The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
By Alec Hogg
I guess one had to be in Beijing to appreciate the nuance and context. But reading through one of SA president Cyril Ramaphosa’s speeches at the China/Africa Forum left me decidedly uncomfortable. Especially considering the appalling record of African nations which have adopted socialist economic policies.
For most of humanity, Chinese leader Mao Zedong is counted among earth’s most evil dictators. Scholars estimate his various ideologically-based campaigns like China’s “Great Leap Forward” caused the unnatural deaths of between 40m and 80m of his fellow citizens. Even in his homeland Mao’s legacy, at best, gets a mixed press.
The well-read Ramaphosa knows that. Yet yesterday he happily cited Mao at the end of a speech fulsome with praise for the hosts of the latest renewal of the once-every-three-years Forum on China Africa Co-operation (FOCAC).
Especially disturbing were Mao’s words which Ramaphosa finds so inspiring: “To achieve a lasting world peace, we must further develop our friendship and co-operation with the fraternal countries in the socialist camp…” Kinda squashes lingering hopes that SA will embrace free enterprise as a path to prosperity. Instead, we probably need to brace for another ANC jump to the left.
A response from Sara Gon*
Alec Hogg recognises that this dashes our hopes that SA will embrace free enterprise as a path to prosperity. “Instead, we probably need to brace for another African National Congress (ANC) jump to the left.”
In the six months of his presidency of South Africa, Ramaphosa has moved us towards socialism faster than any leader before him.
Ramaphosa is a master practitioner of passive-aggressive politics. He allows an impression to be created though not through anything he has said about himself.
Ramaphosa has never said he supports the free market, nor that he is a classical liberal, nor that he is ‘business friendly’. These are all assumptions Ramaphosa has allowed to take root – he has neither confirmed nor denied them.
What he has said is that he is a socialist. His speech at the Centenary Celebrations of the birth of Nelson Mandela on 18 July 2018 was unambiguous:
‘A defining moment in his [Mandela’s] political development was when he was able to overcome his hostility towards the Communist Party of South Africa.
Through hours of intensive engagement with comrades like Walter Sisulu and Moses Kotane, he came to appreciate the contribution of communists in the National Democratic Revolution.
He came to understood the class content of the national struggle and the national content of the class struggle.
This moment in the evolution of his political thought is instructive, because it demonstrates the extent to which even the greatest leader is shaped by the circumstances of struggle, by the movement and by those around them.’
Ramaphosa so unabashedly admires Mandela’s succumbing to communism. However, he has never made any reference to the advice Mandela received at Davos in 1992 by Li Peng, then Chinese premier, that China had tried socialism and it hadn’t worked.
Despite his extensive involvement in business, he remains a dedicated, deployed cadre of the ANC in the classical Marxist-Leninist mould.
The ANC deployed him to business to become one of very few beneficiaries of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) deals, which aimed at creating wealth for the ANC outside its structures. The ANC entrusted selected individuals to gain access to substantial wealth to ensure that the ANC too would benefit. In the process Ramaphosa became obscenely wealthy. As at February 2018, Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at over R6 billion.
Forbes noted: ‘Although, not a member of the South African Communist Party (SACP), Ramaphosa claimed that he was a committed socialist.’ No one raised an eyebrow.
The National Democratic Revolution (NDR) has often been hailed by Ramaphosa and the ultimate goal of NDR is a socialist state.
That the NDR and the communism that formulated it has failed wherever it has been practised matters not at all to Ramaphosa.
‘To realise Madiba’s dream the 54th Conference of his organisation took forward looking decisions on how we can empower our people through giving them their land back through expropriation without compensation. This process in itself will lead to enhancing the growth of our economy and increase agricultural production and food security.
The return of Land to our people will unleash enormous growth in our economy.’
Ramaphosa’s constant promotion of ‘expropriation without compensation’ (EWC), ahead of the findings of parliament’s Joint Constitutional Review Committee (JCRC), borders on sinister.
Ramaphosa never acknowledges that incompetence, corruption and a shortage of funding by successive ANC governments are amongst the reasons for a lack of success in land reform.
Ramaphosa never mentions the ‘High Level Panel on the Assessment of Key Legislation and the Acceleration of Fundamental Change’ chaired by former president Kgalema Motlanthe. The section on land records many failings of the government including incompetence, breaches of the Constitution by the minister and others, and policy incoherence.
Ramaphosa has given mixed messages on whether land ownership will vest in the state or whether that it will vest in individuals. There is no clear statement of policy or process, probably deliberately so.
Ramaphosa’s extraordinary televised statement to the country that the ANC intends to amend the constitution was as inappropriate for a head of state as it was nugatory of the sitting Joint Constitutional Review Committee into the amendment or otherwise of section 25 of the Constitution.
It is now known that it was Ramaphosa himself who mooted the proposal to amend the constitution to the NEC of the ANC.
He also indulges in flummery when he says:
‘To those who are fearful of the prospect of the return of the land to our people I say fear not because we are going to handle this matter in the usual way we solve matters in our country through dialogue and agreement. The restoration of land to our people will unlock the growth of our economy.’
At the Centenary Celebration, former American President Barak Obama quoted Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jnr. and Abraham Lincoln. Ramaphosa quoted Karl Marx.
Ramaphosa looks more and more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
- Sara Gon is a Policy Fellow at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a think tank that promotes political and economic freedom. If you agree with what you have just read then click here or SMS your name to 32823.
Cyril Ramaphosa: The Audio Biography
Listen to the story of Cyril Ramaphosa's rise to presidential power, narrated by our very own Alec Hogg.