Advice for Ramaphosa for Appealing to Voters

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land reform

In early April, South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, spoke to a group of primarily white farmers at Beyerskloof wine estate in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. Ramaphosa said that he did not “want young white South Africans to leave the country,” even joking that if he had the power he “would tie them to a tree.” The president declared “there is room for all of us to play a role,” singling out the valuable skills white people possess as necessary for the country’s success. The meeting was reminiscent of a similar one former president Jacob Zuma held with Afrikaners in a Sandton hotel a decade ago when he was seeking to reassure them that they need not fear his presidency.

Then, as now, the ANC was in campaign mode in the run up to a national election, which is this year set to take place on the 8th May. It is therefore unlikely that Ramaphosa’s overtures are anything other than a cynical electioneering gambit, similar in character to all the other promises his party is lavishing on many constituencies in hopes of currying electoral favour. If Ramaphosa truly was serious about giving substance to his amicable utterances directed at white people, he might wish to consider a few suggestions.

One of the best ways to encourage skilled educated whites to seriously consider remaining in South Africa, particularly recent graduates who had nothing to do with supporting or maintaining the Apartheid regime, would be to immediately end any form of race-based hiring in all industries. Affirmative action is not just inherently racist, but completely impractical in remedying the many dysfunctions afflicting the economy. In fact, with so many skilled white professionals having already left for greener overseas pastures, this racial preferentialism has been decidedly detrimental to the country’s economic prospects.

Beyond eliminating the egregiously unfair and corruption-engendering, not to mention racially discriminatory, systems misleadingly masquerading as affirmative action and Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), there are two pieces of proposed legislation, both of which will have severely adverse social implications, that should immediately be rescinded and never again revived in any form.

Most important of these is legislation enabling the government to expropriate land without compensation (EWC). Simply stating that seriously pursuing this course will be an unmitigated disaster for the country, on a scale that might dwarf the staggering economic meltdown in Zimbabwe over the last two decades, hardly begins describing the destructively far-reaching consequences instituting such a policy almost certainly portends. It is also blindingly obvious that the land set to be expropriated will be largely, if not entirely, white-owned. Furthermore, foreign investors will be very reluctant to invest in the country unless property rights are secure, and whites whose land and valuable assets are targeted for government theft, I mean expropriation, are unlikely to stick around for long.

A similar de facto racial dynamic afflicts the proposed Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, which seeks to criminalise hate speech, always a highly subjective and ill-defined concept. As the last three years have repeatedly demonstrated, white South African citizens uttering racial epithets or expressing perceived racial prejudice, most famously Vicki Momberg and Penny Sparrow, are harshly prosecuted by the authorities while blacks, perhaps most infamously Julius Malema, the leader of the third largest party in the National Assembly, calls for the throat of whiteness to be cut and infers that whites might be slaughtered at some as yet undetermined future time, but escapes any form of punishment. In a decision that completely obliterates any credibility it might once have vaguely possessed, the South African Human Rights Commission recently determined that Malema’s disgustingly racist and vile genocidal pronouncements, a staple of his rhetorical arsenal, do not constitute hate speech. Such is the absurdly hypocritical reality of the “new” South Africa that any legislation against “hate speech” will inevitably target white people disproportionately, if not overwhelmingly.

If Ramaphosa was serious about creating a more inclusive environment for white South Africans, he should consider forever ditching the concept of “white monopoly capital,” a pernicious falsehood concocted by British PR firm Bell Pottinger working at the behest of the infamously criminal Gupta clan to consciously sow discord among the South African populace. I would also urge the president to never again aim to frighten black voters by claiming that if they do not vote for the ANC the “boers will come back to control us,” meaning re-institute Apartheid, an insane and grotesque assertion he demagogically peddled in 2013.

Moving away from those areas most directly affecting whites, if Ramaphosa sincerely hoped to retain the best and the brightest within their country of birth, of whatever racial category, he should make keeping citizens safe an overriding concern. According to the latest crime statistics, over 2 million crimes were committed last year, and the murder rate stands at 35 per 100,000, equating to 57 murders a day, a staggeringly shocking number that make some war-zones seem safe by comparison. This horrifying state of affairs, with only minor fluctuations over the years, and after initial reductions once political violence in Kwa-Zulu Natal subsided in the mid-nineties, has persisted throughout ANC (mis)rule during the last quarter century. With this disgracefully grotesque level of violent criminality continually terrorising the population, there should be little surprise that so many of those who could afford to leave have done so.

