- Published on Friday, 06 July 2012 01:00
- Written by MAKWAIA WA KUHENGA
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THOSE following international news must have come across an item to the effect that South African President Jacob Zuma is under considerable pressure from the rank and file of his party to nationalize the commanding heights of his country’s economy -- that is mineral resources, land and banks.
The pressure is building up in the face of the reality that even after three decades of majority rule after apartheid was vanquished; the economy is still firmly in the hands of the white minority population of his country while the majority is suffocating in poverty. Reports say four out of every five persons one runs into in South Africa are unemployed!
But the situation in South Africa does not make that country unique if one has to take a glance at several countries neighbouring South Africa today, with this very country, Tanzania, being a case in point.One does not need researched statistics. One only needs to have a cursory bird’s overview as one walks or drives in Dar es Salaam or elsewhere upcountry.
Those people one crosses paths with hawking everythingunder the sun, from spanner kits, handkerchiefs, bowls and what have you are actually an army of jobless youths who hardly make ends meet! These are hundreds if not thousands of able-bodied youths who have taken refuge into hawking. They are hawking all sorts of wares manufactured and produced elsewhere and not in this country.
This is a reflection of the reality of the de-industrialization of this country with its resultant consequence – unemployment.
It is a price the country has had to pay following the abandonment of social-economic programmes that were rooted in the public ownership and control of the country’s commanding heights of the economy that was in place before the introduction and blanket embrace of neo-liberal economic programmes.
These programmes were enthusiastically executed from 1995, at the height of which was massive privatization that took into its stride even strategically important railway networks.But there is also a looming battle in this country: the battle for land, which is ideally the property of the state with the Head of State as the chief custodian.
Hardly a day passes these days without news of a clash between so-called investors and peasants in the countryside whose land is being expropriated in the realm of giving room to “investors”.Television watchers the other day must have watched with their mouths agape after seeing scores of dead cows, goats and other domesticated animals which had strayed into the “land of an investor” who had decided to “teach” a lesson to his neighbouring peasants by spraying poison in what he decided was his enclave not to be bothered by such “natives”!
Those watching this episode considering what this “mzungu” had done must have pondered the question: siyoukaburuhuu – isn’t apartheid here?The effects of blanket and untamed privatization in this country have had its effects when one looks at what is befalling people employed in the private sector.
Few in the private sector have any security of employment – most of them are hired by word of mouth and equally fired by word of mouth! Wages are a pittance and at the whims and pleasure of the proprietors.Since capitalism is basically opportunistic, its offspring is intrinsically populism. Most of our politicians – in government and otherwise – do not subject themselves to hard thinking, to address fundamental issues at hand.
With some of them accusing media people of writing without undergoing “research”, they too are most often than not seen with workers, ostensibly sympathizing with their lot and promising to take “action against their employers”. But they hardly address the real issue – control of the economy by private capital!
Someone reading these lines may agree that employment in the public sector in Tanzania today which survived massive privatization with the catchword – “privatization is the engine of economic growth” (sic!) may agree that people employed in the public sector today enjoy far better security of employment with other benefits that go with this – retirement benefits and so forth than in the private sector.
Now what our South African neighbours must have experienced in the course of three decades after the vanquishing of apartheid is the pressure being brought to bear on President Jacob Zuma and his ANC government. This is, clearly, a good and relevant paradigm to Tanzania.
Far more than Tanzanians, the South Africans know better the vagaries of not only apartheid but of private capital. Those who have seen South Africa after apartheid know better: one has no ‘freedom’ to go where one pleases without the risk of being mugged. But hungry stomachs are hardly rational, are they?
Those who were once in political power, the white minority, today still control literally everything from the land, minerals to money exchange. The poor black majority are still the same, if not worse off. This does not imply that all whites are well off or comfortable in South Africa. There are needy whites, and they are quite visible in the country, begging alongside their black compatriots, as those visiting South Africa are able to see.
So the fundamental problem as Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress - the oldest political organisation in Africa - must have begun realizing are the follies of an economic system in favour of a minority few, rather than the majority poor.The other day I saw Comrade Jacob Zuma saying the time has come for the people of South Africa to own equity shares of their immense mineral resources.
I said to myself: “This time my President is not dancing or smiling – he is talking…!”But how much I wish that today’s mineral rich Tanzania also owned equity shares of its abundant mineral resources. Look here, Tanzania is no longer a sisal or cashewnut republic – we are both mineral and gas-rich country.
They say where there is gas, there is oil! Not only that - we have huge deposits of uranium in this country today. Who owns them? Should such immense resources continue to be owned by multinationals and Tanzanians winding up getting crumbs or royalties, like a less to do author of a novel?Let us be serious! Our neighbours have begun to see sense albeit in the late hours of the morning. Let us wake up!