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Forum Post: Mandela Was Unable to Dismantle the White Oligarchy Keeping South Africa in Economic Chains

Posted 6 years ago on Jan. 2, 2014, 4:25 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Mandela Was Unable to Dismantle the White Oligarchy Keeping South Africa in Economic Chains

Thursday, 02 January 2014 09:12 By Danny Schechter, Seven Stories Press | Book Excerpt


The late Nelson Mandela became an icon of a fearless leader on behalf of equality. He fought oppression, but in winning the battle of justice in South Africa, he did not pursue a path of vengeance. Instead, he sought reconciliation and compromise.

Seven Stories Press has just released a book by journalist Danny Schechter that provides a revealing contextual background to Nelson Mandela, the man and the leader.

In Schechter's new book, accessibly organized into alphabetical sections about Mandela's life, a passage on Mandela the negotiator exposes how much the majority population in South Africa had to give it to achieve a democracy.

The following excerpt from Madiba A to Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela offers insight into how while the nation changed in terms of who politically ruled it, the economic power remained concentrated in white and western economic hands. It is from the section entitled, "Negotiator":

In their 2012 book, Who Rules South Africa?, journalists Martin Plaut and Paul Holden wrote that the ANC had little grasp on how to transform the economy. International investors opposed nationalization on principle. Nationalization was viewed as "socialistic" at a time that the socialist countries were collapsing.

When Mandela visited the World Economic Forum in 1991, and again a year later, he was advised - not just by capitalists but by leaders of socialist countries like Vietnam, as well, to promote a mixed economy. His original speech was promptly modified to appease that sentiment.

I [Danny Schechter] asked historian Verne Harris of the Mandela Centre of Memory about this. I expected he would dismiss it. He didn’t. Here’s part of our exchange:

"I think there’s an element of truth in that. . . . I think that under Madiba’s leadership the ANC embraced a neoliberal agenda with unseemly haste and we’re paying a terrible price for that now. . . . We’re only beginning to understand the nature of this phenomenon. From the late 1980s, a huge seduction was underway, of the liberation movement by capital and it’s playing out in all kinds of destructive ways now, from arms deals to corruption. We’re having it at all levels of our society."

In his biography of Mandela, Anthony Sampson acknowledged, "Mandela had no experience in economics, but he accepted the imperatives of the global marketplace." In furtherance of this market logic, he appointed Derek Keys, de Klerk’s pro-market finance minister as his own, and then,when he stepped down, replaced him with Chris Liebenberg, a banker. He kept Chris Stals, a conservative former member of the Broederbond, on the Reserve Bank. In essence, he said, "the old guard was running what to all the world looked like a new show."

Ronnie Kasrils, the MK commander turned government minister, looked back on this history and wondered whether compromises made then sealed the country’s fate, in effect blocking deeper social change. Twenty years later, in a new 2013 introduction to his autobiography, Armed and Dangerous, Kasrils wrote:

"What I call our Faustian moment came when we took an IMF loan on the eve of our first democratic election. That loan, with strings attached that precluded a radical economic agenda, was considered a necessary evil, as were concessions to keep negotiations on track and take delivery of the promised land for our people. Doubt had come to reign supreme: We believed, wrongly, there was no other option, that we had to be cautious, since by 1991 our once powerful ally, the Soviet Union, bankrupted by the arms race, had collapsed. Inexcusably, we had lost faith in the ability of our own revolutionary masses to overcome all obstacles. Whatever the threats to isolate a radicalizing South Africa, the world could not have done without our vast reserves of minerals.

To lose our nerve was not necessary or inevitable. The ANC leadership needed to remain determined, united and free of corruption - and, above all, to hold on to its revolutionary will. Instead, we chickened out. The ANC leadership needed to remain true to its commitment of serving the people. This would have given it the hegemony it required not only over the entrenched capitalist class but over emergent elitists, many of whom would seek wealth through black economic empowerment, corrupt practices and selling political influence."

Kasrils had hoped the West would commit to a "new Marshall Plan," - like the one that led to the reconstruction of Europe after World War II - to rebuild South Africa’s apartheid-ravaged economy, but the West did not respond.

