God is in the details…

Decolonisation: The perpetuation of normalised racism?

Source: Daily Maverick 29 Oct 2018

The VBS heist shows the dots of corruption connect with a much more comprehensive critique of the shallowness with which we are seeking to redress the injustices of our colonial and apartheid past.

The VBS heist — arguably the most brazen bank fraud in South Africa’s history — was recently dismissed by listeners of a radio talk-in programme as a campaign by the white-controlled media to discredit the only black owned and managed bank. 23

The rubbishing of South Africa’s first black government was also said to be part of the agenda. The host of the radio show — Stephen Grootes — tried to reason with the callers. He pointed out that the media was hardly white controlled, that the editors of the main newspapers were black, that the Governor of the Reserve Bank that commissioned the report — The Great Bank Heist — was black, as was the report’s author, Terry Motau.

He also asked if the reporting was factually wrong and, if not, was the media not supposed to report the facts? But nothing he said weakened the “white conspiracy” position of the callers.

This got me thinking. My reflections led via…

  • the largely ignored question of why the ANC has so recently and enthusiastically accepted a critique of colonialism seen almost exclusively as a white crime, and,

  • having made the discovery, to become ardent supporters of a racialised decolonisation project that subsumed apartheid, and,

  • why, even long before this discovery, it had adopted racialised policies and practices at the same time as celebrating the non-racialism enshrined in our Constitution, as a Founding Provision, 4

… to what appears to be an all-embracing racism that has brought us to where we are today and keeps us locked out of a non-racial future.

Race is so deeply woven into and explosive of the South African social fabric that there is an urgent necessity for any analysis helping to forge the key to unlocking the racial prison that is today’s South Africa.

My understandings of the heist and, more particularly, of the unsupported insistence that any scandal attached to VBS is a racist invention by the white media against a black bank and government, includes the following.

It begins with a simple proposition put baldly for the sake of clarity: A black identity, rooted in a rigid dualism that sees everything as either black or white — respectively, good or bad — creates intolerable stress on any negative perception of blacks. (The search for an exclusive identity is now a dominant, worldwide feature. Why this should be so is not explored here.)

For those inclined to dismiss the dualism as being too simple, let me invite examination of: (a) the sleight of hand that gives “race”, an effective genetic reality, even when, as is most likely, “race” is accepted as being nothing more than a highly malleable social construct; and, (b) the crudities of the all-embracing, “racial” stereotypes that have become dominant; stereotypes that allow for no exceptions because to allow for any deviation is to destroy the stereotype: If you’re “white”, you’re inescapably doomed — or blessed — to be “white”, whatever that means.

Regarding the denial of the heist, it must be recalled that Grootes’ attempts to counter the denial with a string of facts made no difference. 21

Even allowing for the different meanings of and intensities attached to being ‘black’, by people who embrace blackness, the blackness of the bank heist must create a sense of unease and, therefore, a disposition to look for other explanations. 5

Like the rotten apple one advanced by the well-known political journalist Ranjeni Munusamy. In her view, the heist was the work limited to “a group of gluttonous people”. Or, listen to the Deputy Finance Minister, Mondli Gungubele, for a variation of the denial Grootes encountered: “There is nothing black about this [heist], this is theft… it’s criminal. There is no worse way to insult black excellence [than] associating black people with what has happened at VBS. It has nothing to do with black excellence and has everything to do with thuggery”.

Alternative, non-racial, stereotype-free explanations for the VBS heist and the rampant corruption it represents are available. It goes like this, in my version:

By the early 1990s, at the latest, the ANC had abandoned any idea of even a moderate Keynesian transformation. The ANC’s new commitment was not only to safeguard capitalism but to help it grow so as to facilitate the creation of black capitalists. Preserving capitalism necessarily also meant the perpetuation of individualism, inequality and poverty. This was the new context immortalised by the ANC’s then national spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama saying he hadn’t struggled to be poor, as justification for being part of a lucrative BEE deal.

Would-be black capitalists, in an environment promoting individual wealth, face a challenge: How to become a capitalist without capital? We now know the answers: BEE, access to public money and affirmative action. All three are utterly dependent on one thing: Race.

