The End of Capitalism? 1

_4A_0004We at Mdumbi Backpackers are grateful to Eco Atlas for creating an opportunity whereby probably some of the most important aspects of being involved in the tourism industry today, could at last be acknowledged. This actually puts this industry ahead of most others. We believe that in line with the historical economic development of the human species culminating in the current form of individual capitalism, powerful transnational organisations and economic inequality, humans are approaching the point to transcend to the next level, a form of economy appreciating that we are one global community dependent on the natural environment. For the first time in history this is becoming possible as we have become all connectable. What is interesting is that which made this possible, tremendous technological advances through the use of fossil fuels, is also creating the first global human challenge, global warming. And global warming is for the first time making world leaders consider sustainable development more seriously, and why we see potential for a new level of economy.

At Mdumbi we are in a uniquely advantageous situation to explore these “futuristic” economic possibilities. In a sense the current economic system has not yet got its tentacles thoroughly wrapped through the lifestyle and world view of the local Xhosa people we live and work with here. This makes them vulnerable on the one side to be easily exploited but it also provides an opportunity to explore alternative forms of true community ownership if driven by sincere enough Western capital. With sincere capital I mean to use it in a way stemming from gratefulness and not selfish righteousness. In the end if you had the slightest Western form of upbringing, even in South Africa, you have tremendous capital privileges in the forms of skills, education, know how, understanding of dominant governance systems like capitalism and physical capital like assets and money compared to any Xhosa born in Transkei. Obviously they have other forms of capital which relevant to the Western world doesn’t seem important but relevant to the previous mentioned transcendence towards a higher level of economy, could be leading the way. I am talking about the harmony they have with nature, how they share everything, how there are no street children or homeless people although they are the poorest people in South Africa, how they live their lives in a home and when they pass away, after a year or so their home becomes nature again.

g_backpackers3_popupBut I must say, it is not easy to marry the two, it mostly feels the only way is one or the other. For instance, we see the tourism potential at Mdumbi as belonging to the local communities in the area. But how do you structure a tourism business to reflect fair community ownership? How much skilled private ownership is needed to establish sustainability? Is any really needed? Is there not an approach with which community could identify and take full informed ownership with the necessary know how? You will be surprised how sceptical most people are about that being possible, even government. It is as if everyone is so convinced that the only way to sustainable business is that individual capitalist strive of how much profit can I make. Further strengthened of course with the recent collapse of socialism, the only alternative we had until now. And this is starting to stick its head out in the local communities. With their traditional things they share but when it comes to money and business, its capitalism. Is it a case of having to ride that bull first before we can transcend it? Is it possible to bypass capitalism and move straight to the next level, if there even is one, like most Xhosa people are by bypassing the computer and yet they all have phones and know better how to use it than I do? What about the dire economic inequality? Could we expect the majority have-nots to be OK with not having a go? Shouldn’t we instead expect the minority haves to let go?
During the coming weeks we will have several meetings with our direct community to explore with them options of how they prefer to own the new Mdumbi Green Destinations development we helped them with obtaining permission to develop. Mdumbi Backpackers was an existing place and business which we are trying to draw local ownership into. We try to keep profits low and employ as many people as possible, but that is not local ownership. We give a percentage profit to local representing community bodies but that is also not really local ownership. We have helped our kitchen staff to start their own cooperative and are giving them the restaurant side of Mdumbi. That is local ownership but not fairly representing the whole community . With the new Mdumbi Green Destinations development we have an opportunity to start from scratch, to start from where local people are at, to delve deep for their traditional cultural principles and see how that shapes the ownership structure of a state of the art eco-tourism lodge. I haven’t got a clue what will come out, it is up to the people. I am excited though, capitalism’s time is up.


Hyman van Zyl with Transcape NPO and Mdumbi Backpackers has been working on a range of tourism projects with community members since they first started in 2002. Through this experience the managers of Mdumbi anticipated further job creation opportunities that could arise through appropriate development of skills and allocation of resources.   b

About Rhian

Rhian Berning is on a journey is to find and document ways of living that are gentle on the planet and beneficial to all people. She loves telling the stories of the incredible people and places that are actively building a future beautiful and created the online Eco Atlas platform to bridge the gap between active citizens and regenerative, socially just businesses so we can all be everyday changemakers and vote with our wallets.

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One thought on “The End of Capitalism?

  • Reply
    Rev. Angora van Doorn

    WOW! Hyman! You sound like me when I first decided to come and live as the sole ‘white woman’ in a ‘coloured’ village near Genadendal, Greyton. I fell in love with their way of life – they still use horse/donkey transport and happily hop on the horse to go buy electricity (so they can watch TV), they plough with horses, keep pigs, chickens, cattle. They share what they have, help each other etc. BUT ….. as you so clearly express they are still under the impression that they somehow need to get to where we (westen civilization) is at.

    In the beginning I spent my time trying hard to convince them that they were actually way ahead of us. I got laughed at. I planted my field and the idea was to share/swop food. Then I came to realise that they did not want home grown. Somehow the perception that food from the supermarket is more superior is part of their so-called ‘westernism’ (for lack of another word).

    So I started doing my own self-sufficient style of sustainability. I started planting seeds in their minds of their richness. Made a big thing of asking them how the old people did things. They thought this woman was crazy but over the years they have slowly started to see my point and the crash in the economy and lack of work is actually working in favour of this change. They are now forced to revert to what they know – Voila! we are slowly going back to sustainability. A sort of reverse psychology I have found seems to work great if done on a 1:1 basis.

    So now I help them get back their old wood stoves (or show them to build rocket stoves), hand out veggie seeds wherever I notice someone really wants to grow things, I set up a library for the kids but found the adults were more interested in the how-to books than the kids. The problem we have here is the governmental hand-out system which everyone is an absulute expert at mis-using. Why work when you get your house for free, your services and even have a choice of 5 food-kitchens daily – hey so we use the SASSA money to drink and drug or buy capitalist luxuries.

    I know how you feel but keep at it – there is light at the end of this tunnel. What I do with my self-catering cottage is getting them involved in my guests by taking them hiking in the mountains, having the local herbal lady show them her plants, using their horses for out-rides or horse cart trips. They make some money from this and then they will come and ask me what else they can do so I give them ideas and see what transpires – one day the neighbour had painted up his horse cart and asked me to sew him a proper chauffeur suit so he could get better tips! It works but not always the way we hope or think it should.

    My suggestion is for you to stay flexible. Hey and stay in contact. Would love to know how you solve your problems. Sure I could learn something too.

    It is worth a try but I do not think one can work with a whole community on this. There are always those that want capitalism = the big car, house, clothes etc. When they talk like this I sit them down with paper and calulator and let them work out what it costs to have all this vs. owning a horse cart, for instance.