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Sunday, July 11, 2010

How long before the FIFA date-rape cocktail wears off?




The World Cup: Let's sober up

Stanley Uys says the euphoria will dissipate and the hard realities remain

Stanley Uys, Politicsweb
11 July 2010




What comes after the euphoria of the World Cup? Expectations. Will these expectations be met? No. Why not? Because if they haven't been met for the past 16 years of African National Congress rule a four-week feel-good factor is not going to make them happen now.

The erection of stadiums and facilities for the World Cup was a remarkable achievement, but it was a one-off. Also, some thought it a scandalous waste of money. Equally impressive achievements, like houses, could have been erected in the black townships where ferment has been simmering for years. What happens now? The ferment goes away? Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille says the "daily reality" for millions of South Africans is dictated by warlords. Will it, too, be gone now by next week?

The ANC clearly shared the feel-good moment that came with the games. But a (UK) Financial Times editorial which concluded that while South Africa had real problems, its success in staging the World Cup "should give it the confidence to tackle those problems with new energy," was naivety beyond belief. That the feel-good factor was a safety valve for intolerable tensions building up in the country is perfectly true, and psychologically interesting, but it remains a passing phenomenon.

Let's be real. After the prozac fix of the World Cup, comes the downer. Occasional prophets (or media praise-singers - just how many times can they change their tune?) may claim they had an experience on the road to Damascus, but not that battle-scarred ANC lot, who have slugged it out with each other for years, and are said now to be having a "dog-fight" in the presidency.

The need of patriots to accentuate the positive is understandable, but to claim (as Khehla Shubane does in his latest exchange with RW Johnson in Business Day), that the World Cup "has taught the country that South Africans can rally around a single issue," is fairy talk. If, as Johnson wryly notes, the ANC genuinely wants a meritocracy (to create a new South Africa), the cabinet will consist mainly of clever Jews and Indians.

A warning comes from Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus over global growth and a slowdown in Europe that could have "serious implications" for the recovery of SA's "hesitant, fragile and uneven" economy. For South Africans who want to see the likely post-World Cup government in specific detail, there are few better sources than the daily bulletins the Democratic Alliance puts on line - showing how (with occasional exceptions) the wheels are coming off in government departments.

Familiar as the ANC's record of failure is since it took office in 1994, it bears summing up. For example, writing in the Pretoria-based publication Intersearch, Dr Jan du Plessis concludes that South Africa is a "failed state, in decline since 1994, achieving political power, but losing governing capabilities". He uses the term "system collapse". Outwardly, SA resembles a state, but "Silently, the state has entered a political vacuum... the future is unknown territory".

Dr du Plessis thinks Thabo Mbeki (ousted in December 2007 as ANC president and in September 2008 as the country's president) rightly can be called the father of the failed state. He left Jacob Zuma a "terrible legacy...very few governing tools." Zuma is largely "politically paralysed." Mass dismissals of white civil servants in the first five years of ANC rule were followed by further erosion in both the public and private sectors.

The 1996 constitution contains a specific "formula" that 49,320,500-million South Africans must be represented in all structures of government and society. Instead, the preposterous ideology of "demographic representivity" embeds race in job allocation: 39,136,200-million Africans are entitled to 79.3% of jobs, 4,472,100-million whites to 9.1%, 4,433,100-million Coloureds to 9%, and 1,279,100-million Indians/Asians to 2.6%. The apartheid draughtsmen were never so inventive.

Now the "thugocrats" (DA leader Helen Zille's words) are trying to ratch up the race factor by replacing the ANC's policy of grouping Africans, Coloureds and Indians/Asians as "blacks" with a concept that Africans are top of the pile and Zuma should apply this in all key appointments. Whites, coloureds and Indians are "minorities" (a new slant on ethnic cleansing).

Where "demographic representivity" has been enforced - as Dr du Plessis puts it - "Society loses its capability to regenerate itself. The number of people who need services and support from government becomes ever greater, and government's capability to meet those demands becomes smaller. It leads to a self-destructing process."

Economist Mike Schussler says the employment situation in SA is "overwhelmingly desperate". The number of people not taking part in the economy grew (under the ANC) by almost 25 percent - "a huge cultural change". But "In 10 years time we'll have another 25 percent of the population saying they don't want to work, and we must ask why."

Non-participation in the economy, says Schlusser, can be a result of discouragement, but it can also be that welfare cheques are "ruling the roost and people sometimes have no need to work". More South Africans received money from welfare than from employment: 12,8-million people working (not all for money) and 13,8-million people receiving welfare payments from the proceeds of 5-million taxpayers.

"I don't know of any other country in the world," says Schlusser, "where the recipients of welfare are greater than the amount of people who work." He quotes a joint African Union/United Nations report which says workers in SA need work only for eight hours a month to be considered as employed. Where is World Cup euphoria now? Praise-singers should read these economists, not tell tales about fairies.

Jacob Zuma must be SA's most extraordinary president. His world rocks around him, but he continues cheerfully along his polygamous way, ever chuckling, never publicly flustered. He knows his numerous critics would like to dethrone him in 2012 (when he completes his five-year term as ANC president, the power base which ensures presidency of the country), but his survival dance with the rival groups is a top-class performance.

