ANC’s betrayal: From liberation to inequality – the soaring wealth gap in South Africa: Andrew Kenny

In three decades of ANC rule in South Africa, the promise of dismantling apartheid’s racial inequality has given way to a deliberate shift towards economic disparity. The ANC, once a symbol of liberation, has fostered a black elite centred around political leaders, widening the wealth gap. The opulent lifestyles of the ruling class, coupled with policies like BEE, have fueled class inequality, resulting in high crime rates. As the ANC clings to outdated displays of status, the call arises to dismantle these entrenched hierarchies and embrace a truly equal society.

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By Andrew Kenny

Thirty years of ANC rule have brought massive inequality to South Africa.

The ANC inherited one type of inequality from the apartheid state and turned it into another. It did so deliberately. It deliberately adopted policies that would widen inequality. It is said that South Africa is now the most unequal society on Earth; I don’t know about that, but she is certainly one of the most unequal. One of the consequences of high inequality is high levels of violent crime. We have among the highest murder rates on Earth. Poverty does not cause violence; inequality does. (I shall explain why below.)

Before 1990, South Africa suffered the inequality of race. The white rulers deliberately took all the best of everything for whites, reserved the highest-paying jobs for whites and, under apartheid, took most of the land for the white minority and left a small patchwork of mainly poor land for the black majority.

Whites were overwhelmingly richer than blacks. After 1990, the worst of the apartheid laws were scrapped and by April 1994, when the ANC came to power, the way was clear to reduce inequality, to allow everyone to join the formal economy, to allow all to own property wherever they wanted, to let everyone get a decent job, to give everyone the same access to good education, in short to grant equal opportunities for all. The ANC did not allow this to happen. It denied equal opportunities for everyone and deliberately promoted massive inequality – but this time the inequality was by class, not race.

Black elite

Today the rich whites are joined at the top of the highest wealth class by a black elite centred around the ANC, but also including the South African Communist Party (SACP) and EFF leaders. It dominates central government and most local government, where its enormous army of cadres, funded by the taxpayers, earn huge salaries and enjoy extensive perks.

BEE has greatly enriched a small black elite at the expense of the large black majority. Politically-connected black businessmen, reliant on BEE contracts and racial preferment in tenders, have become very rich, while the economy has been crippled by these policies. The gap between the black working classes and the black bourgeoisie has become enormous. What might strike an outsider who doesn’t understand Africa is why the black elite make so little effort to hide their luxurious lives from the eyes of the poverty-stricken masses. Quite the opposite, they flaunt their opulence before the masses, almost as if they were sneering at them.

I’m told that ANC leaders mock economy class passengers as flying ‘cattle class’. It seems they themselves always fly business class or first class. What do they think of the vast majority of South Africans who are too poor to fly at all? Pig class?

In 2009, upon being appointed Minister of Higher Education by President Zuma, Blade Nzimande, who was then Secretary-General of the South African Communist Party (SACP), took ownership of a brand new R1.1 million BMW 750i, paid for by the government (taxpayers). That is about R2.2 million in today’s money. (In case anybody asks about my own car, I bought a 1984 Suzuki SJ410 for R27,000 in 2000. It is still my only car.)

Fortune of public money

Nobody in the ANC coalition seemed to think it at all strange that a fortune of public money should be spent on the private transport of a communist leader, buying him a luxury car from a capitalist country, while the black working classes are forced to use unreliable, dangerous public transport. The rest of the ANC leaders also used private transport (BMWs, Mercedes and so on) while the masses use public transport.

They send their own children to private or semi-private schools (Model-C schools), while the masses are forced to send their children to terrible state schools under ANC administration. They use private health care themselves but want the masses to use public health care. They live in mansions in the suburbs while the masses live in small houses in the townships or shacks in the squatter camps. They parade their fancy clothes and expensive adornments before the masses. Julius Malema’s famous 2017 shopping list includes Emporio Armani, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Lacoste and other capitalist luxuries. He obviously saw no contradiction between this and his Leninist-Marxist ideology and the red overalls he wears in Parliament.

What is the explanation for this extraordinary behaviour by the black elite?

Humans are deeply social animals. They have divided themselves into hierarchies for hundreds of thousands of years. (Other social animals do the same.) The more status you had, the higher your class and the more power you had over others. Right from the beginning, chiefs, kings and rulers emerged to lord it over their subjects. The more traditional the society, the sharper the class distinction and the greater the emphasis on status.

Enormous status

African chiefs had enormous status, far greater than that of any US president, and demanded far greater servility from their subjects. The chief’s subjects had to crawl on their knees before him and were not allowed to look at him. I suppose European chiefs behaved in a similar way a long time ago. Today Sub-Saharan Africa is the most class-conscious region on Earth, the most obsessed with status.

When the colonial powers left, the black leaders who succeeded them kept all their ceremonial displays and pageantry, and added to them. The new black African leader had far higher status than the departing colonial leader, and made the gap between himself and his subjects far greater.

When Ian Smith, the Prime Minister of Rhodesia, travelled officially, he travelled in the back of an old Peugeot, driven by a single chauffeur. Nobody would have noticed him. When Robert Mugabe succeeded him in 1980, he travelled in a fleet of gleaming new black Mercedes with sirens screaming and motorcycle outriders around them, driving everybody else off the road. This was to demonstrate his high status, his great power, his great wealth, his immense superiority over his subjects. This was to make sure that everybody noticed him and knelt before him. Other black African leaders have behaved in a similar way.

