South Africa, the British Empire, and the Way Forward

Photo: Courtesy of Phapano Phasha. Caption: Phapano Phasha as a commentator on ANN7 television, 2017.

South Africa, the British Empire, and the Way Forward

by Phapano Phasha  , 27 October 2018

Phasha is an ANC Branch Secretary in Johannesburg, a researcher, social commentator, community activist and communications strategist. She writes in her personal capacity.

South Africa’s “state capture” hoax—the subject of her polemic here—is, for South Africa, what Russiagate is in the United States. Both are British psychological operations (PsyOps) for achieving regime change. Phasha asserts the basic truth that “The South African state … was created by the oligarchy … The state was therefore ‘captured’ from the beginning by British imperialism,” and remains in British hands today. This is the foundation of her attack on the current phase of the regime change operation in South Africa. The ultimate aim of that operation is to put former President Zuma and some of his allies in prison through their association with the Gupta family, while legitimizing as normal the continuing—but undisclosed—British imperial control of the country’s economy. That control is what Phasha, Zuma and others are fighting.

Her article reflects the existence of two different (unresolved) views among black South Africans on economic liberation. One view is that the international financial system (the British financial empire), must be brought to an end through the collaboration of anti-imperial powers, notably the BRICS and China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This is the key to opening South Africa to the kind of development that we see in China. However, because of U.S. military might and its possession of the hydrogen bomb, this collaboration will not avoid a nuclear holocaust unless the United States is taken out of the hands of the British-steered neocons and neoliberals—those who are demonizing Russia and China, and fantasize that the human race can survive a thermonuclear war. President Trump’s attempts to establish friendly, stable relations with China and Russia have much popular support in the United States, but are threatened—and made complicated—by the neocon/neoliberal establishment. Yet he is not giving up.

The other view is that “you can’t fight the imperial system”—and a political earthquake in the United States is unimaginable. Therefore, black South Africans should limit themselves to forcing a redistribution of South Africa’s wealth, so that black South Africans are not left out. The expressions “white monopoly capital” and “white capital” are principally used in this context: the capital in question is South African domestic capital, which is “owned” by whites. The concept discounts the fact that ownership is not control, and those in London and Wall Street who are capable of trashing your currency and manipulating your bond ratings, and, through their South African agents, able to organize capital flight, dominate your airwaves, and manipulate your politics—it is they who effectively own it all. Send every white person in the country to Australia or the Crimea, and there will be no reduction in black poverty, only a few more black billionaires.

Phasha’s article first appeared on the Black Opinion blog in February 2018. Because of its urgent relevance, given the launch of the Judicial Inquiry into State Capture’s dog-and-pony show, she posted it on her Facebook page in September under the title, “Did the Guptas Capture the State?” It is reprinted here with revisions, with her permission. It has been edited, and subheads have been added.

David Cherry

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It is highly probable that the Guptas have stolen from government; it is equally improbable to say the Guptas have “captured the state.” State capture, in essence, is about those who control the means of production through their proximity to the state and how this control permeates and influences our social strata.

To say the Guptas control both our productive forces and value system is the biggest lie to have been sold to South Africans. Capitalism by its nature thrives on corruption, and the Guptas, in the complex web of capitalism, will be considered petty thieves, for they control nothing of value in the context of production or wealth creation.

Quantitavely speaking, who has control over the state? Who makes the law in South Africa today?

Who creates knowledge in South Africa? Who owns the banks? Who owns the wealth and minerals of this country? The Guptas?

If the Guptas are deported tomorrow will you get your land back?

Who controls more than R400 billion of procurement for government, of which 90% goes to white-owned companies?

Are the Guptas part of the Big 5 construction companies, which control more than the R4 trillion from the Presidential Infrastructure Plan? The same construction companies which collude and steal billions from government and taxpayers?

Are the Guptas part of the Big 5 banks and asset management companies that control billions of government funds and which have been found to have manipulated the currency, “fixed” their account books or stolen from government pension funds?

Who controls the supply of coal at Eskom and has 20-40 year contracts?

If only 2% of procurement at South African Airways (SAA) is controlled by blacks, who controls the 98% at this parastatal? Is it the Guptas?

Who controls mega-projects at Prasa [passenger rail agency] and Transnet [rail, port, and pipeline agency], including infrastructure projects worth billions for our rails and ports?

Who controls the billion-rand health industry, which includes pharmaceutical companies that supply medicine and equipment for your government? The Guptas?

Who controls ICT infrastructure used by government? Guptas?

