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South Africa is in disarray – and our political leaders are responsible

The threat to democracy, at least in the immediacy, is not chronic unemployment and poverty. It’s politicians.
The miseries faced by this country add up to a long list, and the events of the past few days attest to a government in crisis. Alexandra township in Johannesburg this week. Image: GCIS

“We must therefore commit ourselves not only to peace, but to greater economic opportunity for all. We are emerging now from a long period of uncertainty and stagnation. We have witnessed the effects of corruption and the erosion of the state, the terrible consequences of the abuse of power and neglect of duty.”

These are among the words pronounced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in an uninspired address to the nation on Monday night (July 12).

It was an address we had been eager to hear: a response to the alarming acts of violence and destruction that erupted in KwaZulu-Natal and had begun to spread to other parts of the country.

‘They’ are to blame, not ‘us’

The significant thing was not the president’s apparent lack of conviction in his words, nor the state’s capacity to manage and rein in the destructive violence. Nor was it his clear refusal to admit that the country’s present predicament is his party’s fault.

Rather, it is the sense of self-importance that hangs over him and his administration.

Lest we forget, Ramaphosa was part of the top six of the ANC, and deputy president in the Zuma administration.

It is in wanting to distance himself and the administration he is leading from what he called “the effects of corruption, erosion of the state, abuse of power and neglect of duty” that he commits a disservice to South Africa.

It is wanting to distance himself from said ills – the neglect of duty, the erosion of the state, the abuse of power, and the effects of corruption – that reveals his politics.

It must be said, there are certain segments of our society that seem to want to separate Cyril the President of South Africa from the Cyril of the ANC. But they are one person.

As you sow, so shall you reap

Much of what is happening today – the violence, the poverty, the looting, the crisis of youth unemployment and lawlessness – is the fruit of the ANC government; 0ne that Ramaphosa has been part of for decades. He might have stepped out of active politics to pursue business interests for a while, but do not be under the illusion that he stopped being an active ANC member.

I have on several occasions written about the ruling party’s incapacity to change and adapt to being in government. By this I mean the internal conspiracies and leadership battles that have seeped through to government functions, such that party functionaries use whatever power is bequeathed to them as government officials to scheme and advance their faction’s hold on or quest for power.

In turn, this leaves little time for public service, as has become clear in testimonies at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into allegations of state capture. There is nothing much about a government of the people – ‘Batho Pele’ (‘People first’) – in their government.

Therefore, pardon my yawn when Ramaphosa’s eyes are wide open having “witnessed the effects of corruption” and the terrible consequences they have produced.

As if to show that his administration will not be tainted by the sins of the previous one nor tolerate the witnessed corruption, neglect of duty and abuse of power.

Furthermore, as the leader of a country in disarray, in blaming the preceding administration he may not be doing himself or South Africa any good – considering that he and most of his ministers were part of that administration.

There is no leadership.

The ruling party is sailing in choppy waters. This can be said of South Africa as whole. The shallows and miseries faced by this country add up to a long list and the events of the past few days attest to a government in crisis.

There is no visionary leadership to give us hope, no plan to reignite the economy, and no capacity to manage the pandemic. Chaos and insecurity reign.

We will ‘arrest and prosecute’

In his Monday night ‘family meeting’ the president called for the arrest and prosecution of those who are “involved in acts of violence” – while failing to rein in his comrades in government who are getting away with the far more violent criminal activity of stealing state resources, cronyism, tender-related corruption and rent-seeking practices on a grand scale, as witnessed in Covid-19-related procurement.

I say where is this enthusiasm and determination to prosecute when it comes to these politicians?

If unemployment and stagnation is the catalyst to the current state of disarray, then the looters in government who have normalised stealing are the sickness that has led to this.

And this sickness will remain as long as the current president cannot declare that politicians, government officials and his party comrades will also be arrested and prosecuted – without fear or favour – for looting state resources.

I’m afraid the disillusioned citizens, the ones without jobs, income, food, and hope for better days have found a way to express their gatvol(ness). The incarceration of former president Jacob Zuma lit the fuse.

If it was not already obvious, the real fault of the political class has become apparent: as the government, they have failed to do what is good for the people.

The threat to democracy, at least in the immediacy, is not chronic unemployment and poverty.

It is politicians who exploit identity politics to boost their image of self as the perpetual victim who is always wrong – much like Zuma.

It is the leaders who will quickly distance themselves from the collective failings, the abuse of power, the effects of corruption, and the neglect of duty by an administration they were part of.

We would do well to remember that these leaders are peas in a pod, an ANC pod.

