Guest Columnist

Thieving Rulers, Their Children And Their Classmates, By Kole Omotoso

Thieving rulers, often called kleptocrats, and their family members and associates are moving ill-gotten public money to off-shore secrecy jurisdictions etc etc”. Is the menace of thieving rulers a new thing in world politics? How did the first families and their classmates become the riches in their countries?
In South Africa, a quiet argument is being made by those who have enriched themselves, their families and their classmates and so on but nobody is listening.The argument is that what is happening is radical economic transformation that is RET. The former mayor of one of the cities in Kwa-Zulu Natal said she is following former President Jacob Zuma. She is appearing in court for multiple criminal counts of stealing public money through the award of tenders to herself, her family members and classmates and so on. Former President Jacob Zuma has been dodging appearing in court for more than ten years, asking for his day in court but doing everything possible not to ever appear in court.

Radical economic transformation, RET, is posited against white monopoly capital, WMC, an emotive phrase that sums up the history of racist government preference in South Africa. RET vs WMC is the wrestling match of the future in South Africa.

In those far off decades of the 1950s, growing up in an awakening colonised world of Africa, Latin America and Asia, collective enrichment was the political slogan of the day. Let’s come back to this later. In spite of that collective enrichment of all who were collectively poor, there was a lingering belief that rulers must have personal wealth over which to rule. This fundamental rule for rulers was so ingrained that when it came for prince of the village to become the Deji Oba of the town it was found that he was a poor man! To correct this ‘anomaly’ the villagers levied themselves and overnight the formerly pauper prince had cocoa farms, herds of cattle and a fat bank account. He became the Deji, king of the area and ruler of his people.

To go back to the era of collective enrichment policy of aspiring politicians to counter collective poverty policy of the colonial powers. No where else was this policy more the making poor and poorer of the African people than in South Africa. This is why the first job of aspiring African politicians of the first decades of the 20th century was the compulsory unity of the African peoples for collective action against the whites. Even in some cases African collectives did not shy from uniting with whites to fight African oppressors in order to achieve collective action for collective enrichment.

It is against the background of this collective enrichment possibility that independence became the objective of the politics of post Second World War politics of decolonisation. If we rule ourselves, we will enrich ourselves out of decreed poverty policy of white monopoly capital. In the 1960s political independence was granted but economic independence was not allowed. ‘Not yet Uhuru’ cried the politicians. We must now fight for economic independence. We must transform the economy from being capitalist individuality to socialist collectivity.

But who will bell the cat? Or rather who will give back land that was taken from Africans as a result of conquest back to Africans without conquering the white settlers all over again, reversing the gains of colonial conquest? There hangs the tale of radical economic transformation. Socialism is dead and the South African Communist Party is a farce. Radical trade unionism is a sham. Capitalism with its individual, gradual economic empowerment is the way forward. That is two thirds of the ruling party coalition is invalid. The remaining third of the coalition became dysfunctional. South Africa is ruled by a coalition of the Congress of South African Trade Unions COSATU which ensures massive voting herds of the governing coalition. And makes reasonable union reformation impossible. The second led of the coalition is the South African Communist Party and African National Congress.

Put bluntly Democracy makes collective enrichment impossible. Yet, envisaging collective enrichment into the future the makers of the South African made the constitution the most democratic in the world. It declares that South Africa belongs to all who live in it black and white. This is a statement which some political parties with parliamentary representation do not believe in. They advocate the repossession of land without compensation to present owners. In order not to be outdone in the populism race, the ANC has also bought into repossession of land without compensation a la Zimbabwe! But, claim most South Africans, Zimbabwe is impossible in South Africa, never! It is in the vacuum of the impossibility of collective enrichment and continued match of capitalism that thieving rulers were born in Africa. It is as if we will join the capitalists while we think through how to make collective enrichment possible.
The countries that have shown how to do it China and India are difficult to emulate. How do you enlarge the South African Communist Party to become like the Communist Party of China?

Or make South Africa Democracy to balloon into the Democracy of India with its money-powered politics without making the money first?
Thieving is a criminal offence. Stealing from the state is such an offence that state thieves are shot and their families pay for the bullets! You cannot even arrest so-called thieves of state, not to talk of trying them, finding them guilty and then shooting them. The democratic constitution of South Africa prohibits the death sentence. Then change the constitution, say some. No way, cried others, will any one tamper with the best constitution in the world. There hangs the tail/tale of the thieving rulers of the African kingdoms.

The leader of the third largest party in the South African parliament linked to the looting of a bank insist that he cannot be arrested because others up there in the stratosphere of political immunity have not been arrested. The supporters of the aforementioned mayor insist that no counts have been filed against her, refusing to accept that stealing of state money is a criminal offence. It is our money. Our people have not accused us of stealing. Which state is accusing us…?

  • The Guardian, Nigeria
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