This is explicit in the case of BEE, which, under capitalism, can only be black elite empowerment. Affirmative action can take a number of forms. In its South African iteration, it is not only explicitly racial but gives a post-apartheid institutionalisation to all the colonial/apartheid-invented “races”. Finally, we have come to know access to public money as corruption.

All three of the challenges to becoming a capitalist without capital draw heavily on white guilt and various forms of the idea of transformation as reparations for the injustices of the past. Until a few years ago, these injustices were apartheid-linked. Then, thanks to the student uprisings, the ANC (re-)discovered colonialism. And, hey presto, an additional 300 or so years were added to supposedly white crimes and, thereby, a still further boost for the claims of black entitlement.

What needs emphasising is that the crimes of both colonialism and apartheid were very real; it’s the racial colour-coding that is sloppy and/or opportunist. Also meriting emphasis is that the routes taken to create what former president Thabo Mbeki called the “black bourgeoisie”, is, in essence, no different from what capitalists everywhere in the world have done since the birth of capitalism itself some centuries ago.

This is to say, corruption is no more a “black” condition than colonialism or apartheid were features inherent in a “white race”.

Nevertheless, the cry for decolonisation is an idea whose time has truly come: It simultaneously adds to both black grievance and white guilt. The absence of a proper idea of what decolonisation means in practice compounds the effect on both.

This lack of clarity makes it much easier for the black bourgeoisie to use colour as a most convenient cover for advancing their own class interests, and, moreover, to do so to the accompaniment of applause from a working class (including the unemployed and otherwise marginalised) that sees itself as black. Just as “white” slavery and then capitalism bought off the white working class with privileges by association.

“Race”, however, serves as more than a club beating white guilt to open access to wealth and status. Its additional — and crucial — role is a protective one: it provides moral legitimacy to otherwise illegal or immoral behaviour.

How else to explain the number of participants in State Capture that goes far beyond just Zuma and the Guptas? I suspect that, for most of the actual participants, as well as many black observers, race serves a self-protective purpose: Effectively: “We are only taking back what the whites stole from us”.

The VBS scandal, I’m suggesting, highlights the self-reinforcing role race plays today. Race is essential for the black bourgeoisie, whether real or aspirant. It is the circumstance of being capitalists without capital; or, small capitalists in a world of big capitalists; or, recent professionals having to confront old professionals on their road to the top that constitute the primary energy driving the use of race.

However, the more race is used the more it is normalised and the more it is normalised the more it is evoked when needed to defend actions taken in the name of transformative decolonisation. More specifically, race is used when economic sectors or institutions or professional bodies are accused of still being “white dominated”. The race card is invariably evoked as the first defence by those accused of corruption or other forms of impropriety: “I’m being attacked only because I’m black”.

No surprise, therefore:

  • when, in response to VBS being placed under curatorship, in March this year, Tshifhiwa Matodzi, the chairman of VBS, who allegedly stole R326-million, claimed it was all a racist plot. “In the end, we were faced with a well-organised and powerful system which does not tolerate growing black banks and black excellence”;

  • that this claim was supported by the Black Business Council, which dismissed the initial reporting on the bank as “intimidation” intended to “retard the growth of black-owned businesses”;

  • that Werksmans Attorneys were attacked for their report on the bank, that, according to a senior bank executive, embodies “the very essence of whitism”.

Apart from the fightback by powerful people fighting to keep themselves out of prison, race is, additionally, almost certainly behind the selectively unenthusiastic implementation of the justice system. When the lack of enthusiasm is not because the implementing officials are themselves involved in questionable activities, the ambivalence is because of an empathy, whether conscious or not, with those considered to be implementing their own, unilateral reparations against the white colonisers. This is probably why the ANC’s own Ethics Committee has been such a failure.

In summary: the more the three (race-based) solutions to being a capitalist without capital are used for illegal or socially disapproved purposes the greater is the use of race in legitimising those purposes; a legitimisation that includes inaction.

The good news is that this self-reinforcing use of race and racism is not impregnable.

First and foremost, what is required is a critique of the almost unchallenged notion that a race-based transformation is a necessity. Moreover, it is invariably just accepted that this transformation takes place within the very capitalism guaranteed to leave poverty and inequality untransformed, for the vast majority.