While the widespread prevalence of violent crime ensures the most basic level of bodily security remains elusive, the ANC’s handling of the economy has been so pitifully woeful that any chance of achieving meaningful prosperity has all but evaporated. The Eskom crisis, which is really a series of cascading long-incubated crises, exemplifies the governing modus operandi of Ramaphosa’s party. Instead of diversifying the energy market by, for example, seriously promoting independent power producers, the ANC has consistently dragged its feet, sometimes for years on end, and still stymies efforts by individuals and businesses to generate their own power through renewables. The ANC has consistently imperilled economic growth, indeed the functioning of the entire country, by insisting on retaining control over this failing state owned enterprise (SOE), as recently witnessed when rolling blackouts, or “load-shedding,” were instituted for 26 days this year, including for a stretch of 10 straight days, to prevent a complete collapse of the power grid and which cost the economy an estimated R5 billion daily.

This was after Finance Minister Tito Mboweni had already earmarked R23 billion in taxpayer money to be funneled into the parlous coffers of the state-owned power utility each year for the next decade, a bailout operation that will probably be revised upwards after the latest imbroglio involving this catastrophically failing behemoth. Setting aside that not once during this severe crisis did Ramaphosa address the nation, as a real leader would have done, it is a mark of immense environmental shame that over 90% of Eskom’s electricity is still generated by coal, the dirtiest fossil fuel in existence.

Instead of repeatedly bailing out a bankrupt state utility, the government would better serve its citizens and the planet by spending far less to build solar and wind farms, while subsidising households to install solar panels and encouraging them, as is the case in Germany, to sell excess power back into the grid. This will not only ensure that electricity is produced more cheaply and in a manner considerably less harmful to the environment, but the energy system will in turn be far less centralised and more stable. This is a winning scenario for individuals, families, businesses, farmers, and a shared biosphere.

Far from the exception, while admittedly one of the most egregious failures of effective governance in the ANC era, the story at Eskom has been repeated at just about all SOEs and government departments. The SAA, SABC, and SARS, to name but a few prominent ones, have been just about completely decimated, necessitating repeated rounds of taxpayer-funded rescue packages over many years. It could not be any clearer at this point that the ANC has the opposite of the Midas touch, as everything the ruling party comes into contact with turns fairly quickly into a worthless and disintegrating shambles.

In this regard mismanagement, incompetence, cadre deployment, race-based hiring practices, and stupidity play their role, often major ones, but it is corruption that remains the primary cause of the myriad evils afflicting governance in South Africa. Corruption is a ubiquitous cancer mercilessly devouring the body politic, and without an intensive round of powerful targeted treatment there will soon be nothing left to salvage. As Andrew Feinstein details in his book, After the Party, virtually from the first instant the ANC took power in 1994 corruption became second nature to the former liberation fighters who took the reins of state power.

The quality and quantity of corrupt activities would only drastically intensify over the years, culminating in the euphemistically dubbed “state capture” era denoting the vast looting operation presided over by former President Jacob Zuma lasting almost a decade. It should be noted at this point that Ramaphosa, now seen in some quarters as a great hope for social and political renewal, held the post of Deputy President for the last four years of Zuma’s presidency, implicating him in his predecessor’s high crimes and misdemeanours . Uncovering, let alone redressing, the full extent of the plundering will probably take years, if it happens at all, and the damage done to state institutions by the full-scale assault to which they were subjected is veritably incalculable. The Reserve Bank’s monetary review published in April indicates that as deleteriously grim as the consequences of state capture have been, it “is becoming clearer … that the damage done by ‘state capture’ is worse than previously understood,” adding that, as “one highly visible example, the economy has less electricity than it had a decade ago.”

The effects of this wholesale thievery and wanton misrule on the economy have, as was to be expected, been exceptionally dire. Bloomberg’s recently published “misery index” placed South Africa third from top on this dishonourable list, behind only Venezuela and Argentina. According to Natasha Marrian in the Mail & Guardian, South Africa’s “performance on a range of social, economic, and governance measures had deteriorated in the past 12 years more than any other nation not at war.” Corruption truly is the great crime that either gives rise to all the others, or prevents them from being rooted out and halted. Without taking on this insidious and potent socio-political malady, all Ramaphosa’s dulcet words will come to nought.

Unfortunately, and here we come to the crux of the matter, nothing that has been laid out above will be seriously entertained, let alone acted upon. The ANC has since its ascension to power in 1994 proven itself over and over again to be pre-eminently interested in power, self-aggrandisement, and control rather than governing ethically with the genuine interests of the public in mind. Corruption and kleptocracy have so consumed and ultimately hollowed out the ANC that there is nothing else left but an insatiable desire for more and more at the expense of everyone else. The point at which parasitic plunder will finally kill off the host is fast approaching. Thus, Ramaphosa’s hopeful wish to see skilled whites, or indeed any educated individual with marketable abilities, remain behind means nothing unless he is willing to earnestly pursue a radical transformation of his party, or to break with the ANC entirely and assist in vanquishing it to societal irrelevance. Alas, placing faith in either of these scenarios would be hopefully misguided, and so, too, would it be to expect Ramaphosa, or his irredeemably rotten party, to deliver on any of their promises to any segment of South African society.

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