Government is the biggest consumer of legal services, and it is the Big 5 white law firms that are asked to prepare the briefs. It is white lawyers primarily who write legal opinions for the ANC-led government; it is white lawyers who developed such regressive legislation as PPPFMA [affirmative action law for bidders on government contracts], the Construction Industry Development Board (CIDB), and Chapter 9 institutions [intended to strengthen constitutional democracy] including the Competition Commission, which is meant to protect white corruption which is just called collusion.

The is no private sector without government, and there is no government without tax collection. The so-called private sector has always depended on government procurement and capital injection. If you look at the top 25 companies by market capitalization listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, all of them are co-owned by the Public Investment Corporation.

It is your pension funds that sustain white privilege if not state capture by white conglomerates.

How do you capture the state if you control nothing? In a capitalist society, business always seeks to influence politicians, and many of you who compete for tenders with government will know, because you are forever having meetings with politicians in an effort to influence them.

The mere fact that you can influence ministers does not then mean you have captured the state, because African National Congress (ANC) ministers have not even comprehended how the state interacts with society; many have not even explored the role of the state in its entirety.

How Afrikaners Resisted the British

The South African state in its basic terms was created by the oligarchy to exert influence through politicians and to manage the poor and the working class.

The state was therefore “captured” from the beginning by British imperialism, which was then forced to co-opt some Afrikaners including, in recent times, the late Anton Rupert.

To this day, what you call the Republic of South Africa continues to be a colonial republic under the custodianship of the British Empire; hence our gold reserves are under the custodianship of Queen Elizabeth.

However, across several generations, Hendrik Potgieter, Paul Kruger, Koos de la Rey, Christiaan de Wet, J.B.M. Hertzog, and others refused to be coopted by British capital, which led to the Anglo-Boer War and the formation of the secret Broederbond in 1918 to fight British imposition.

So powerful was Britain and its grip on the state through its business proxies, that even after the National Party came to power, Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd in Parliament lamented that the “Oppenheimers” were so powerful that they could easily destroy any government. Verwoerd attempted to dismantle British state capture, but was assassinated in 1966; the idea of nationalizing the wealth of the country from British control died with him.

Let me remind you that the first ever mining company to be owned by Afrikaners was only consolidated in 1963, nearly one hundred years after the rediscovery of diamonds in 1867. This means it took those who have been in South Africa since 1652 almost one hundred years to own a mine—mind you, not even to control it, because Gencor received vendor funding from Britain.

We must understand the difference between ownership and control.
White companies have perfected control through cross-directorships and cross-shareholding where they still control more than 50% of the economy. They might not own certain companies, but they control many of them by having given them vendor funding, and then they control the boards through directorships and shareholding.

They run a sophisticated web, which they control through legislation, the executive, and the judiciary.

Did I mention that more than 60% of senior prosecutors at the National Prosecuting Authority are white and most also worked for the apartheid government? Take Gerrie Nel, for example. As celebrated as he is, he never prosecuted any white collar criminal; instead he worked with the likes of the corrupt KPMG to bring black blue-collar criminals to book and to show his contempt, he went to join Afriforum to further protect and entrench white supremacy.

Any lessons learned?

The Broederbond fought to defeat state capture by Britain, but they were eventually defeated and coopted. From 1918 the Brotherhood built their own universities, refusing to take their children to English schools where the minds of their children would be shaped by Anglo scholarship. Instead of taking their children to Rhodes University, University of Cape Town or the University of the Witwatersrand, they opted to build Free State University, Stellenbosch, University of Pretoria, Rand Afrikaans University and Potchefstroom, so as to take charge of their future.

Afrikaners understood the power to define. They didn’t fight for inclusion like we do, but opted to start their own institutions in their own language.

They started their own banks and insurance companies such as Volkskas (now ABSA), Saambou, Sanlam, Avbob, and Nedbank (Nederland Bank). Nasionale Pers [National Press] was a brainchild of Hertzog. Afrikaners started their own media houses because they understood the power of the media and its ability to shape narrative and set the agenda.

The bedrock of Afrikaner self-determination was their church, the Dutch Reformed Church, which on a weekly basis taught whites they were God’s chosen race. Even though Afrikaners were eventually swallowed by British capital, they fought till the bitter end.

Even though Afrikaner capitalists like Anton and Johann Rupert (others contest that this family is truly Afrikaner), Jannie Mouton, Markus Jooste, and Christo Wiese have become economic partners to the British, they still exercise some control over their destiny. Remember, Afrikaners were also subjected to concentration camps and many were left to die in their war with Britain—both fighting for our resources.

Black Billionaires Owned by the British

Where is Black South Africa today? Nowhere!

