Illustration: ISTOCK
Illustration: ISTOCK

President Jacob Zuma’s state of the nation address promised to act against “economic concentration” — a euphemism for “white monopoly capital”, the phrase beloved of many of his cronies and proxies. To this end, he promised to ramp up the Black Industrialists Programme, to open up the R7-trillion property sector to black players, and to lock in 30% black stakes for all large state contracts.

As always with Zuma, these resolutions should be taken with a truckload of salt: the man rarely does anything with his power except dole out patronage. If anything, his adoption of the “white monopoly capital” narrative could rob it of its mass appeal.

But this official policy turn towards “radical economic transformation” may be used to step up the Zuma cabal’s campaign against the obstacles to their dreams of industrial-scale kleptocracy — finance minister Pravin Gordhan and the banks, whom they cast as agents of a nebulous conspiracy of pale greed, founded on apartheid theft.

The broad strokes of this narrative are easy enough to refute. Black wealth in SA is much greater than in 1994, and much bigger than Zuma has claimed. The single biggest investor in the economy is the Public Investment Corp, which controls R1.8 trillion in pension-fund equity for public servants, most of whom are black. The latest figures show SA black-and white-owned portions of the JSE’s equity are roughly equivalent at 23% and 22%, with foreign ownership at 40%. Black home-ownership has rocketed.

But the myth of “white monopoly capital” — in truth a political diversion by a failed president — will not die any time soon because it contains fragments of truth ...


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