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Lead Opinion South Africa

Open letter to Sipho Pityana and Johann Rupert By Andile Lungisa

White Monopoly Capital and their Baas Boys

There is nothing as pitiful as a slave placing himself at the service of his slave master by upholding the virtues of a system that perpetuates the subjugation of the majority in whose name he mendaciously claims to speak. Sipho Pityana’s denunciation of attempts to call things by the proper name, capital dominated as totally by whites today as it was under apartheid. Pityana’s stance conforms to the ignoble tradition of those who collaborated with colonialism in the dispossession of the African people, their subjugation and preaching the message of reconciliation with their own oppression.

In his book, “Architects of Poverty” Moeletsi Mbeki explains what social forces facilitated this betrayal, and what the strategy of British colonialism was. By the 1803 “….the British eventually realised they could not crush the Xhosa without forming alliances with other African tribes as potential allies.

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“The first group was the amaFengu or Fingoes; the second was sections of the Xhosa who had become displaced in the succession conflict between the Ndlambe and Ngqika, especially the Gqunukwebe; and the third was a community of Khoi people living along the valley of the Kat River”.
“These groups became military allies of the British in their struggle to subdue the Xhosa. In return for their military support, the British shared the captured land and cattle with them, as well as with Afrikaner farmers and with the 1820 Settlers who had formed commandoes to support the British against the Xhosa. The British introduced their black allies to the modern capitalist world of the time. They transformed them into peasant farmers and acquainted them with Western religion, writing, modern medicine, Western clothing, modern citizenship and electoral politics.

 

This model was transferred to Natal in the 1840s when the British evicted the Trekboers and took over Natal south of the Tugela River.
“Out of this peasantry emerged South Africa’s African middle class – Christian, missionary educated, Anglophile, liberal, pro-capitalist and attuned to parliamentary democracy, which was introduced by the British to the Cape Colony in the 1850s.” Unquote

 

The graduates of this school of Anglophile liberal ideology was one Macah Kunene, a prominent businessman in Natal, who, upon being asked if he would like to see the British leave South Africa and return home, explained the relationship between the black elite and British imperialism in his submission to the South African Native Affairs Commission as follows:

 

“If the white people and the King [of England] were to desert us now and leave us here, there is a great section of us who have approximated to a great extent to the white man’s way of living, and to the white man’s way of doing things; and there is a large number of us who have not advanced at all. Who have remained as they were practically in former days. I am afraid that those who have remained in their former state would kill us all, particularly civilized Natives, because we have bought lands, they do not approve of the ownership of land. They know too that whenever there has been a war, against Natives like ourselves, we have always been with the (colonial) Government and gone out to assist them in those wars. … Therefore we feel we are far better under our (colonial) Government, and are far better than if we were deserted and left to the mercies of our people.”

 

Pityana is the modern incarnation of Macah Kunene whose words echo across more than a century as the rallying cry of capitulation to conquest and dispossession. Pityana’s campaign manifesto should be named the Macah Kunene submission. It is the most concentrated expression of the cowardice of those who not are not only completely reconciled to the conquest of their people but worship their subjugation.
Pityana’s posture reveals an astonishing incomprehension of – or is it indifference towards — the excruciating contrast between the privileges attaching to his personal circumstances and the ongoing misery of the conditions of the majority on whose backs these privileges are built.
After serving his apprenticeship doing what he must have considered “national service” in government – as Director General in the Department of Labour from 1995-99 and then in the same capacity in Foreign Affairs (1999 – 2002) — Pityana graduated into big business. And not just any business, but the banking and mining industry, the twin peaks from which the white domination of the economy mocks the notion that the country is under the rule of the black majority.
The mining industry is the spinal column around which the industrialisation of the country was built. It was for its benefit that the entire edifice of institutionalized racism and bloody dispossession of African people was constructed.

 

Pan Africanist social activist, writer and academic Yamkela Spengane, reminds us about the trajectory of Pityana’s stellar career in business. It began at Nedcor Investment Bank where he was appointed Executive Director and Managing Director of Nedbank in 2002.
“These are subsidiaries of Old Mutual Holdings, now a British Insurance Giant listed on the London Stock Exchange.