Instead, Western financial agencies counseled more privatization and fewer jobs in the face of dramatic unemployment. South Africa’s needs and the hopes of its people were not persuasive to a self-interested US-dominated economic order, he said.

Later, in a conversation with Richard Stengel for his last book, Conversations with Myself, Mandela revealed thatAmerican businessmen put a lot of pressure on the ANC to drop its initial commitment to nationalization. Mandela recounted meeting many leaders at the World Economic Forum who advised against it and he admits, "We had to remove the fear of business that . . . the ir assets will be nationalized."

Jay Naidoo has agreed that many of South Africa’s current problems go back to what was resolved or not resolved in the negotiations, but he doesn’t blame Nelson Mandela:

"These were our decisions. The decision to replace the RDP with a macroeconomic program that just focused on the financial industries was our decision. No one made it for us. We have to hold ourselves accountable for that. And that document was drafted in secret. Not even the ANC office bearer saw it. Not even the national executive committee of the ANC saw it. We saw it on the day it was published. So there was a conspiracy in our own ranks which obviously had interacted with very powerful economic forces in the country, and felt that the RDP was too radical."

Naidoo’s conclusion is hard to argue with: "We have created a Molotov cocktail in this country. And all that we see today, the violence that we see, the anger that we see, is a consequence of those decisions that we made then. I don’t hold Mandela responsible for it. Sometimes I hold myself responsible. It’s my generation that has failed the country."

But these problems were not caused simply by personal failures. South Africa was never in the driver’s seat when it came to its economy. It was subject to decisions about trade and investment made elsewhere. Also, the ANC government never controlled the economic levers that were dominated domestically by a small number of banks and companies that may have praised Nelson Mandela as a leader, but didn’t necessarily listen to him in terms of his government’s priorities.

In interviews with key decisionmakers in the ANC and in the ANC-led government that took place over a period of years, scholar Padraig O’Malley kept asking local leaders about these issues. Often the responses were overly optimistic or indicated a lack of knowledge about who was calling the shots in economic terms.

Here is an interview from May 17, 1996, between O’Malley and Pallo Jordan:

Padraig: Unemployment. Stuck. No improvement being made at all. At the same time we pickup Business Day every other day and you see that corporate profits are soaring. Where are the corporate profits going? Are they being ploughed back into technology that eliminates jobs or are they being distributed to shareholders or are they being siphoned off into other investments that are essentially non-productive in terms of creating jobs?

Pallo: What I think we’re stuck with is limited growth, but growth without job creation. And perhaps we need much more rapid growth, to increase the growth rate to something like 6% to make that sort of impact. But of course one of the problems, I think, is that new technologies tend to be more capital - than labor-intensive. One is going to have to look much more at your public works programs for the immediate, for your job creation programs, and one is also going to have to look to your small- and medium-size enterprises and encouraging those as job creators.They tend to be much more effective job creators than your large corporations. Perhaps not sufficient attention has been paid to encouraging that sector because I think you will note also that even with your black economic empowerment programs lots of those are targeting the big corporate giants rather than seeing the emergence of small- and medium-size enterprises.

And around and around the discourse went but, perhaps because of the government’s pro-market neoliberal direction, as well as pressure from elites and fear of alienating local and global business, reforming the economy wasn’t given the attention it deserved. Politicians tended to rule over politics, while big business, in South Africa like elsewhere in the world, have mostly demanded a free hand to run the economy.

In 2013, I asked Thabo Mbeki for his perspective on what went wrong. He was Mandela’s deputy president before serving as president for nine years himself. His take: "I think that the fundamental problems of South Africa have remained unchanged since the transition in 1994. The fundamental problems of poverty, inequality ...

"One of the problems, one of the challenges that we have never been able to solve in all these years since our liberation, is the attitude of white capital. Even today, I promise you as we're talking now, there are large volumes of investable money that South African companies are holding in cash, and not investing in the economy."

Madiba A to Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela by Danny Schechter was published on November 26, 2013 by Seven Stories Press.



