Joel Netshitenzhe’s resignation: trying to read the signposts

We are all looking for signposts as to where Zuma’s government is going and where we will end up.

Joel Netshitenzhe’s resignation is an important signpost, but it is, perhaps, too early to make out which direction it is pointing in.

Here are some extracts of what the Young Communist League in Gauteng had to say (I picked up the press statement on the blog of my old friend, Ray Hartley, editor of The Times

The Young Communist League of South Africa (YCLSA) in Gauteng notes and welcomes the resignation of Joel Netshitenzhe as Director-General of the Policy Co-ordination and Advisory Services (Picas) in the Presidency. His departure signals an important moment within our society’s shift from the disastrous, failed neoliberal policies – such as the Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy …

… Netshitenzhe was a central player within the 1996 Class Project that advanced these policies to appease both domestic and foreign capital, especially financiers … Netshitenzhe’s departure provides the ANC and its Alliance partners a strategic opportunity to champion a revolutionary agenda that transfers the wealth of our country to the people as a whole ….

The YCL goes on to lay the blame for service delivery protests at capitalism’s and Netshitenzhe’s door(s):

The ongoing service delivery protests, massive retrenchments in major industries, still-excessive interest rates, escalating food prices, skyrocketing unemployment rate, deepening inequalities and mass poverty will be seen as the legacy of policies championed by Netshitenzhe. In fact Netshitenzhe is a personification of the co-option of our cadres by capital. His 1996 Class Project watered-down the National Democratic Revolution, and prevented many of the advances we could have made after the 1994 democratic breakthrough.

President Zuma talked extensively and positively today about the role Joel has played in government, so the YCL in Gauteng should not be seen as having the last word on the meaning of the resignation of “Peter Mayibuye” (his nom de plume from the glory days). But it is important to keep an eye on what the youth wings of both the SACP and the ANC are saying – their views are often indicative – and a test – of where things are heading.

6 thoughts on “Joel Netshitenzhe’s resignation: trying to read the signposts

  1. There are a few things going through my head: this is an interventionist (?) Government; power is lying around loosely and hasn’t been picked up by any one group; there is a battle between the old guard ANC and the new , shall we say “labourites”; the Africanist agenda bubbles away under the surface; old allies are being rewarded – perhaps (Mo).

    All the while Govt coffers are empty, needs are escalating, and strikes and mumbles in the street roll on.

    What pray tell, is there to stop this thing going the revolutionary path? What God-given right have we to expect that it won’t? Is there a fail-safe, something that holds us all back the tipping point? Are we being alarmist were we to say we are closer to the edge than anarchy (if a socialist state is anarchy) than our sensitivities will allow us to conceive?

    1. Hi Mark, hope you are well. I am struggling to read the situation – and I think I am caught between attempting to be objective and attempting to favour one or other particular outcome. Mbeki held the centre too tightly and part of what is happening now is the exuberance that would naturally follow and autocratic style of leadership … and we should not be too panicked either about left-wing over-the-topness or about the more serious and bitter service delivery protests. Both the trends are natural and, in part, appropriate; given the level of poverty and inequality. Zuma is definitely siding, in the small question of Patel versus Manuel, with Cosatu’s favoured solution. Right now that is not the end of the world. But in the hang-over after the world cup, when the foreign investor is asking: so what have got going for you? the political risk associated with the policy drift and the overblown influence of Cosatu and the communists will be more intense. In the grand scheme of things I am less worried about “the left” (who have been on the right side of all the good moral issues – Zimbabwe, HIV, corruption) than I am about the YL and Mbalula and the thuggish populists ….

  2. HI Nic,

    I am very well. Thanks for asking.

    While I know all this makes for interesting work and I do enjoy wondering in an abstract way about the path and trajectory of all this exuberance, which is, as you point out natural and even appropriate, I still wonder what it is that we presume will stop that path and trajectory from veering into areas that becaome dangerous to us all. What if the thuggish louts gain the upper hand and what is to stop them doing that.

    Way back when, an upstart named Leon Spinks beat the mighty Muhamad Ali. When we in SA woke up to that news it felt surreal, like something had somehow happened and no one knew how. This is the same thought I have now: while we all expect things to swing back to equilibrium and for the old guard to predominate, there are no guarantees are there? It could go anywhere.

    And I guess the other thing that I wonder distractedly about is the role of business and transformation in this: so much of the business community have been so reticent to really roll up their sleeves and make a difference that you wonder whether they have created a populist energy that tends to retribution – will workers have a space in their hearts for a radical leader who points out the pots of honey that have been assiduously kept locked in the master’s bedroomis even as he filled in a BEE scorecard that recorded mediocrity in performance.

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