Max du Preez

Zuma 'frog-marching SA to junk status'

2016-09-06 07:19

Max du Preez

President Jacob Zuma and his supporters in the ANC, in Cabinet and the business sector are frog-marching South Africa to a sovereign downgrade to junk status in December and thus to a deep economic recession.

It’s like watching two locomotives in slow motion approaching each other on the same line at great speed. We all know we’re heading for a big smash, but nobody is doing something decisive to stop it. On the contrary, the trains are accelerating the closer we get to disaster.

A downgrade and a free-fall of our currency will be terrible for South Africa, but it will be even worse news for the ANC and its chances of retaining power after the 2019 general election.

Unless we change course quickly and drastically and again escape a downgrade, we’re facing a sharp increase in unemployment and poverty and inevitably in instability. It will hurt the ANC’s primary constituency most.

It is very difficult now to foresee such a change in direction while Zuma is calling the shots. If we ever had a politician suffering from short-termism, he is it.

It’s nauseating to see prominent Zuma sycophants blaming “white monopoly capital” and “foreign imperialism” for the crisis we’re in.

And its sickening to witness how the Zuma clique has wasted every ounce of positivity after the local elections and killed off the few unexpected green shoots in the economy in recent weeks.

I can understand why Zuma is sticking to his scorched earth strategy. He is fighting to stay out of jail, to keep his tentacles of patronage on which his power is based intact and to make sure his clan and his benefactors can keep their snouts in the trough for one more year.

Zuma seems prepared to pull down the pillars of Temple South Africa like Samson of the Bible and collapse the whole place.

I can even explain Zuma’s fox terriers’ behaviour. Cabinet ministers like Mosebenzi “Pinocchio” Zwane, Bathabile Dlamini and Des van Rooyen know that without their blind loyalty to Zuma and the Gupta family they would be reduced to, at most, ANC backbenchers.

Deputy minister Kebby Maphatsoe, the so-called MK Veterans Association, the premiers of the Free State, Northwest and Mpumalanga and the ANC’s Women’s and Youth Leagues realise that without Zuma their future would be bleak and their wallets much thinner.

But what about the rest of the ANC’s structures and leadership? They know very well, as we all do, what serious damage Zuma’s firing of the minister of Finance on December 9 last year did to the economy; what the consequences are when the markets and investors get too nervous about governance.

And yet the ANC allows the Hawks to continue to hunt down and harass Pravin Gordhan, even though it is clear to all that the “charges” against him are complete nonsense; they sit and watch how the status and credibility of the national treasury, the Reserve Bank and the commercial banking system are being undermined; and they are tjoepstil about the blatant capture and abuse of the state-owned enterprises.

(How many times does Gordhan have to explain that he has indeed answered all the Hawks’ questions, had offered full co-operation and that the demand to appear before the Hawks to make a “warning statement” was something they had thought up from nowhere and has no standing in law of standard practice?)

Zuma’s greatest achievement is that he had succeeded in eight short years to bring out the worst in a 104 year-old liberation movement and led it to the edge of self-destruction.

A train smash isn’t the only metaphor that comes to mind when one observes the outrageous behaviour of the government and governing party the last few weeks. A drunken, chaotic hillbilly funeral comes to mind; as does the story of Humpty Dumpty that had a great fall and couldn’t be put together again.

Time isn’t on the side of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and his group opposing Zuma’s corrupt cabal. Every day that the witch hunt against Gordhan continues and the fingers tighten around the throat of the national treasury, is a day closer to our economic ruin.

It would be in the interest of all South Africans if the crisis, the war between sections of government, were forced to a point of resolution in the next few weeks.

The continuing uncertainty and loss of respect for the organs of state could prove to be worse than an outright Zuma victory over his opponents.

Civil society and the business community should turn the screws now more than ever before.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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Read more on:    anc  |  jacob zuma  |  pravin gordhan

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