Friday, March 16, 2012

The Putrification of South African Politics

The most advanced enlightened constitution in the world, a leading light among democracies, a truly equitable document providing a framework for good governance and equal opportunity for all people to share in the wealth of the Nation.  Sounds great doesn’t it? Its sweeping and dramatic and hints at a society where fundamental human rights will be observed above State interests, allowing the people to develop and prosper right?

We all hoped so when we voted ANC in 1994, the heady euphoria, the feeling and belief we could accomplish anything in a country where a Muslim could be minister of something, and a minister still drove his beat up Jetta around Cape Town himself. Government was accessible and worked for the people.  Other Nations envied us from a distance, wishing they had the harmony and success that we did, all living together, and working to build what would become a truly great Nation in Africa, a feat hitherto unreachable in a continent plagued by corruption, violence, human trafficking, war crimes and all manner of human rights abuses.

We were going to rise well above all that, and prove to the world that we had the indomitable spirit that would prove them all wrong. We were a nation reconciled, intent on building a better future for all of our people. So in order to combat racism, the government started to enact racist laws.  I know who knew you could fix racism by being racist? Interestingly at this point, not one member of the international community that had campaigned so vociferously for the abolition of apartheid actually said anything about the resurgence of racism in South Africa. The much vaunted ideals of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which had become the rallying point for the anti-apartheid movement,  suddenly became collateral damage in a much more insidious conflict, fought well away from the prying eyes of the pro ANC activists, who nodded wisely about restorative actions and justice, dispensed under what could only be seen as dubious circumstances.

We hoped the new administration would address these things but alas Mbeki, for all his diminutive size, was no statesman. In order to garner support among his own party he proceeded to further tarnish the reputation of the country and the spirit of the constitution, by not only endorsing the enacted racist legislation, but by sponsoring additional racist legislation which it was clear he hoped would secure him a second term in office. The silence form the rest of the world had by now become a feature of the South African political landscape, it seemed that the rest of the world was done with liberating South Africa, and very little interest other than perhaps taking most of our GDP in somewhat shady business deals was shown by the rest world in our progress.

The African National Congress elective conference in Polokwane in 2007, was the real eye opener for many people, and the death of democracy in South Africa. The lead up to Polokwane and the recall of a sitting President demonstrated that South Africa was run by the 2800 delegates that had voted for Zuma, and that they would stop at nothing to loot the country of every resource available. Perhaps coincidentally at that point our GDP growth suddenly slowed down, foreign investors driven away by the largely racist requirements of doing business in South Africa. Government became largely about looting the public purse for the benefit of cronies and to repay political favours, the President became a corporation, grabbing shares in companies, and ensuring state tenders were allocated to them, frequently without any tender process, corruption became the accepted order of the day. The putrification of the government rapidly spread to lower tier government positions, particularly in the provinces, where gross maladministration was allowed to flourish for as long as the funds lasted. Abuses became the daily norm, and instead of accountability, the government chose rather to defend the abuses as rightful entitlements. Motorcades of blue light flashing expensive vehicles containing minor functionaries became the daily spectacle on the roads, intimidating and threatening anyone who would not scuttle out of the way of the plenipotentiary in the back seat. Accidents resulted in deaths and maiming of victims, without much accountability for the perpetrators, some cases taking 5 years to resolve or more. Compensation for victims in these cases has never been recorded.

The destruction of the economy is well underway, instead of stopping corruption, the current regime is making reporting on corruption a criminal offence, the introduction of the Protection of State Information Bill, will effectively make whistle-blowing punishable by 25 years in jail. With that as a backdrop, the way is open for mass looting of taxpayer funds, another arms deal, Toll Road Projects, re-capitalisation of the railways, all work to go to either companies owned by government players, or to companies willing to inflate prices and provide substantial kickbacks. In part this feeding and looting frenzy may be driven by the knowledge that the ANC will be elected to power for another term by the current electorate, or it could be just playing out the African theme of viable countries turning into dictatorships like Zimbabwe, never to recover economically within the lifetime of the dictators. To call South Africa a democracy would be to ignore the most of the criteria that make countries democratic. A plebiscite of 2800 voters among 48 million is hardly democracy. The hoodwinking of the majority of voters through propaganda and outright lies to secure the public vote, though the intervention of social media’ has been reduced and vociferous reactions to certain public issues have caused the government to back down and show the public that public opinion counts for something at least.

The crippling of the Judiciary has been accomplished by electing judges who are openly pro-ANC, and are elected in the understanding that they will called on to deploy their skills [sometimes questionable] to suit the party. Irrespective of the legality and feasibility of the requests, this was glaringly illustrated by the Willem Heath input into the quashing of the rape and corruption cases against Zuma. Who quick to learn from the past, promptly ensured that should he ever be charged again in the next few years, the effectiveness of the country’s high courts would be stymied, and he would in all probability never face prosecution. Not surprisingly, very few jurists are accepting nominations for the high courts. After the installation of a judge of dubious integrity, who among other things admitted to god having told him he would be elected to the Constitutional Court as chief Justice. Subsequent to his controversial appointment he has tried to force fellow judges to attend religious instruction events, irrespective if they wanted or not. Transformation has become the buzzword of those seeking to implement structural changes to the courts, effectively crippling them and ensuring if nothing else, the short term survival of the corrupt cadres, who might be interested in evading prosecution long enough to secure their retirement.

The biggest issue and the means to fix it, remains the absolute widespread corruption in all tiers of government, which for the meantime keeps the media frenziedly occupied, with daily and even hourly exposure of instances of government corruption, costing taxpayers Billions of Rand every month. Every day brings news of a fresh corrupt scheme concocted with the express purpose of defrauding the taxpayer. Government commissioned a National Development Plan [NDP] and Hundreds of Millions of Rand later and an impressive 400 page report later, it becomes apparent that the NDP is yet another crony vehicle for cadres who missed the previous gravy trains.

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