Prince Mashele

The hollowness of our politicians

2011-03-21 13:00

Now that local government elections are around the corner, our nation is forced once again to witness the circus of electioneering. Indeed, lovers of truth will not hide the fact that most of our politicians are veritable clowns. Anyone who finds this harsh must watch the so-called elections debate on SABC 1 on Sunday.

After watching our so-called debate, recall the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. If you need more evidence, retrieve the video of the last debate between Gordon Brown, David Cameroon and Nick Clegg before last British elections. In both the American and British debates, the central question was: What to do with the economy?

Watching these real debates, a capacitated mind couldn’t help marvelling at the substance of politicians elsewhere. They tackle such technical economic questions as taxation, inflation management, fiscal prudence, or how best to package interventions to rescue collapsing financial institutions

Imagine President Jacob Zuma having to answer questions on any of these subjects. Smile, or say “We must continue to debate these issues”?

A fashionable term

Sunday in and Sunday out on SABC 1, we watch the so-called elections debate with disbelief as the clowns shout at each other without substance. The phrase their brains have been forced strenuously to absorb is “Job creation”. How? Our clowns don’t know.

Indeed, job creation is a fashionable term today. The so-called New Growth Path even speculates that mining will create 200 000 jobs by 2030. How can this be achieved when Eskom struggles to power the current size of our economy? Those who know a little bit about mining would be aware that it is an energy-intensive industry. In agriculture smallholder schemes are projected to create 145 000 by 2020. How could this be real when most of our rural municipalities can’t provide water?

Recently, a great deal of excitement has been generated by the after-thought decision of the BRIC countries to allow South Africa to join this new association. After peeling the propaganda of our politicians off, an ugly core remains: that, other than the smiles of President Zuma when pictures are taken, there is little that South Africa will gain. Instead, our tax payers will have to pay for government officials globe-trotting to attend jamborees.

Learn from China

If South Africa wishes to gain advantage from the global economy - and to create jobs locally - there is a great deal to learn from China. One important lesson is that China did not break out of her economic torpor by becoming a member of useless international associations.

The Chinese analysed the global economy and devised a clear strategy to become a formidable player. They were so smart as to target the world’s biggest economy, the US. Taking advantage of the rising tide of consumerism in the US, the Chinese created conditions in their country for cheaper production, in order to attract US firms. Where are the largest volumes of Nike products produced today?

Before they knew it, US citizens were clothed from China, and used technological gadgets made in China. When the US was printing dollars, China was voraciously buying them; thereby devaluing their currency. As the US was expanding its deficit, the Chinese were saving money. In 2007, when the US needed to borrow $800bn from global markets, China ran a current account surplus of $262bn.

As a result of her economic cleverness, China effectively became producer and banker to the US. When US citizens walk with swagger, thinking that they are the best in the world, the Chinese smile at such ignorance. While it is true that China’s army of poor people is still very large, there are more than 345 000 dollar millionaires in China today. Since the ideological turn-around in 1978/9, China has literally lifted more than 200 million of its citizens out of poverty.

Nothing but clowns

Therefore, when we watch our clowns on SABC 1 engaging in the so-called elections debate, we should ask critical questions. When they abuse the phrase “job creation”, we must demand to know what strategy they have better to position South Africa in the global economy.

Instead of shouting at each other, our politicians must be pressed hard to explain why they think investors will choose South Africa over China as the production workshop for the world.

Given that South Africans don’t save, we deserve answers as to where our country will get money to finance the mushrooming of massive labour-intensive schemes. If they do not offer answers to these important questions, we must dismiss these fellows as nothing but clowns.

- Prince Mashele is Executive Director of the Centre for Politics and Research ( and a member of the Midrand Group. Mashele's new book, The Death of Our Society, will be published soon.

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