Saturday, September 05, 2009

South Africa elites ‘at war’ with electorate


“A lot of people think we are not going the way of Zimbabwe, but we are going that way.” - Moeletsi Mbeki

South Africa is faced with a huge problem of dysfunctional government parastatals and a growing black elite, which is enriching itself corruptly.

These were some of the issues discussed by Moeletsi Mbeki, a political analyst for Nedcor Bank and deputy chair of the South Africa Institute for International Studies.

He was in conversation with Peter Vale, Nelson Mandela professor of politics at Rhodes University, during a Daily Dispatch public dialogue in the Guild Theatre last night .

The discussion was about African capitalism. The public dialogues are co-hosted by the Daily Dispatch and University of Fort Hare.
Mbeki has written a book, Architects of Poverty – Why African Capitalism Needs Changing.

He said during his presentation to the audience that there had been an emergence of “highly pampered elites”, after the democratisation of the country, and that State-owned enterprises lacked competent management.

“Only 20 percent of (monetary) spending goes to investment in South Africa, while other countries like China and India have their highest (percentage of) Gross Domestic Product going to investment.

“Because we are not investing, the country is de-industrialising, and (as a result) we are losing job opportunities.”

He said there were inequalities between the elite and ordinary citizens.

“A lot of people think we are not going the way of Zimbabwe, but we are going that way.”

There was a conflict in the country, with the elite starting to arm themselves against the electorate , he said, referring to an incident in Piet Retief where a mayor was involved in shooting a demonstrator who was protesting against poor service delivery.

He said a lot of things had gone wrong in the past 15 years.

“Urbanisation is in a shambles, our borders are abandoned and not (safely) guarded by soldiers, and an influx of illegal immigrants are entering the country.”

The country’s railway infrastructure was huge but only 10 percent of the freight was transported by rail.

He added that the country was undergoing a major transition.

Vale asked Mbeki about his motive for writing the book.

Mbeki said it was because he wanted to examine the direction South Africa was taking, particularly in light of other African countries with similar nationalist governments and “new elites”.

In one of his chapters he denounced Zimbabwe’s ruling party, although he was a supporter of Zanu-PF when it was engaged in Zimbabwe’s liberation.

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