Ordinary black people

It seems that this was what ordinary black people expected of their black leaders. If Mugabe had ridden a bicycle through the streets of Harare, as some European monarchs do in their own towns, the people would have been horrified. Mugabe would have been a laughingstock. In South Africa, ANC mayors act like mini-Mugabes, racing through towns in black BMWs with blue lights flashing, driving the peasants out of their way.

Communist leaders behave in similar fashion to traditional African leaders. The leading communist country in the world today is North Korea, ruled by Comrade Kim Jong Un. (Che Guevara visited North Korea in 1960 and proclaimed it a model for Cuba to follow. He thought it represented the Leninist-Marxist ideal.)

Comrade Kim lives in extreme luxury, enjoying expensive goodies from the capitalist West, while there is mass starvation in his country and brutal oppression of the working classes. The North Korean people are ordered to regard him as a god and to prostrate themselves before him. He is the ‘vanguard of the revolution’. Consistent with Marxist practice, Kim has inherited his power from his father and grandfather, much like an African king. Around the world, other communist rulers have despised and impoverished their working classes, and placed themselves at the top of a rigid class hierarchy.

This explains the behaviour of the ANC elite and the SACP elite since liberation in 1994. It explains Comrade Nzimande’s expensive capitalist car: it confirms his own great wealth and status and emphasises his superiority over the working classes. It explains why the ANC has caused the great class inequality in South Africa. But why has this inequality led to so much violence?

No greater correlation

In all the statistics of social behaviour, I am told that there is no greater correlation than that between inequality and violence. The inequality is usually measured by the GINI coefficient, which measures inequality in per capita income. I am told that South Africa has the worst GINI coefficient in the world, but I have never seen one for North Korea, which I guess would be worse.

However, South Africa’s is terrible. Any country, province or city that has high GINI inequality also has high violence. If everybody is poor, violence is low. If everybody is rich, violence is low. If some are rich and others are poor, violence is high. The violence is almost always caused by young men. The violence is not directed by the poor against the rich but by the poor against each other. In South African slums next to opulent suburbs, the violent young men of the slums do not kill the rich people of the suburbs; they kill each other.

The explanation is to do with male competition for females – a perennial theme in animal life over the last half billion years. Men compete for women on status – or success, which is the same thing. This is just a fact of nature. I know relations between the sexes are also guided by love, gentleness and shared interests, but high status makes men attractive to women. Men can achieve status by various means, including wealth, fame, power and, unfortunately, violence.

Compete where they can

When poor men in a slum see rich men in a suburb winning women with their high incomes, splendid houses, fancy cars and other displays of wealth, they know they cannot possibly compete on these terms. So they compete where they can: with violence. They achieve status by killing people, their own poor people.

You can see this vividly in greater Cape Town, where I have lived most of my life. Gangsters spread terror in poor, coloured townships and earn themselves high status. A brutal gang leader becomes a ‘man of respect’. A friend (white), a soccer player and a committed Christian, had many dealings with young coloured men in the course of his sport and religion.

A rather shy young man once approached him for Christian advice. This young man had proved himself a superlative shot with a pistol (at showgrounds and elsewhere). He was approached by a gang. They wanted him to work for them as an assassin. If he accepted, and killed a lot of people, he would make a lot of money and get any woman he wanted, since some women are powerfully attracted to violent men. (Whenever a man is imprisoned for sadistic murders, there is always a long list of women wanting to marry him. Jack the Ripper could have had his pick of women. Charles Manson was inundated with offers.) I don’t know what happened to this shy young man.

What today? African attitudes are changing, thank goodness. In our rural areas, the people still respect the higher status of the chiefs and ANC leaders. In the urban areas, they have stopped doing so. They no longer bow and scrape before a communist leader in a 750i BMW or a president who flies to the UK Queen’s funeral in a private jet with a big entourage of cronies enjoying R24,000 each in catering expenses. ‘More caviar, comrade?’ no longer impresses.

Beginning to pall

The class inequality of traditional Africa is beginning to pall. Let’s strive to end it completely. Let’s fight this horrible inequality and violence. Let everybody enter the formal economy. Let everybody get decent education, healthcare, transport and housing. Scrap BEE, affirmative action and cadre deployment, which only favour the elite.

Jobs and contracts should depend on what you know, not who you know. Appointments should be made on merit alone, not your ranking in the class hierarchy. Get rid of the restrictive labour laws, minimum wages and bargaining councils, which prevent poor people from becoming employees and employers. Remove all barriers to investment in South Africa.

Make it cheap, easy and quick to do business in South Africa, and allow anybody to do so. Since the private sector nearly always (not always) does things better than the state sector, allow the private sector to compete against the state sector everywhere. Nothing breaks down traditional class barriers and traditional inequality as much as the free market and rampant capitalism. Karl Marx, wrong about most things, was right about this.

In the Communist Manifesto, he wrote that when capitalism got the upper hand it ‘put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his ‘natural superiors’. He said it replaced class with money and the market. Quite true.

The trouble is that whenever Marxists came to power, they felt themselves to be ‘natural leaders’, and wanted to retain ‘feudal ties’. The ANC, EFF and SACP leaders feel themselves to be ‘natural superiors’ and want to retain class differences. To get rid of our massive inequality, we must get rid of them.

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Andrew Kenny is a writer, an engineer and a classical liberal.

This article was first published by the Daily Friend and is republished with permission