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New Left Review 58, July-August 2009


PATRICK BOND

IN POWER IN PRETORIA?

Reply to R. W. Johnson

In ‘False Start in South Africa’, R. W. Johnson offers a welcome blast against Pretoria’s new crony-capitalist elite, rightly summoning the spirit of Fanon to depict its parasitical mentality. Johnson is a trenchant and highly readable liberal chronicler of South Africa’s endless political degeneracy, and his assessment of anc rule to date hits important targets: the rise of a grasping bee bourgeoisie, the failure of basic social provision, soaring unemployment and vast inequalities. He is right to warn of possible Zulu–Xhosa tensions, and renewed xenophobia against regional immigrants. Johnson rhetorically exaggerates the importance of white flight—even on his own figures, economically active émigrés represent only 0.5 per cent of the population, and are probably counter-balanced by skilled white returnees, Johnson among them. His fear that the presence of Communists in government will scare away investors seems almost quaint, considering the amount of foreign capital pouring into Beijing. Johnson will say that the ccp are better capitalists than their confrères in the sacp—but that is simply to concede the point. More seriously, though, Johnson provides no explanatory analysis of the anc’s socio-economic failures, nor any apartheid-era baselines against which they might be measured. And in suggesting a lurch to the left under the Zuma government, he totally misconstrues the relationship between the South African Communist Party and the anc.

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