South Africa... the good news

David Bullard says he's turned over a new leaf, and will focus on the positives

You will all be relieved to hear that I have decided to turn over a new leaf. After the enormous response to last week's column (159 comments at last count and not a sign of the ubiquitous Lyndall Beddy) I now realise the error of my ways. Instead of constantly carping about this beautiful land and offering no solutions I have resolved this week to concentrate on the positives. Rather like Admiral Lord Nelson I shall put the telescope to my blind eye and announce loudly "I see no shits".

I can't guarantee that I will be able to keep this pretence up for long but I am less than a month off my 60th birthday and at this grand age I am told (by fellow sexagenerians like JG) we should be mellow and past caring. After all, we've done our best to make the world a better place and now it's up to you youngsters. We old codgers just want a comfortable rocking chair, the odd boozy lunch  and time with our memories.

We realise that anything we have to say has absolutely no value coming, as it does, from decades of experience, the remembrance of which is dimmed by a lifetime's consumption of alcohol, fatty foods and recreational drug usage.  We are, after all, the cream of the baby boomer generation.

So let's cut straight to the chase and talk about corruption. Yes, it's true that billions of rands which could have gone to uplift the poor have found their way into the bank accounts of a few opportunistic struggle heroes. So what? As Pravin Gordhan recently pointed out, there are still many billions that haven't yet been stolen and will be put to good use creating new jobs within the civil service.

Besides, have you ever known the poor to use money wisely? Of course you haven't which is precisely why they are poor. If those billions of rands hadn't moved in unusual directions and been used to fuel the recovery of the luxury car market they would almost certainly have been squandered on things like food and cheap housing.

Our banking system is one of the finest in the world and while other countries flounder about looking for handouts and printing money we are in the happy position of not having to even look up the word austerity. Money is both plentiful and cheap here on the southern tip and the good news is that there's a lot more where that came from.

The Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, suggested South Africa print more money earlier this year and our debt to GDP ratio is laughably low compared with places like Greece and Spain. We could afford to print money and borrow billions on the international capital markets and we'd still be a long way off basket case status. Then we could easily afford to pay rock drillers R50000 a month without all the unpleasantness that went with the Marikana business.

Our education system is second to none.....if you count upwards from the bottom that is. This year young scholars (that's what we call them now) can expect a matric pass rate of 85% despite not having looked at a textbook all year. That is true democracy. The incidence of teenage pregnancy among schoolgirls is high which is why many schools have introduced crèches so that 15 year old mothers can breast feed their babies before double geography. This early life experience is invaluable and it's a great credit to our education system that dedicated male teachers are prepared to give of their free time to demonstrate practical sex education. In my day we only had books with rather confusing drawings.

Which brings me to politics and the absurd accusations that the ANC hasn't done great things for the country these past 18 years. So many people have benefitted that it seems churlish to deny our beloved President his own personal town, complete with nuclear fallout shelter and at a cost of a mere quarter of a billion rand.

If you've ever looked through the property section of the FT Weekend you would know that, in Euros, that wouldn't even buy you a modest dwelling by Lake Como let alone a compound (thanks to Mac Maharaj's office for sanctioning the use of this word in this column). Helen Zille's visit last week would surely have convinced her that this is money well spent and I wouldn't be at all surprised if she doesn't create Zilleville sur le Plage back in the Western Cape. She would be crazy not to.

The back stabbing and infighting that appears to happen in the ANC prior to something like Mangaung is often seen by non patriotic South Africans as evidence of a party at war with itself. I confess that I may have been thus fooled. But, in reality, it is simply evidence of our robust democracy. Unlike the US, where the Democrats go up against the Republicans, we live in a one party state and all the cut and thrust of electioneering is denied our politicians.

So they have to fight among themselves but the good news is that the ANC still comes out the winner in the end. Better still, the voter isn't subjected to all those big hair wives of politicians electioneering on behalf of their constantly grinning hubbies. Here, everything is cut and dried and sorted out behind closed doors which leaves the electorate with little to do except turn out to vote every five years. We are the envy of the rest of the world believe me.

Finally (I could go on and on because there really is so much to celebrate) let me ask you this. Where else in the world can you ask a cop for an on the spot fine if you've been stopped for drunken driving or push some money across a desk at a police station to get a criminal docket lost? Have you any idea how clogged the courts would be if this type of expediency wasn't widely available to the luckiest citizens in the world? No my friends, we are fortunate to live in paradise and anyone who doubts that should be deported to Canada, Australia or Norway. 

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