The current situation in South Africa gives very little scope for optimism.
Daily electricity blackouts are, of course, what we were warned against by the white right wing who claimed that the blacks would never know how to manage a complicated thing like a power plant. This seemed to come true when ESCOM engineered the Cape Town blackouts by sabotaging one of Koeberg’s generators while shutting down the high-tension line connecting the city with the rest of the grid. Duly Thabo Mbeki was blamed, who responded by authorising the building of Medupi and Khusile and signing a memorandum of understanding for the French to build new nuclear power plants. Then Thabo Mbeki was deposed, to the cheers of the ruling class, and suddenly all power outages stopped. And the French memorandum of understanding was repudiated, and meanwhile construction on the power plants languished (under Mbeki the Vukani power station had been built efficiently and on time, although it later transpired that ESCOM had sabotaged the coal silos) for the next five years, and now, supposedly, we have a shortage of generation capacity and regular blackouts and need to give ever more money to ESCOM. This is all Mbeki’s fault, we are reliably told.
De-industrialisation was what we were warned against by the Trotskyites who claimed that neoliberals would never want to see money wasted on manufacturing or job creation but would stuff it all into their pockets, or into low-wage, low-investment service industries, instead. This seemed to come true with the rapid decline of industrial investment in the late 90s and early 00s — although there was fairly rapid overall economic growth from the early 00s, after the end of GEAR, employment creation was slow and investment scanty. So everybody rose up in their majesty and protested against the neoliberal Mbeki, and all the Trotskyites cheered when Zuma replaced him. Subsequently we have had eight years of uninterrupted GEAR-style austerity, differing only from GEAR in the severity with which the national economic policy has put the brakes on economic growth and job creation and the extent to which the economic crisis has been used by the ruling class to enrich themselves and impoverish everyone else. It is hinted that this is all Mbeki’s fault, but the solution is at hand — installing Cyril Ramaphosa, the corporate crook, in a position to impose more severe austerity measures and thus rescue us all. It remains to be see if the Trotskyites will cheer when that happens.
Internecine conflict in the form of “service delivery protests” started in the last days of the Mbeki government. Those appeared to be organised by the local ANC branches, perhaps with the connivance and sponsorship of the Zuma clique, but they were represented then, and are represented now, as exasperation with the intolerable nature of the Mbeki government. They did not, however, cease, as one might have expected, when the Mbeki government was deposed. Instead, they accelerated, pastly because service genuinely deteriorated under Zuma, partly because discipline within the ANC collapsed under Zuma, and partly because these protests increasingly turned into festivals of looting and mayhem which eventually fed into the public resentment against unemployment and inequality which was in turn transformed into hostility to foreigners, who were supposedly employed and privileged, the facts which contradicted this notwithstanding. It is not clear whether this is still being orchestrated by the regime or not. However, King Goodwill Zwelethini, who is endorsed by President Zuma, has consistently promoted xenophobic violence in the good old Inkatha fashion. The ANC in the province, and key Zuma toadies like the Minister of Home Affairs and of State Security, have endorsed him. So effectively the government has given its imprimatur to the disintegration of South African society in an acid-pool of mob thuggery.
These are conspicuous matters — the failure of government service delivery, economic and social policy are unsurprising, and were predicted by all competent authorities (the Creator and, well, there must have been someone else) when Zuma took over. The question is not whether to be surprised by these developments. The question is whether anything can be done about them.
There are two factions within the ruling class, both of which are virtual factions — that is, they appear to exist, but their independent existence is not meaningful and they are really both identical. One faction supports Zuma and the ANC and wishes things to stay exactly as they are forever, perhaps by proclaiming Zuma as Life President and abolishing elections. The other cries out for change, which it represents as either removing Zuma from power within the ANC, or removing the ANC from power nationally. (In other words these ruling class factions purport to be, respectively, within and outside the ANC, although it is not clear whether this is really the case and it is in any case certain that the ruling class can slither into any political cracks like scorpions.)
But these are not solutions to any problem. They are simply occasions for the pretense of solutions. The former group pretends that all is well now and that thanks to the National Development Plan we will go on steadily towards greatness. The latter group pretends that all will be well the moment their favoured stooge replaces Zuma, after which, thanks to the National Development Plan we will go on steadily towards greatness. All of this is simply indecent camouflage for the real interests of the tiny and corrupt minority who rule this country as they rule all other countries associated with Western imperialist power.