Gloomy with a chance of disaster

David Bullard's wither forecast for the economy



I know that social media shouldn’t be taken too seriously as a measure of what sane people are thinking but it’s difficult to ignore some of the more alarming comments one reads on things like Twitter. In particular, comments about the economy and how colonialism and white monopoly capitalism have spoilt everything for the majority of people in this country.

There are many voices, some with impressive numbers of followers on Twitter, who support the EFF line of thinking and seriously suggest that the entire structure of the economy should be dismantled and rebuilt along the lines of hugely successful socialist utopias such as Venezuela.

I have no doubt that these ideas are espoused by some of the more extreme elements in the ANC and pics of David Mabuza cosying up to Julius Malema don’t help to calm any fears I may have that any ANC/EFF post Cyril coalition would be disastrous for the country. So when Ace Magashule, the ANC’s glowing beacon of probity, made it known that Julius would be welcome back to the ANC any time my spirits sank even further.

Presumably the thinking is that, when it comes to emptying the country’s coffers, two devious minds are better than one. I always love the defence  the ANC’s staunchest supporters put up that none of the people who seem, beyond any reasonable doubt, to be involved in criminal activity have been found guilty in a court of law.

I’m willing to bet that should I throw a brick through a jeweller’s window and make off with a few expensive watches then the evidence on the security cameras would be sufficient to persuade the local constabulary to drop round to Chez Bullard and take me into custody until my first court appearance. What’s the difference?

I’ve just spent the weekend at a guest house near Stanford and it’s been interesting to talk to local business people in that part of the world. The attitude to the election seems to be one of gloomy resignation, that there will be no surprises and that Team ANC will be back in power. What is uncertain is what further damage they are intending to do to the economy.

The biggest concern is obviously the land issue and hardly anybody I spoke to believes that the expropriation without compensation issue will be handled nearly as smoothly as Cyril claims. Most reasonable South Africans would surely acknowledge that something urgently needs to be done to correct the injustices of the past and that land and housing need to be sorted out as a matter of urgency. That’s all very well in theory but if houses are built in places where there are no jobs then the whole exercise is pointless.

The problem with the land issue is that different people hear different messages, aided and abetted by parties like the EFF and Black First Land First. Supporters of what those parties stand for are not prepared to hang around for five or ten years in the hopes of eventually getting to the top of the housing ladder. They have interpreted the land issue promises as a green light to go and help themselves after May 8th. So it’s no surprise that the property market is virtually dead at the moment, particularly for farms and small holdings.

According to those in the know there always seem to be 80 wine farms for sale in or around Stellenbosch but who in their right mind would want to pay millions of rand for land which may well be seized by the state in the next ten years? And what happens if the government suddenly decides that foreigners are no longer allowed to own agricultural land or, worse still, residential property?

It would be an illogical move but with the current white hatred and anti European sentiment being fomented by hot heads like Phillip Dexter it would be seen by extremists as appropriate retribution for the sins of the past. The lefties find the idea particularly attractive since foreigners would be obliged to sell their South African properties within a certain period of time which would depress the housing market and make a Clifton apartment suddenly affordable.

Push the anti European sentiment a little more and you might find the government compulsorily purchasing foreign owned businesses for the people at bargain basement prices. It couldn’t happen here you say? Well, in 1994 you would never have said that Eskom would be a financial disaster.

We ought to be a tourist mecca in this country but my sources at the weekend reported that things haven’t been great this year. The drought of 2018 put off a lot of visitors to Cape Town apparently but of greater concern have been the internationally publicized outbreaks of violence and burning tyres in places like Hermanus, Grabouw, Kleinmond and Somerset West to name but a few.

Shrugging them off as “service delivery protests” isn’t much consolation to a foreign visitor with a three week vacation window to explore the garden route along the N2. For the same reason I wouldn’t want to visit Paris at the moment I suspect many potential overseas visitors might want to give a burning South Africa a miss. Particularly as neither the government or the police seem to have the matter in hand.

Those employed in the hospitality industry know how fragile the situation can be. A partly empty restaurant means fewer tips and a perpetually empty restaurant means the closure of the business and lost jobs. The same applies to guest-houses, boutique hotels and all those ancillary businesses that set up to service the growing number of tourists we were expecting.

Killing the economy and rebuilding it as a socialist Utopia from scratch tends to appeal most to those who know that their greedy little snouts will be close to the fiscal swill trough. For the rest of us it will be an unprecedented disaster. But not wholly unexpected. 


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