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No-this article is 100% incorrect. To blame the government for the criminal conduct of thousands is totally incorrect. Many other countries have poor and starving people as we do e.g. India but thousands of people do not go on a criminal rampage and loot and destroy property.

The problem is…with the people …they voted for the government and they stole without a conscience.

Consider this: Not only did the people vote for the government currently in power, they did so repeatedly.

Now where is the REAL problem?

yet another way of looking at it but in SA it is not the people looting my TAX money!

How unusual it is, to be so here-and-now with the apportioning of the blame. In the past such things were always much easier. It was apartheid that did it and was always clearly earmarked to be given permanent employment in this regard. It is otherwise unAfrican to seek anything other than totally collective responsibility. Perhaps this methodology will now be given full time and permanent employment, until climate change completes its politically ordained purpose (for ever). The Japanese also have this methodology but with the caveat that when it is too incredibly unfair to apply it, then the Commander-in-Chief must take the blame and perform the traditional hara-kiri

They voted for the ANC because their leaders were enriching themselves with tenders,statecapture,wmc as the zondo commission is showing.So they also want the same as the EFF screams for because they are witness to this self enrichment.

The government is to blame because they were enriching themselves because they believe they have a perverse democratic right to.

Thank god it got exposed because the way it was carrying on it was enriching a few blacks and generally WMC at the expense of the previously disadvantaged.

Consider the number of private residences and business premises across the 278 municipalities in the country. Then determine the loss of real value of those properties over the past 25 years of socialist rule.

R2 Trillion. That is what the ANC policies of redistributive rates and taxes have cost the property sector in South Africa. The current damage is small-change relative to the value destruction that is caused by socialist ANC policies. A municipality is a catalytic converter that turns property values into inflated salaries for unionized municipal workers and into services in townships where those people cannot pay for it themselves.

The ANC uses the property values of private individuals who do not vote for them, to bribe their unemployed supporters and their Tripartite partners. The law that is supposed to protect property, has become the tool of plunder. Instead of protecting property, the law and the justice system supports the process of legalized plunder.

We watch in absolute horror as we see the visible destruction of value that is caused by an ANC faction. The actual damage done to the economy and to property owners is a thousand times more than what we can see at the surface.

People lose their respect for the law when some men are allowed to become BEE billionaires by corrupting the law to legalize plunder. It is clear that too many people in this socialist country are trying to make a living off the same crumpled-up little title deed.

Only thing I would point out is that CT area rates and taxes are just as high and that’s DA?

You are right. The same law allows the DA municipalities to extort property owners through the overvaluation of properties. This is a farcical situation because while they exploit some property owners, they give discounts to others through the “equitable share” arrangement.

We are not equal before the law here. If you have an income, you have to cough up. If you are retired and under financial pressure, but happen to live in a house in Hermanus that is worth R10 million now, you pay nothing. I support this arrangement, of course. The point is that we should not be taxed on the capital value of our property at all.

Inflation is steadily pushing a growing sector of property owners into the latter category. The DA municipalities are running into a brick wall of unaffordibility of rates and taxes. Like all socialist policies, this is clearly not sustainable.

I really like your articles

Please write an article on how we can get the voters to vote for another party? Preferably a capitalist one

Can we not? Capitalist parties (the GOP and Tories being prime examples) have terrible track records of being cool with running huge fiscal deficits while people sleep under bridges or work three jobs to pay their rent.

Besides, the Purple Cow party tried that and couldn’t even get a single Parliamentary seat.

A better alternative would be a democratic socialist party to give us a society like exists in much of Scandinavia, where poverty is almost non-existent, healthcare is excellent, university-level education accessible, it’s easy to start and run a business, and the Prime Minister goes to work on a bicycle. In other words, where the taxpayer gets value for money and human life is valued.

The problem is that I can’t think of a single politician who I could plausibly regard as a democratic socialist. The main contenders are Gucci communists, neo-fascists, and hard-right libertarians.

The irony of the Freedom Front Plus edging ever-closer to the political centre doesn’t escape me either…

Democratic Socialism is like a cocaine habit – very popular over the short term, but eventually, it bankrupts even the wealthiest people. Expensive habits need cash flow, and any form of socialism is a bottomless pit.

Irrespective of the name of the leading political party, like China, the Scandanavian countries have strong capitalist economies that respect private property rights. They have even privatized their SOEs. They are definitely not socialist. That is why they can afford large social programs.

South Africa will NEVER be Scandinavia, Rob.

Naive in the extreme to think it ever could be.

