Saturday, January 27, 2018

South Africa A Clintonian Neoliberal Captured State


CounterPunch  |  After the ascendancy of Cyril Ramaphosa to the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) last month and his imminent replacement of Jacob Zuma as national president, it is vital to understand deep structural barriers that prevent South Africa’s achievement of desperately needed socio-economic justice.

The ideological shifts that took place in the ANC’s economic views from 1990 can only be described as breathtaking: from an explicitly redistributive approach, towards embracing the American ideologies of neoliberal globalism and market fundamentalism.

From 1990 Nelson Mandela and Harry Oppenheimer met regularly for lunch or dinner and the main corporations of the Minerals Energy Complex (MEC) met regularly with a leadership core of the ANC at Little Brenthurst, Oppenheimer’s estate. When other corporate leaders joined the secret negotiations on the future of the economic policy of South Africa, the meetings were shifted to the Development Bank of Southern Africa during the night.

Although I was involved in the ‘talks about talks’ from 1987 until 1989, I did not take part in the 1990-94 negotiation process. I have been told that at the time senior individuals attached to the Sanlam Group of corporations were very much against my involvement because of my preference for social-democratic capitalism.

During these meetings an elite compromise gradually emerged between white politicians and capitalists under the leadership of the MEC, a leadership core of the ANC, and American and British pressure groups.

From February 1990 until early 1992, all the ANC policy documents emphasised the need for ‘growth through redistribution’. But when a reworked economic document of the ANC entitled ‘Ready to Govern’ was published in May 1992, the phrase ‘growth through redistribution’ was conspicuously omitted. Since then the ANC has never again emphasised the need for a comprehensive redistribution policy.

The secret negotiations reached a climax in November 1993. At that stage South Africa was preparing for interim government by the Transitional Executive Council (TEC), which decided that South Africa needed a loan of $850 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The ‘statement on economic policies’ in the IMF deal committed the TEC to neoliberalism and market fundamentalism.

There can be little doubt that the secret negotiations between the MEC and a leadership core of the ANC were mainly responsible for the party’s ideological somersault. It was, however, not the influence of the MEC alone. There was also pressure and persuasion from Western governments, and from the IMF and World Bank, and global corporations. A large group of leading ANC figures received ideological training at American universities and international banks.

In the years after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991, an atmosphere of triumphalism reigned supreme in American political and economic circles: the ‘American economic model’ triumphed and every country in the world could only survive and prosper if it adapted as quickly and completely as possible to anti-statism, deregulation, privatisation, fiscal austerity, market fundamentalism and free trade.