JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South African President Jacob Zuma reiterated a call on Monday for radical reforms to shift the balance of “monopoly” economic power away from whites who dominated under apartheid, saying without such change blacks would stay poor for a long time.
He made the remarks, reiterating a staple criticism leveled by his ruling ANC about South Africa’s economy, against the backdrop of widespread allegations of corruption against Zuma and his friends, the Indian-born Gupta brothers.
Zuma was responding to a question about his role as an enemy of “white capital”, during an interview with the ANN7 news network, which was founded by the Guptas. Zuma and the Guptas have denied any wrongdoing.
“I don’t know why there is a debate in fact. Because there is a monopoly capital and in South Africa it is white ... because of our history, it does have a color. It is white,” Zuma, who steps down as head of the ANC in December but can remain head of state until elections due in 2019, said.
“Companies that dominate in the mines, there are not many ... You will find the same companies in charge. That means they are monopolizing the economy and they’re not black,” he said.
The Chamber of Mines in the world’s top platinum producer says that in 2016, 39 percent of the sector was owned by “historically disadvantaged South Africans” - meaning non-whites.
Zuma said the policy of “radical economic transformation,” which has also seen moves to change the constitution to allow for the expropriation of land for redistribution to landless blacks, was needed to “correct the past.”
“The ANC must follow this policy because if you don’t, we are going to stay in poverty, in inequality, for a long time.”
The frontrunners to replace Zuma at the helm of the ANC are Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, a trade unionist who amassed a fortune in the world of business, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, former chair of the African Union and Zuma’s ex-wife.
Ramaphosa is viewed more favourably by foreign investors, who help cover the country’s deficits. Many of them are unsettled by Dlamini-Zuma’s calls to radically redistribute wealth and her perceived links to her former husband.
In a separate interview on state broadcaster SABC, ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said “state capture is a reality,” referring to allegations that the Guptas and others have undue political influence with access to state resources and contracts under Zuma.
Mantashe is regarded as an ally of Ramaphosa with ties that go back to the 1980s when they were involved in the founding of the National Union of Mineworkers.
Reporting by Ed Stoddard, Editing by William Maclean