Labour economist Andrew Levy thinks strike action will increase after the World Cup, until there is a "high noon," with the unlikely alternative of an agreed national wage accord. The public sector will remain the final bastion of union strength, which is where Levy expects the main thrust to come from. The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu), for example, says Levy, has the will and ability to take its members on to the streets, and keep them there until they clinch acceptable (if realistically unaffordable) settlements. In turn, this will set examples to other unions.

The strike weapon will continue to be used, Levy believes, "until such time as the government ends it by taking a stance, and the longer that showdown is delayed, the longer and more damaging the final settlement will be." Levy thinks this could bring an end to "whatever semblance of amity remains" in the Tripartite Alliance - formed by the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP (SA Communist Party) in the apartheid 1980s. "It is going to be the industrial relations equivalent of the gunfight at the OK Corral."

Frans Cronje, deputy CEO of the SA Institute of Race Relations, strikes a similar note: "We may as a country have reached a point when it is important to ask for how much longer many private sector entrepreneurs will be prepared to put up with such hostility from the government."

Finally, there is the present face-to-face confrontation in the ANC over power. The tale goes back to the Tripartite's unfolding scene. When Mbeki succeeded Nelson Mandela as president in 1999 he widened the existing gap between the ANC and Cosatu/SACP. In 2005, Mbeki became suspicious of Zuma's ambitions; the state brought corruption charges against him; Mbeki sacked him as deputy president; and Zuma became the standard bearer of an anti-Mbeki campaign, led by Cosatu, the SACP and the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

It was the end of Mbeki, who has since faded into the woodwork. A breakaway group, calling itself the Congress of the People (Cope), partly Mbekites, partly anyone else, won 30 of the 400 National Assembly seats in the 2009 elections but, deeply split now, struggles for a future?

Last year, ANCYL thugocrats introduced a new element in politics: Cosatu and the SACP, they said, were trying to take over the ANC. If the ANCYL has its way, it will run the country, under whomever it chooses for the presidency - Zuma or someone else. Zuma could summon his own power base, mainly in KwaZulu-Natal, but if he added Zulu tribalism to the present combustible mixture, would the country be worth taking over?

Zuma is the ever-thinning glue that holds the ANC together. The year 2012 is set for the final showdown over the presidency when Zuma is either re-elected or dislodged. Meanwhile, the local government elections due next year will indicate just how impatient the combatants have become.

The problem for all the combatants though is that for the moment none of them, single-handed, can carry the power struggle through to the end without risking collapse of the whole Tripartite edifice. The restraint on them is fear of a local, non-nuclear Hiroshima.

However, anarchy of a sorts will come by 2012, with the struggle until then waged possibly from three main sources: strikes for higher wages, better working conditions and delivery of a better life; demonstrations in black townships and by rural dwellers; and lethal conflict at upper ANC levels.

This third level struggle is the tricky one. What evidence is there that the ANC even exists - that all which is left is a legend and a logo (to legitimize whichever combatant emerges from the infighting as the winner)? This is not a struggle for the ANC's "soul", because the ANC is so unstructured that it no longer has a "soul". Its driving force is certainly not ideology, but power (and its post-1994 accompaniment, greed). All this is rather odd, because ultimately it is economics, not politics, that will decide South Africa's future.

The ANC (to give it a name at least) theoretically is run by a "top six": President Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, secretary-general Gwede Mantashe (chairman of the SACP), his deputy Thandi Modise, national chairman Baleka Mbete; and treasurer-general Matthew Phosa.

Zuma's future is uncertain; some think Motlanthe would make a better (even if over-neutralised) president; Phosa is legal adviser to Julius Malema, ANCYL president and probably the nastiest piece of work in black politics (he has his eyes set on nationalization of the mines and privately-owned land and would dearly like to start a new gold rush); and Mantashe is the ANCYL's main target - they want to replace him with Fikile Mbalula (former ANCYL president). This is only a fraction of the infighting at the ANC's highest level, but it helps to explain why when the ANC issues a statement many people wonder: who is the ANC?

All the combatant groups are lobbying the ANC's hundreds of branches, and also generally at local, provincial and national government levels. Next to the "top six" are the 85-member National Executive Committee (partly pro-Zuma, partly elected by other interests) and the smaller National Working Committee. According to the media, members of both executives are divided in their allegiances.

This article is not a doomsday essay. It suggests that ANC politics are approaching anarchy, maybe not next year but certainly by 2012, and that a measure of anarchy may be a necessary precursor for a reborn South Africa.

In such a country, Cosatu would be positioned on the Left, but as a worker's federation, not a political party, as it appears to be aspiring now; the government would have to negotiate with it fairly and generously; the SACP would load its huge archive of ideological documents on a truck and take to the wilderness, instead of latching on to the ANC like a parasite as it has done over the years; the ANCYL would be house-trained by its elders to behave like adults; and above all the "minority" whites, coloureds and Indians would have to be brought into the governmental politics and structures on equal terms.

Perhaps this is also talking to the fairies. But if anarchy lies ahead, closure will have to be brought on it one day. Economics will dictate this. It would be a great pity though if a new dawn has to be preceded by a night of the long knives.

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