COMRADES IN BEE HEAVEN, MASSES IN HELL OF POVERTY

BY SOME luck I found myself at an ANC Youth League branch meeting in Sandton. Those who know say this is the wealthiest branch of the ruling party. Anyway, the topic for discussion was appetising: "BEE a new form of colonialism?"

BY SOME luck I found myself at an ANC Youth League branch meeting in Sandton. Those who know say this is the wealthiest branch of the ruling party. Anyway, the topic for discussion was appetising: "BEE a new form of colonialism?"

The invite was accompanied by a picture of whites in the Berlin Conference in 1884 where Europeans gave each other nice portions of our continent, in the process creating the African borders and nation states.

Before colonialism, Africans roamed their continent freely. There were no silly borders which helped create wars and social tensions such as xenophobia.

My interest in the meeting was bolstered by the fact the latest New Frank Talk discusses the issue of how post-independence and post-apartheid have turned our leaders into "black colonialists" and how to move beyond this tragedy.

According to the Nigerian writer Dr Chinweizu, after liberation our leaders simply took over from the white oppressors and continued the system that exploited and oppressed the majority. As he says, "there has simply been a changing of colour of the staff, from white to black in the same imperialist prison".

I wanted to know how the youth in the forefront of the National Democratic Revolution understood matters. What I got instead was an unforgettable lesson in double speaks and utter mumbo-jumbo with a purpose.

The meeting started with a feeble quotation of the brave and visionary words of young Solomon Mahlangu as he faced the apartheid hangman: "My blood will nourish the tree of freedom." Then we were told that without economic liberation there is no real freedom. Later it became clear that when the comrades say economic liberation they actually mean they must become super rich on behalf of the masses, who were only mentioned as an after-thought. The NDR is not a matter for the riffraff.

My first lesson was on something called "dialectics" and "unity of opposites". Dear reader, if you don't know what these words mean don't worry. Most people who use them don't know what they talk about either. It's all part of the mumbo-jumbo to bedazzle you, to make you think they know something you don't. The chairperson told us that in the ANC alliance you have "hard-nosed communists side by side with unapologetic capitalists". Well that's dialectics for you. It's actually like saying, heaven and hell are the same place. The trouble is that the comrades are in BEE heaven and are fighting for more while the majority are in the hell of poverty. What unites these two groups?

The young "unapologetic" black businessman who led the discussion said he has made "quite a bit of money from BEE" and that the ruling party was given the BEE mandate by the impoverished voters. Strange, I thought. When the matter of how BEE was actually devised by white capital through creating a black middle stratum to protect its interest and subvert real transformation was raised a leading politician, who is reported to have benefited from dodgy tender processes in excess of R200 million, stood up to defend BEE as part of nation building. Again I wondered how you build a nation through a process that traps the majority in apartheid-like poverty and underdevelopment?

I left the meeting with three clear lessons: words mean nothing when there is a BEE train to catch, the masses have no place in that train, except as voters, workers and cleaners and if you want to be "empowered", learn a few strange words and join the party.

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