was not an isolated aberration when Mbeki apparently adopted the "denialist" position and he and his two Health Ministers prevented the distribution of pre- and antenatal retrovirals, leading to the claim of "genocide" by many in the TAC, Treatment Action Campaign. Many thousands of young pregnant mothers and others infected by HIV-virus died as a result of not been treated in time during this period. Mbeki and his Ministers have been let off the hook.

To my mind, his analysis of the "Affirmative Action" (more correctly the "Africanization of the public sector") and the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) [or the 'Blackening' of the private sector) policies stand out as quite exceptional.

I will present the main points of his analysis in the following.

The ANC had been constructed on the premise and assumption of non-racialism and this was obviously inconsistent with racial favouritism. Under apartheid, Africans had longed for merit, not race, to count, this being their definition of fairness and a just, democratic society. Now this was to change. Not only should 'Blacks' be given preference when other criteria were equal but in practise whole categories of jobs were simple closed to whites ('Caucasians') [as well as Indians ('Asians') and Coloureds ('mixed race')]. Every institution's workforce should mirror the nation's demography and this led to a 'preferential system' that systematically excluded other 'minorities'; a de facto 'job-reservation' policy based on 'racial criteria'.

Now the public service policy was reversed from 'non-racialism' to a re-introduction of "race" as the defining characteristic. It came at a high political and economic cost that even their main architects now admit. Racial criteria were enforced through the public sector to the point where the 'minorities' often simply did not apply for jobs there. But similar pressures were felt in the private sector too, as companies sought desperately to achieve the 'right' demographic balance or company profile.

Given the shortage of black skilled manpower, the large 'white-owned' companies often paid exorbitant and racially discriminatory salaries to get the black workforce it needed. A strata of aggressive professional Black Yuppies reaped all the benefits as a result. With freshly-minted MBAs tucked under their arms, they 'job-hopped' at will to new lucrative pastures like a flock of locusts looking for new "green fields" to occupy. They had no feeling for company loyalty or regard for productivity.

In effect, apartheid-style job reservation was re-introduced through out the public service. "Playing the 'race card'" became the new ("old") name of the game. The key question became whether a person or institution had been 'historically disadvantaged': this, rather than performance, capacity or ability (i.e. 'skill'), now determined who got the job, contract or grant. Inevitably, the better jobs, salaries and benefits went to the less qualified and less skilled ('historically disadvantaged'). Inevitably standards fell in the public service.

Coupled with the crippling effects of non-maintenance and repair of essential services, lack of investments in infrastructure and managerial 'mismanagement' (appropriation of public funds, looting and theft), this had disastrous results.

This was an inversion of functionality which not only carried a high price in itself but it also made it clear to job recipients that it was their skin colour, their previous 'historic disadvantages', that was being rewarded rather than any merit principle or skill qualification.

"Crony Capitalism" had worked for the Afrikaners, 'die volk', since the 1930s wave of ethnic nationalist mobilization - national savings, banks, insurance companies, construction companies were then harnessed to the Afrikaner ox-wagon to pull the 'volk' out of the social destitution of "poor white-ism" into a Brave New World of urban jobs and urban opportunities in the municipal, local and state bureaucracies, the public sector, the army/police force. And it worked, especially after 1948 with Malan's Nationalist Party victory.

Thus under apartheid, South Africa was ruled not only by a racial oligarchy but by a narrow Afrikaner elite and its crony network in the state and soon also the private sector. To maintain this edifice, the elaborate system of Bantu education, the re-tribalization of black society in Bantustans and the suppression a black business class was pursued vigorously. As a result, at the onset on liberation in the early 1990s, the black professional elite and middle class sought profound changes in their situation. To be sure, they were going to copy and outdo the Afrikaners in all their endeavours.

Until the 1990s, capital, shaped by the restrictive laws of apartheid, was predominantly in white hands (also to a lesser extent in 'Asian/Indian' and Jewish hands). Among blacks, there was a small professional class, a handful of entrepreneurs based in the 'homelands', and some small competitive business people who served the black market in the townships (butchers, spaza shopkeepers, grocery stores). When formal apartheid ended, there was virtually no black business class at all. The time had come for "transformation" chimed ANC politicians and BEE their legal State route to "enrichment", but only for a few of the well-connected moguls.

'White' capital was highly concentrated, with six (often competing but also interlocking) conglomerates, based in minerals, energy production and finance that dominated the economy. A few large firms also controlled key consumer sectors like food, beverages, automobiles and retail (often again linked to the former conglomerates), but smaller companies and enterprises occurred in the competitive consumer goods sectors like clothing and foodstuffs. Farming ("large-scale" and white that is) was heavily subsidized and mechanized, with pricing policy controlled by the state, and loans by the Afrikaner-owned banks.

In sum, South Africa's political economy continues to revolve around an odd combination of new political power (and patronage) without money and old money without power, each needing the other to advance its interests. This is structurally disposed to advance corruption, which had become an 'incestuous relationship'.

And for the common man/woman/family on the street there has been only slight improvement: "Between 1994 and 2007 the ANC built 2.6 million houses. The number of homes with electricity doubled to 8.8 million. By 2007, over 87 per cent of people had access to clean running water. As of March 2008, 14.1 million people in South Africa were benefiting from the largest social welfare programme in sub-Saharan Africa" [Alec Russel, p. 93, 2009].

