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The poison of politics is a risk to us all

The state is being reduced to a tool in the hands of those with sinister intentions.
'We really and truly cannot go on like this' – finance minister Tito Mboweni on July 11, and again on July 23. Image: Moneyweb

South Africa is experiencing its most poisonous political times since the advent of democracy. This poison doesn’t end at politics. It seeps through to the economy. How else do we explain the clumsy intrusion of politics in the country’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs)?

Make no mistake, these are poisonous political times for SOEs. The state capture commission of inquiry has exposed the deeply damaging effect of politics on one specific government entity – Eskom.

Politicians are impervious to how their actions, and politics in general, have become such a preoccupation of SOEs, instead of doing what they were set up to do.

Most SOEs have simply become funnels that money from the state goes through without achieving the intended goals while enriching consulting firms, tenderpreneurs and a few politically connected elites.

Recently, when asking for more money to aid Eskom, specifically an additional R56 billion in the next financial year, Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni issued a chilling warning:

“I wish to repeat what I said in my budget vote speech: ‘We really and truly cannot go on like this’.”

It fell on deaf ears.

More concerning is that the poison of politics has made those leading the state indifferent to warnings from colleagues about the long-term risk posed by entities such as Eskom to the country’s ability to get out of the economic glut it is in. The International Monetary Fund and rating agencies have also repeatedly warned about the risks of drag down effects on potential growth.

Read: What an IMF bail-out will look like…

It seems almost indisputable that this poison of politics has an even more sinister intention about it, paralysing the state’s ability to direct the way government can or is supposed to work, evolve and better its service to citizens.

Much of what we are witnessing now is politics being used to reduce a government bureaucracy to an inefficient, unworkable and chaotic one. Politics is reducing the state to a tool in the hands of ill-meaning individuals.

No one is immune

Not even the president is immune to the poison of politics, as we have seen with the recent email leaks and allegations of corrupt practices. The result is diverting attention from the deteriorating conditions of the economy and the overall wellbeing of the country.

Tellingly, the ‘new dawn’ that was supposed to unite different factions within the ANC has failed. The party’s national executive committee is now even more deeply divided.

This is why the political disposition is poisonous – it has muted those leading government.

The troubles this brings about manifest in SOEs that are used in the political games played by leaders within the governing party. The not-so-invisible hand of politics decides who is appointed to these entities, who is awarded tenders to service them, and why keeping them as they are matters to them.

SOEs in perspective

The working assumption of the ANC-led alliance that SOEs are a ‘must’ defies economic logic. The economy has the symptoms of a weakening fiscal position in that (i) it has retreated in the past 10 years, (ii) it has a widening budget deficit, and (iii) government debt is almost 60%.

The poison of politics is such that China’s approach to SOEs is often held up as a model to use by politicians to rationalise their logic for keeping SOEs. The rocketing debt of Eskom alone continues to pose a risk not only to the fiscus but to the economy’s ability to recover. How much more so when SAA, the SABC and now Denel are added to the crisis.

Considered together with the points made earlier, it should be clear – if it wasn’t then – that the state can neither sustain nor afford to cushion the recklessness of the catastrophic and rising debts of SOEs.

The poison of politics has bestowed South Africa with politicians who don’t grasp the consequences of placing political ideology and aspiration over real-life economic reality.

Blind to the truth

The crisis of the SOEs illustrates this and reveals the short-sightedness of politicians in pursuing what they deem as necessary while ignoring the bad effects – namely the billions of rands required to keep them afloat.

Blinded by the poison of politics, they have failed to foresee that keeping them afloat will not be a once-off. Even more money will be required, and will still not be enough. More, more, more they will demand.

The poisonous politics that runs through the veins of the political elite is preventing them from seeing how the risks created by the ailing SOEs will clog up the economy’s ability to recover.

Their alliance partners will not permit them to cull these entities, yet that is exactly what needs to happen. They must be restructured, sculpted and refined into lean, efficient, semi-privatised machines. Or sold.

