Ronnie Kasrils on How GEAR Snuffed Out the RDP and any Prospect of Nationalisation for South Africa

19 Mar 2014

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Speaking at a panel discussion on the question of nationalisation for South Africa, former Minister for Intelligence Services, Ronnie Kasrils, who was deeply involved in the negotiations during South Africa’s transition to democracy explains how progressive people oriented policies such as the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) were quickly shelved in favour of neoliberal policies such as GEAR (the Growth Employment and Redistribution strategy), which led to the abandonment of nationalisation as a policy option by the incoming ANC government. Kasrils' candid remarks provide a unique snapshot into an important moment in South Africa's history.

This panel discussion was co-hosted by the South African Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS) and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung South Africa Office (FES).

Transcript of Ronnie Kasril's Remarks

RONNIE KASRILS: Ja, I think the RDP showed a wonderful expression of where we were in that 1990 period. The orientation to the people, the best of our principles, etc. And it gets going and you remember a man called Jay Naidoo.

At the same time what is happening  - and I’ll say this to you because I speak out -Trevor Manuel and a small group of the economic sector…In Shell House we paid no attention to us…to them. More fools us, because “it’s the economy, stupid”. But we were looking at political power, we were looking at campaigning, we were looking at the election. I was one of those.

We didn’t pay any attention to where the real engine is and these were a small group with Tito (Mboweni) and others going off to the IMF, Maria Ramos, going off to America, getting that kind of training - the ear of Mbeki, the ear of Madiba - and Davos.

So, this particular strand gets going and has expression in GEAR, which snuffs out the RDP obviously. And that’s the Faustian pact and we’re now on that trajectory. And remember what happens to Faust at the end of the pact with the devil, that sellout? He’s condemned to hell. And this is what’s happening; the country’s being condemned to hell and Marikana is hell. And development, there was the question about the development factor in that platinum belt. Where is Gwede Mantashe, Cyril Ramaphosa, Kgalema Motlanthe, all the big shots of the mining union?

I feel bad having been at the helm of the NEC and SACP and I could kick myself. Where was I? Why wasn’t I going to those mining settlements to see the absolute dreadful conditions that we were allowing our people to live under? Why didn’t we do just a damn simple thing? Make the bloody mining houses pay 5% of their profits into a housing plan to ensure that there’s decent living conditions for the people who are digging the wealth up. That’s not nationalisation. That’s just use of taxes.

We fled from the question of heavy taxation of the business economic community of this country and their 150 years of exploitation. Absolutely disgraceful. It’s a disgrace on me, quite frankly but at least let’s get to talk about these things.

Zimbabwe…I just want to give you a short anecdote. Gavin Relly and company from Anglo, they come out in 1985 and they meet Tambo and (Thabo) Mbeki, Pallo Jordan and a small group from the ANC in one of the game parks in Zambia and this is the first meeting and it’s big business hey.

This is the corporates of South Africa and they’re sitting there with half a dozen of our guys; half a dozen of them and it’s clear, the ANC are seeing that these guys, they’re not that against the idea of a universal franchise and the idea of democracy in its particular sense -- you know voting once every four or five years.

But the issue that Gavin really raises is, you know Mr. Tambo we can move on a number of things, but please this issue that you guys go on about all the time, nationalisation, the dreaded “N” word, nationalisation, please you can’t come with that. If that’s the ANC’s line, we’re not going to be interested.

The person who convened the meeting and had decided to leave the group, but they made him stay, Kenneth Kaunda, and he sat there quietly while the debate goes on. So, he leans forward and he says excuse me Mr. Reilly, Anglo American, you’ve done a deal with me in Zambia 51%, 49%. If you can do it in Zambia - well leave out the problems that happened in Zambia because that’s where you’ve got bureaucracy in charge, state bureaucracy etc. - why can’t you do it in South Africa?

What happened to our ANC that they could face these guys then and talk nationalisation? Faustian pact, that’s the bloody sellout, that’s why we're in this dilemma now.

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Evan Prinsloo
19 Mar


This man, his mindset and his commentary gives one hope.
Thanks, Ron!

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