Investments from Davos… Why not just catch a taxi to Franschoek?


SA 1994 miracle white capitalist beneficiaries are yet to reinvest in SA 


There is a buzz in the air, I am not sure if its just not a fuss, the ANC leadership had just completed its first ordinary NEC meeting when its president Ramaphosa led an oversize delegation to icy Davos in Switzerland. We are told to go and sell South Africa to the world.



I think of Davos as a place where the wealthy annually trek on toe with those who fly on the poor’s expense to play in the snow, take some pictures and post on social media, I really meant to discuss serious ‘business’.



Forgive me for being cynical but is there any scientific report of what Davos really has meant for us in the last 20 years since Trevor Manuel introduced us to these visits to Switzerland? Does anyone have the true figures of quantitative and qualitative investment benefit, or is it something we just have to do? Beyond the illusion of global wealth, and kicking it with who-is-who, what do we annually bring back from Davos?




I say again there is a buzz or is it a choreographed fuss, if the world stands ready to invest, when the ANC has just perhaps taken its most radical stance in policy direction, from where this justified expressed investment appetite? Why would global investors be finding the outcomes of the 54th Conference so unintimidating as we are told? Is it possible that the world as we are told is agog with the person of Ramaphosa as the new broom? But how, since he is the deputy president of the ANC (recently elected as president) and SA since 2012. He is also part of a collective that comprises the ANC that just adopted what some capitalists in South Africa lambasts as populist rhetoric that will scare away any investor. For some a mixed bag of scary policies that will drive investment away.



A central consideration of investment for the capitalist mind is the demand it places on security of land tenure, meaning capitalist has as a prerequisite a non-negotiable departure point the right to own land unperturbed and to know that land is not under threat. That is one of the primary reasons our constitution, the result of a bad negotiated deal, with the apartheid capitalist, had to be drafted in that fashion on land.


The ANC has just adopted a resolution that categorically says land expropriation without compensation is to be implemented. It seeks to attain this by amending Section 25 of the Constitution in order to allow the State to expropriate land without compensation – but it has no set deadline.



Reports from Davos come thick and fast, we are told the world stands ready to invest every dime they have in South Africa, apparently because its leading party has a new president, in whom we are led to believe, the Davos world has full confidence. Every time we get feedback from Davos at least as the SA delegation share with the public we are told the world investors have booked their tickets to land in SA next week to come and bring bags of pounds, dollars, euros to lend a hand.



Such news ought to be welcoming any time day or night until we get beyond the public relations exercise of a lusty CR17 campaign that has not yet relented but is stepping up 18 months before we are exercising our democratic franchise again. We saw it with Manangagwa, the crocodile of Zimbabwe, who despite being from Zanu-PF as a questionable figure having served, as deputy president under for some the detestable Mugabe overnight became the messiah of the people of Zimbabwe. South of the Limpopo the Buffalo is also deputy president of his party and the State and elected to lead the ANC. The Buffalo is now made the messiah despite several warnings not to place undue pressure on him or for him not to be misled by the drummed up euphoria, as the answer to all SA economic and societal woes.



On top of that an apparent mixed bag of ideologically opposite groups like Cas Coovadia of BUSA says “the ANC’s resolution sends a wrong message to the investors and rating agencies.” AgriSA’ saw just doom and concluded …this will threaten economic growth, investor confidence, it will heighten the levels of uncertainty because thus is not a good decision for the country’. The ANC’s policy therefore on the home front did not inspire confidence judging by these role players, yet we are told Davos has given SA the thumbs up not even asking for clarity on this issue of land that locals felt will drive away investors. Though its policy has a caveat that in paraphrased sense reads along the lines of saying, as long as it does not tamper with the economy or commercial farming.




Maybe I am ignorant but, this seems to be a contradiction right here, the local so called know-it-all economic role players see doom and a driving away of investors, even further downgrades, when we are told Davos is arriving next week to come and invest, who is fooling who and why are we being fooled? This is another red herring it would seem to me you never going to attain much needed economic redress while maintaining the status quo, maybe that is just the lifelong activist in me thinking crooked in this post ANC conference linear world where all things because of Ramaphosa’s leadership will be fixed. .



Davos, a breeze, what better occasion to come from a fresh narrow election win, and to be leading a team to meet the world since you are the anointed solution of the economic problems because your billionaire status is touted as a guarantee that you won’t steal? Davos then is the ultimate dream for any PR outfit, for it is a great opportunity for starting the campaign for SA high office. However we still have to deal with the reality of the claim that Davos is the answer to our investment problems.



Capitalist investors are people who play, work, and live for themselves first; they do not make up a group of people with a deep sense of benevolence or guilt towards the poor. Neither do they share an epistemology of indebtedness to the poor. They often inadvertently blame the poor for their state of poverty. Helping nations or societies is not necessarily the moral arch of their internal conviction.