Keeping them is not an option, for the sake of the people who are the lifeblood and therefore the economy of this country.



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BBEEE is the biggest ponzi-thieving system on the planet. The biggest reason for corruption is BBEEE.

Corruption is of course a major cause of problems in Eskom. But there’s also an old saying: never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity. The current religion of political correctness has convinced many people that their skin colour, gender or orientation in the bedroom equals a qualification and the ability to do the job. Not all of the the millions of AA appointees in the public service or SOEs are crooks, but I would venture a large majority of especially the managers have been appointed into positions which are far beyond their limited capabilities.

Think of it this way: Eskom is an engineering concern which requires maths. Financial management also requires numeracy. However, only 6% of SA’s matrics finish school with maths marks good enough for engineering or a B Compt degree and you can bet most of them are not of a PC hue. Perhaps many or most of the deployed cadres are not tsotsis, but they’re simply incapable of running a complex show like Eskom.

I think this is only partly true. It ain’t just stupidity, it is venal self interest. These deployed cadres and tenderpreneurs are just copying their ANC bosses from the very top, looting instead of working. You hear more about Cyril buying expensive cattle than his running the country.

Certainly BBBEE has been a means in the hands of many – both black, white and the politically connected – to enrich themselves at the cost of the economy, jobs for pals and fraud. Rob Davies certainly didn’t help with his clumsy and ever changing codes, points system and high implementation cost to businesses. It basically failed – it should have been a far more streamlined system and the SOEs implemented it without proper consideration for skills requirements and development for which SA is still paying the price.
It IS however necessary that the SA economy does provide equal economic opportunities for all races, opens up markets that are traditional white-dominated, for instance, auctioneers and actuaries. There are more economic fields still dominated by whites who sometimes deliberately collude to protect their dominance – this is illegal and wrong. The country is for all who live in it, but Rob Davies, Mildred Oliphant – in the critical mining sector, Susan Shabangu and now even Gwede Mantashe (excluding former minister Ramatholdi), are blind to the harm their BBBEE policies do to SA in blocking foreign investment.

Excellent article – Molopanya speaks for all of us. What happened to Mboweni’s promise “there are no holy cows?” SAA, an entire indulgence by ANC politicians, is still in operation and waiting cap in hand for its umpteenth bailout from tax payers’ money.

Maybe we should all just get real.

Liberation movements in Africa come out of the bush and exile into power and start on day 1 to run advanced economies.

They’ve got a huge chip on their shoulders over bad treatment, some of it going back centuries. This is just being human.

Oversight mechanisms have been dismantled because everything to do with the old regime is tainted, and so in comes BEE etc, and out goes the baby with the bathwater.

And suddenly, they must oversee billion rand budgets. They may have had a noble cause in exile, but outside of this single cause there’s no moral code binding them together.

The stalwarts of the struggle still see the moral imperatives, but the new guys? These stalwarts are just old fuddy duddies. Pack it in old man.

And so the result is…. hardly surprising. Large scale looting and self enrichment.

Everyone, including people born way after the struggle ended, claim to be a war veterans because that’s your ultimate licence to loot.

It’s also the reason why Soweto doesn’t have to pay for electricity. It’s payback time.

So will all of this come to an end anytime soon? Afraid not.

The opressor was there for a couple of centuries. Don’t bug us until we’ve been at this for a few hundred years too.
Only trick is. It’s only good for about 10 to 15 years before the collapse kicks in.

And that brings us to where we are today.

Excellent summary! You’ve just summed up the entire history of post-colonial Africa. The colonial era only ended here in 1994, hence our death is taking place later than the others

Poisonous politics? Naa,

Let’s face it, voters in SA just aren’t fit to vote.

You could draw them a picture, sing them song, preach sermons in the street about the fiscal cliff we’re facing. It won’t resonate. Deficits and state debt defaults are distant colonial affairs. These people live day to day, hand to mouth which is why lunch boxes, free t-shirts and liberation stories have voter impact while the bigger picture doesn’t.