The logic of this transformation is that monopoly capitalism is fine provided only that it becomes “black” rather than “white”. CEOs and their obscene pay are similarly fine provided only that 80% of them are black. This is to say, capitalism can “empower” only capitalists and “affirm” only an elite.

Black Economic Empowerment, like affirmative action, even when at their most successful, are guaranteed to leave most black people poor, even those lucky enough to have jobs. Apart from the fact that inequality is a global feature of capitalism, we already have more than 25 years of our own experience to confirm this reality.

BEE/affirmative action are a perfect scam. Not only do they enrich a tiny elite — almost two-thirds of the richest 10% of South African households are black — but they use the permanence of black poverty/white success to justify both their continued existence and, indeed, their demands that the legislation be enforced with even greater vigour.

This is a Left understanding of the marriage between capitalism and BEE/affirmative action. Exposing the role of race in these nuptials is therefore an urgent task that falls to the still largely silent Left.

It should be noted in passing that this strategic intervention against systemic corruption must also address the connection between outsourcing and corruption. Outsourcing virtually invites corruption by companies all essentially offering the same services at the same price. Corruption offers the often needed “competitive advantage”; public contracts always being “highly lucrative” makes the chase worthwhile. The alternative of “in-sourcing” reduces the market for corruption.

The required strategic intervention against corruption is by no means restricted to socialists. A critique of racism remains central to that strategy. However, the critique must be a principled one that does not leave the exposure of black racism to white racists.

One link between race and racism seems to be strangely neglected. Decolonisation is emptied of its energy without a White Enemy. Most conveniently for the decolonisers, they have an obliging Other. White guilt makes it very easy for them to be attacked. Many of the white beneficiaries and defenders of apartheid are still alive. But, people — deemed by others to be white — seem ready to take on the guilt arising all the way back to 1652! This is an extraordinary perversion of a natural justice all of us take for granted.

Thus, for instance, when Floyd Shivambu angrily reminded his accusers that he was not responsible for whatever his brother might have done, they backed off. But the “white race”, in its entirety, is expected to accept — and does largely accept — responsibility for the actions of people from the 17th century; people about whom they are likely to have as much knowledge as they do of the Man in the Moon.

Lawyers, regardless of colour, ought to be reminding everyone that the law — rightly — does not allow for such never-ending, transgenerational guilt, regardless of what might be its popular appeal.

It would be nice to think that the VBS heist may yet become recognised as a decisive turning point. The heist shows how a black identity makes it difficult to acknowledge a black owned and controlled bank shamelessly robbing black clients. That the clients were desperately poor, adds to the difficulty.

The heist further offers an understanding of the extent to which a black identity is mainly driven and sustained by a racialised access to scarce resources. Making race the road to riches is legitimised by a racism normalised to render all white people inescapably and permanently guilty of the crimes of apartheid. The fortuitous and recent arrival of the ideology of decolonisation further fuels this legitimisation.

“Connecting the dots” has become a popular challenge. The VBS heist shows the dots of corruption connect with a much more comprehensive critique of the shallowness with which we are seeking to redress the injustices of our colonial and apartheid past.

What passes for “transformation” is its opposite: the permanence of an economic system in which transformation can never be more than elite empowerment. DM

Source: Decolonisation: The perpetuation of normalised racism?

The Self Destruct Button

In the past two weeks we have seen Zanu PF virtually tearing itself apart and in the process it is sealing the fate of the country. I have never seen the country in such a state of despair and despondency. Last week I was on a plane to Kenya and spoke to a businessman who was on his way to a lodge on the Zambezi in Zambia to spend a few days fishing and relaxing. He said to me that he simply had to get away. He has closed his factory and put it onto a care and maintenance basis as they could not cope with the power outages.

We have a new Minister of Indigenisation and I think he has been smoking Mbanje. He has announced a series of meetings with people to discuss his strategy – he plans a massive “levy” (tax) on business to fund the acquisition of a majority controlling stake in all “foreign” owned business. The new levy, coming on top of a myriad of other levies and taxes, will cripple existing firms who are going to be forced to pay (indigenous firms are exempt) and you can imagine the excitement at the feeding trough as locally politically connected individuals get an opportunity to take control of successful business enterprise at no cost to themselves.

