Afro-pessimism vs Afro-realism

David Bullard responds to the erudite criticism of Comrade Dot

Comrade Dot's rose-tinted specs

I confess to a mixture of agogedness (new word invented) and sheer admiration at the impressive volume and occasionally erudite output of Comrade Dot. We may not agree on anything but at least I know that Comrade Dot will not only comment on what I have written every week but will also spend an inordinate amount of time monitoring other comments and then commenting on the comments. It's rather like a braai. I get the fire going and after a very short while I can wander off and have a few cool beers knowing that Dotty will be re-arranging the coals and making sure the fire remains hot.

Some say that Comrade Dot is a paid member of the ruling party employed to monitor comments on Politicsweb and keep the dossier on me up to date for any future deportation order. Flattering though this is I think it unlikely that the government would have a budget for such an activity. Which perhaps suggests that Comrade Dot may simply be a dedicated cyber stalker with absolutely nothing better to do all day than scan the pages of Politicsweb and post comments with what the Yanks would probably refer to as a 24/7 devotion to duty.

Despite my hectic daily schedule of having to walk around Zoo Lake every morning and have lunch with famous people I do try to read the comments following my weekly column. If, for some reason, I am out of internet range I ask my manservant to note the more interesting ones and inform me of them upon my return. A recurring leitmotif in Comrade Dot's comments suggests that I am a bit on the negative side when it comes to recognising the paltry achievements of the ANC over the past 19 years. So this week I thought I should perhaps clarify my position and draw the clear distinction between an Afro-pessimist and an Afro-realist.

An Afro-pessimist believes that nothing good can come out of the dark continent. I am certainly not in that camp. If I were an Afro-pessimist I wouldn't have been living here for over three decades and contributing generously to the Receiver of Revenue. Instead I would have been holed up in somewhere very white like Iceland and would have posted rude comments about Africans from a safe distance, thus avoiding the "racist" sobriquet.

However I do confess to being an Afro-realist and that is a totally different animal. For example I agree with Comrade Dot when he/she points out that many South Africans are better off than they were back in 1994. But I am afraid I have to take exception to Dotty's comment that "there is no growing amount of red tape and bureaucracy" and the claim that there is "nothing fragile about the SA economy" (Comments April 25th 16h19) in addition to the ludicrous assertion that SAA, Eskom, Transnet, SAPO and Telkom are "successes" (Comments April 25th 16h37....what did they put in your afternoon tea Dot?).

By no stretch of the imagination could our lamentable nationalised industries be considered successes, either from a service delivery or an economic point of view. Admittedly Eskom now has to provide electricity for everybody in SA and not just the favoured few but surely that would have been obvious to the incoming ANC back in 1994? So why didn't they spend on infrastructure back then instead of plundering the company and awarding themselves absurd performance bonuses? And SAA a success.....puleeeeze! They've had a succession of muppets running the national airline into the ground over the past two decades. All of whom have ridden off into the sunset with bags of taxpayer loot. And if SAPO and Telkom are successes then I'd hate to think what Dot reckons is a failure. How can monopolies NOT make a profit? You tell me Dot.

The bit about there being no growing amount of red tape or bureaucracy conveniently ignores Trade and Industry Minister Rob (Mr Grumpy) Davies' Business Licensing Bill which will allow a member of the police who probably hasn't mastered cursive script to demand to see a license from the poor sod who tries to sell me brooms and feather dusters every day. There's been plenty of comment about this enterprise strangling proposed legislation in the media over the past few weeks. How can Dot possibly claim that there is no growing amount of red tape?

Then there's that rather odd claim that "there's nothing fragile about the SA economy". Maybe you need to tell that to Gill Marcus and Pravin Gordhan because they have both expressed concern ahead of the union's annual marching season. There is, in my considered opinion, everything fragile about the SA economy and both the stock exchange and the exchange rate reflect that. Admittedly we are not yet a basket case but we are certainly not in any position to be complacent. We have a stroppy and largely unskilled unionised workforce who haven't a clue how company profits are made and no understanding that when the cupboard is bare there will be no more jobs.

We are uncompetitive in many areas of manufacturing. We have a government that is noted for corruption and dodgy dealing and I would venture to suggest that many more South Africans would have been substantially better off had the arms deal not sucked out billions of rands and subsequent corruption scandals deprived many South Africans of jobs and a better life. The whole idea of cadre employment has meant that the wrong people have gone into jobs they are patently unsuited for....from teachers to police commissioners.

So Comrade Dot, while I have to agree with you in a qualified way that we are not yet deep in the dwang I also think that you need to understand that to fix a problem one first has to acknowledge that it exists. And, boy, do we have problems aplenty?


As many of you have probably guessed the fragile truce between me and Jeremy Gordin makes North and South Korea seem like blood brothers by comparison. Recent e.mails passed to me reveal that Gordin is insanely jealous of the number of comments that inevitably follow my weekly dose of good old plain common sense. So much so that he has enlisted members of his family to write for Politicsweb and swell the total number of Gordin responses. This is JG's version of a nuclear test off my coastline and I am on full alert. I have put out messages through the social media asking anyone who believes they may have been fathered by me to step forward and contribute a column or two to Politicsweb. Thus far I have only had one reply from somebody in the Central African Republic who is seven years younger than me and wants to know if he will be left anything in my will. The search continues.

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