Finance minister Tito Mboweni and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) deputy president Floyd Shivambu are embroiled in something of a twar, which has seen both politicians get philosophical and argue over the definition of the Marxist theory of dialectical materialism.
It began with an inspirational tweet from the finance minister, who called for his followers to get out of their comfort zones and shake things up.
“Rock the boat! Shake the baobab tree! Do the unusual, disrupt the comfortable zones. Get things moving. Irritate the establishment! Let them think! That is how you get movement forward. This country needs movement! Disrupt, destruct inertia!” he tweeted.
In response, Shivambu argued that disruption was not what was needed from the minister of finance.
“But as minister, you should [go] beyond irritation and disruption, provide sensible, sound, and organic macroeconomic and perhaps microeconomic coordination,” he tweeted.
If Mboweni is going to disrupt anything, however, it should be the “Investec-sponsored Harvard orthodox group who proposed a structure adjustment programme in your name,” Shivambu continued.
The EFF second-in-command was referring to Mboweni’s recently released economic recovery blueprint, with a recently released discussion document titled “Economic transformation, inclusive growth and competitiveness: Towards an economic strategy for SA,” calling for partial privatisation, something the red berets are vehemently opposed to.
EFF leader Julius Malema said at a press conference last week he was not surprised that the government’s policy direction in the document was “dictated from [an] imperialist Euro-American academy like Harvard University”.
Mboweni next responded to Shivambu, telling him “you are missing the point as usual. Dialectical materialism is about disruption. Negation of the negation. Form and content. Oh, dear Mr Shivambu, I did not teach you well. Apologies.”
“The dialectical materialism I know turns quantity into quality and vice versa. There’s however no evidence in the disruption that this and other laws of dialectical materialism are applicable. Let’s perhaps revisit the era of SWF, State Bank and land reform thoughts you held,” was Shivambu’s response.
The debate is a bit abstract, delving into both philosophy and political theory, but Shivambu seems to be complaining about Mboweni’s recent policy pronouncements in the form of the discussion document, with its privatisation and pro-business leanings. Shivambu would prefer Mboweni to stick to earlier “thoughts” he expressed on Twitter, when in a series of tweets in April last year Mboweni trended after he called for the greater socialisation of capital.
Despite criticism from those who feel his new policies contradict his earlier “radical economic transformation prayer“, near the end of August Mboweni returned to this message on Twitter, saying he had been “so correct” and that he and government were now implementing his 2018 suggestions.
Writing in all caps, he said “[Deputy Finance Minister] David Masondo is leading the process of establishing a state bank. The minister of mineral resources and energy is working on the state participation in mining and a sovereign wealth fund is under way. Radical. Progressive. We can do it in our lifetimes!”
Mboweni’s new economic blueprint has faced criticism from both within and outside the ANC, with alliance partner the SA Communist Party rejecting it for being “neoliberal capitalism” and because they were not consulted.
Trade union federation Cosatu also demanded that National Treasury withdraw the document, saying it made government seem incoherent, confused and unreliable.
Dialectical materialism is a Marxist theory which was adopted as the official philosophy of Soviet communists.
Marx argued that political and historical events result from the conflict of social forces and are interpretable as a series of contradictions and their solutions. The conflict is seen as caused by material needs.