Matt Treacy with a piece from Brocaire Books which is critical of "Black Capitalism" in South Africa.
Today is the birthday of Kgalema Motlanthe. He was President of South Africa for a short period between 2008 and 2009 but few will recognise his name.
Like many leading figures in South Africa he came up the hard way. He was a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress and spent ten years in prison. He was later general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers.
The NUM connection is interesting as its first founding secretary was Cyril Ramaphosa, best known to Irish people as one of the overseers of the IRA decommissioning. An interlude that led to some lucrative business deals, apparently. Motlanthe and Ramaphosa’s political careers have followed similar trajectories.
So too have their material advancements. Although Motlanthe had been a critic of “black capitalism,” he and his partner were named in an investigation into a massive bribe to secure a deal with Iran for a South African helicopter company. Both were cleared of the charge.
Ramaphosa is not so discreet. He is a billionaire who in 2011 bought control of the McDonalds franchise in South Africa. More controversially, the former miners union secretary was a director of Lonmin which was the target of a strike in 2012. Over 40 strikers were shot dead.
The key to the vast wealth of the ANC elite, including the Mandelas, is legislation which requires that all companies over a certain size have to have a set proportion of board members who are black. Of course this means that the companies simply appoint members of the ANC apparat.
And how has “black capitalism” benefitted the people of South Africa? Well, it hasn’t. The murder of the striking miners was the largest mass killing in South Africa since Sharpville in 1960.
Unemployment is around 30%, and higher for black workers. A 2011 report found that 40% of South African women will be raped during their lifetime. One observer claimed that a black South African girl had more likelihood of being raped than of learning to read and to write. South Africa has one of the highest murder rates in the world.
The civilized world was properly exercised over the inexcusable treatment of black South Africans under Apartheid. Unfortunately, since it was ended, the position of black South Africans, and indeed of all South Africans, has severely did-improved.
Unless of course you have a seat at the table in the Kitchen of Thieves.