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Pravin Gordhan absolves whites using “transformation” rhetoric

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.

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