Yes, we should care about monopoly capital - but we can't forget the Guptas
A Twitter user interrupted my line of thought as I was watching Eskom's Matshela Koko sweat through his testimony at the Eskom parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday. He wanted to know what the big deal was with the Gupta family, asking why the media was so obsessed with them.
At first I dismissed him as another Gupta bot, a feature of the Twitterverse that latches onto anything that portrays the family negatively. Then I looked again at what he was saying.
His argument, essentially, is that the media and South Africans generally are placing far too much emphasis on the Gupta family and ignoring the Old White Boys Club - whom he and others like to call “white monopoly capital”.
Let’s make sure we are on the same page before you read any further – yes, I believe white monopoly capital exists. It’s not a myth.
But that also doesn't mean we shouldn't be deeply concerned about the Guptas too. Let’s break it down.
A brand new primary school costs around R100-million to build, if we take the example of Everest Primary School in Westbury, Johannesburg, that was recently finished.
R100-million could have financed Life Esidimeni to look after 143 mentally ill patients a while longer, and that money could have been used to avoid them being shipped off to unlicensed and unprepared NGOs, where they died.
Former Gauteng Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu has said that in 2014/15 the department paid R323-million to Life Esidimeni to treat about 2,378 patients.
“It is important to note that the department cannot afford this, the budget allocation which was previously utilised on the said facility will be reprioritised accordingly,” she said.These are two examples of “opportunity cost”.
The money the Guptas allegedly made illicitly amounts to, for now, R50-billion. But all indications suggest the final total will be double that amount.
That’s at least 500 new schools for about 50,000 children. In Gauteng alone, 33,000 children struggled to find places at schools earlier this month.
It is also funding for a Life Esidemeni-type programme for at least 10 years. It’s feeding schemes and textbooks. It all boils down to this: the money that is stolen from government today hurts the poorest of the poor in South Africa tomorrow.
So why the obsession with the Guptas? It’s not about them. How much media attention would three brothers from India get, if they came to South Africa, started a successful computer business, made a few hundred million, and lived their lives?
The answer is: none.
But that's not what they did. They got greedy, and now the people of this country are paying the price.
Yes, we need to tackle that most important issue of monopoly capital but let’s also see these greedy Guptas and their influential friend in the Union Buildings behind bars first.