The company owners so dispossessed, will take their money and run, because we are dollarized they will not be as badly off as the commercial farmers have been, but they will still only get a small fraction of the real value of their life’s work and have to start afresh somewhere else. You think I am being alarmist, think again. Whoever imagined that the State here would forcibly and illegally take over some $30 billion in farm assets, without compensation and in the process destroy the leading agricultural industry in Africa? But they have done it.

What is left of the formal economy will simply close down – unable to borrow money because no one trusts the new “owners” and in any event – what sort of security will they have in a politically volatile State where at the whim of a politician, your legal rights can be completely disregarded, assets pillaged without adequate of legal compensation. The Minister will argue that this is legal – it is the “law” even though it violates the constitution and every possible aspect of natural justice.

To compound the problems created by this new drive to implement the original intentions of the indigenisation laws, the advice given to Mr. Mugabe when he paid a State visit to China that he must set up an orderly, planned succession for the post of the President; must change his economic policies because they are “not catching fish”; and must repair his fractured relations with the major western powers, are simply being ignored. Instead he continues to play games, like a senile old man, with everyone. One minute he is pushing Mr. Mnangagwa forward, the next its Mr. Mpoko, then it’s his wife who seems to take center stage and the bizarre spectacle of Grace at a rally in the Eastern Highlands handing out tractors and groceries in such quantities that many could not carry them home, is just absurd.

As the center of power in Zimbabwe, which has dominated and controlled the country since 1980, disintegrates, no new center is being established in an orderly way, instead we have a crude form or war lordism – factions which seek to secure their grip on power for themselves, even though they have no constituency or legitimacy.  This is a completely different game to the one that was played between Zanu PF and the MDC up to 2013, this is much more deadly and involves people on all sides with weapons and money and completely unprincipled avarice.

Suddenly the one thing that has held this country together seems at risk – our social, political and physical stability. Although we have been a State at war with itself for 35 years, only now have elements come into play with the means and the determination to take whatever steps are required to assume control of what is left of Zimbabwe. Like a pack of hyenas seeking to take a carcass away from an elderly lion.

In 1976 I felt the same way about Rhodesia. I was a senior executive in a very large organisation led by a brilliant Board of Directors. The war was intensifying and there was no sign of any change of heart by any of our political leaders. Ian Smith was totally in charge, totally determined to fight on. The Nationalist leadership inside and outside the country simply wanted him to carry on fighting, knowing full well that in the end they would win and take over what was left. Thinking Rhodesians could see no future and the flight of tens of thousands was underway to other countries.

I went to My Chairman for advice and he said to me “Eddie, the only thing you and I can do is come to work tomorrow and carry out our responsibilities to the best of our ability”. I was deeply disappointed in the advice but as I matured, I recognised the wisdom and I did just what he advised.

In this present situation – much worse that in 1976 or 2008, there is little we can do to change the course of events. You can take flight and pack up and leave for greener pastures where life is more predictable and safe. Or you can do what we have done, determine that as Africans, as citizens of Zimbabwe, we have every right to stay and to operate here and to make our views known. I was regarded in 1976 as an “enemy of the State” for my political and economic views. The same can be said of me today, but I am not going to change or flee to safer climes. Instead I choose to do what Willy Margolis advised nearly 50 years ago – go about your business and do it to the best of your ability.

In the case of Rhodesia it was Henry Kissinger, in September 1 976, who came into the situation and brought about the essential changes that were necessary to eventually end the war and bring us to Independence. In a way the same situation exists today but it is unlikely, even impossible, that any major Western State would choose to expend precious political and economic power on trying to break the deadlock here. The motivation is just not there.

It is only South Africa and the former “Front Line States” in the SADC that have the power and the reason to take action to prevent this country from self destruction the way Kissinger and Mbeki did in 1976 and 2007. Will they do so? I doubt because of the nature of political leadership in the region and the character of intergovernmental relations in Africa.

If that is the case then we had better prepare for tough times ahead. The self destruct button is firmly in the hands of those who are fully prepared to use it and if they do, the consequences for all of us are going to be tough medicine.

Eddie Cross

Harare 21st October 2015

Received by email from: EG Cross

Freedom of Expression ??

