Communist Party USA

  The recent unrest in South Africa, seen by much of the outside world as a knee-jerk reaction to the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma, is rooted in the vicious factional upheaval within the governing African National Congress (ANC). South Africa’s systemic inequality, poverty, and the tidal wave of distress due to the Covid-19 crisis are also to blame. The toxic mix of the two produced a near insurrection, and the threat of one remains. Now, in the aftermath of the rioting and looting, it’s clear that the ANC faces its biggest problems since it was nearly destroyed by the white racist regime of the old South Africa in the early 1960s when almost its entire leadership was imprisoned. The unrest, which ran July 9–17, included blockades of roads, ports, and rail links, followed by the mass looting and destruction of shopping malls and other infrastructure, such as schools and health clinics. The disruption was organized to protest Zuma’s confinement, imposed because he refused to appear before a commission set up, ironically, by himself when he was president.   State capture, state corruption he commission, called the Zondo Commission, after the judge in charge, is investigating the events and people involved in what is called state capture. This refers to the burgeoning corruption and mafia-style take-over of state resources during the Zuma years by networks of political patronage geared to the self-enrichment and power wielding of ANC figures at national and local levels. This matrix also extended far into the private sector. It was centered in part on the business empire of the billionaire Gupta family, which had relocated from India to South Africa. Their citizenship of the country was fast-tracked by the then home affairs minister, whom they “owned.” They also had other ministers in their pockets and had a strong say in ministerial appointments. Zuma let them do more or less as they pleased, as they and he were able to buy enough clout to cushion the president from legal threats hanging over his head, including one related to a murky state arms procurement. The populist ideological insulation that Zuma and those around him relied on was the notion that they’re waging a crusade against white monopoly capital. This had some traction because so much of the inequality that pervades South Africa is bound up with the unreconstructed racialized character of ownership.   White monopoly capital still in control The negotiated settlement with the old regime in the early 1990s that led to the first democratic elections in 1994 did not challenge white ownership of the economy. The government’s Black Economic Empowerment program had widened the black middle class, but only in some areas of the economy. White monopoly capital was left very much left unaltered. The situation of the poor majority, now well over 60% of the population, remained largely unchanged, despite important infrastructure and service reforms. The lie of the war against white capital became clear when it emerged in 2017 that Bell Pottinger, the now-defunct British “reputation management” firm — whose august résumé included a $540 million contract from the U.S. Department of Defense to create fake terrorist videos and propaganda — had been hired by the Guptas to defend their position by producing disinformation in South Africa that would play on the country’s fragile race relations. Bell Pottinger’s campaign for the Guptas and the wider Zuma cause used a network of Twitter bots, fake influencers, bloggers, and news to allege plots by white monopoly capital to derail the redistribution of wealth in favor of the poor and oppressed. The campaign also sought to…

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South Africa in crisis: A toxic brew of grassroots desperation and factional warfare