Mondli Makhanya: How to become a colony again

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South Africa is entering a period of much lower global growth in an economically vulnerable position. Picture: iStock
South Africa is entering a period of much lower global growth in an economically vulnerable position. Picture: iStock

Week four of no football. Things are really (say that ‘really’ 10 times) horrific.

This now begs the question: Why was television invented in the first place if it’s not to be used to watch the beautiful game?

But there is some good news.

A really solid source who is close to an informant who is close to those in the know told this lowly newspaperman that the Belarus Premier League is still on.

A mass march has been planned on SuperSport’s Johannesburg headquarters to compel the broadcaster to air the league’s games.

Actually, the continuation of the Belarussian league is an act of extreme folly and callousness.

The country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko, a Soviet-era strongman who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1994, is a Covid-19 coronavirus denialist.

Lukashenko believes that contracting Covid-19 can be avoided by drinking lots of vodka, visiting the sauna often and working hard tilling the fields.

Belarus has 304 confirmed cases of the virus and there have been four deaths related to it.

Lukashenko believes that contracting Covid-19 can be avoided by drinking lots of vodka, visiting the sauna often and working hard tilling the fields.

“I don’t drink, but recently I’ve been saying that people should not only wash their hands with vodka, but also poison the virus with it,” he told the media recently.

“You should drink the equivalent of 40ml to 50ml of rectified spirit daily. But not at work,” he said.

While most of the country thankfully disregards his bizarre advice, many are biting, and thus exposing themselves to danger.

“We are not afraid as we are all soaked through with booze,” a football supporter reportedly said.

Something akin to Lukashenko’s weird logic afflicts some in our country’s top echelons as we face the biggest economic crisis since the birth of our republic.

For the past 10 years, the country has been on a path of economic decline.

After being one of the few countries that emerged from the 2008 global financial meltdown relatively unscathed due to prudent economic management, South Africa began a slide shortly after the kleptomaniacs took over.

After being comfortably above 5% in the latter years of the Thabo Mbeki administration, South Africa’s growth rate has hardly breached 3% since a kleptocratic simpleton then took the reins.

It has been downhill ever since. While structural issues, exogenous pressures and cycles played their role, the prime culprits were gross mismanagement, grand theft and patronage on steroids.

We are now here, with an economy that is universally expected to contract by up to 5% in the next year, a rand that could find being R20 to the dollar an achievement and an unemployment rate that is set to soar above the current 29%.

We can (and repeatedly should) blame the wasted decade until the bovines come back to the kraal, but what matters now is that we are here.

That is the hard, cold truth that we have to deal with. We must, with urgency, find the tools to dig ourselves out of this deep ditch – and use them.

Last week’s decision by Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade South Africa to “junk” status was the latest of many hard kicks to the crotch.

Read: Zimbabweans enter Covid-19 lockdown amid severe economic crisis

The ratings agency had been really patient with South Africa, giving the Ramaphosa government breathing space to effect reforms and show tangible signs that it was repairing what was broken.

Its verdict on South Africa was not rocket science. It could have actually been written in 2018 with exactly the same sentiments – that’s how little movement we have made as a country.

“Unreliable electricity supply, persistent weak business confidence and investment, as well as long-standing structural labour market rigidities continue to constrain South Africa’s economic growth.

As a result, South Africa is entering a period of much lower global growth in an economically vulnerable position.

Government’s own capacity to limit the economic deterioration in the current shock, and more durably, is constrained,” Moody’s said.

The frustrating thing about the predicament we find ourselves in is that we know and have known what to do to get our economy on a growth trajectory, and to get it to create jobs instead of shedding them.

Friendly advice has been plentiful, and even government’s own economic thinkers have been saying the same logical things as those giving the advice.

Those who espouse this thing called radical economic transformation would be well served by looking to the north of us.

So it is not as if we were reliant on imported ideas. It is just that we have done little or nothing to take the necessary steps.

Although there is will among those at the top, they have been hampered by the Byzantine politics, thinking and practices of the political formation they belong to.

Instead of letting those elected to run the country get on with the urgent business of rescuing our economy, the ANC holds government to insane, unworkable resolutions made at a mass rally in a big tent outside a football stadium in 2017.

Nothing gets done.

When Treasury comes up with a blueprint – imperfect as many may believe it to be – the debate is about how neoliberal it is and who the hell Treasury thinks it is to even dare proffer a solution.

Like Lukashenko, the ANC creates its own reality.

And so servitude to the International Monetary Fund beckons, and we have only ourselves to blame.

Those who espouse this thing called radical economic transformation would be well served by looking to the north of us.

There, Zanu-PF proclaimed that “Zimbabwe will never be a colony again”, as it went about implementing ruinous economic policies that impoverished its people in the early to mid-2000s.

Today, Zimbabwe is the only colony in southern Africa, unable to chart its own economic path and exercise its sovereignty.





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