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Sampie Terreblanche’s Lost in Transformation Looks at Inequality in South Africa

Lost in TranslationPatrick Bond has recommended Stellenbosch Economics Professor Emeritus Sampie Terreblanche’s book Lost in Transformation: South Africa’s Search for a New Future Since 1986 for background on the influence of South Africa’s Minerals Energy Complex on ANC policies, to better understand the tragedy of the shootings at Lonmin mine, Marikana.

Terreblanche reveals that, while the apartheid government was in close “cahoots” with the MEC, there is evidence that “it and other corporations are again too closely in cahoots with the ANC government”. According to Bond, the book looks at “why the African National Congress embraced policies that made the lower half of the society much poorer”.

Could Lonmin have paid its workers more, after a decade of prosperity, to avoid sinking South Africa into one of the worst calamities in corporate history?

Though a bit lower today, platinum prices had soared 300 percent from early 2000s levels; loosened exchange controls let profits flow to London headquarters; Ernst & Young rated ‘sustainable development’ at Lonmin ‘excellent’ and the World Bank made a $150 million commitment to support the firm’s gender, AIDS and community investment at Marikana – both vital mine-wash in the event that embarrassing research on exploitation caught the attention of journalists or campaigners.

From the book’s blurb

The penetrating insights and compelling arguments presented in this book make it ‘a must read’ for anyone who wants to unpack the foundations of the “crisis” South Africa is facing today, understand the politics and economics of the country, and find fresh answers. Lost in transformation: South Africa’s search for a new future since 1986 traces the evolution of the present day “crisis” facing the country, beginning with the examination of the global political and economic context of the 1980s, focusing particularly on the period 1986-1990 and then goes back the 1650s, tracing political-economic developments up to 2012.

Terreblanche unmasks the manoeuvres and backroom strategies of manipulation devised by American and British transnational corporations in collaboration with the former Soviet regime. The book also examines the steps towards the negotiated settlement and the birth of the new democracy in 1994. Terreblanche recounts some of his own personal experiences, exposing matters which ordinary South Africans would never come to know.

About the author

Professor Solomon Johannes (Sampie) Terreblanche earned his BA, MA and PhD degrees at the University of Stellenbosch. The University of the Free State awarded him a D.Comm. (honoris causa) in 2005. From 1957 to 1964 he lectured at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein. In 1965 he moved as a Senior Lecturer to the University of Stellenbosch and became Professor of Economics in 1968. Since 1996 he has been an Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Stellenbosch.

Professor Terreblanche is the author of The History of Inequality in South Africa 1952-2002, a co-publication of KMM Review Publishing Company and UKZN Press.

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In the following extract from Lost in Transformation, Terreblanche writes that “South Africa has never had a politico-economic system in which the political side was powerful enough to tame the capitalist side”. He blames both the implementation of “black empowerment and affirmative action in rather doubtful and myopic ways” and the “perpetuation of white elitism and white corporatism” after 1994 for the inequality in South Africa:

The rich and the poor are two sides of the same systemic coin. Nothing explains this better than the situation in South Africa in the first 70 years of the 20th century when whites constituted 20% of the total population, yet received more than 70% of the total income. Africans constituted almost 70% of the population, but received less than 20% of the total income. This can be ascribed to the politico-economic system of white political dominance and racial capitalism-corporatism in South Africa in that period. The system enriched whites and impoverished blacks undeservedly.

In neoliberal countries where the capitalist-corporatist sector is dominant, this close relationship between the rich and the poor is particularly evident. In all neoliberal capitalist countries the poor have got poorer since the early 1980s and the rich have got richer. When social-democratic capitalism was in place in Western countries in the third quarter of the 20th century, democratic governments were powerful enough to tame the capitalist-corporatist sector and bring about an equalisation of income. But when social democracy was replaced by neoliberal capitalism in the early 1980s, income became much more unequally distributed in all Western countries.

Read Patrick Bond’s review of the book for Amandla:

Sampie Terreblanche’s brief (150pp) new book Lost in Transformation adds to our understanding of the ‘Americanisation’ of South Africa’s economy and forces new questions about a future, necessary transition to socialism.

Though the eloquent 79-year-old is an absolutely invaluable ally to SA’s independent left, that’s not what Terreblanche wants, is it – he’s a ‘social-democratic capitalist’ (he declares). His heart is apparently broken: in spite of a few welfarist gestures and corporatist-oriented labour laws, the African National Congress elite made policy and alliance choices that strengthened the minerals-energy complex (MEC), introduced financialisation and allowed capital flight, hastened deindustrialisation and amplified poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Book details


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