Highest crime, homelessness, unemployment, tax, drug abuse, poverty on average are in democrate run cities where dems have been in power for long periods. California is collapsing by the day with businesses and ‘evil’ capitalists fleeing due to the socialists aka democratic party. New York, Chicago all experiencing high levels of crime, with records deaths relating to crime. Can’t compare to GOP run cities or states where they embrace law and order, low taxes and small government and free markets.

There is a reason why Scandinavia is so successful. Hint: Finland routinely tops international maths ratings for schoolkids. Ain’t no substitute for brainpower.

Thank you Mamokgethi for calling a spade a spade, addressing the elephant in the room head on. Cyril Ramaphosa uninspired because he was absolutely dumbstrucked and surely disappointed?

South Africans who keep voting for the ANC need to take some responsibility after 27 years of freedom.

They voted to be given free stuff by their government – and when the Gov failed to deliver on that promise they cut out the middleman and just took the free stuff directly.

This is the real issue. The people who vote for a living got the govt they deserve. Corporates and NGO’s have been masking the consequences with CSI initiatives to cover for the dysfunctional state in exchange for profits and donor funds, now it seems they have also got the govt they deserve.

Unfortunately for the people who work for a living (and pay for everything) they are in the ever shrinking minority in SA and in the current political system their voices are ignored. So they vote with their feet instead.

how the untouchable politicians can make provocative speeches and irresponsible / unconfirmed statements that can cause a rebellion / looting and even loss of life and then sleep at night without any feeling of guilt is just mindblowing.

the part of the article stating: “If it was not already obvious, the real fault of the political class has become apparent: as the government, they have failed to do what is good for the people” says it all

Always love reading this guy. Thanks for your super insights

She is a lady.
Kea leboha,’Me Moloponyane.
As a whole well said, but as other commenters mention, a very large part of the blame of our nearly failed state lies with the utterly naive, gullible, grossly misled, poorly informed voters.
A massive part of voters behaviour IMHO has to do with SA’s still hardly changed, traditional, tribal social landscape. People hardly socialise informally, discuss openly, honestly important issues outside their own “communities”. I am probably more aware of this, being a bit of an outsider in SA, married with somebody from a different background.

Sorry, ‘Me Molopyane. Misspelled your name.

Why should we pay tax when all we see is looting at every level?
We pay tax and the government allows our property to be looted. In fact they are planning to expropriate property but they were too slow and got beaten by the mob.

Leadership demands leaders. SA politicians can’t even lead an honest life; to call them leaders is an abuse of the word.

The heading pretty much sums it up. South Africa with just half decent leaders is a top 20 country.

Headline incorrect. Political looters and not political leaders. Nevertheless an impressive article calling it what it is.

Wheres Rambo and Braddock when you need

We have been emerging from a period of uncertainty since 1994 and what have we done – Gone backwards.

Technically we have not gone backwards, our Human Development Index has gone from Medium to High.

Between 1990 and 2019, South Africa’s HDI value increased from 0.627 to 0.709, an increase of 13.1%.

Remembering old times. Take the timeline Verwoerd to Botha. The era when the ANC grow and become leader. Brains at work then, like today, had no vision whatsoever. The outcome today should not come as a surprise. A step in the direction to become a truly African nation, maybe. Nothing wrong with. Right of the strongest is to this day a planet Earth fundamental rule. Only the weak preach otherwise. They, when owing all guns, rule by the gun. And will be utterly surprised when things go a other way.

There is no “responsible” nothing with the ANC. Nothing. Nothing.

When can we have an article pointing out that for every poor hungry looter there must be 5000 poor hungry that are NOT looters because they are ordinary honest people firstly and poor and hungry secondly.

It is offensive to the 5000 to even begin to explain looting with poor and hungry as the cause.

Dear fellow MW reader, please don’t forget this is Africa. Tribalism rules here, and the various kings, indunas, chiefs, whatevers get each month a “traditional leader allowance” from the guavamunt. The larger your following, the bigger your monthly allowance. In turn, these despots are bribed by this allowance to instruct their respective kingdoms to vote and support the cANCer in our midst. And true to their Human Nature, these so-called birth-righted leaders are only looking after their own purse, stuff their followers. The Ingonyama Trust is an excellent example of this Africanism. You want democracy – go to a first world country to get some, and then some of it is on shaky ground.

Gullible Pawns do what their ‘leaders’ incite them to do.
I have not seen any true leaders step forward in the past weeks.
They can only be called Politicians, they do not deserve the term ‘Leaders’.

End of comments.



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