BLADE Nzimande wants government to nationalise Sasol for selling petrol in SA at "international prices". The higher education minister told workers marching through the streets of Johannesburg last week: "At the very least, and as a step towards such nationalisation, we call for a windfall tax on the profits of Sasol." The Times captured the minister as saying: "Now that the price of oil is down we reject that it is the workers who must now suffer."
Nzimande was speaking at a march against job losses organised by Cosatu, which is also opposed to capitalism and free trade. Needless to say, its members, who staged marches across SA on a business day, have jobs. But for that day they abandoned the workplace to dance and overturn a few dustbins.
While they were so engaged their counterparts in China were producing more red t-shirts for Nzimande’s comrades to sport at their next dance session.
"Friend of the poor" Nzimande, who holds a doctorate from a university in KwaZulu Natal, reportedly also shared this insight with his audience: "When things are going well the bosses alone enjoy the wealth produced by the workers but as soon as these sectors are in trouble, like now, it is the workers alone who bear the brunt through retrenchments. Retrenchments are a declaration of war on the workers and the poor." He, too, had abandoned his workstation, putting such matters as the chaotic funding of poor students by the National Student Financial Aid Scheme on the back burner. And students at Stellenbosch University and their taxpaying parents have been calling for Nzimande to urgently address the institution’s language and transformation issues for close on a year now.
"It cannot be that it is only the responsibility of government to protect jobs, while capitalist bosses are interested only in protecting their super profits and the obscene salaries of their executives, irrespective of economic conditions," he says.
One would have thought it not too difficult for someone of Nzimande’s accomplishments to know that Sasol employs more than 31 000 people in 37 countries, including SA and Mozambique. In the year ended June the company paid R14,4bn in direct taxes, and was SA’s single largest taxpayer. Even the bodyguards "protecting" Nzimande at the march were able to do so because of taxes such as those paid by companies. Those workers themselves pay additional taxes because they have jobs provided by profitable companies.
Curiously, Nzimande was nowhere to be found when another civil society grouping marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria the week before, to protest against corruption in both the public and the private sectors.
But then again nobody should be surprised at the good doctor’s absence there: perhaps he went looking for that R500000 his ex-comrade Willie Madisha claimed to have handed to Nzimande in a black refuse bag all those years ago. Government had to forgo taxing that donation to the SA Communist Party because Nzimande claimed — after consulting his lawyers for a week — that he never saw the cash.
Those of us who live in the real world and talk to real people know it is in part corruption and low productivity as well as a bloated regulatory and bureaucratic environment, such as SA’s, that cause job losses and poverty.
Instead of marching against job losses, progressive workers should be putting in more hours and working harder to help lift the economy. But alas, in SA, they take time off work to dance in the streets while people like Nzimande urge them on with blunt slogans.
Someone who goes by the name Blade ought to have sharp ideas instead of calling for failed policies. He is part of a government that has wrecked just about every company it runs, among them PetroSA, Denel and Eskom.
It’s no surprise that Nzimande didn’t march against corruption.