This is a difficult book to review in the traditional way of book review. We evaluate our performance after 25 years. And the result is that we have failed. In the old education system under colonial rule and later taken over by our governments if a student failed at the end of the year, he was forced to repeat. We hope the student will do better. Usually the student performs better and is promoted to the next level.
Unfortunately, politics no longer works like education used to work. Remember the father of a Nigerian governor whose son was judged to have failed as governor. He pleaded that if indeed his son failed he should be allowed to repeat !!!
Ebrahim Harvey did his Masters and PhD in Water and Sanitation in Soweto. He was a trade unionist and political analyst. He published a political biography of former President and Vice President Kgalema Motlanthe in 2012. His latest publication The Great Pretenders: Race and Class Under and Rule is packed with history and historical details.
Yet nothing obscures the book’s conclusion that the ANC failed to rule South Africa from 1994 until today. Why did the ANC fail? The quick answer is that they did not understand the race and class in their country and they negotiated from a position of abject ignorance of what to do once in power. The longer answer would be that they have agreed to continue running the capitalist system for the benefit of white monopoly capital.
Two quotes that we must keep in mind to understand the scope of this book are from the author. He insists that the book was inspired by the Marikana massacre in 2012 and that the fees must fall during the student uprising of 2015. “There is, I believe, a deep historical connection between Marikana and the conditions under which the British imperialism took root in this country, the 19th century mining revolution and which essentially continued after the negotiated settlement between the ANC and the apartheid regime in 1993. This is the first quote, the note from end number 1 of the Preface.
The second quote is self-explanatory. “The historical evidence that shows systemic links between racism, apartheid and capitalism across South Africa is so overwhelming, especially after the 19th century Mineral Revolution, that there is much work academics to refer to. But for my purposes, I consider the following to be among the best: Darcy du Toit, Capital and Labor in South Africa: Class Struggle in the 1970s (London and Boston: Keagan Paul International, 1980); Timothy Keegan, Colonial South Africa and the Origins of the Racial Order (Cape Town: David Philip, 1996); Michael MacDonald, Why Race Matters in South Africa (Cambridge, MA &. London: Harvard University Press, 2006). ”
The first four chapters of the book prepare the reader for chapter five, which is the most important chapter in the book. “The historical origins of the concept of race”, “Race, racism and racism: definitions and theoretical reflections”, “Race, class and gender in the history of South Africa” and “Towards the understanding of the African National Congress” prepares the reader for Chapter Five: ‘Mandela, the Negotiations and the Rise of the ANC.’
The remaining three chapters, “Some Notes on the National Question”, “The“ New South Africa ”Unveils: Race, Class and Gender Struggles” and “The Revenge of“ History ”? Ask the reader to think about what needs to be done in light of the ANC’s failure to rule South Africa.
What Dr Harvey proves without any possible contradiction is that wherever it matters, WMC wins apartheid or not apartheid. The wages and working conditions against which the Marikana miners were on strike want to be improved by the changes supposed to have taken place after the 1993 negotiations, sealed by the 1994 elections. “Behind all the rhetoric about democracy and the will of the the peoples, all democratic states, to a greater or lesser degree, defend capitalist interests, profits and accumulation. Capital is a very powerful force, which even the most robust constitutional democracies know to be an undeniable fact. ”(P.321).
So what should be done? If there was anything in the two-stage theory, now we should move on to the second stage of our national salvation revolution. The socialist scene. But this is nonsense. The government has failed to make life more abundant for working class black people in South Africa.
For now, there is no alternative to the ANC. Such alternatives, if they exist, take their time to emerge. A reshaped DA failed. Julius Malema’s FFF has shown that it is no different from its ANC elders by participating in the VBS robbery. Thus, some form of the ANC must be held to repeat the work of properly governing the country. This is the reason why Ebrahim Harvey supports the ANC that officers accused of corruption must step down. It’s a beginning.
So many ANC myths have been punctured in this book. This was the basis of South Africa’s special position in Africa.
South Africa was special. South Africa was unique. Things would work out differently in South Africa. On this difference, that the ANC waged two struggles as one, would ensure that the cadres deployed throughout the country would be aware of their revolutionary duty. But, as Dr Harvey points out, “the ANC was never really a powerful mass organization”. So, instead of revolutionary fervor, they insisted that they did not join the party to be poor. And the ANC agreed that the cadres could, in fact, do business with the government they served. And this is where the catch lies. Inflated prices, payment for work not done, payment for equipment not delivered and before long we have billions of rand lost for the national tax authorities. Eskom, railways, townships, ministries and state-owned enterprises could not amount to billions of rand. Like all African countries that insisted it was their turn to cut, South Africa was steeped in corruption. Thank you Dr Ebrahim Harvey for a wonderful book The Great Pretenders.