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[-] 4 points by LeoYo (5909) 6 years ago

Children Burned With Cigarettes by Israeli Soldiers in Illegal Settlement

Monday, 20 January 2014 13:13 By Nora Barrows-Friedman , The Electronic Intifada | Report


Three Palestinian children were allegedly burned with lit cigarettes and denied access to food, water or toilet facilities after being arrested and detained by Israeli soldiers and police in September, a new report indicates.

In separate incidents, the three children were allegedly assaulted and abused during arrest and transfer to the Ariel police station, which is located inside the illegal Ariel settlement colony in the occupied West Bank.

Defence for Children International-Palestine section (DCI-Palestine) says that:

… Israeli soldiers severely and repeatedly beat Ali S, 14, from Azzun, Hendi S, 17, from Salfit, and Mohammad A, 15, from Tulkarem after arresting them. One soldier extinguished a cigarette butt on Ali’s lip while another burned Hendi’s arm with a cigarette, according to the sworn testimonies of the two teenagers. Hendi and Mohammad were denied access to food, water and toilet facilities for a long period. All three of them were accused of stone throwing.

DCI-Palestine adds that it submitted ten separate complaints in 2013 over alleged abuse and “torture of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers and police,” but that in eight of the cases, “Israeli authorities failed to notify DCI-Palestine whether they had opened an investigation. The remaining two cases resulted in the military advocate-general’s decision to close the investigation due to insufficient evidence. Israeli authorities deem the refusal of victims to testify without the presence of a lawyer as insufficient evidence.”

The group cites statistics by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights organization, which reports that only five percent of complaints submitted to the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division have led to an indictment.

"Traumatic Arrests"

In their press release, DCI-Palestine adds:

“Israeli soldiers conduct traumatic arrests of Palestinian children, often involving violence and humiliation, to prime them to quickly confess during interrogation,” said Iyad Misk, a lawyer at DCI-Palestine. “Burning children with cigarette butts raises particular alarm that demands a prompt, transparent and impartial investigation by the Military Police Criminal Investigations Division where the abusers are held accountable.”

Israeli authorities unconditionally released Hendi and sentenced Mohammad to time served during pretrial detention. Ali remains in Israeli custody.

This marks the second time Hendi endures ill treatment this year. In late February [2013], DCI-Palestine submitted a complaint to the Police Internal Investigations Department over the abuse Hendi suffered during interrogation at Ariel police station in February.

Just last month, it was revealed that Israeli soldiers put Palestinian prisoners — including children — in outdoor cages during a brutal winter storm.

And a week ago, Israeli soldiers were caught on video kidnapping and beating Palestinian youths near the Israeli wall in occupied East Jerusalem.

Human Rights Watch recently reported that at least twice in 2013, Israeli occupation forces ambushed, shot and killed Palestinian children near schools in the West Bank for no apparent reason.

Defence for Children International-Palestine section says that there was an average of 203 children in Israeli detention during 2013, an average of 33 of whom were between 12 and 15 years old. “The most common charge is for throwing stones,” DCI-Palestine adds. “Currently 51.4 percent of Palestinian child prisoners are detained inside Israel in violation of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 1 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

Having political freedom is nothing if you don't have economic freedom. The struggle continues....

[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3340) 6 years ago

A very true and deep statement. You could say that one can't exist without the other & in compliment -




A good post re. SA & good comment, bw. Never Give Up! Occupy2014! Happy New Year and Solidarity.

[-] 0 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

"One would think that such a macroeconomic disaster – one that robs the average American family of four of $36,000 per year in useful goods and services, and that threatens to keep Americans poorer than they might have been for decades, if not longer – would focus policymakers’ minds."

"But no. Part of the reason is that, at the top, there is no crisis."

"...in early-nineteenth-century Britain, growing inequality caused by the Industrial Revolution gave rise to movements for government regulation in the interests of the middle and working classes, and for a rebalancing of real incomes away from rich landlords. Similarly, the Great Depression produced enormous political pressure for reform and change.."

"Why can’t America launch similar movements today? To the extent that this has become a valid question, most Americans should be as worried today about the quality of their democracy as they are about the inequality of their incomes."

