Debt, uneven development and capitalist crisis in South Africa: from Marikana microfinance mashonisas to Moody’s macroeconomic monitoring
By Patrick Bond
The power, vulnerability and destructiveness of financial markets have spiraled out of control in a South Africa that by 2012 was amongst the most unequal, economically volatile and protestintensive in the world. The scourge of debt made itself felt in many sites, but of interest in both criticizing and promoting solutions is the ‘scale jumping’ required from SA’s national insertion into the world financial system, entailing the Reserve Bank setting interest rates at a level amongst the world’s highest over the past two decades, in turn leading to unpayable levels of unsecured consumer debt at a time microfinance was suddenly discredited as a development strategy. The macro and micro financial problems fused in the course of the Marikana Massacre of August 2012, when from local ‘mashonisa’ loan sharks to the Moody’s rating agency, mineworkers who led contagious wildcat strikes confronted the local financial crisis by displacing it into the national economy. Yet that only heightened the contradictions, and without a genuine ‘debt relief’ solution at both scales, the society will continue to unravel.
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