To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
13 Jul 2018 00:00
White lies: The petrol increase has actually fallen behind that of inflation, writes Mathew Blatchford. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
The most conspicuous and useful way of revealing the Mail & Guardian’s bias is by noting the falsity of the graph on the front page of the July 6 edition “We’re cold, we’re hungry”.
It seems that whoever constructed the graph has attended my “How to lie with tables and graphs” course; cutting off the bottom two-thirds of the graph creates the illusion that the petrol price has changed dramatically. The bigger lie is in the headline, which suggests that the change in the petrol price is significant.
During the four-and-a-half years between January 2014 and July 2018, the petrol price rose from R13.15 to R16.02.
During that period, however, inflation reduced the value of the rand even more dramatically.
Allowing for a 5% inflation rate, however, one finds that R13.15 in 2014 is now worth about R15.61. Thus the petrol price has risen by 41 cents since 2014, or about 2.6%. Because the inflation rate is higher than that, the petrol price has actually fallen — but even if it had risen by 2.6% in four-and-a-half years, it is clear that the petrol price has only an insignificant role in promoting inflation, and probably no role whatsoever.
Once one sees that the M&G’s economics are complete claptrap, it is no surprise to turn to page 3 (“Brace yourself for tougher times”) and find this claptrap multiplied and solemnly endorsed by various agents of white monopoly capital, whose primary task is to protect their patrons by pretending that South Africa’s economic crisis is not caused by white monopoly capital’s investment strike and plundering spree, but is instead caused by government incompetence.
The M&G accuses the government of being clueless — “no one . . . knows what to do” — rather than being criminally complicit in white monopoly capital. At least the Zuma administration was blamed for something, though that blame was laid on the government and the Guptas, rather than on the real gangsters.
We are still in the honeymoon period, the “Ramaphoria”, which expresses the hope of white monopoly capital that the current junta of corporate stooges will proceed with the neoliberal playbook, as they have by raising value-added tax and wrecking the social grants system.
Actually, the Ramaphosa junta is far from clueless. They do exactly what they are told to do by their masters, and they deliberately put themselves in a position of subordinated powerlessness in order to acquire the trappings of illusory power and increased personal wealth. This is evident from the ludicrous dissembling of the deputy minister of finance quoted in the story, and the grotesque cruelty of the corrupt white-fronting mogul Enoch Godongwana dismissing the disastrous effect of the consequences of the policies of the Ramaphosa junta.
So the M&G is covering up for their patrons (it is now owned by the global rather than the local plutocracy). But financial mystification is not enough. It is also necessary to inculcate false consciousness at a more personal level, and here Eusebius McKaiser “Race debate elicits fatal fallacies” serves a dual role.
Superficially, McKaiser appears to be playing the liberal, refusing to accept the arguments of “extremists” even when they are correct, and thus serving the interests of the conservative status quo. Actually, he is misrepresenting the race/class debate.
The fraudulent notion of racial (rather than cultural) essentialism is unfortunately not (contrary to McKaiser’s claims) an attribute of “extremists” such as Andile Mngxitama. Instead, it is a universal South African concept; almost all South Africans accept race as something that overwhelms all other aspects of socioeconomic being.
Mngxitama is merely more honest about this than McKaiser, although McKaiser is perfectly happy to expose his fundamentally racist preconceptions when it is necessary to win an argument.
To this McKaiser counterposes what he calls “race denialism”, by which he actually means Marxism. Here he does not provide any examples, because there are none. Nobody, in South Africa or anywhere in the global left, has ever denied that race exists as a socially significant category. By inventing an imaginary bogey, McKaiser attempts to separate his own reactionary and racist perspective from the real racist perspective of most South Africans.
He does this because he is not opposed to racialising issues, but is opposed to the fact that racialising issues leads inevitably to the fact of racialised economic inequality.
This is why McKaiser is attacking Mngxitama and imaginary Marxists who deny the existence of race. Thus he can declare that race is important, whereas inequality is not — and such a person can denounce Penny Sparrow or Helen Zille, but not white monopoly capital.
The economic disinformation and the racist distraction all seem to fit together rather nicely. Unfortunately, it is all very obviously toxic garbage and stinks disgustingly to boot. Whether it actually fools anybody except the M&G’s patrons is a more dubious question. — Mathew Blatchford, University of Fort Hare
In his piece “Battered by the flu ... and Shenge”, Paddy Harper bashed out yet another attack on his favourite whipping boy, the Inkatha Freedom Party’s Mangosuthu Buthelezi.
FW de Klerk did not come up with the Ingonyama Trust Act, nor was the Trust given to the IFP to secure its participation in the 1994 elections. The Act was passed by the KwaZulu legislative assembly, which neither needed nor sought permission.
The intention of the Act was to preserve the land left to the Zulu nation after colonial conquest and racial dispossessions, so that it could continue to be administered in the best interests of traditional communities.
This had nothing to do with negotiations; the Act was passed after the signing of the Solemn Agreement by Nelson Mandela, De Klerk and Buthelezi, on the basis of which the IFP re-entered the 1994 elections.
Harper knows there is no such thing as the “KwaZulu Bantustan”. Unlike the so-called TBVC states, KwaZulu never had its own military or passports, because Buthelezi consistently rejected independence.
Buthelezi is not against title deeds. The intention of the Act was always to end with title deeds being granted. It has been slow in coming, but amakhosi began the process of granting title deeds in 2016, under the leadership of the king.
What excuse will Harper come up with next for bashing Buthelezi? And why does this paper keep falling for it? — Liezl Linda van der Merwe, MP, on behalf of the IFP national executive committee
Read more from Letters
Create Account | Lost Your Password?