Now, although there has been a substantial improvement in African housing, however, the mass building of low-cost RDP houses [called "bush kennels"] being built by the ANC: "were smaller and of poorer quality than the houses built by the apartheid government. Under apartheid [the people] had fought against the building of five-hundred-square-foot houses. 'They were an insult. Now the [ANC] government is building us even smaller ones'" [p.95].

Residents thus complain about inferior, substandard housing and of a huge demand, despite attempts at the 'upgrading' of many squatter camps: tarred roads, proper sanitation and electricity provision, however patchy, uneven and insufficient.

Alec Russel was a correspondent of the London Financial Times, who first come to South Africa in 1994 and whose interviews and on-the-spot reports makes his one of the more illuminating of the books named above. His focus, not surprisingly, is on the economics of the current transition process and he presents much in the way of statistical evidence to bolster his arguments. In the end, he too, like Johnson, can be described as a "pessimist". And both look to regulated 'social liberal' market solutions.

There has been a noticeable slide in standards in public health and education (which already started at a low level). Life expectancy has fallen sharply among Africans and South Africa has actually fallen backwards in the UNDP Human Development Index.

The huge burgeoning squatter camps outside most urban core regions are a volatile mix of rural internal migrants, foreign refugees and entrepreneurs ["street vendors", petty commodity craftspeople, etc] with the occasional flaring-up of so-called xenophobic slaughter of 'the usual suspects' by necklacing, burning down of shacks and revenge killings. Much of this remains hidden and hence unreported.

Township residents are genuinely angry at the lack of better housing, sewerage, schooling and roads and the huge increase in crime and lawlessness. There is little sense of civic responsibility or even of the need to obey the law - a Wild West scenario that overspills the squatter camps into the more respectable middle class suburbs where the 'pickings' are greater.

The man-in-the-street bribes policemen and Home Affairs officials and bureaucrats; makes illegal telephone, water and electricity connections; refuses to pay for television licenses or rates. It is a culture of non-payment for services that has a long history in the townships. Steps to reverse this trend have not been very successful.

Township citizens defend his/her 'right' to do so by accusing fingers pointed at 'The Fat-Cat Politicians' "who are openly stealing", the culture of 'enrich yourselves' of the new black elite who have physically moved from the overcrowded, dangerous ghettos and of the 'culture of entitlement' that followed on the post-apartheid dispensation.

It is unlikely that Jacob Zuma and his erstwhile Leftist allies can change this situation. The slogan: "Phansi ngo Mbeki, Phambili ngo Zuma" ["Down with Mbeki, Up with Zuma"] had become popular with the downfall of the former unpopular, defeated and deposed President Thabo Mbeki in 2007.

Little has been heard of the latter who once spoke boldly of an "African Renaissance" and an African Initiative to Africa's problems. His seminal role in initiating and closing the Arms Deal is still to be investigated. Hopefully he will not escape the juridical net, where powerful political forces, as described by Feinstein (2009) and Crawford-Browne (2007) are at play with a desperate 'cover-up' operation.

The ANC contained many things: principled heroism, idealistic pawns and Stalinist apparatchiks, political opportunists and plain thuggery. The poisoning of popular MK commander Thami Zulu [real name Muziwakhe Ngwenya, known as "TZ"] was not an isolated incident. With many competing ideological influences, political and social forces to balance and appease, it will be a stormy and petulant period in South African politics we will now witness.

ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, backed up by Zwelinzima Vavi, chief of the Congress of Trade Unions, two of Zuma's strongest backers, have recently called for the "nationalisation" of the mining industry (they possibly mean its total "statization"), sparking off a debate that is as old as the Freedom Charter of 1956. But "Politics in Command!" eschews such serious discussion, where "quick-fix" solutions and "slogans" are the order of the day. Reason will be the first casualty. The South African economy the next.

But on the other side of the coin the media speaks of a 'new Zulu kleptocracy', of the Nkandla Mafia (Zuma's homelands base in the rural Midlands of Natal), black businessmen based in KwaZulu Natal who hope that the State's patronage and reward system will now 'trickle down' towards Zulu's and not Xhosas only this time. We will see!

The South African police measured more than 30,000 "gatherings'' - 15 or more people in some form of protest, for which permission is typically applied for a week ahead of time - from 2004-08. Of these, 10 per cent generated "unrest''.

The centralization of power under the President's office was well under way under Mbeki and now the Big Man has assumed power, can we now expect a corresponding development of "African Despotism" as the ANC struggles to maintain political hegemony in a disintegrating social environment, through thuggery, authoritarianism and a semi-militarist dictatorship?

A bemused and bewildered Tata Nelson Mandela celebrated his 91st birthday recently - he might have been thinking: "Now where is South Africa heading under this new ANC team?" Many of us share this sentiment.

South Africa braces itself for the coming World Cup Soccer extravaganza, July-August 2010. In 2006, the Jo'burg FNB Stadium and 5 new stadiums were to be built/upgraded, at a cost, then of R 9.1 billion. Since then the costs have escalated: the rand has fallen and on-site strikes and industrial protests about low wages had hampered the completion of these stadiums.

Maybe football sports-fans may re-think their planned trip down to South Africa next year, but as we all know, the "show must go on" ...
Source: http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politic...7711&sn=Detail