Transformation crossroads

Ido lekota

Ido lekota

President Thabo Mbeki will deliver what is known as the January Statement on Saturday.

In it, as the leader of the ruling party, he will outline the ANC's 2007 programme for dealing with the challenges of transformation.

In a way, the steps that Mbeki will outline in his State of the Nation address next month, emanate from the January Statement.

This year's statement comes at a time when the ANC is facing major challenges.

Among them is the succession debate - which has, unprecedentedly, created divisions within the party and within the tripartite alliance.

The leadership battle between Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Mbeki has compounded the situation.

This has led to the emergence of factions: supporters of Zuma on one side, and of Mbeki on the other, the latter saying he should take up a third term at the helm of the ANC.

Zuma's supporters have accused Mbeki of using state institutions to prevent uMsholozi from becoming the next president of the ANC and possibly of the country.

They say the rape charges Zuma faced, on which he was acquitted, and the corruption charges, are part of a political conspiracy to curtail Zuma's political career.

The unfortunate development is that these divisions have been used to deal with ideological challenges that the ANC faces in transforming the country.

For instance, Zuma has been projected as a messiah by those who feel betrayed by the ANC.

Mbeki, on the other hand, is seen as being in cahoots with the capitalists whose interests are wealth accumulation at the expense of the masses.

Some analysts say Zuma, as president, will continue with the macro-economic policies that Mbeki put in place.

It is, however, important not to dismiss the assertions made by Mbeki's critics, despite their seemingly unscientific nature in some instances.

Of importance is that they reflect disagreements within the ANC and the alliance about the direction the ruling party should take, or has taken, in dealing with transformation.

Also of importance is that those opposed to Mbeki's macro-economic policies, and the direction the ANC has taken in the transformation process, have raised some valid concerns.

One such is the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

One of the transformation processes the ANC undertook was the deracialisation of capital and job opportunities. This was done through black economic empowerment and affirmative action.

The result was the creation of a black middle class and of a tiny elite of wealthy blacks.

But statistics show that these changes have not been broadly based: though a few black people have climbed the socio-economic ladder, most ordinary people have remained in the grip of poverty and battle for economic survival.

Class contradictions have come to the fore.

Last month, Cosatu's Zwelinzima Vavi said 16,7percent of the employed people in South Africa earned less than R500 a month, 34,3percent earned under R1000 a month and 60percent of workers earned less than R2500 a month.

Many of these workers, Vavi said, were the sole income earners for their households.

Unemployment remains unacceptably high in South Africa.

However, the latest figures for the last quarter of last year indicate a 2,7percent growth in job opportunities, translating to 73000 new jobs.

This is far too low a growth rate and will not help the country reach even its modest objective of cutting unemployment by half by 2014.

The unfortunate reality is that, despite attempts to deracialise our society, unemployment continues to discriminate on the basis of race, age, gender and whether one lives in an urban or a rural area.

Then the government announced a poverty alleviation project.

Unfortunately, this development could mean that those getting social grants might be doomed to remain on grants forever because of the lack of job opportunities.

The other trajectory arising from the deracialisation of capital has been the development of crass capitalism and materialism.

This matter was raised by Mbeki himself last year.

Concerns have been raised within the ANC and the alliance about how some members of the party have used their political position to accumulate wealth.

During his speech to the Young Communist League in Durban last month, Vavi said these developments were due to the fact that the alliance had not properly analysed the power of capital.

"What we did not anticipate is that this would unleash the unbelievable levels of crass materialism and careerism that have combined to kill some of the best and finest traditions of our movement, such as solidarity and selflessness.

"As we have said so often, leaders are not standing at the back of the queue for the masses to feed themselves first, [instead] they push themselves to the front and take food out the mouths of the poor."

According to the SACP's Blade Nzimande, the deracialisation of capitalism has led to "parasitic capitalism".

"A system where access to governmental office is used to access resources, business opportunities, either within the state (tenders) and/or in private business.

"By its very nature, parasitic capitalism is thoroughly corrupt."