Mbeki calls for 'black capitalist class'
By Norm Dixon
South African President Thabo Mbeki told the annual conference of the Black Management Forum on November 20, "Because racism lives, the struggle continues. As part of the aim to eradicate racism in our country, we must strive to create and strengthen a black capitalist class ... We must work to ensure that there emerges a black bourgeoisie whose presence within our economy and society will be part of the process of the deracialisation of the economy and society."
In a swipe at the views of the ANC's increasingly ignored allies, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Mbeki added, "I would like to argue very strongly that we abandon our embarrassment about the possibility of the emergence of successful and prosperous black owners of productive property ...
"Ours is a capitalist society. It is therefore inevitable that in part we must address this goal of deracialisation within the context of the property relations characteristic of a capitalist economy."
Recently released figures show that the number of black-controlled companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is at its lowest since 1997. "Government must come to the aid of those among the black people who might require such aid in order to become entrepreneurs", Mbeki promised.
Government procurement policy favours tenders by black-controlled consortiums. The ANC also argues that its privatisation program will boost "black empowerment" by making available assets to black capitalists. This also explains the ANC government's hard line against workers fighting for wage increases and opposing privatisation.
The government has loosened labour regulations for "small businesses" to increase "flexibility in the labour market". The changes allow firms with fewer than 10 employees to force them to work more compulsory overtime for less pay and deny them their right to three days off a year to attend to "family responsibilities".