We are confused, divided and fighting amongst ourselves. ANC leaders are fighting each other to be coopted by white capital, just to get bread crumbs and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) status. Since 1991, Radical Economic Transformation (RET), adopted by the ANC in 2017, is the first ANC document that truly speaks to self determination. Now the question is whether the ANC has bold leaders prepared to die to implement this radical agenda?

Hence we must protect RET with our lives, because in it lies the wealth of our children and future children.

RET is no longer about the ANC.

BEE was conceptualized by the Brenthurst Foundation, commissioned by the Oppenheimers, which has led to a crisis in black business, and the tender system has failed. Thabo Mbeki conceptualized what he deemed to be a “patriotic bourgeoisie,” an elitist project which really created the new black colonial elite and led to social distance between the ANC and its constituency. Today ANC leaders are coopted by white businesses to such an extent that some are even prepared to say White Monopoly Capital does not exist.

Such denialism!

Do you understand how breadcrumbs numb your ability to analyze your concrete objective reality? Afrikaners refused breadcrumbs and were even prepared to kill black people, yet today you have leaders who are prepared to distort the truth and tell us there is no White Monopoly Capital or that the Guptas have captured the state.

Such a travesty!

In the history of our economic struggle post 1994, the Guptas were the first race outside of the power struggle between British/Afrikaner capital who succeeded in a hostile take-over through Tegeta to buy out a white controlled company.

For any student of history who has researched how capital has changed hands since the discovery of diamonds in 1867, this was monumental, if not the beginning of a proverbial economic war. The 5% that Tegeta snitched from Glencore/Shanduka-owned Optimum was the beginning of our war towards economic freedom….


For the first time in the history of Eskom, a race outside of the white race had control of shares at Eskom. Forget Ramaphosa’s Shanduka—it was coopted. White business was shaken that another race had actually beaten them in their own game…. Anglo American, Exxaro, Glencore, BHP Billiton, Khumba Iron Ore were all shocked that more than 70% of their monopoly at the state-owned entity was now contested.

No black person has ever done what the Guptas have done—contest the domination of white capital. None whatsoever.

It is another lie that white capital is sustained by good governance or accountability. Steinhoff, KPMG, Investec, Murray and Roberts, ABSA, and others continue to prove that the private sector is a playground of sophisticated thieves in suits who collude and steal taxpayers’ money, but because they write legislation that protects them and they own the media that protects their thievery, you would only associate corruption and capture with others.

Look at our black rand billionaires.

Patrice Motsepe, though a brilliant business man, owns a British company now called African Rainbow Minerals, which in fact is AngloVaal, which was unbundled between 1998 and 2002, a brainchild of Clive Menell, one of the British mining randlords who was Harry Oppenheimer’s confidant. The Menells are part of the British dynasty in South Africa. Hence local white capital will never antagonize Patrice. So powerful were the Menells and so trusted by some ANC leaders, that when Nelson Mandela publicly separated from Winnie Mandela, he went to stay with the Menells.

Shanduka, founded by Cyril Ramaphosa, is an extension of Anglo American, with shares in almost all Oppenheimer-controlled companies having been given to Shanduka and Pembani since 1993.

The same with Tokyo Sexwale. And many emerging black billionaires have equally not done anything much to contest white economic domination.

The Way Forward?

Surely Britain does not want another South African war anything like the Boer War, and Afrikaners know they have nowhere else to go. For these reasons, an empowered black society is a threat to white privilege.

What is the way forward?

Do we continue to allow ourselves to be misled that the Guptas have captured our state?

Do we wait for another foreign family to come and fight with whites for our resources, or do we learn from both the Broederbond and the Guptas how to contest for real economic power which will empower all our people?

The Guptas, just like the Dutch and British, were mere tourists in South Africa, but decided to stay permanently. They saw opportunities that Black South Africans did not see. From 1993 they began to entice and then coerce ANC leaders in an effort to gain influence, but they went beyond what black aspirant capitalists aspired to, They fought to control patterns of ownership.

As ANC leader Dr. Kgosi Maepa in Pretoria would say, what you have today are “black capitalists without capital” and the question I ask today, directed in particular to the black intelligentsia, is what will it take you to start your own institutions?

The black society is in a crisis because the ANC is in a crisis, whilst pan-Africanist organisations are at war with themselves.

Surely you must come out of your closets and armchair criticism to save this sinking ship. The ANC as I would infer is just like the Titanic and headed towards an iceberg; we need to steer it away from this iceberg.

What does this mean?

The black intelligentsia must construct a new understanding to save the ANC from itself, unless they are also prepared to see political power right back in the hands of the minority.

by Phapano Phasha , introduction by David Cherry


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