BO Staff Writer
Yesterday’s budget speech by Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan was probably the most anticipated, most watched and most divisive speech since Gordhan was pushed into the National Treasury by captains of industry in 2015.
The speech was anticipated because of the deep rafts within the African National Congress (ANC) – the pro & anti Zuma factions, coupled with the big white media campaign to bolster Gordhan as saint and hero for economic justice. The speech was indeed divisive as it drew the pro & anti regime change lines very clearly within the nation.
Pro-regime change forces – Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Democratic Alliance (DA), white media & some ‘civil’ society organisations – hailed the speech as “balanced”, a unifier of the nation and pro-poor, while anti-regime change forces like Black First Land First (BLF) saw it as a white wash, an easy escape route for a minister who unfailingly has the interests of white capitalists at heart.
Gordhan, kicked off his 2017/18 budget speech by allaying the fears of the white “investors” – which have now become the bogeyman to halt all talk of radical seizure of land and the economy.
As the basis of his speech Gordhan reached for the Freedom Charter and unfurled its non-racialist stance for all to see. “South Africa belongs to all who live in it,” he said. To push further his stance of the equality of all races in South Africa, he went for Oliver Tambo (2017 is the centenary of the birth of Tambo) “[w]e seek to create a united, democratic and non-racial society. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity”. Gordhan sealed it all off by emphasising the sanctity of the Constitution of South Africa, and the responsibility “all of us” have in tackling “social and economic challenges”.
But, in his haste to appease “investors” and rating agencies using non-racialist “transformation” rhetoric, the minister skipped through the fact that slavery and colonialism by white people render(ed) black people (by law) only equal to oxen and furniture – mere things. He didn’t mention that land theft was key to this process of making black people into ‘things’. White people stole our land – through murder, rape, lynchings & castrations, then they created us into slaves. Even within the capitalist framework, we blacks don’t (didn’t) fit into neat definitions of workers/working class with labour to sell – we were the thing to be traded and/or sold to the highest bidder.
The minister revealed that he was using the term “radical transformation” as merely a catchphrase rather than a commitment to the idea, when he said, “transformation [will not] be achieved through conquest, conflict or extortion, as in our past.”
“We do not seek to reproduce the racial domination that was the hallmark of apartheid nationalism. Our transformation will be built through economic participation, partnerships and mobilisation of all our capacities. It is a transformation that must unite, not divide South Africans,” Gordhan said.
But through all the phony transformation talk we must ask, how will true “transformation”, decolonisation, justice and equality happen if we don’t fight for our land, economy and dignity?
Will white monopolies be destroyed without confrontation? Will white land owners simply return land to blacks without confrontation? The answer is a big no!
With the whole nation watching – and with the backing of white monopoly capital – Gordhan didn’t move an inch from the status quo. All his so-called ‘reforms’ were framed within a neo-liberal lens.
By failing to point to white supremacy and land dispossession as the initiators and drivers of South Africa’s socio-economic ‘inequalities’, Gordhan recommendations fail to even scrape the surface of dealing with our problems but instead absolves whites of their culpability to our current inequalities.