Ramaphosa's national suicide scheme

Andrew Donaldson writes on the President's decision to launch the ANC's titanic NHI project onto SA


DURING his state of the nation address in February, Cyril Ramaphosa reported on the progress of the controversial National Health Insurance Bill. After years of gathering dust in the parliamentary buildings, it had finally landed on his desk. “I am going through the bill,” he smirked. “I am looking for a pen [to sign it].”

It was a poor joke — sick, in fact. But that’s how it goes with Squirrel. Rubbish president, rubbish comedian. Spineless, with no funny bone to boot. 

This week, commentators noted that Squirrel had apparently found his pen, for the Presidency tweeted on Monday that the bill would be signed into law at a public ceremony at the Union buildings this afternoon [Wednesday]. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

The media were invited to cover the event. I hope they did, and took lots of pictures. This, after all. is the stuff of history — in much the same way the Titanic’s maiden voyage or Custer’s last stand was the stuff of history. Future generations will pore over the photographs and accounts of this farce and ask themselves, “What in the name of God were these fools up to? Where did they think the money was coming from?”

Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen may have answers to these queries. He has dismissed the signing ceremony as a “populist political ploy that smacks of desperation” as the ruling party prepares to face its “most contested election ever”. He may be right. It certainly reeks of hucksterism, crass opportunism and a cheesy public relations stunt.

The DA, meanwhile, were reportedly also  standing by to challenge the NHI Bill the moment it became law. Steenhuisen said his party had been preparing for months to launch a legal case against the implementation of a universal health insurance and show that “the process which led to the adoption of this bill by Parliament disregarded public input”.

Disregarding public input is a polite way of telling everyone to get stuffed. But chief beef among the snubbed and disregarded was the concern that astronomical increases in both personal and value-added taxes would be needed to fund the NHI which, it is feared, will result in the demise of private health cover. 

As it is, the country’s major medical aid companies reported a slump in stock following the Presidency’s announcement this week. This in addition to the loss in share value when the bill was approved by the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces last year.

On the face of it, the provision of free healthcare at the point of care for all South Africans, whether in public or private facilities, may seem a worthy undertaking for any able government. The ANC, of course, is not that kind of government. Thirty years of corruption and maladministration have resulted in the collapse of virtually every single function of the state. One of the more prominent of these functions is healthcare. 

And yet here they are, poised to implement a complex health insurance system? You have to ask yourself what could possibly go wrong, especially as it’s cost is pegged at more than R250 billion. 

Business leaders, healthcare professionals and other stakeholders have grown hoarse from screaming that there simply is no money to fund this scheme, that there are too few doctors to make it work and insufficient investment to keep it working. What’s more, and given the ANC’s “revolutionary” disdain for capitalist private sector expertise, their MPs who drafted this rubbish deliberately ignored any concerns the grown-ups may have had concerning the bill’s nuts and bolts.

None of this matters to Squirrel and company. Their only concern here is that it publicly signing the bill into law may get them a few votes. The cynicism is quite astonishing.

Reality dawns

Further to the above, an interesting analysis piece appeared in The Observer at the weekend. Simon Tisdall, an assistant editor at the Guardian and a respected foreign affairs commentator, boldly suggests the ANC’s time may be over, and if it isn’t, it damn well should be; the “party of Mandela” is nothing short of a rolling catastrophe. 

This, readers in Islington may have been startled to learn, is according to Squirrel himself. Tisdall writes that, in his state of the nation address in February, the president “implicitly laid much blame for post-1994 failures” on Jacob Zuma. (From Accused Number One to Convict Number One and now Scapegoat Number One, a political odyssey.)

“For a decade,” Squirrel told Parliament, “individuals at the highest levels of the state conspired with private individuals to take over and re-purpose state-owned companies, law enforcement agencies and other public institutions. Billions of rands that were meant to meet the needs of ordinary South Africans were stolen. Confidence in our country was badly eroded. Public institutions were severely weakened. The effects of state capture continue to be felt across society, from the shortage of freight locomotives to crumbling public services, from the poor performance of our power stations to failed development projects.”

