South Africa: The Future with Cyril
Step back to a time before Cyril Ramaphosa became the President of South Africa. This article was penned in 2012/2013 and it got lost in my dropbox, accidentally came across the article now and thought, why not publish it for the record?
Mangaung, the place of leopards, gave birth to an ANC leadership that interests the mind of every conscious progressive African. Exit Montlate, a man of decency. Enter Cyril, a man of questionable integrity. South Africa is not going to experience the change that it has so long waited for. Cyril is certainly not the man to change the world for the better. It all looks set that Cyril will be the man to take the reigns after Zuma.
Cyril is a man who has gone through a fundamental change in his life. A trade -unionist-turned-capitalist. An oppressed-turned-oppressor. A revolutionary-turned-conservative-capitalist, so determined to preserve the prevailing ruthless capitalistic order. Very few can boast such a resume. Very few indeed have had the chance to experience two opposite sides of life during a single lifetime.
In the eyes of the open-minded average man, Cyril is the perfect example of a sellout. A brother that sold out the struggle. He sold out his black brothers and sisters for huge sums of silver and gold, and notoriously platinum. Being a trade unionist and a key political figure within the ANC, he has been able to grab as much wealth as he could through BEE deals, the same deals that have failed South Africa. The BEE deals have not empowered the majority of South Africans but only a few well-connected and well-positioned blacks such as Comrade Cyril. Thus Mzansi has not experienced the economic transformation that everyone was looking forward to.
The masses had high hopes of fundamental economic changes that would result in the creation of a wide middle class from the majority of blacks. Instead, Mandela's leadership decided that the period just after the end of apartheid was not the right time to implement such changes. Mandela is a sacrosanct figure in South Africa and his “supreme” wisdom is never challenged. There appear to be some iotas of wisdom in the decision by the iconic Mandela to leave the economic status quo as it was and celebrate flag independence that had been gained. Probably in the eyes of the patriarch, the timing was wrong for effecting fundamental economic changes.
Enter Comrade Thabo; the creation of a black plutocratic class. The likes of Cyril and Motsepe grew richer at an astronomical rate, a million times faster than the economy. The plutocratic class grew from wealth to wealth, but the same class did not grow much in numbers. Thus the likes of Cyril and his fellow BEE jackals, connected tenderpreneurs, and ANC and COSATU heavyweights got empowered at the expense of the suffering masses. South Africa begged for independence, in every meaning of the word. What did they get? They got the image of Mandela to worship and adore. South Africa begged for economic independence soon after getting flag independence. What did they get? A small plutocratic class; a change in the color of the oppressor.
But Thabo did score a few victories with the masses. He managed to build houses for the poor South Africans. He managed to maintain the decency that the presidency deserves in the eyes of the public. He managed to maintain the presumed sanity that leadership is truly for the people. Thabo preserved the iotas of a belief that the system still has the capacity to represent the poor.
Enter Jacob; hypocrisy and lunacy. Jacob was elected on the hopes that he was as real as the ground he trampled on as he sang the revolutionary umshini wami song. South Africa elected Jacob because he looked like he was going to trample on the injustices of a perpetuated apartheid-rooted version of ruthless capitalism. Jacob was elected because he branded himself as one of us as opposed to Thabo who was “alien” to us. Thabo was branded as one of them, too much of an intellectual, one divorced from the sufferation of the black majority.
So far Jacob has not proved to have the balls we thought he had, the balls to challenge the economic order. The balls to re-arrange the scheme of things. In fact, we are not sure if he still represents the black majority. It seems as if he has not joined the battalion of staunch defenders of the black minority. He appears to have joined a breed of corrupt men determined to create a new black hegemony of ANC moguls.
It appears that they are all selling out the struggle as soon as they get into power. That has been the case across Africa. When we look at Cyril, we observe that he has already proved to be the sellout. This is way before he gets the button stick from Zuma after the later’s second term in office, which is yet to be ratified by the Mzasi electorate.
How likely is Cyril going to inherit the throne from Zuma? Although no one knows what the future holds, we can tell with a greater degree of certainty that nothing can stop Cyril from rising to the throne. ANC as we know it is unstoppable in South African politics. It is a giant that will continue to win elections naturally without rigging as long as there is no concrete opposition. The DA is nothing but just a collection of the remains of apartheid-era moguls. It is a party that suffers from an acute lack of a national agenda. It will not assume power any reasonable time soon.
Outside the ANC, South Africans really have no choice so they are forced to vote ANC or abscond from the ballot box at all. Either way, the guy selected by ANC politicians to be their leader will automatically become the leader of South Africa. Thus it is highly likely that Cyril will assume the presidency after Zuma. He is the crown prince. So the question is what kind of a future are we likely going to see during the coming times that Cyril will lead Mzansi?
The future with Cyril is going to be a victory for a ruthless version of capitalism. On his personal front, Cyril and his corporations will grow from strength to strength since he will be in a position to defend them from fierce completion by rivals and from the restless labor camp that he used to represent. Cyril will undoubtedly represent the plutocratic black minority and its interests. It is highly irrational to expect Cyril to represent the black majority. It is absurd to expect fundamental economic changes from a capitalist who bids R18,5million for a buffalo. Cyril is obviously the ruthless face of exploitative capitalism. The “Marikana Incident” crowned him the undisputed champion for this title. Comrade Cyril acted like an apartheid-era mine slave-driver. His decision-making and sentiments were equivalent to the apartheid era atrocities in their gross irresponsibility.
Thus the post-Zuma era will cement the black minority googa hegemony. What are the implications for the Mzansi? The rate of economic growth will be lower than what can be achieved by broadening economic participation through the creation of a wider middle class. The sustenance of black minority plutocracy and googa capitalism will rob the economy of the chance to become the next success story in rapid economic growth. The country has the potential to have high economic growth rates, double-digit ones. The economics behind is so simple, just imagine the number of transactions that can take place when about 15 million South Africans have been economically set free. The middle class is the key to economic growth, but government bureaucrats just don’t get it. The wider the middle class, the greater the number of people jumping into the upper class. The economy gets bigger.
Sustainable high growth rates can only be achieved by creating domestic-demand-led growth. The country cannot have high domestic demand with 30 million people out of the 50+ million stronghold population earning paltry bare-bones salaries. Cyril personally does not want the wages to be increased to boost up local demand, he desires to concentrate economic power in the hands of the few, a decision that will result in lower economic growth rates as compared to Brazil, China, and Argentina.
The second term of Zuma and the first term of Cyril, both of which can be described as near-certainties, can together be bundled as a lost decade for Mzansi in terms of the opportunity cost, the forgone economic growth rates. The FDI that will be lured by the investor-friendly policies and policy stability will bring meager growth rates, between 2%-4%. It will not drive the economy to higher growth rates in the neighborhood of 9%-15% that the country can attain.
The future with Cyril cannot be described as hopeless for economic development but can be described as mediocre. For the black majority, the future with Cyril is indeed hopeless because he is likely going to tighten the chains than loosen them up. The poor will remain poor or become poorer as they work hard to sustain economic growth. The middle class will stay where they are, right in the middle. The rich will get richer as they always do. Thus the gap between the rich and the poor will widen by a huge margin.
But Cyril being Cyril, it won’t be outrageous to expect a miracle. He might pull out a surprise as he always does when given the chance. It will be interesting to see the economy being headed by a businessman, trade unionist, capitalist and politician, all in one. He might actually prove us wrong by performing a transformation miracle. Unless a miracle happens, the future with Cyril looks dark.