All surveys conducted so far on voter sentiment reflects that while they understand the deterioration of their purchasing power, lack of employment and corruption in government, they still believe the ANC is best placed to fix this.

Democracy is a nice idea but only makes sense on an educated population. Every other failed 3rd world democracy, like South Africa is sheer proof of why you shouldn’t let average Joe decide the fate of the nation.

You can’t teach people who have never been taught to understand

There is a reason why the ANC has destroyed the education system

Stupid people are the easiest to manipulate politically

The masses have created the monster

The masses have voted for the ANC

The ANC has stuffed up

The masses have voted for the ANC some more

The ANC has stuffed up some more

Everyone knows (including the ANC itself) that the ANC is an organisation of criminals

The people get the government that they deserve

They will experience poverty like they have never before

It is coming

The political system merely reflects the cultural beliefs and attitudes of the voting majority. The poison was not ingested at the governance level, voters were fed this poison as toddlers. They grew up in this toxic environment called collectivism. The symptoms of this poisoning are clear to see in the infrastructure of traditional homelands. The overgrazing, the emaciated animals, the soil-erosion, the lack of sewerage and general poverty. These are the results of a system that shares resources. The lack of individual property rights motivates exploitation of the resource. Not only does it motivate exploitation, but it also motivates exploitation at a maximum rate. In short, the shared-resource system incentivises each individual to exploit the resources before his fellow-citizens exploits it.

This collectivist mindset motivates, and enables, the most unscrupulous members of that society to rise to the top. Those who are willing to exploit that society, to the detriment of everybody else, but for his personal gain, will rise to leadership positions. Those ethical individuals who refuse to join in the exploitation of the resource will be worked out by the system. Moral behaviour is punished and criminal behaviour is rewarded.

It is impossible to change the outcome, without changing the attitude and beliefs of the voters. It is impossible to change a collectivist mindset into a capitalist mindset. Only nature can bring that change and it brings that change by the following mechanism: The collectivist disappear through famine and disease, and the capitalists remain to populate the land. In other words, a collectivist culture changes into a capitalist culture by means of a catastrophe.

It is frightening to see and foresee what is ahead, yet to have no way of stopping it. Many people in Zimbabwe and Venezuela will have had the same discussions, but still became victims themselves. Thievery has become the only motivation for the government. No sane person will, for instance, believe the NHI can succeed and the minister knows this, but for a while there will be a stash of money to steal. Those 60 plussers like myself and husband, who have contributed millions to the tax pot and still do, will find ourselves unable to buy medical services, but will be forced to pay for someone who never has and never will contribute to society. Choices will be made as to who is “most deserving” of medical care and “elderly” whites will not be first in that line.

I agree completely. All is not lost though. ANC parliamentarians acknowledge the fact that the ANC will not get 30% of the votes if Ramaphosa was not the presidential candidate. Unity in the ANC is a disaster for South Africa. The ANC needs to split apart into its many factions, for democracy to become effective. The tripartite alliance has a monopoly on economic policy, while they are not held accountable by the voters. The first price will be a split in the tripartite alliance. This will insulate us from communist policies. The alternative is an IMF bailout to insulate us from the mindset of the average voter.

The ANC is the enemy of the people.

Sadly, it appears that some politicians have photographic memories which were never developed

Victory between the warring ANC factions will be decided not by policy, popular support or even access to money, but by whichever side has the strongest Muti.

You will often find in tribal or family disputes that one side hires a sangoma, whose power must then be countered by a more potent, expensive sangoma.

A week ago a deputy minister with a severe headache immediately concluded that he had been “poisoned” (cursed). Jacob Zuma, David Mabuza and others have all been “poisoned” at some stage. The Marikana miners were convinced that they were invincible.

After a string of judicial humiliations the Public Protector recently received a blessing at an evangelical church, which is basically just another form of Muti.

This explains why reality has so little influence on the ANC.

I would not be surprised if economic policy for the last two decades has also been decided on this basis.

Of course the sangoma or pastor will predict or bless whatever you want as long as the money is good enough.

End of comments.



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