Book Review – Lost in Transformation – Sampie Terreblanche

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reviewed 03 November 2014

Lost in Transformation - Sampie Terreblanche

Lost in Transformation – Sampie Terreblanche

This book explains SA’s search for a new future since 1986 in Prof Terreblanche’s perspective. An undoubtedly and incredibly informed intellectual perspective I have to say, I would firstly like to acknowledge Prof. Terreblanche’s work in this book. I don’t know much of the man outside of this book but I know for a fact that he is a significantly decorated Academic and an immense contributor in SA’s overall wealth in knowledge (I can testify that this book alone has contributed immensely to my understanding of SA’s recent history and its impact on our current state of affairs).

As I mentioned earlier this book is a gold mine in information that has been “lost in transformation” – information, which I believe is imperative to understanding SA’s current politico-economic situation. At the core of his message is the fact that since Europeans settled in South Africa (initially the Dutch and then later joined by the British) and political/economic entities were created to entrench their power and control over the land – that the state has never been independent in fact has always had an overpowering influence from local corporations, foreign trans-national corporations and western nations.

I personally love how he gives the reader a comprehensive perspective and gives context to his message by building up from recent world history prior to the important year of 1986 where he marks the beginning of SA’s transformation or “search for a new future” if you please. Through his build-up, one could learn a lot about world history and events that have shaped our world’s economic standpoint. One thing I also appreciate is that through reading this book one understands that SA’s past and current political/economic climate is hugely influenced by the MEC (Mineral Energy Complex – #read up on the history of the Chamber of Mines) , other trans-national corporations and western governments (especially the Britain and America). And that a huge chunk of SA’s wealth has been looted and transferred to foreign nations that have never really had any interest in the masses and indigenous peoples but more in profit and consumption of natural, human and financial resources.

Breaking into the new democratically elected government, he explains how the ANC was deceived into an “elite compromise” during the “secret negotiations” for SA’s future robbed the poor African majority of an opportunity of a government that is built to benefit them truly. Because of the buckling to pressures and temptations from MEC, American/British pressure groups and SA’s white (Afrikaner and English) capital the ANC leadership core rather guaranteed an environment for these forces to remain profitable whilst a small black elite benefits at the expense of the masses. Thus the ANC finds itself in a dilemma because the Apartheid government although also corrupt , had been hugely responsible for the rise of Afrikaner wealth. Not forgetting also that the National Party left the ANC government with legacy of enormous debt.  This story paints a grim picture for the black unemployed and impoverished masses of the land. In a nutshell the Afrikaner has had his fill on the backs of the African masses, Britain and more recently America have had and are still having their fill on the backs of the African masses and it seems even with the new dispensation the ANC  and small black elite is having their fill on the backs of the African masses. This is a snippet from the book on page 67 that puts my point into perspective ( I quote):

“The inequalities of apartheid to which Mandela referred in 1990 were indeed a deeply ingrained problem. From 1917 until 1980 the per capita income of Africans had always been less than 10percent of the per capita income of whites. The politico-economic system of white political dominance and racial capitalism, which had been in place for almost a hundred years, enriched and empowered the whites (especially the white corporate sector) undeservedly, and impoverished and disempowered blacks undeservedly. In the early 1990s there was a growing consensus in certain white and black circles that the nature of the transformation should be such that the whites (and the white corporate sector) would have to make financial sacrifices over a long period of time to address the systemic injustices of white political dominance and racial capitalism” (end quote) – Thus my point on missed opportunity.

The second half of the book is a more intricate look at the current (ANC) government, it’s challenges, failures and inevitable increase in the gap between the rich and the poor and how it affects the 50% poorest of South Africa. On the final chapter he summarizes what went wrong in the Transformation Process 1986-2012:

  • # We did not succeed in properly addressing the apartheid legacy of abject poverty, high unemployment and growing inequality
  • # We succeeded in getting rid of the immoral and inhumane system of apartheid, but we did not succeed in putting a moral and humane system in its place
  • # One of the most perturbing aspects of the post-apartheid period is the adoption among a large part of the new black elite of an extravagant get-rich-quick mentality and their consequent preparedness to use immoral and devious methods
  • # All Africans should have benefited black economic empowerment, only a tiny minority have been economically empowered, and the alarming gap that has opened up between the small African elite and the almost 24 million Africans who are among the 25 million poorest in South Africa, are receiving less than 8 percent of total income
  • # We did not succeed in creating the “people-centered society” envisaged by President Mandela in May 1994 and neither did we succeed in creating the “rainbow nation” envisaged by Archbishop Tutu
  • # In spite of the process of the process of democratization, the outstanding feature of post-apartheid South Africa is the perpetuation of unequal power relations between the non-racial elite and the lumpen proletariat, while un-free labor manifests itself in growing unemployment in a socio-economic environment in which up to 10 million people do not receive wages, or any form of remittance or social grants
  • # We did not succeed in replacing the deeply divided South African society of the apartheid period with a society of social solidarity and proud South Africanism
  • # The politico-economic system that was in place during the apartheid years was dominated by the MEC and the rest of the corporate sector
  • # South Africa’s poorest 50% experienced 40 lean years during 1933 until 1973 when the Afrikaners experienced their rise to the bourgeoisie, they also experienced 20 lean years between 1973 until 1994, and again from 1994 to 2012 they received another 20 lean years during the period of globalized corporatism. Thus in 40 years from 1974 to 2012 the Poverty, Unemployment and Inequality problem has become much more severe
  • # Most of the many things that went wrong during the transformation process seem to be related to the elite compromise/conspiracy


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Book Review – Lost in Transformation - Sampie Terreblanche, 8.2 out of 10 based on 6 ratings

This book is a must read for young minds who want to understand SA’s recent history and how we found ourselves here. It’s books like these that encourage the youth to be active in shaping our nation’s future by understanding what truth was “lost in transformation” and how through regaining that knowledge we can truly take control and benefit from the wealth that our beautiful land possesses and wealth that has and still is today being shipped away to foreign lands and enjoyed by privileged few.

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