 

It is one of the many companies that were founded in South Africa, got listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, but as part of the CODESA settlement to protect white monopoly capital’s ill-begotten wealth became dual listed in London and other western stock markets. There’s a long list of them.
“Sipho went on to serve on many of these companies’ boards, JSE listed and all, including AngloGold Ashanti which he has served since February 2007 according to his bio that reads: “Sipho Mila Pityana is a senior director having joined the board of AngloGold Ashanti in February 2007. He is the chairman of the Safety, Health and Environment and the Nominations committees, and a member of the following committees: Remuneration and Human Resources, Social, Ethics and Transformation, Risk and Information Integrity, Investment and Financial Analysis committees.

 

He was previously the Chairman of the Remuneration Committee.”
“Now besides AngloGold being a spin-off company of Anglo American’s decentralisation, it is of particular interest to me because I come from an area where AngloGold Ashanti has been getting a huge percentage of its gold from in its entire history, that is Orkney in the North West Province. I have no hearsay accounts, but an eyewitness account of the brutality of its capitalism on my people. The statistics of fatalities of their mining accidents and silicosis victims who were laid off by the mines to die as paupers after years of service are not statistics to me; they are family members, relatives, friends, fathers of friends and people of my community whom we have buried. I can put faces to the statistics.
“Yet Kanana township has the highest rate of crime in the entire North West Province, one of the highest occurrences of gangster violence in the whole country and generally a place of misery; but no less than 11 gold mine shafts are within a 25 kilometer radius from the township, with most a walking distance from the township and all of that having been originally owned by AngloGold Ashanti before it laid some off. There however is no sign that the people live on top of gold deposits, no infrastructure, nothing. There is really nothing to show, not even a designated community fund, besides one buying politicians in the city councils. Not that it will be something we want, we want to own those mines.
“So hearing this Pityana man saying “Zemk’iinkomo magwala ndini” really irked me off because the metaphor he was using he has no right to go near. He is a director of a cartel of AngloGold Ashanti that steals gold worth billions from my people annually (and) that owns land that is near half of the whole Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality land area whereas my people are landless without space to even move. He then wants to point fingers at Zuma? Get out of here”. Unquote.

 

In fulminating against attempts to call things by their proper name, namely white monopoly capital, Pityana is exhibiting a cowardice even more base than Kunene in 1903 who had at least made no attempt to hide the identity of the object of his worship. Today, nearly a quarter of a century since the political defeat of apartheid, South African society retains, in the continued and deepening inequalities in the distribution of wealth between black and white, essentially the same demographic features as apartheid. Dressed up today in the garments borrowed from the historical wardrobe of parliamentary democracy, the face of wealth remains white; that of poverty, black.

 

The demand for radical economic transformation arises from this reality. It is also a public admission of the failure of BEE about which Moeletsi Mbeki makes some interesting observations in the work cited above.
“Most people in South Africa in Africa and the rest of the world naively believe that BEE was an invention of South Africa’s black nationalists, especially the African National Congress…  This could not be further from the truth. BEE was, in fact, invented by South Africa’s oligarchs, that handful of white businessmen and their families who control the commanding heights of the country’s economy, that is mining and its associated chemical and engineering industries and finance.
“The flagship BEE company, new Africa investments limited (Nail), started operating in 1992, two years before the ANC came to power. It was created by the second-largest South African insurance company, Sanlam with the support of the National Party government-controlled Industrial Development Corporation. (IDC) a state-owned industrial development bank created in 1940. The formation of Nail was soon followed by Real African Investment Limited (Rail) sponsored by mining giant Anglo American Corporation, through its financial subsidiary, Southern Life.