Not in South Africa. News24 has closed the door and for reasons that are beyond me I’ve been banned off Daily Maverick – so it seems you don’t get a warning or your comment deleted, they just shut you down for good, which is ironic beyond my ability to express – as they themselves as so vocal about their right to express their opinions.

And to think I recommended them to just about everyone I know…

Living in a Lunatic Asylum by Eddie Cross.

The man who created Singapore died a few days ago. I watched his son, now Prime Minister himself, give the eulogy at his father’s funeral, it was a brilliant speech, almost a sermon and deeply moving. At one stage he made the point that his father had been one of a generation who had struggled to bring their nations to independence from a colonial power (Britain in this case), then had to deal with all the usual post Independence conflicts and struggles in a multi ethnic society. His tribute to his father was that he took Singapore from a muddy backwater with a majority Chinese society, previously suppressed and discriminated against by the Malay majority during an ill fated Federation and created a non racial, progressive and hugely successful society.

He specifically mentioned those of his father’s generation who had failed to do this in their own countries.

Clearly the most extreme example of one such leader must be Robert Gabriel Mugabe. He took up the reins of power in a country that had a British colonial history, had been in a short lived Federation and where the majority had been discriminated against. But there the comparison ends, unlike Singapore, he inherited a country that was rich in natural resources, self sufficient in food and water and with a well educated, even sophisticated leadership, albeit a tiny minority. Its income per capita was the second highest in Africa with a diversified economy and reasonable infrastructure.

Today, 35 years later, Zimbabwe is one of the poorest countries in Africa, has double the percentage of its people living in absolute poverty, has seen over a third of its population migrate to other countries and is now unable to pay even a modest salary to its long suffering civil servants. On the index of economic and political freedom, Zimbabwe is well down in the bottom quintile of all nations, its average life expectancy is half that of Singapore, its income per capita just 2 per cent of Singapore’s $55 000 a year average income. Singapore is number 2 in the world on the Freedom Index.

It is all about leadership. That is the ability to make the right decisions at the right time, to exploit every opportunity that comes along and to act as a steward of national resources, especially the national income.

In Zimbabwe it’s a bit like living in a lunatic asylum, but only worse, because sometimes I think the patients are actually in charge. I never supported the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Ian Smith in 1965. How could a tiny country like Rhodesia, take on the whole world and at the same time expect 3 per cent of its population to be able to suppress a 97 per cent majority in a hostile continent? It was doomed to failure and I was part of a small group of young leaders in 1973 that went to Mr. Smith and argued that he had to do a deal or face defeat. He rejected our analysis and was virtually removed from power in 1976 leaving his community and his country on auto pilot and leaving strangers to determine what sort of framework and leadership we had to work with after Independence in 1980.

Mr. Mugabe took over a small country without significant debt, the support of the whole world, an open cheque book when it came to external funding and a hard working, reasonably educated people. Zimbabwe had the most advanced agricultural system in the third world, had many strong institutions of research and development in key sectors and was strategically located in the center of what has become one of the main nodes of growth in the world. There were 17 PhD graduates from some of the best universities in the world in his first Cabinet.

What has gone wrong? Unlike Singapore we are a text book example of a monumental failure of leadership. Mr. Mugabe took over a police force that was honest, committed and well run. It is now nearly totally corrupt, unable to respond to even the most simple of crimes and it is hardly worth reporting a crime to, even when the cost has been very high. Worse, the police have become part of a repressive political machine that has denied the people of Zimbabwe their choice of leadership 5 times in the past 15 years.

He has taken an agricultural industry that once fed the nation at the lowest cost in Africa, practiced the most advanced forms of conservation and high technology on the continent, almost in the world in some sectors, employed a third of the labour force in the country and generated half its exports and even more of its industrial activity and simply smashed it to pieces. The editorial in yesterdays Sunday Mail stated Zambia is doing something right and Zimbabwe would do well to find out what it is and apply what it can to our local context.  Extraordinary when you appreciate that the agricultural turn around in Zambia is mainly due to the arrival and settlement of several hundred Zimbabwean farmers who were essentially expelled from Zimbabwe and in the process lost their entire savings from a hundred years of enterprise.

