Time for a National Food System

David Bullard suggests a new mega project for ANC cadres to get their teeth into


If it weren’t so depressing it might be fun to try and guess the next major cock-up the ANC will spring on us. Although, it must be said, surely even the destructive decolonising imagination of the ANC must be running out of potential cock-ups with which to test the patience of what our beloved leaders like to sneeringly refer to as ‘ordinary South Africans’.

But let me not underestimate the ruling party. Having managed to destroy much of the country’s infrastructure in the last thirty years they may still have a few ideas up their sleeves. How about deciding that food distribution should be taken out of the hands of the private sector and handed over to a government run organisation?

This would obviously be based on the argument that food is unfairly distributed to areas of privilege, many of them of white privilege, and under the holy writ of the National Democratic (sic) Revolution this is totally wrong.

Naturally, the move to government controlled food distribution would necessitate the elimination of stores like Woolworths, Checkers, Pick n Pay and Spar as well as a host of other food retail outlets. 

The premises these companies currently occupy, both purchased or leased and fitted out at huge cost would be acquired without compensation as just retribution for years of white supremacist retailing. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

The Director-General of food distribution will obviously be an ANC cadre and will be responsible for deciding what products a government owned store is allowed to stock (obviously nothing from Israel) and will also be responsible for the logistics of getting those products to the government owned retail outlets. What could possibly go wrong?

There might be the odd shortage of basic foodstuffs from time to time as a lorry transporting those food stuffs gets diverted to the dwelling of a cadre of high office. This apparently used to happen in the days of the old USSR state owned GUM stores where huge queues would form to buy scarce goods that were only available from the government owned outlet.

Naturally the DG of food distribution and his/her comrades will have complete discretion over what products are sold. So if any of the European countries or the UK annoy us (even more than they do already) certain products will be embargoed by state order and the importers of such goods as Branston pickle, Nairns Oat cakes, Parmigiano Reggiano and German sauerkraut or mustard will have their stocks seized and their warehouses locked pending the destruction of the offending products.

It may also be necessary to impose fines or a medium term prison sentence on local producers under license of such decadent capitalist products as Marmite and Bovril. These are products aimed at a privileged sector of the market and certainly not in keeping with the socialist Nirvana the ANC is aiming to achieve.

Within a very short time of the ‘National Food Distribution Consolidation Bill 2024’ being passed by the various waffle shops loyal to the ruling party and becoming law the whole retail landscape will be changed for the better. Gone will be all those garish adverts favoured by the food retailers of today and also gone will be the need to compare prices.

So much time and energy is spent working out whether something is cheaper at Checkers than it is at Woolworths or Pick n Pay that it will be a huge relief for consumers to know that the government has (for our own good) fixed the prices of everything and that the prices are exactly the same at all government stores, subject to availability.

Another thing that will be banned is the absurd choice of breads currently on offer from the white supremacists. As anybody knows, the time taken dithering over whether to buy a baguette, a white crusty farmhouse loaf, a sourdough loaf, a rye loaf, a seed loaf, a ciabatta or a bag of Portuguese rolls is energy sapping and that energy would be better directed at gratitude to the beloved leaders of the ANC for making shopping simpler.

So there will be one type of government loaf in one size; assuming the state run baking ovens are working and that delivery is on time. Less hesitation, more adulation will be the unofficial motto of the ‘Emporium of the Glorious Struggle Revolution’ as the stores will be catchily named.

What a load of dystopian nonsense you’re thinking. Has the Bullfinch been at the Lagavulin early in the morning? Is he finally cracking up under the strain? It couldn’t happen here… could it?

Well, I doubt whether any of us thought we’d ever be living with daily loadshedding twenty years ago. And even when load-shedding first appeared in 2008 I very much doubt that any of us believed it would still be going, stronger than ever, fifteen years later. Then there’s the political and infrastructural destruction of most of our big cities as well as the utter devastation wrought in places like Pietermaritzburg.