 

The object of BEE was to co-opt leaders of the black resistance movement by literally by buying them off with what looked like a transfer to them of massive assets at no cost. To the racialist oligarchs of course these assets were small change.
This financial razzmatazz was designed to achieve a number of objectives. It was intended to:
▪ wean the ANC from radical economic ambitions, such as nationalising major elements of the South African economy, by putting cash in the politicians’ private pockets, packaged to look like atonement for the sins of apartheid, that is reparations to black people in general;
▪ provide oligarchs with prominent and influential seats at the high table of the ANC’s government’s economic and policy formulation system;
▪ allow those racialist oligarchs who wanted to shift their company’s primary listings and headquarters from Johannesburg to London to do so;
▪ give the oligarchs and their companies the first bite at government contracts that interested the
▪ protect oligarchs from foreign competition whole opening up the rest of the economy, especially the consumer goods and manufacturing sector, to the chill winds of international competition.

 

All these machinations were eventually incorporated into South Africa’s democratic Constitution”. Mbeki then goes on to explain that these arrangements had the opposite effect – they entrenched the commanding heights.
Pityana’s hypocrisy is exceeded only by Johan Rupert’s whose family name is listed in the series being published in the Daily Maverick: Declassified: Apartheid Profits’ consisting of material compiled by Open Secrets consisting of material compiled while researching the recently published book Apartheid, Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit, by Hennie van Vuuren. The material contains damning details of the individuals and corporations that propped up apartheid and profited in return.

 

This Roll of Dishounor and Hypocrisy includes the oligarchs of white businessmen Mbeki refers such as Anton Rupert, who was quite happy to accommodate racists at their Fleur du Cap residence in Somerset West; head of Anglo American, Gavin Relly, Barclay Bank’s Basil Hersov, Julian Ogilvie Thompson from De Beers, Barlow Rand (now trading as the large conglomerate, Barloworld one of the chief suppliers of technology to the government.

 

Between the 1960s and 1980s the corporation’s leadership sat on PW Botha’s Defence Advisory Board, all the while presenting itself as an enlightened opponent of apartheid. The two-faced nature of many of these corporations and their executives is a theme that runs throughout this collection.

 

Another name in these documents who has continued making super profits in a democratic South Africa is Shoprite businessman, Christo Wiese. Currently tied in fourth place with Johann Rupert on the Forbes list of richest Africans and living in a mansion in Clifton, Wiese was also eager to support the NP and “anxious” to have this support made known to the prime minister. In 1989, Minister Kent Durr sent a letter to the newly appointed President, FW de Klerk, informing him of Wiese’s financial support. Durr fondly describes Wiese, then the director of the clothing retail giant Pepkor, as “an old friend and supporter of the National Party”.”

 

“… in a letter sent by prominent PG Glass executive chairman, Bertie Lubner …. written to PW Botha dated 23 June 1982, Lubner writes to thank the prime minister for “a very wonderful evening which we spent with you, charming members of your family and other guests”. He proceeds to write of how much he admires Botha’s leadership of the country: “It is men with such high ideals and determination like yourself that create history.” Post-apartheid amnesia ensured that at the time of his death last year, Lubner was praised as a beloved philanthropist and iconic business leader with far too little said about his support for the establishment during apartheid.”

 

This letter and others of a similar nature from Bennie Slome of Tedelex and Macsteel’s Eric Samson were some of the more surprising finds in the archive. This is because these men were widely known as part of the self-proclaimed liberal English-speaking business elite of the time. Though perhaps this surprise is misplaced – big business motivated by profit notoriously funds whoever is in power. 35

 

We also found letters of support from Altech (now electronics giant Altron) head, WP (Bill) Venter. A long-time ally of the apartheid military, Venter made profits supplying the military with missile systems and other key technology at the height of apartheid’s war in Angola and cross-border raids. To return the favour, Venter made hefty donations to the NP. In February 2017, Venter finally stepped down as Altron chair and was praised for his contribution to the South African economy. His collaboration with the apartheid state was conveniently ignored.”

 

Just what drives the Ruperts of this world is not principle, probity or anything that could be remotely described as moral rectitude. What they are driven by is captured in the title of Van Vuuren’s book: Profits. Just how well this parasitic minority has done is captured in Oxfam’s report on inequality. In SA just 3 people – including Johan Rupert and Nicky Oppenheimer — own as much wealth as the bottom 50% of the population. In contrast, StatsSA’s 2017 Report on Poverty Trends tells us that 55million people live in poverty in SA.

 

Andile Lungisa is an ANC Councillor in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.

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