Continued imperialist plunder as an obstacle to free education


[EDITORS’ NOTE: This article suggests that access to education in South Africa is dependent on the unequal relationship between South Africa’s economy and imperialist global capitalism. Without solving the question of socio-economic plunder and inequality, we will not get free education.]


The UN Conference on Trade (UNCTAD) just published a report in July on invoice fraud by mining monopolies in Africa, including SA specifically. They reported that virtually all the gold between 2000 and 2014 left the country unreported. This amounted to $113,6 bn or (R1,7 trillion). Also guilty of fraud were the platinum, iron ore and silver mines. UNCTAD estimates $50bn leaves Africa every year through illegal trade. This amounts to over $700 bn over the past 14 years (about R10,5 trillion!). Here was the funds for free education, free health-care, housing to all, etc; this is separate from the reported profits. Yet we find that the government does not lift a finger to to tackle the imperialist mining companies but pursues poor students for not repaying NSFAS loans, while others are excluded for financial reasons.

According to the 2016 Budget Review, the tax income from company profits in 1998/9 was R108 bn. This increased to R561 bn in 2014/15. In 1993 company tax was 43%. The ANC government reduced this to 28%. Thus in 1998/9 the profits of companies (after tax was deducted) was about R280 bn, this rose to R1.4 trillion in 2014/15. In 1998 the exchange rate was R5/dollar, it is about three times higher in 2016 - R15/dollar. Thus in 1998, the profits (after tax) was about R280x3= R840 bn in 2016 Rand:Dollar terms. Based on this it would be a reasonable to estimate average company profits after tax over the past 22 years at approximately R1 trillion per year.

This gives us profits of R22 trillion which the monopoly capitalists earned, after tax!

This estimate does not even consider the depreciation of the dollar over the past 22 years, which means that the R22 trillion is an under-estimate. And, remember this is just the reported profits of monopoly capital. (Their real profits are much higher).


The philosophy of the reduction of company tax was to make companies richer so they would invest more and create more jobs. However, most of the R22 trillion was just taken offshore by imperialism capitalism. Just R2 trillion could have provided decent houses for all and free education and much else. Just R11 trillion, would more than have provided free education, free, quality health, decent housing and met all the needs of the masses, still leaving R11 trillion in profits.

Education, skills and imperialism


According to the 1996 Census, 12,6 million out 34,2 million were attending an education institution. By 2016 the numbers had grown to 17,2 million, out of 49,5 million (Community Household Survey, CS 2016). Thus the proportion attending an education institution has dropped from 37,4% in 1996 to 34,7% in 2016.


Nationally, the number of private school learners has increased from 800 000 in 2001 (Census, 2001) to 1,5 million by 2016. This is roughly the same increase as in the Western Cape, where the number of private school learners grew from 69 700 to 142 000 over the same period. Thus both the ANC and DA governments are following the same pattern of privatization of schools instead of building up quality free, public schooling.


Although the number of people without any education has dropped from 3,7 million to 2,2 million, the proportion of the population over the age of 5 who have primary or no education has increased from 40% to 50%, from 1996 to 2016. In 1996 about 13,7 million had primary or no education. In 2016 a massive 24,7 million have only primary or no education.


The number of graduates with Bachelor degrees have increased from 400 000 to about 1,2 million. This is an increase from 1,1 % of the population having degrees in 1996 to 2,4% by 2016, which is still very low.

Thus the education system mirrors the structure of the SA economy, namely that it is still based largely on cheap, unskilled and semi-skilled labour. This is a direct consequence of imperialism capitalism still maintaining SA and the rest of Africa as a place for plunder of raw, unprocessed raw materials and agricultural goods. Africa continues to subsidize the profits in the imperialist centres.

The resolution of the education question lies in the decisive ending of imperialist capitalist plunder of SA and Africa. Nationalise the mines and banks, without compensation to the capitalists, placing these under workers’ control. This is the path to not only free education but freedom of the masses in Africa