Oscar Mabuyane’s election victory not a triumph for the poor black majority.


Oscar Mabuyane’s Eastern Cape election victory and his self-serving support for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s second term is not a triumph for the Native South African majority that is still colonised and economically subjugated more than 28 years into a ‘so-called’ Constitutional Democracy. 

Mabuyane’s re-election as the Eastern Cape provincial chairperson follows closely in the footsteps of renewed and aggressive extraction industry developments supported by him and his political faction. His re-election is based on the White corporate funded ‘You Rub My Back and I Rub Your Back’ politics of corruption, synonymous with Ramaphosa’s link to the August 2012 massacre of 34 LONMIN striking mineworkers, of whom the majority came mostly from the Eastern Cape. 

Given Mabuyane’s questionable support for mining interests closely linked to Ramaphosa and Royal Dutch Shell’s shale gas extraction plans from more than 90 000 square kilometres in South Africa, his re-election underlies victory for the extraction bosses and their ulterior motives to corporatise the ANC leadership structures. In the long-term it spells disaster for the Native African people of the Wild Coast who rightfully have cause to be concerned by the link between the extraction industry’s heightened and aggressive interest and Mabuyane’s re-election.

The renewed extraction developments have drawn serious warnings from international environmental activists, specialists and scientists, as well as generated increased community protest action against such mining and fracking plans. But corrupt leading members of the ANC’s Thuma Mina inner-circle cabal have closed their ears to the cries of concern from the affected communities. For them it is business as usual and profits before the people.

However, with binding links to Ramaphosa’s extraction industry funders, together with his co-conspirator and NUM co-founder, Gwede Mantashe (in control of the Mineral Resources and Energy Ministry) Mabuyane’s re-election is significant to Ramaphosa because it helps to consolidate and advance the extraction industry’s expansion agenda for the Eastern Cape. This, they would have us believe, is to empower the marginalised Native African majority. However, we know that the people of Eastern Cape will simply become a pool of cheap labour that will not benefit in any significant way from the extractive industry.

Despite the serious warnings, as well as a petition consisting more than 400 000 signatures against mining and fracking that covers more than 30 000 square km of the Eastern Cape province, including its pristine Wild Coast region, Mabuyane, Mantashe and Ramaphosa have declared their support for the industry. 

Their official endorsement of the extraction project has wilfully ignored the negative social impact this will have on the region. It has side stepped the resistance from both residents and the farming community who will be directly impacted by the high risk of contamination of the ground and surface water supply due to the mining and fracking. 

It is no wonder the Ramaphosa administration is disinterested in and has no intention to expedite the ANC’s 54th National Conference Key Resolutions which specifically address the land restitution question 28 years after the ‘so-called’ Constitutional Democracy was declared in South Africa. 

Ramaphosa promised the Native African community, six months after his presidential victory on 17 December 2017, that he would amend Section 25 of the Constitution in order to expedite the expropriation of land without compensation. This was overwhelmingly endorsed by the South African majority, yet there are still no signs that it will ever happen during his presidency. Clearly this was used as a cheap electoral gimmick. Whether it broke the heart of the nation and sullied the reputation of the ANC was not his concern.

Earlier this year Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was attacked and vilified for correctly pointing out that the current neo-colonial nature of the South African constitution and judiciary systems has created hinderances to the socioeconomic transformation agenda of the ANC as the ruling party. She lamented the marginalisation and exclusion of Native African people from access to land and justice in a bourgeois democracy where White people (who constitute about 9% of the population) still collectively own more than 90% of productive prime land This ownership includes all the country’s national assets. 

Land is at the epicenter of South Africa’s national assets such as the precious natural mineral resources, forestry, rivers, sea and fisheries, construction and development material and human capital. All these combined are crucial to the development of human capital, food security, and socioeconomic stability for all citizens. Its fair redistribution, access and ownership is central to the socioeconomic transformation necessary to reverse the imbalances of racist inequalities, cheap labour camps, unemployment, poverty, crime, and violence created by the inhumane colonial and apartheid legacy of usurpation.

In contrast to the ideals of the ANC’s key resolutions the Thuma Mina faction’s support for extraction is premised in elitist greed. It is concocted in deals that lack effective public participation, transparency and accountability to the people, thus impacting negatively on the lives of millions of already vulnerable South Africans. It is steeped in conflicts of interest and corruption due to the leading members of the inner-circle’s self-serving ways of doing business. 

This is what has stalled the land restorative justice agenda, despite what the Ramaphosa faction argues to disguise this fact. It is about the advancing the neoliberal policies that the corporate-friendly ANC and country President is advocating for to protect his links and obligations to the extraction industry and corporate funders. 

One such example is the policy that states that precious natural minerals, platinum, gold, diamonds, ore, shale gas, etc, found under a property, are automatically the property of the state and/or the White extraction industry bosses. Due to lack of clear information, transparency, and accountability processes or mechanisms, it is not spelt out in black and white how communities in the areas earmarked for extraction are going to benefit. This clearly works against the landless, resource-deprived majority. 

Ramaphosa and his inner circle are not affected by such policies as they have been absorbed into the White corporate class as the limited ‘Black Elite” and co-owners of huge tracts of land. There is no doubt that they continue to exclusively benefit from land and mining related deals at the expense of the Native African majority. Leading members of the inner circle also have shares, including secret ones, in several White controlled companies that constantly violate the human rights of the majority including labour laws and the mineworker’s rights. Some of these members have shares in, among others, Shell South Africa that are managed by the inner-circle’s business arm Batho Batho Trust and Thebe Investment. Their interest in Shell Petroleum Refining and Shell South Africa Marketing – which is essentially it’s local propaganda agency, constitute a stake of between 26% and 30%.

In exchange for such shares the members must exploit their political connectivity to the ANC and government to advocate for corporate friendly policies, lobby and guarantee the support of the Native African majority while simultaneously project-managing and pacifying public anger to keep any resistance under control in order to advance the interests of the White corporate class. These entanglements in corporate conflicts of interest linked to corruption have compromised the ANC’s revolutionary ideology and its continuity. This is demonstrated by their lacklustre interest in restorative justice and the land restitution.

With all this in mind, rather than a victory for the people of South Africa, Mbuyane’s re-election signifies the increased impunity with which the extraction industry will be allowed, by the Ramaphosa administration, to engage in mining and fracking operations with very little or no transparency and accountability to the South African citizens, especially the Native African majority. It is a shameful victory that is premised on personal gain and profits before the wishes and livelihood of the Native South African majority.

In addition Mabuyane’s reasons for asking the people of the Eastern Cape to gullibly support a second term of a president who has demonstrated his diabolical lack of empathy with the Native African people’s hardship and pain of being marginalised from real economic opportunities, can only be attributed to the corporate-funded script and history authored by the extraction industry bosses who groomed Ramaphosa in preparation for their corporate takeover and total control of the ANC and its alliances structures. 

All of this points to disaster for the people of the Eastern Cape, the tragedy of which is the fact that their endorsement of Mabuyane is akin to signing a warrant for their own demise.

Sipho Singiswa is a political commentator and filmmaker. He is co-founder of Media for Justice and Director of Media and International Programming of The Robben Island Ex-Political Prisoner International Human Rights Program.