With my limited knowledge of economics, I may be shot down for advancing the following: We wrong to focus on international investment as the perpetual problem in the SA context, I would think we must take issue with the local 1994 miracle benevolent white ones, who benefited in an extraordinary fashion from a democratic SA, yes, those who live in SA, who all talk about that miracle of a rainbow nation and espouses their love for a Mandela, but hitherto have failed to reinvest in SA and remain white in black politically led SA.



The fact is white corporate SA despite the glow of an aftermath of what the world deemed a SA political miracle never believed this miracle even now and therefore refuses to invest in this miracle. Their self-inflicted fear deny them to do what all other capitalist do in their home nations, namely reinvesting.




So it appears we on the wrong trip to Davos, maybe if we drive to Franschoek and Stellenbosch we may save some serious travelling and accommodation expenses, who knows we may even pick up some free Chardonnay for the sipping ones.



My simplistic understanding of the problem in our economy was borne out when I listened to the much-publicised PowerTalk FM interview of former President Mbeki. In such interview Mbeki, who is an economist helped me the theologian and social scientist to know that I am not wrong on my premise of what is wrong in SA’s economy.


Pushed by Given Mkhari in what I personally still think was as always soft-
coddled treatment and nice PR stint, The one serious thing Mbeki beyond wanting to tell us we all were in Honolulu for his 12-year tenure said, though he was almost compelled to share, what he plausibly may under normal circumstances never would have shared, was the fact that he thinks the South African white capitalist evidences a strange phenomenon if compared to the rest of the world of capitalists. Mbeki articulated my economically ignorant thoughts in clarion sense when he unequivocally said they refuse to reinvest in SA because they don’t trust the miracle, they have never trusted it and they therefore invest somewhere else.



The solution then cannot be us annually trekking to Davos to smooth talk, wine and dine the wealthy of the globe when we have not mustered the courage to ask our own at home why they consciously refuse to reinvest on the home front. I still think we do not need to go Davos, we don’t need to go to that icy weather, when we can just trek down to Stellenbosch, Franschoek or a Dainfern to ask the benefactors of the 1994 negotiated settlement miracle why they as wealthy capitalists have continued to benefit and consciously failed to reinvest in the soil that made them who they are? More so why they still doubt the miracle of a new South Africa that has netted them much more wealth than what any apartheid or colonial state ever afforded them.



The truth is despite all the business friendly overtures the Mbeki administration against the wishes of some of us engineered and equally sustained by a Zuma administration; White South African capitalist remains a strange bunch in the world of capitalists.



I told you I am no economist, neither do pretend to be one, yet I cannot understand why such a fuss is made of economic growth, when we have read of nations like Nigeria and others that have consistently shown growth of +7% with no evidence as to how that translates back to job creation and true benefit for the poor. One therefore struggles to accept that economic growth automatically translates to a benefit for the poor. If economic growth suggests a good economy, why is it that the economy is not working for the majority ? If it does not work for the majority why must it be protected
under the guise of constitutionally permissible relevance?



What I do know is that every country needs investment that investment takes on diverse shapes and forms for diverse role players with diverse benefits. For the state its role remains to create and sustain an environment through its policy certainty and governance stability the opportunity for trade and business in a safe and equitable space. It guarantees to the investors the opportunity to expand business and increase their profits in a safe environment and therefore a return on investment.



It extends to the workers an opportunity to have access to jobs and sustainable livelihoods as a result of the importance of the workforce in the success of the enterprise. Investment must mean for the youth opportunities for education and further training to function in a society where multi-disciplines are needed. It has to translate to meaningful and substantial benefit to the community an opportunity for better infrastructure and dignified sustainable human settlements not RDP houses, but human settlements that include schools, transport infrastructure, medical facilities, cultural and sports facilities, and small business opportunities. In my idyllic prism all this is undergirded by a social compact that brings the abovementioned together in confirmation of what investment in a
developmental state means.



The truth is despite all attempts to have a social compact thus far, because we hear it bandied around again; we have not seen that kind of investment in SA. Going to Davos annually has thus far not yielded the reality of jobs for the workers, opportunities for the entrepreneurs and small business-people. The communities where for example our mines are located are dilapidated ash heaps of forgetfulness. The youth have no access to the opportunities of education and further training sponsored by capital. The workers remain jobless. The only group who have benefitted is the capitalist investor.



Davos then beyond a great public relations exercise for a CR17 – 2019 campaign, will as always bring nothing and no investor will arrive next week. We must catch a taxi to Franschoek pass Hanover Park and talk frankly to SA’s Mandela bequeathed ones. We may not need international investors from Davos if the local ones start to reinvest. Then
again, what do I know I am not an economist?



Clyde Ramalaine
Political Commentator and Writer
Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation – The Thinking Masses of SA
PICTURE: Supplied