How did we get here? South Africa is a republic that no longer has leaders. Many commentators, particularly those in business, seem convinced that the ‘problem lies with one man, and that if President Zuma is recalled things will be ok’ and that calling for his departure is far more important than holding the collective accountable.
Even amidst the ‘collective failure’ of those leading the ruling ANC there are some of us who remain hopeful that within the party there are still those who share our views and that solid political economic analysis can help shape policies that will make life better for most people. Some of us still believe that through the State, some leaders could make these policies happen.
I’ve tried very hard. Sadly, I have failed. Instead, here I am, coming to you with another column that is not focused on labour but rather, joins the simmering pot of articles detailing the troubling developments of political battles that are being waged by those who are meant to protect the economy. This is a frustrating and discouraging time for those of us who care about economic policy.
Perhaps what makes me angrier than the current state of our economy is the selfishness which is becoming evident in the elders. In their shortsightedness, they do not see the unintended but very probable negative effects on the next generation. In economics, history – especially political history – has a bearing on the present.
Revisionist scholars will judge this generation harshly. Their primary focus will not be the cause of what led us here, but rather on the spectacular effects and impact: the unintended consequences of the fallout of men and women who were only brought together by their desire to dislodge former President Mbeki’s grip on power – and claim the throne for themselves.
No longer in favour with President Zuma, Blade Nzimande and his SACP are the latest group of people who can see clearly, now that the veil of lover-like devotion has been removed. Oh! How things have changed. In their post-Central Committee statement* released two Sundays’ ago, they are calling for an ‘End (to) the politically-motivated harassment of the Minister of Finance!’ They continue, saying: ‘Charges against Comrade Gordhan are a flimsy concoction without the slightest basis in law. They are designed as a pretext to remove Comrade Gordhan from office and weaken Treasury`s struggle against corruption and corporate.’
By now, most Moneyweb readers, including myself, have one eye on the nation’s zero economic growth and the other on the fight to seize control of Treasury. We are asking ourselves: ‘How long will this go on? This can’t be good for my own financial well-being. Is the economy strong enough to withstand this?’ These are the defining questions of the current battle.
What is downright frightening is that those at the helm are no longer pretending to adhere to the illusion of putting our country first. There is no more pretence; there are no more tears for the Republic. It is now each man for himself.
The net effect of a political elite that comprehensively challenged the rulebook is one that results in individuals playing Lord of Misrule, in which self-absolving potentates elevate themselves above rule of law and accountability.
Far from protesting, the self-indulgent imbecility of our political leaders and their ruling elite has led us to the point where one man and his cabal are told: ‘Here’s a get-out-of-jail-free card, and while we’re at it, demolish everything in your way including wrecking the economy’.
Even more troubling is that once again, the unmistakable odour of state organs being used to fight internal party battles wafts through our political landscape and this time the National Treasury is caught in the eye of the storm. The old adage, ‘those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’ rings true to today’s unfolding events.
It would be almost comforting to think our leaders have learned from the past. Looking around herself, however, this writer feels strongly that what has brought the ruling party to eating itself from within is not rational calculation, but sheer greed, politics of the stomach, accumulation of wealth through the use of state organs, and factional battles. Now, for the first time, the national economy is not immune to party politics.
No equivalent of political correctness can help in this case. The truth must be spoken. No matter what spin is used to deny the ‘captured state,’ the ongoing battle bares evidence to it.
For the past few days, South Africans have watched in disbelief, and perhaps in shock, the tit-for-tat public fights between Treasury and Eskom – and the dark cloud following Minister Pravin Gordhan. We have had Minister Van Rooyen (wearing his MKVets hat) attack another one publicly.
What worries me and keeps me up at night is the lack of political leaders publicly speaking out against this. Where is the head of State at a time like this? What has made me (and I’m sure some of you) reach a level of gatvol-ness is the fact that most of our political leaders aren’t attempting to improve or even help the economy. The unintended consequences of this battle will be the deepening of South Africa’s economic crisis – particularly the lack of growth and rising dependency on social grants. This will be accompanying social crisis that will thwart any hope of undoing the foundations of rising inequality.
It really is true: ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish!’
* SACP 13th Congress Central Committee 17th Plenary Session statement
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