It's time we put away the begging bowl

David Bullard says, if anything, SA should be offering to bail out its former colonial masters

Time for SA to put away the begging bowl

A few weeks ago the UK announced that they would no longer be giving South Africa a free handout. The amount involved was derisory by UK standards (a mere £19 million I believe) but the news was not well received by some SA politicians and there was even talk that the withdrawal of this boodle could alter forever the relationship between GB and SA. Since this view was put forward by former Labour Party cabinet minister and anti apartheid activist Peter Hain I think it can be safely dismissed as hysterical.

The fact that austerity hit Britain is cutting back on hand-outs to its former colonies should surprise nobody. The country's finances are in a horrible mess, quantitative easing (the euphemism for printing money) hasn't had the effect it was supposed to have on the economy and there have had to be widespread cut backs on a variety of welfare payments. How inappropriate it would be therefore to be seen to be giving money to a country that obviously doesn't need it while denying your own citizens child care payments.

Far from seeing all this as an insult, South Africa should see it as a huge compliment. For decades Africa has been holding out the begging bowl to the west. We became like the irritating fellow at the traffic lights who always wants some spare change. However much you give him he'll still be there tomorrow and the day after because begging for spare change is obviously much more profitable than looking for a job.

Is that any way for a member of BRICS to behave? Not only should we now be politely declining all foreign aid; we should be offering to bail out our former colonial masters. The beggar should turn benefactor.

Any country rich enough to build a palace like Nkandla for its beloved president certainly doesn't need the scraps from the master's table. Admittedly we may have a worryingly high unemployment rate of over 25% (unofficially probably nearer 40%) and a Trade and Industry minister hell bent on sabotaging the economy but on no account should that be seen as weakness on our part. Despite these things we are still able to hand money over to our northern neighbour Zimbabwe rather than spend it on our own people. The UK may be counting the pennies these days but we certainly aren't down here on the southern tip.

The important thing to remember about foreign aid is that it doesn't really have anything to do with money. Sure, it's nice to be thought an economic minnow by superpowers and have large tranches of donated cash to fritter away but the real relationship is never that of donor and recipient but of master and servant.

The whole point of Britain's foreign aid policy was to remind former colonial powers that they were still subservient. It's rather akin to having a wayward child with an expensive drug habit and an unhappy habit of crashing cars. Providing you keep supplying the lad with drug money and buying him a new car whenever he crashes the last one you have his undivided attention. The moment you refuse to fund his lifestyle and force him to lead his own life then you no longer own him.

In much the same way the wayward children of the UK have been encouraged to rely on "daddy" to get by in life. All sorts of amounts were sent by the mandarins in Whitehall with the tacit understanding that if we were naughty then "daddy" would cut off our allowance.

Just as some children are quite content to be dismal failures in life sponsored by a doting father, so some countries have been equally happy to extend the perpetually outstretched hand in the hope of getting by without having to do too much work. The more economically independent, though, quite rightly want to break away and do their own thing.

The view of UK Foreign Minister William Hague is that we are now big enough to go it alone without development aid. The view of some of our more lethargic politicians and union leaders apparently is that any free money is good money and that the UK is "punishing" us in some way. Hague's view is the correct one.

We cannot expect to be taken seriously in the world if we still rely on "daddy's" allowance. And just as the successful child should look after his parents in their time of need, hopefully we will be sending aid to the UK before too long.


In his Thick End of the Wedge column last Monday Peter Bruce claimed that he had been the victim of vitriolic attacks from all quarters after he announced that BD Live are finally setting up a paywall on their website. The main complaint seems to be the cost of subscription to the digital offering which is the same as the printed version of Business Day. I made the comment that this effectively forced those of us with iPads and Galaxies to subsidise the Luddites who still rely on the dead tree media. I do hope Peter didn't take offence at this genial banter on my part.

The good news though is that the rush to sign up for subscriptions has exceeded expectations which is comforting for all those at 4 Biermann Avenue who constantly fret over job security. Since the money is now rolling in maybe Peter can afford to give us back his former star columnist Katy Chance.

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