White monopoly capital doesn't exist -- but Indian monopoly capture out of Saxonwold is real.
That's according to former finance minister Trevor Manuel, who says that any conversation about white monopoly capital must have as a point of departure the admission that the term is nothing but cooked-up propaganda.
Manuel, speaking on Wednesday at the Nelson Mandela Foundation about the former president's economic legacy, was scathing about "white monopoly capital propaganda".
"If you don't like white monopoly capital, what's the alternative? Indian monopoly capture out of Saxonwold? The idea of 'white monopoly capital' is propaganda driven as we now know with Bell Pottinger. The alternative, surely, must be how we build an inclusive economy.
"Forget ... white monopoly capital doesn't exist except in what has been generated by Bell Pottinger. Let's agree on that and perhaps it will be easier to deal with the rest of the issues," an animated Manuel said.
The term has gained currency in recent months as part of a concerted campaign by the Guptas' ANN7 news channel and so-called "paid Twitter" against Treasury and former Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan. Recent email leaks have shown that Duduzane Zuma, President Jacob Zuma's son and business partner of the Guptas, engaged the services of British public relations firm Bell Pottinger to come up with a campaign "to change the country's trajectory" and with a brief to use a phrase like "#EconomicEmancipation or whatever".
Manuel told the audience "South Africa is in a bad place, a very bad place", and said constitutional institutions like Parliament were broken. He also spoke about the cycle of corruption that has to be snapped if South Africa was going to emerge from its current malaise.
"I was involved in drafting the Executive Ethics Code, and the question was how detailed must legislation be about the behaviour of people sitting in Cabinet. And we settled for something that said: 'You know, we come from the liberation movement. There are no scoundrels amongst us. We don't sacrifice and get into government only to rob, plunder and steal. So let's have a light touch in the Executive Ethics Code.' How wrong we were."
The ANC needed to do more to ensure oversight and hold its leaders to account, he said.
"If you want to get a contract, a tender, before you go to government you go to Luthuli House. When you have broken that taboo you are in deep, deep trouble because the ANC has no oversight over the people it deploys to government. Individuals sitting in the upper echelons of the ANC see for themselves opportunities to get rich quickly," he said.
"Unless we break that, we won't be able to break the cycle of corruption and get back to the principle that politics is about serving the interests of all South Africans, especially the poor," Manuel said.
If institutions like Parliament were functioning properly, South Africans would have had answers to numerous investigations detailing the extent of state capture, he said.
"What happened with the investigation into Tegeta, or the Dentons Report into Eskom, or the previous investigations by the Special Investigating Unit? There is a presumption we don't have the right to know," he said.