How far can a country fall in four days? Just ask Zuma

President Jacob Zuma.Picture: Lulama Zenzile
President Jacob Zuma.Picture: Lulama Zenzile

It’s a Friday morning. I get to OR Tambo International Airport in time for my Japan bound plane. My host from Nissan South Africa is relieved to see me come in.

“I thought you were going to call and tell me that you are no longer coming following the late-night reshuffle,” she says.

“I was crossing my fingers that the editor didn’t call and tell me that I should cancel the trip. But hey, he didn’t and I am here,” I respond.

This was of course after President Jacob Zuma used his prerogative to fire ministers and replace them with new ones. It’s a prerogative he has used several times since coming into office in 2009. The majority of South Africans elected him into office after all and that’s what democracy is about.

Together with other travel partners we explore the reshuffle and its implications for ordinary South Africans. I am not sure what we will find on our return from Japan.

Time has arrived and we embark on our journey, which takes us to China before we reached Japan. For the next four days, we test drive different and exciting vehicles (yes, I will be writing about that in this newspaper soon). It is fun. We make new friends from other countries and continents – Latin America, Asia and of course the north of Africa.

Monday night is our last day in the Far East and on Tuesday we need to head home. We are excited; finally we will get to see our families. But of course, since Japan is seven hours ahead of South Africa, we get to check the latest news on social media and catch up with friends through smart phones – thanks to free Wi-Fi and colonialism, as Western Cape Premier Helen Zille recently reminded us.

Maybe the Japanese and Chinese also should thank colonialism for the Wi-Fi they provide to travellers like me.

So, I check the latest. “Junk.” It’s what many of my friends have as their latest social media status update. I dig deeper, and realise that Standard & Poor’s has downgraded the country to junk investment status.

I sleep, with a heavy heart, while thinking what does this mean to borrower and consumers like me. Well, some people say it means that borrowing will be expensive but the biggest worry is that potential investors could hold on to their money and seek markets that will guarantee them returns. It means, the much-needed injection of investment could not come and that might, just might, lead the country into economic recession.

I struggle to sleep because I am thinking of my home loan repayment.

As I’ve promised my family some goodies from the Japanese, I look at the rand versus the yen. It was R1 to 8.5 yen on Thursday before I left South Africa. On Monday night and Tuesday morning the Rand had lost some ground to 7.875 yen.

This is not good news and at breakfast with my colleagues and host, we discuss this. I remember the question I had asked on Friday morning at OR Tambo International Airport. “What will be left of our country when we return?”

I don’t have an answer because I left late at night on Tuesday only to land very early in the morning. When I land, I will know what is left. But now, the anger boils up and I ask myself how did we get here as a country?

Well the answer again, could be traced back to Polokwane December 2007. The accession to the Union Buildings in 2009 was confirmation that things will go downhill from there, and downhill we are going.

Thank you Nxamalala.

Lubisi is executive editor at City Press.

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