OUT TO LUNCH
The ANC’s 108th birthday circus in Kimberley will have left very few South Africans of any colour feeling optimistic for the future I suspect. By all accounts it was pretty hot in Kimberley and no sane person would have bothered to turn out in that sort of weather to watch a Rolling Stones Absolutely Final World Tour but when there’s a free zinger burger and a bottle of coke and you haven’t eaten properly for days well, needs must.
The ruling party is by now well known for attracting voters with not only junk promises but also with junk food. Sadly that seems to be the only thing that remains in the electorate’s memory when they come to put their crosses on the ballot paper at election time.
It’s not a case of who has promised them better health care, better educational facilities, wonderful housing, more jobs, a booming economy or even a reliable supply of electricity. It’s who provided the most recent free meal prior to the election. Obviously the Made in China baseball caps and t-shirts play their part as well.
The 108th birthday bash was no different and, apart from “demonstrating their dance moves” (as the more frivolous members of the media faithfully reported), the head honchos of the party made all sorts of promises to the people of South Africa, most of which will be conveniently forgotten as the cavalcade of tax payer sponsored luxury vehicles leave Kimberley for home.
With the country plunged back into load shedding ahead of the ANC shindig I suppose it was inevitable that Pres Cyril would comment on Eskom and the reassuring news from the President is that he will speed up the process of transforming Eskom into an effective and reliable energy supplier that can “operate in an open, competitive energy sector”. This just a day after the Eskom chairman, Jabu Mabuza, threw in the towel.
I suppose if you’re still wiping the sauce of your zinger burger from your chin and downing the remains of your free coke this might sound convincing but to those of us who may be a tad more cynical there is only one question. What happened to Eskom under your watch to allow it to become an ineffective and unreliable energy supplier? Well, you don’t need to answer that Mr President because we know what happened. What we want to know though is what you propose to do about it.
Weasel words about restoring Eskom to its former glory, stepping up the investment drive, launching massive infrastructural building programmes (with whose money?) and reducing the cost of doing business and creating jobs sounds wonderful but we’ve heard that so many times before. These could be words coming out of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s mouth and they would sound very encouraging but for the fact that South Africa is run by a communist collective and all those promises sound suspiciously capitalist to me. If you want to be taken seriously Mr President then you need to do much more than make vague promises you know you cannot possibly keep.
Let’s take Eskom for example. You seem to have ruled out privatization and that’s probably quite a sensible decision because hunting around for a buyer for an investment dog like Eskom could prove quite embarrassing. However, splitting Eskom into however many functional parts is purely cosmetic and doesn’t get away from the fact that there are too many employees and many are being paid way too much money.
Looking around for new sources of energy as you promise to do will take time and not solve any immediate problems. It’s just another example of kicking the can down the road. Saying something is “too big to fail” when it has already failed spectacularly fools nobody with a higher than 30% matric pass.
Most South Africans know what the problems are and it might bring the people closer to the Presidency if some firm action could be taken. Our two major obstacles to economic progress are corruption and union power and unless those are addressed soon it really is “game over” for the country as Tito Mboweni has already commented.
The Zondo commission hearing now starts to rival Judge Judy for long running tediousness. We’ve all heard the accusations, we’ve read some very well researched investigative journalism on the perpetrators of state capture and corruption (none of whom have sued for defamation tellingly) and still we’ve seen no action.
Even the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town is getting restless with his new year hope that this will be “the year of orange overalls” for many. Allowing for the fact that a watertight legal case has to be made it still seems pretty extraordinary that some known sleazeballs continue to hold high office within the ANC. Not even a suspension pending a further outcome.
This is hardly likely to inspire hard working and uncorrupt South Africans and even less likely to impress those new investors you seem to be wooing. And what happens when, or if, any of this gets to court? It will be delayed on procedure, appealed, dockets will be lost and all sorts of shenanigans will take place to prevent the obviously guilty from being punished. So my suggestion is this.
Set up a special court to deal with political corruption cases. Use foreign jurists if need be because that would be money well spent as well as demonstrating impartiality. Make sure that cases are tried and processed in the minimum amount of time and that, when found guilty, the perpetrators are stripped of all assets, all rights to a pension and every other benefit before being put in the slammer.
As the old saying has it, justice must not only be done but it must be seen to be done. That, Mr President, would bring the people a lot closer to you and boost both domestic and international confidence in the government.
My second suggestion is one that has been made by far better qualified commentators on previous occasions. For heavens sake, deal with the unions. Their absurd demands will completely destroy this country’s economy. Margaret Thatcher did it when she came to power in the early 1980’s and a prolonged period of prosperity followed. Screw your courage to the sticking place and follow her example.