You no doubt will have read that R100 million has been spent by the cadres on the beachfront upgrade at East London which was opened by ANC stalwart and Eastern Cape Premier Cde Oscar Mabuyane last week. The final product bears absolutely no resemblance to the artist’s impression of what it was supposed to look like and there are plenty of accusations of shoddy workmanship with bits of brick missing already and cracks in the cement.

One might have thought that the Buffalo City Municipality would have found a better use for R100mln such as eliminating pit latrines at schools, repairing the appalling roads or even launching a feeding scheme for starving children in the province but these are not glamorous causes and are therefore of no interest to the ANC.

Dystopia is a word usually applied to an imagined future state or society characterised by great suffering and injustice. A place where people lead ‘dehumanised, fearful lives’ according to the

Merriam-Webster dictionary definition. The point is that it is supposed to be ‘imagined’; like the Ridley Scott movie ‘Blade Runner’.

Not noted for delivering much else to the electorate, the ANC do seem to have managed to deliver dystopia well ahead of schedule. My example of the seizure of food distribution and retail may not be so far-fetched when you consider the massive influence it would have over the control of ‘ordinary South Africans’. If the Western Cape were being disloyal to the central party for example, the government could deprive them of their favourite treats.

And rather like the proposed NHI act which will outlaw private medical schemes it just requires party approval and a Presidential signature. If it can happen to healthcare it can certainly happen to food distribution. Remember you read it here first.


Back in the day when I was a motoring journalist at The Sunday Times and widely acknowledged to be the ‘poor man’s Jeremy Clarkson’ I often used to express surprise to motor industry bigwigs that we even had a motor industry down here on the southern tip of Africa, let alone a thriving one with so many different players.

It seemed to me illogical that you would build a car on the African continent as near as possible to Antarctica and then export it to countries in the Northern hemisphere or the other side of the world. Obviously, there was the domestic market to consider but our appetite for cars was tiny compared to our target export markets.

However it seemed my doubts were misplaced and business was good judging by the number of terrific freebies I received from local producers back in the early 2000’s. It helped that the Department of Trade and Industry’s ‘Motor Industry Development Plan’ (sponsored by the taxpayer obviously) boosted auto manufacturing considerably.

Back then South Africa was exporting fully assembled vehicles to over fifty countries including Japan, the USA and European countries. In 2022 we produced 555889 (just over 2% of total global production) vehicles but this only puts us in 22nd place as a global car manufacturer. China produced 27 million against the USA with 10 million.

However, 555 889 is a healthy number, particularly as Australia only managed to produce 6000*. Obviously there are plenty of jobs relying on the SA motor industry. Which is why there was such a panic last week when the CEO of Volkswagen SA expressed concerns over the future viability of the group’s operations in South Africa adding “we’re not in the business of charity”.

The ensuing narrative of VW pulling out of the country was swiftly denied as one might expect. However, the combination of calamities facing the motor industry seems a pretty good reason to pull the plug and get the hell out. The haphazard electricity supply is only one of the problems the industry faces. Obviously the industry has adapted at some cost to Eskom’s vagaries. The greatest problem though is the collapse of Transnet and of east coast ports.

The motor industry relies on a range of imported components at its assembly plants. If the stuff you need to build a car doesn’t arrive on time then the whole assembly line risks grinding to a halt. If the stuff you need doesn’t arrive at all then you may as well give up.

If the stuff does eventually arrive and you’ve only lost 8 days of production (at great cost to the company) then you have the further problem of getting your product on a container ship for export. In the motor industry world time really is money and over the years every stage of the assembly of a vehicle is finely timed with components arriving exactly when needed, neither before nor after. When it works it is truly a wonder of modern industrialisation.

All those years ago I asked a senior official of one of our local motor manufacturers whether the company would remain in the country if things started to fall apart. The answer was rather enigmatic… “we wouldn’t want to be the first to pull out”. My guess is that if the ANC carry on with their business unfriendly hostility and systematic destruction of state owned enterprises there won’t be many motor manufacturers left in South Africa by the year 2029.

* Statistics provided by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles.