Venezuela and the lessons not learnt

Phumlani Majozi says the ANC and EFF continue to refuse to learn from the experience of others

ANC’s and EFF’s refusal to learn from Venezuela’s disastrous policies

25 February 2021

After years of advancing public policies that cause economic downswings, poverty, the government of Venezuela is now turning to privatizations in an attempt to escape the on-going economic crisis. This is according to the recent report by Bloomberg News

Nicolas Maduro, who took power after Hugo Chavez's death in March 2013, has obviously come to the realization that his socialist ideas aren't advancing people's development in Venezuela. That they are destroying and corroding Venezuelan society. 

You ask yourself what are those socialist policies that destroyed Venezuela? Well, it’s excessive government spending and subsidies, it’s minimum wage laws, it’s nationalizations, it’s price controls, and perhaps more. That is how Venezuela was destroyed by power-hungry, economically-illiterate politicians.

In 2012, Venezuela overtook Saudi Arabia as a country with the world's biggest oil reserves. Yet its people became very poor over the past decade, with shocking crime and power outages.

This privatization move by Maduro, at this point, is an astonishing development; at least for us who keep up with the affairs of the world, and have followed Venezuela over the past fifteen years. If there’s one thing that has been clear, it’s that Venezuelan leaders have been very committed  and resolute on their socialist ideals that have now impoverished their people. They have been unwavering - spoke with great pride about their agenda – and dismissed anybody who insinuated that at the core of the plight of Venezuelans is the bad, socialist public policies. Until of course now. 

But to what extent Maduro and his collaborators have learned that socialism doesn’t work is another question – to which right now – we have no precise answer to.

Under late Chavez, and Maduro, Venezuela has been experimenting with an economic system that has failed in human history. Socialism - government controls and ownership - has never been good for long-term economic prosperity and human freedom. 

These two men must have heard of the failures of socialism around the world. Yet they doubled down on it. Why? Well, it’s because of the attitude that wherever socialism failed, it failed because it was implemented inappropriately, or that there was no political will. This is a common argument by advocates of socialism. To them where socialism has been a disaster – it’s because it was not implemented properly. 

Venezuelan leaders also blamed the "imperialist" United States of America (USA) for Venezuela’s economic collapse and power blackouts. That was not surprising. It is another common argument by socialists; that where socialism failed, it was because the USA sabotaged it. Another lame excuse for the destructive economic system.. 

A similar mindset about socialism exists in South Africa – amongst politicians and the general public. People believe that the USA sabotaged countries where socialism failed. Political parties like the far-left Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and the governing African National Congress (ANC) possess this thinking.

After Chavez died, Julius Malema, the leader of the EFF praised the man’s work as President of Venezuela. Malema's official statement said, "We in South Africa would once again want to assure the fighting spirit of President Hugo Chavez that we will continue the fight against imperialist control of our natural resources, and we will realize victory".

The ANC has openly supported the Venezuelan government, and refused to condemn its oppressive economic system and human rights abuses. To this day the ANC and EFF unashamedly seek to emulate Venezuela’s failed policies. 

You see, my view is that Venezuela ought to be  a case study on how not to run the country’s economy. Yet this doesn’t seem to be happening in South Africa. Government continues to advance controls. The state-owned companies that are dying or dead are being brought back to life. And if the ANC and EFF do govern in a coalition in future, things will get much, much worse.

Frankly speaking, this refusal to learn from failed countries is nothing new with our leaders. They have also refused to take lessons from Zimbabwe, whose radical economic transformation agenda destroyed that country and impoverished its people. We share a border with Zimbabwe and its economic and political turmoil affected us. Yet, sadly, radical economic transformation, which includes expropriation of land without compensation, are still widely spoken about as pathways to South Africa's development.

The ANC government tends to be fond of repressive regimes and despots around the world - which tarnishes South Africa's image. The countries that come to my mind are Cuba, Muammar al-Gaddafi’s Libya, Zimbabwe, Omar al-Bashir's Sudan, Venezuela I have been talking about.

The privatization attempts by Maduro, are proof that at some point, when the crisis is so deep and politicians have run out of lousy ideas and resources, reality will force them to do what is right, and reject dogma.

There’s nothing that justifies South Africa’s support for repressive regimes like Nicolas Maduro's in Venezuela – worse to emulate their socialist policies. If other leaders around the world do support such regimes, it doesn’t mean we have to.

Phumlani M. Majozi is a senior fellow at African Liberty. His website is phumlanimajozi.com Follow him on Twitter: @PhumlaniMMajozi