Thus, according to Tisdall, an “extraordinary confession” from the president, “inadvertently highlighting his own ineffectiveness since taking office in 2018”. He goes on to refer to an article by former Sunday Times editor Brian Pottinger, published in July last year, which argued that while change was desperately needed, “the ANC is incapable of delivering it — and will double down on failure”. Back then Pottinger wrote:

“It is now clear that whatever force drives public policy within the opaque and factional halls of the ruling party … has come to three dreadful conclusions. Firstly, the ANC will stick to its catastrophic redistributive economic policies rather than pursuing growth. Secondly, knowing that its economic plan will cause chaos, the government will batten the hatches against capital flight and pre-emptively seek to chill free speech. And thirdly, it has accepted that what is left of developed world investment interest will dry up and a flailing South African state will have to find succour elsewhere. Enter the Russians and the Chinese.”

None of this will save South Africa, Tisdall argues. That’s something only voters can do: 

“As western political confidence and business investment wanes, the ANC is relying ever more heavily on defence, security and commercial ties with Russia and China. South Africa has refused to condemn Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and joined naval operations with China and Russia last year. Beijing is South Africa’s largest trading partner. Russian oligarchs have helped fund the ANC.

“For all who value democracy, freedom and the rule of law, these are plainly the wrong choices. Exploitative great powers and dictators such as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will not save South Africa from itself. Nor will self-serving ANC elites. Only South Africans themselves can do that — by exercising en masse the power of the vote bequeathed to them by Nelson Mandela.”

Fine words. But, and forgive the pessimism, while 30 years of voting for the ANC has not improved the lives of most South Africans, neither has it done much for the reputation of democracy itself. And herein may lie the reason why voter turnout has declined so dramatically since 1994: those who decline to vote — the “born frees”, the 18 -to 34-year-olds who make up roughly a third of the population — insist that they’re not apathetic or disinterested in politics, it’s just that they don’t regard elections as a path to bringing about change in their lives.

At the same time, support for the ANC is falling — so much so, that it may be forced into a crackpot coalition with the EFF or the uMkhonto we Sizwe Party if it is to hold onto power. Things could get worse before they improve. A whole lot worse.


Disturbing news concerning Robert F Kennedy Jr, conspiracy theorist turned independent US presidential candidate: a parasitic worm has eaten a part of his brain. This Kennedy revealed in 2012 divorce proceedings from his second wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy. He was arguing that the worm’s diet had greatly impacted on his cognitive abilities, thus reducing his earning power. Women, particularly those in the throes of divorce, may be permitted a polite snort of disbelief at this.

Regulars at the Slaughtered Lamb (“Finest Ales & Pies”) meanwhile suggest the chomped brain may explain Kennedy’s lunatic fantasies. These include an alleged belief that Covid-19 was developed to attack “Caucasians and Black people” and that Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese were “most immune” to the virus, that vaccines cause autism, and that prescription drugs like Prozac were responsible for the outbreak of mass shootings in American high schools. 

According to the New York Times, Kennedy’s “mental fogginess” was so bad that, in 2010, he consulted several of America’s top neurologists who concluded that he might have a brain tumour. One doctor, however, claimed the dark spots on the brain scans were, in fact, the remains of a dead pork tapeworm larva thought to have been picked up on travels through South Asia. Some wags have suggested it may have died of starvation.

Kennedy has also suffered from atrial fibrillation, a common heartbeat abnormality that increases the risk of stroke or heart failure. He has been hospitalised at least four times as a result. Despite this, the 70-year-old candidate has gone to great lengths to portray his athleticism and relative youth as an advantage over Donald Trump, 77, and Joe Biden, 81. He has, for example, been filmed shirtless pumping iron at an outdoor gym in Venice Beach, California, and skiing with a professional snowboarder.

Recent reports of the worm, or its remains, prompted concerns about Kennedy’s fitness for office. However, a spokeswoman, Stefanie Spear, told the Times: “That is a hilarious suggestion, given the competition.” Kennedy himself took to X (formerly Twitter) to boast, “I offer to eat five more brain worms and still beat President Trump and President Biden in a debate.” In a follow-up tweet, he added, “I feel confident of the result even with a six-worm handicap.”

This is reckless talk, reminiscent of a drunk’s protests when someone attempts to take away the car keys. Nevertheless, Kennedy may have inadvertently given us a system with which to rank political gimcrackery and other odious behaviour from public officials. 

On a scale of one to five, for example, with five being the absolute pits, would the signing of a disastrous universal healthcare proposal as a gimmick to attract votes just two weeks before a general election be classed as a four- or five-wormer? 

Or should politicians themselves be ranked according to the apparent worm activity between their ears? Perhaps not. They all seem to be peaking in the red — wormed to the max, as it were — so a hierarchy may be difficult to determine. Those who know their collective nouns may however choose to regard these people as clueless, but clewed up all the same.