Nothing in ANC world makes sense

Andrew Donaldson writes on the external expertise that President Ramaphosa really needs


TO Hungary, a country we rarely visit, and news of their forthcoming general elections. Among the parliamentary candidates fielded are Huba, a bulldog who is contesting a district near the Slovakian border, and Rado, a black Labrador from Vecses, a constituency near Budapest. 

Both are members of Two-Tailed Dog, a party that began as a joke in 2006 but is now regarded a serious player in a contest that The Times of London reports could end prime minister Viktor Orban’s seemingly invincible hold on power. 

The party is one of eight sizeable opposition groupings, ranging from liberal environmentalists andsocial democrats to staunch conservatives, who have formed an alliance to take on Orban, who has been in office since 2010. Polls suggest it could be a close race, the newspaper adds.

Readers may wonder why Hungarians would want pooches as lawmakers and public representatives, but they are sensible choices. Dogs, after all, are our best friends; and they’re not going to act against those they serve. What’s more, they seldom, if ever make promises they don’t intend to honour.

Radio’s election spiel, for example, is simply this: “Up! Vote for me! Clever dog!” It does admittedly lose something in translation, but it’s certainly far more credible than most of the blah that was Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address:

“The path we choose now will determine the course for future generations. That is why we are … (yawn) … taking steps to strengthen our democracy and reaffirm our commitment to a Constitution that protects us all. We are working together to revitalizzzzz…”

The same old, same old. It could be any SONA, any year, from any ANC president.

South Africa boasts a rich diversity of wildlife. Spoilt for choice, our parliament could be an extraordinary menagerie of the feathered and furry — none of whom would do a worse job than Squirrel’s government. It is true that they may eat one another, but this would probably only happen when they’re very hungry.

As it happens, the present lot are not hungry. Far from it. Indolent and fat, they continue to wallow and flop about, oblivious of the country collapsing about their ears. It came as no great surprise, then, that on Monday, during the SONA debate, that DA leader John Steenhuisen tabled a motion of no confidence in the government; it was far too inept and corrupt to be of any use whatsoever. 

It was also way, way too unwieldy. With an executive that included Squirrel himself, deputy president David Mabuza, 28 ministers and 34 deputies, it was one of the world’s largest governments. And yet, for all its gargantuan size, still so ineffective.

Which is why, when it was announced last week that “outsiders”, as Steenhuisen called them, were being roped in to effectively do Cabinet’s job, there was an initial murmur of approval from the commentariat. Here, it was felt, was a whiff of something positive in the air; stuff was going to happen.

It was only for the briefest of moments, though. For doubts were very soon raised: was the act of parachuting into the Presidency business leaders like Sipho Nkosi, Mavuso Msimang and Daniel Mminele not an admission of failure? That the country’s chief executive was just rubbish at his job? 

On paper, Nkosi’s deployment is seen as a sensible: he’s tasked with slashing through the bureaucratic mess affecting small businesses and hindering job creation. In the normal course of events, this responsibility would lie with the minister of small business development — but then that minister is Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, a person with no ken of small business development whatsoever, someone who would no doubt struggle to sell bootleg cigarettes at a taxi rank in downtown Jo’burg.

Nkosi, on the other hand, comes with a CV that would stun an ox. A man with a passion for business development, he has served on the boards of several leading SA companies and is a former president of the Chamber of Mines. In short, he gets things done. So, the obvious question goes, why then is Nkosi not the minister of small business development? Would it not make sense to fire Ndabeni-Abrahams and instal Nkosi in her place?

Unfortunately, nothing in the ANC’s world makes much sense. Squirrel only gave Ndabeni-Abrahams the job last year. He can’t suddenly dump her, no matter how awful she is. To do so would be a poor reflection on him and his ability to select competent administrators. 

What’s more, if he did give her the sack, it would only gee up his enemies by providing further grist to the radical economic transformation mill. So he’s roped in a respected business leader who will basically do crappy Stella’s job and then perhaps let her take credit for whatever good may come of this arrangement.

The great irony here is that, far from cutting back on red tape, Nkosi’s appointment actually contributes to an already bloated bureaucracy. He will join a staff of more than 50 private individuals in the Presidency who may be regarded as some sort of “alternate” government. Their expertise, in other words, is meant to assist Squirrel in dealing with the useless, “official” government.