In the end, many Americans don't really know what true democracy is because they think they have it. Take this forum for instance. I am quite amazed that Occupy used to have general assemblies attempting to achieve direct democracy because here, on the OWS forum there is nothing close to that as those in disagreement with those in power are bullied, intimidated and abused.

[-] 2 points by Ache4Change (3340) 6 years ago

'In the end, many Americans don't really know what true democracy is because they think they have it.' Another very true and deep statement and so fyi - http://www.nationofchange.org/tasks-people-powered-movement-2014-1389020508 What ever is going on here on this forum right now, will pass! Never Give Up On The 99% Who Occupy All Streets! Solidarity.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

Solidarity, A4C. Your comments here are so important.

I agree with Zeese and Flowers that change can and will take many many years. I also agree that we are at the stage where "massive public education" is necessary to awaken the people to an "understanding of how the problems of the present system affect them; how the present system violates their values and principles; and how it is in their own self-interest to do something about it."

[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3340) 6 years ago

'Massive Public Education' is EXACTLY the point! Many thanks for your ever insightful and encouraging comment. In compliment -




Never Give Up! Occupy The Agenda. Solidarity.

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

"43% of all American families spend more than they earn each year"

"the average American household is at least $75,000 in debt."

"Overall, consumer debt in America has increased by a whopping 1700% since 1971." (While wages have declined, might I add.)

"Approximately two-thirds of all American students graduate from college with student loan debt."

Enough to make your head spin. Who can have a happy life who lives in this kind of debt?

And, yes "The funny thing is that all this debt is completely contrived, manufactured, false. It is a way to keep you in check, and working for the plutocracy, instead of enjoying the sovereignty of your own life and health."

How about if employers paid a fair wage to people and shared the profits instead of skimming them off the top for the executives and shareholders? How about that? Maybe then people wouldn't be forced to live in debt. Maybe then they'd have enough money to fund their lives.

How about the American people wake up, realize that the social contract still exists and that it always will exist, that their rights are natural rights, and doing something about this?

[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3340) 6 years ago

'The Social Contract' is a very important concept as is the idea of 'Natural Rights'. The founding fathers really understood this too and we need to remind ourselves of such civic ideas. Thank you for your clear and heartfelt response and also see - http://www.nationofchange.org/8-facts-about-american-inequality-1390315279 - Never Give Up On 'Massive Public Education' We Need ! Occupy The Issues! Solidarity.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

"The United States has promoted a self-congratulating exceptionalism for decades, waving its Declaration and Constitution in the faces of other sovereign nations as if the latter had never beheld such concepts. Our capital F “Freedom” sets us apart from the rest of the world, as the political rhetoric has repeated ad nauseam, no matter the freedoms enjoyed by democracies on every continent. And yet our basic freedom, the freedom to succeed, America’s contractual promise, has been shrinking for thirty years." Pierce Nahigyan.

The truth is that you can't have freedom when you are in economic shackles which is where our economic system has 99% of the people in this country.

[-] 3 points by Ache4Change (3340) 6 years ago

'With more than 46 million people living below the poverty line, struggling to survive on $19,530 or less for a family of three, and with more than one in three Americans living on less than twice that amount, scrimping to pay for basics, this country will require a broad-based movement to reverse the decades of failed national imagination.' From -

http://www.nationofchange.org/10-groups-building-grassroots-movement-economic-justice-1391008938 +

http://www.nationofchange.org/fear-why-workers-red-states-vote-against-their-economic-self-interest-1389970786 .

'The truth is that you can't have freedom when you are in economic shackles ...' That Is The Truth!

Never Give Up On The 99%! Occupy The Future! Solidarity.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

We live in a fear based society where desperation rules the day.

"People are so desperate for jobs they don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want rules and regulations enforced that might cost them their livelihoods. For them, a job is precious — sometimes even more precious than a safe workplace or safe drinking water."

Yes, fear is why workers vote against their economic self-interest because it is the short-term interest of putting food on the table today that is at the forefront of their minds.

