NEWS & ANALYSIS

All aboard Rama Rail!

John Kane-Berman writes on how the ANC elite could show true solidarity with poor and oppressed

Time for the top dogs to board #RamaRail and invest in #RamaPhutures

One of the more amusing headlines last week was one on BizNews, to wit "Parliament keen to see Jooste in orange overalls as 8 execs implicated in Steinhoff fraud". No doubt many of those who read this could not suppress the entertaining thought that they would like to see various present and past members of Parliament sweating it out in orange overalls alongside Markus Jooste doing whatever it is that prisoners do these days. (Presumably the post office no longer needs that many mailbags.) However, we all know that this is unlikely to happen soon. For some people in high places, the rocks and wheels of justice grind slowly, if at all.

In the meantime, it would be pleasing to see a couple of thousand of our leaders take a leaf out of Cyril Ramaphosa's book and go for a ride on a train. Plenty of rides, in fact. They could decide that from now on they will all use only trains and buses to get anywhere. No aeroplanes, no helicopters, no blue-light brigades, no 4x4s, no ubers, no motor vehicles of any description (other than minibus taxis). No VIP bodyguards. No Gautrain. And definitely not Rovos Rail.

The African National Congress (ANC) has always been long on struggle and strong on solidarity, so this would be a means of demonstrating solidarity with those who struggle with public transport. Our top thousands could call their campaign #RamaRail.

President Ramaphosa evidently had quite an adventure. According to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, a stone which hit the driver of another train on the head caused trains behind to back up. Then the president had to be taken through "speed restrictions" because travel at the normal speed was ruled out thanks to the "poor condition" of the infrastructure, which is the result of "ongoing and sustained attack by thugs", who help themselves to cables, metal, and whatever.

Never mind, our president gamely smiled through it all and cheered everyone up with one of his famous "period of renewal" promises. Perhaps he was relieved that nobody set fire to his train, that it was not crashed into, derailed, or hijacked, and that he was not one of the abnormally high number of injuries or fatalities that occur on the South African rail network.

The #RamaRail campaign could include all ministers and deputy ministers, all the ANC's elected public representatives at national, provincial, and local level, and all members of its national executive and deployment committees. But #RamaRail would only be for starters.

Our ruling elite could also promise that from now on they will use only public hospitals, that they will pull their children out of private schools and send them to government schools, that they will cancel all their contracts with private security companies, and that they will donate all their electricity generators to the poor.

In their crusade to show solidarity with those struggling to obtain clean water, they could also promise that they will not extract any more water from their own boreholes. They could further promise that sometime between now and the election on 8th May they will all go and help clean up the sewage leaking into the Vaal.

After that they would deliver water to communities whose taps have run dry. Having pledged never to use private transport, they would of course have to hire minibus taxis to carry out these missions. Or they could use donkey carts, as some of these communities do. En route, of course, they would be able to check out the pit latrines at schools and elsewhere.      

Solidarity with those who are struggling is not enough, however. Our top dogs also need to demonstrate their confidence in the future. They could call this #RamaPhutures. To begin with, they could promise that as soon as the new state bank is established, they will put all their money into it. Either there, or into one of the banks that will be set up by the state-owned enterprises in whose banking skills and probity they have so much faith. This would have the added advantage of socking it to banks with colonial origins and/or run by white monopoly capitalists.

As for investments, our top leaders could sell all their shares in listed companies and use the proceeds to recapitalise Eskom, SAA, the SABC, VBS Mutual and all the other hungry institutions. Or they could simply give their savings to the Public Investment Corporation to invest on their behalf.  

* John Kane-Berman is a policy fellow at the IRR, a think-tank that promotes political and economic freedom. Readers are invited to take a stand with the IRR by clicking here or sending an SMS with your name to 32823. Each SMS costs R1. Ts and Cs apply.