Some commentators, like Financial Mail columnist Sam Mokeleli, suggest it is not necessarily a bad idea to bring in such “talent” from outside formal ANC structures — provided, of course, they’re permitted to fulfil roles that are meaningful and they’re not paraded about as window-dressing.

It is said that politicians and corporate executives share a certain form of psychopathy. But their behaviour does differ dramatically and this suggests that a mix of the private and political will not be easy. Corporations readily fire people, the South African government doesn’t. 

If Squirrel can’t handle the unpleasant business of firing his colleagues, then he should get in some psycho who will relish the job. That’s the sort of “expertise” that is really needed here: tweezer-lipped gorgons from Human Resources handing out redundancy notices and directives that ministers must henceforth reapply for their positions. 

Those that fail to crack the nod — pretty much all of them, you’d expect — must be given ten minutes to clear their desks and then marched from the premises by men with shaved heads and curly wires in their ears. Severance packages must, of course, be commensurate with performance. 

A thin blue line ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

For unadulterated pornoviolence, nothing beats the gritty footage posted on anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee’s Twitter feed. Lifted from security cameras and mobile phones, these clips are not for the fainthearted. Stripped of context, they bluntly portray a society hopelessly mired in lawlessness and anarchy: 

gunman shoots at point blank range a man who refuses to hand over his cellphone; men with assault rifles launch a full-scale attack during a heist at a Soweto service station; for motives unknown, armed men fire indiscriminately into a car at busy intersection in Sandton in broad daylight. 

Elsewhere, there are armed robberies of cellphone stores; attempted hijackings and crude home invasions. In one act of brazen idiocy, a light is stolen off a church building. Occasionally, there are tweets on arrests of suspects. One widely shared post concerns the recent spike in cash-in-transit heists and points out that the culprits include an SANDF member and a police officer. Abramjee has even shared posts of intruders breaking into his own home.

It’s not clear whether these viral “video nasties” have led to many arrests, but they do counter police minister Cheek Bile’s idiot ravings that we need not fear criminals as his cops will keep us all safe in our beds at night. We should remind ourselves that these are recordings of “everyday” crimes. For the most part, they do not make headline news; they go unreported and we have no idea how police respond to such incidents or the shape or form of their investigations.

But, when they themselves fall under scrutiny, the SAPS are invariably found wanting. The report by a panel of experts into the July 2021 civil unrest which left more than 300 people dead and resulted in the destruction of billions of rands worth of property is a case in point. Law enforcement agencies, along with various government members, were blamed for the rapid escalation of the violence.

However, and on a far more cheerful note (if, that is, schadenfreude’s your bag), Abramjee has also tweeted about the City of Tshwane’s dramatic and ruthless programme of suspending power to those customers accused of non-payment for services. Last week, the city said it was owed more than R17-billion in unpaid rates, so it swung into action. Johannesburg is now considering similar action.

It does seem odd that Tshwane’s customers were allowed to amass such staggering debt. Would a residential account holder be permitted to run up such huge bills after months and months of non-payment?

I do note that some of those whose services were suspended have complained that they slipped the odd brown envelope to council officials from time to time to keep the lights on, as it were, and are now sorely aggrieved they are suddenly without power. Pretoria is apparently keen for more information in this regard.

Which reminds me: some years back, a City of Johannesburg employee rang to say he was standing outside my Melville home with instructions to suspend my electricity. He was, however, an understanding sort, and we could perhaps meet to sort things out rather cheaply. I said I couldn’t see him at the moment as I was at work. No problem, he said, we could meet later, at about 6pm. Would I be done for the day by then?

Yes, I replied. I’d be home. Which was true, although home was then in Cape Town, as I’d sold up and moved the year before. This, of course, I did not tell him.

A leader’s example

Future president Duduzane Zuma — he’ll be taking up office after the next president, Lindiwe Sisulu, retires — has recently been doing the photo-op mambo with a shovel during a clean-up of Durban’s Newland East suburb. As TimesLive reported, he had swapped his designer suit for a pair of shorts and a black garbage bag as he joined residents in sprucing up their neighbourhood. “No excuses, no long stories,” the young hopeful was quoted as saying. “Either we do it or not. Sunshine or rain, we get the job done. A lot of people like talking but very few can do. It’s all about action.”

None can do like Dudu can do, I suppose. Which prompted supporters to remake that he made “back-breaking work look easy”. Well, if you insist. But, as regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) will tell you, it may look easy, but it looks so much better in orange overalls.