He has failed to build a single power station, failed to construct a kilometer of new railway line or road, failed to plant a single new plantation of trees or fruit or coffee or tea. Instead he has built monuments to the dead at heroes acre in Harare and has allowed our social infrastructure to crumble and decay. He insists on assuming the Chancellorship of every University and capping every student every year, but allows his wife to accept a fraudulent PhD from the University of Zimbabwe.

Now, in the middle of perhaps the most serious political and economic crisis we have faced since Independence, he expels the former Vice President and his most loyal associate, Joyce Mujuru from the Party she has supported and worked for over 40 years. More seriously, she has the majority support of the membership and structures of the Party and will take what is left of Zanu PF out into the wilderness with her. It’s a completely irrational and nonsensical decision that defies all logic. More seriously it undermines the unity and cohesiveness of the country at a time when we need to get together to resolve our difficulties and put our house in order.

We need a national government and a new transitional arrangement to repair the damage done by three decades of lousy leadership and bad, corrupt government, I really do not think that anything less, will get us out of the mess we are in at present and time is not on our side. Recent decisions are no longer rational and this must be of concern to all of us, both inside and outside Zimbabwe.


Eddie Cross

Harare 6th April 2015


BOHICA – Bend over here it comes again..

when the ANC took over they saw all this money sitting in a magic room marked – MAINTENANCE/UPKEEP

they pocketed the money and were happy when they went back and the magic room was once again filled with money.

many years passed and many ANC members visited the magic room and pocketed the money.

then one day it came to pass that holes appeared in the roads, the lights started going off and the water stopped flowing.

so they called a meeting and one among them said: eish.

there is no word in the ANC vocabulary for maintenance, like the taxi drivers they drive the taxi until it falls apart, then they climb out of it and run away.

the lack of regular maintenance is now catching up with them BIG TIME.

every second article in the news these days says we we need X billions for water, XX billions for eskom XY billions for SAA/SABC/SAPO the list goes on

the ANC’s sense of entitlement has filtered down to the masses

and now, as a consequence, the minority tax paying base may as well be slaves to the lazy ANC supporting masses who just WANT, but aren’t prepared to DO.

welcome to the TRUE NEW Sout Africa.

put your candles on standby and stock up on bottled water, you’re gonna need it.

And the Oscar goes too…..

As the arguments rage about what sentence Oscar should get, it is clear to me that it won’t fit the crime.

With all due respect to the useless Judge who allowed Oscar to sit there and be his pathetic self, instead of sending him to a room where he could watch the proceedings via a camera.

This case is a travesty in so many ways. South Africa is supposed to be championing the rights of women everywhere.

Proof yet again, that he who has the money, can present the best case.

The NPA has done an okay job of attempting to nail Oscar, but the best the NPA has to offer, has seen people like Zuma walk away from being accused of corruption and rape to become president. Now there is war raging within the NPA – they should consider a name change to: Not Prosecuting Anybody.

Roads and the things on them

Will the owner of the Black VW Polo, registration # VHH344GP, please send me your address. I’d like to send you some manners.

So much for that theory..

How come I’m not surprised that our new president checked his spine at the door. Dude, I had really high hopes for you. Guess the words ‘honest’ and ‘politician’ don’t belong in the same sentence together.

You have to admire Mugarbage, at least he has a pair.

A big f’ing thank you !

Made the mistake of going to watch a movie at the east rand mall on Sunday. The movies started 15 minutes late, and we got to watch while this gorilla sized idiot, gave his girlfriend a saliva transplant and then ate his lunch. Then the dumb blonde about 4 rows in front of us, decided to send an sms. It never dawned on here that her cell phones back light was quite clearly visible to the whole cinema (and probably from the top of the Carlton Centre). Then to our left, someone decided to eat the ice left over from her cooldrink. Bears attacking tourists make less noise than she did.

I love movies. I watch the trailers, then about 8 months to a year later, I go and watch the actual movie. Then some idiot ruins it for me. This is on top of sitting in a dirty cinema, and having to cough R45 for a ticket.

Cinemas are not coffee shops, if you want to bore someone to death with the details of your boring life, go to a wimpy, or even better, stay at home, no one actually cares about you.

Here’s the deal, I won’t pee in your swimming pool, and you don’t talk in my cinema.


Can someone please explain the difference between a criminal and a trader ? One steals your Tv, the other, your life. One goes to jail, the other on retirement.