Now, if we could get workers to think bigger and longer-term, with the far view in the forefront of their minds; if we could get them to suffer in the short term, and stand up and fight, they could improve their long term economic interests greatly, but how do we convince them of that?

Imagine if American workers held a national strike, all at once, all on one day? Imagine if the workers could show the wealthy and corporations that their wealth and profits are earned on their backs?

Solidarity, A4C! Occupy Wall Street!

[-] 4 points by Ache4Change (3340) 6 years ago

'Imagine if American workers held a national strike, all at once, all on one day? Imagine if the workers could show the wealthy and corporations that their wealth and profits are earned on their backs?' Damn Right! And here's why they have to - http://www.nationofchange.org/wall-street-sounds-silence-president-1391526946 Never Give Up! Occupy Wall Street - Reclain Democracy! Solidarity.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

Let's make "The Invisible Americans" visible:


"Poverty is worse in America than at any other time since the Depression. One in six Americans -- 16 percent or nearly 47 million -- lives at or below the government-defined poverty level. More children live in poverty in the U.S. than in any other developed country except Romania, with one in two being eligible for WIC (Women Infant Children) program benefits. Child poverty increased 35 percent between 2007 and 2012. Nearly half of all American children will receive SNAP (food stamp) benefits before they are 20. By the age of 20 a full 90 percent of African-American children will have participated in the SNAP program. Women are disproportionately affected by poverty, according to the Dept. of Agriculture statistics on hunger, with 79 percent of all working poor being female."

Yet, as your link points out, President Obama failed to address Wall Street's role in the increasing and devastating poverty brought on millions of Americans:

"Although the president discussed the economic plight of the majority of Americans, he made no mention of the financial industry’s central role in the devastating 2008 financial crisis, which made that plight so much worse. He talked of wage stagnation, but did not explore the financial industry’s role in the increasingly unjust economic redistribution of recent decades. Inequality doesn’t just happen. It’s produced by many forces, most of which either originate on Wall Street or are heavily influenced by it."

Wake up America, stop blaming yourselves and Occupy Wall Street! People over profit!

[-] 2 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Absolutely, no "wealth" = no freedom. "Wealth" includes more than just monetary wealth. Let us work on cutting the economic shackles. We should also welcome the help of the shackle lock pickers.

South Africa did not get into hyperinflation as its neighbor Zimbabwe and achieved reasonable economic stability. After Mandela had taken over power, South Africa could have lapsed into disarray but that it did not testifies to the good stewardship of Mandela in spite of his falling short in dismantling the white oligarchy.

[-] 3 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

Natural Rights: "The basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law."

Economic freedom underpins most natural rights, the same way that economic shackles removes most natural rights.

Let's hope South Africa can continue to move forward because despite their social freedoms many there still live in economic shackles.

[-] 1 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Let me be materialistic and concrete about rights and freedoms: sanitation and sewage treatment, clean air, water, and nourishing food in sufficient quantity and quality, adequate affordable housing, electricity, refrigerator and cooking stove, high quality universal vaccination, medical care, and education. Most important of all, the freedom of thoughts, expressions, association, and self governance, and economic mechanism for sustaining all of the above.

This list can be applicable to more than just South Africa which has my best wishes for its future.

[-] 2 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

You are very right. Thanks, grapes. I appreciate all your comments here.

[-] 2 points by grapes (5232) 6 years ago

Not once did I mention money in my list because money was only an artifact of our economic system which was abused and corrupted by the eel-ites for their Cardinal Sin - Greed. When the ethos of our people evolves to choose the concrete rather than the corrupted symbol, they will free themselves.

[-] 4 points by beautifulworld (23225) 6 years ago

I agree. Money is not important. What is important is access to all of the things that make for a decent life. Sharing is what is important. Here is a video that sums up, for me, what OWS stands for, "The Revolution is Love." It's about economics and love, go figure.



[-] 1 points by windyacres (1197) 6 years ago

You selected excellent quotes, but your final paragraph also reflects my current thoughts of the OWS forum. 2014 will hopefully be less bitter and more progressive.

[-] 3 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 6 years ago