“… a social system that puts individualism and greed above all else and goes against the grain of the ideals of a humane society”


Ek het ’n uittreksel van Kgalema Motlanthe se toespraak by die ANC feesvieringe in die onlangse Sunday Times gelees en geniet en haal ’n soortgelyke uittreksel hierso aan. Hy waarsku teen kapitalisme as “… a social system that puts individualism and greed above all else and goes against the grain of the ideals of a humane society”:

For centuries, democracy has been serving as the best integument for the system of capitalism.

However, developments within the Euro Zone have now dispensed with some of the key elements of democracy by prompting change of governments without going through elections as has happened in Greece and Italy.

What these developments do is call into question concepts that have until now been universally accepted as axiomatic.

These developments have global implications and do not only tax the mind of our intellectuals but certainly challenge our young democracy and our continent in profound ways.

Perhaps these developments present a challenge to the South African and indeed African intellectuals to figure out the practical implications for Africa in terms of democracy and economic development.

On this account, the ANC is aware that as it continues to fight poverty, unemployment and social inequalities, it is doing so under historically given economic conditions over which it has little control.

The serious limitations of the socio-economic system on what can be achieved cannot be under-estimated.

South Africa attained democracy 18 years ago and was welcomed into the world community of nations; a world whose global economic system was beginning to experience chronic and vicious cycle of crises.

We have to learn from history of progressive movements elsewhere in the world in terms of post-colonial experience and how they have tried to modernise themselves to deal with present day challenges.

In this regard, the progressive movement in post-colonial India seems to offer useful experience.

The Indian intellectual PC Joshi tells us that:

Indian nationalism has a future only as a vehicle of the newly awakened urges and aspirations of the Indian masses for socio-economic emancipation which are now thwarted by growing structural dualism.

In parallel situation, the ANC in leading revolutionary nationalism faces similar historical conditions.

In the past people were their own liberators and still remain so today. Consequently, success in our duties is contingent upon transformation being people-centred and people-driven.

Among others, the ANC must studiously avoid substituting itself and its leaders for the people; instead it must be a vehicle of the people’s aspirations.

Despite these structural limitations we have to overcome the legacy of apartheid relations. Because without social justice freedom will remain hollow, the pastime of the well-heeled.

National oppression and its social consequences cannot be resolved by formal democracy underpinned by market forces.

While formal democracy may present opportunities for some blacks and women to advance, without a systematic national effort, led by the democratic government, to unravel the skewed distribution of wealth and income, the social reality of apartheid will remain in place.

By the same token, the value system that inheres in and defines a socio-economic system that frames the democratic state presents a counterpoint to the historically noble heritage introduced by the ANC.

This is reflected in the material acquisitiveness that has enveloped the outlook of society, including some of us in the ANC today.

No less a figure than George Soros hit the nail on the head in this regard when he held that:

Unsure of what they stand for, people increasingly rely on money as the criterion of value. What is more expensive is considered better. The value of a work of art can be judged by the price it fetches. People deserve respect and admiration because they are rich. What used to be a medium of exchange has usurped the place of fundamental values, reversing the relationship postulated by economic theory. What used to be professions have turned into businesses. The cult of success has replaced a belief in principles. Society has lost its anchor.

To paraphrase the core argument of Soros, money defines the value of everything; it prompts the relentless pursuit of material riches to assert human value.

As a leading social force aiming to exterminate social conditions that breed under-development, the ANC cadres must remain vigilant lest they be sucked into the vortex of the socio-economic system which defines our era.

It is a social system that puts individualism and greed above all else and goes against the grain of the ideals of a humane society.

This socio-economic system has foisted an antithetical cultural outlook that puts premium on the money agenda; an agenda that reflects material riches as the point of departure.

This is the story of our past. As they say the past we inherit the future we create!

uit die Public Lecture Entitled Reflections on the Centenary of the African National Congress (ANC) Delivered by the Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, University of South Africa, Pretoria,


Nogals pitkos om aan te dink as jy op die punt staan om te studeer of te werk: te dikwels is ons dryfveer geld; te selde die inherente waarde van dít wat ons wil doen.

One response »

  1. Hierdie stuk het my nou mooi herinner aan hoe ek ook destyds as student (en nogsteeds) voel oor waardes/beginsels vs meteriële rykdom as dryfveer vir werk. Ek sou verkies het dat dit nie nodig was om te werk om geld te verdien nie, maar dat ek eerder kon werk omdat ek iets doen waaroor ek passievol is. Maar soos die stuk uitwys, is geld ‘n “tool” en ons almal het dit nodig om te oorleef in hierdie wêreld. En hoe anders gaan jy geld verdien as jy nie daarvoor werk nie? Ek moet juis nog my blogreeks oor ekonomie afhandel wat spesifiek daardie idees behandel.

    Ek glo egter nie Kapitalisme is die oorsaak van ons sosiale en ekonomiese probleme nie, maar dit is wel ‘n stelsel wat dit baie maklik maak vir hierdie (veral sosiale) probleme om te ontstaan en te vererger. Ek hou van die vryheid wat geskep word in ‘n Kapitalistiese omgewing, en dit sal tragies wees om dit te verloor. Dalk moet daar bloot meer aandag gegee word aan beskerming van mense wat nie die vermoë het om mededingend saam te speel nie? Maar soms moet ons ook die harde realiteit van die lewe aanvaar en besef ons kan nie altyd ons passie uitleef nie. Wat doen ‘n passievolle kunstenaar as niemand sy kunswerke wil koop nie? Hy gaan verkoop burgers by McDonalds. Dis die lewe. En die lewe is meestal nie regverdig nie. Adapt or die of hunger – the law of nature.

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