Barbarians at the Gates: Civil War Alert?

2016-11-29 06:04

It is high time we face the uncomfortable truth about our purported Rainbow Nation - and shelve any remaining delusions. The state and its appendages have been hollowed out by the ANC, it's consistently third rate leadership and tens of thousands of predatory cadres and affirmative action appointments.

Much of its functionality has ground to a halt and efficiency is pervasively absent.

Often populist politicians abuse freedoms enshrined in our constitution with gay abandon whilst government opponents are vindictively censured.

Many remaining contributing entities totter uncontrollably on the brink of systemic disaster and very few earn clean audits. Delinquent expenditure ran to nearly R50 billion in the last Auditor General's Report.

There is no moral compass, scant competence in key areas and the pervasive whiff of asymmetric entitlement.

We, the citizenry need to ask ourselves what value our so-called “constitutional democracy” represents to us. Does it exist in practice, is it for real - and did it ever really exist? Democracy is worth little if stripped of its institutions - and worth still less if its constitution is abused or disregarded.

There have been further disturbing pointers recently suggesting that this trend is accelerating. Negative and dangerous emotions have been aroused very publicly; hard economic realities have been underlined and quantified; stupid government initiatives mooted; and a crooked and devious president has again demonstrated his lack of probity and morality.

Taken in concert, these factors are undermining the very foundations of our nation state. South Africa Inc. is in bad shape, drifting haplessly in a changing world - devoid of a rudder, and with a brigand at the helm.

I offer four perspectives in support of this view:

• the first an ‘on the street’ view of a populist rabble rouser;

• the second, an up to the minute assessment of our economy;

• the third is yet another looming government folly; and

• an updated assessment on our dysfunctional president.

1. “On the Street”

Two weeks ago, Julius Malema addressed supporters after briefly appearing in court on charges of violating the Riotous Assemblies Act. He denied that whites should be even “entitled to own land” in South Africa and stated that for now he was not calling for “the slaughter of whites”.

Does hate speech get any more hard core than that?

Given that we claim to live in a democracy protecting the rights of the individual and defending ownership rights, it is astonishing – nay criminal - that government has been silent and seemingly complicit in doing nothing to gainsay Malema who is supposed to be a political adversary of the ruling party. By doing the right thing, would it make the governing party look too sympathetic to whites? Or does it simply not care?

As if to exacerbate the irony, a new bill is being considered that will prosecute hate speech – a ludicrous piece of legislation to be sure, given all the other legal ballast on our statute books. But the driving force for it is the prosecution of the likes of Penny Sparrow – a misguided white woman who posted loose comments comparing beachgoers littering Durban beaches with monkeys.

Conclusively, racism is alive and well - and it is from most appearances not driven by “whites”. Indeed the most vehement and inflammatory strains of racism are unambiguously black and fuelled by political ambition.

In closing my point, I provide just one more example: Hlaudi Motsoeneng – a demonstrably incompetent fraud who has brought the public broadcaster into disrepute - cried foul because Thuli Madonsela, our erstwhile public protector “did not go after any whites”.

Thereby hangs a tale.

2. The Economy

Our official unemployment rate now stands at 27,1% - the worst in the world reported by Economist magazine. But when those who are too discouraged to look for work are added to the figure, it stands at a staggering 37,8% (Dept of Statistics latest quarterly Report).

That is a disaster by any measure, but wholly understandable in a developing country that has pursued socialism for more than 20 years. We are an economic basket case that ratings agencies have just downgraded to BBB- despite the best efforts of our finance minister.

The reasons for our ills are clear.

There is scant economic growth in our economy; few entrepreneurs are interested in new start-ups; the ANC, socialists, trade unionists and Communists (all firmly ensconced in government) promote laws that fail to recognise economic realities; and an entire bureaucracy is in place to pressure the private sector into eschewing merit and adopting race profiling – which government departments and parastatals have already done with predictably disastrous results.

The buzzword for this – as well as for quotas in sport and elsewhere - is “transformation”.

The economy is now such that the trade union movement is contracting and fragmenting. At close to zero economic growth there is not much left to pillage and “redistribute”.

3. As improbable as the NHI is to fly, here is one more looming government folly! The National Minimum Wage!

It is the latest ANC false dawn - a government down payment to win ephemeral support, not by solving the real problem, but by applying a political band aid strip – and harming the poorest members of society in the process.

It was Bill Clinton – Hillary’s somewhat more successful presidential partner – who is quoted as saying “it’s about the economy, stupid”. He was making the point that if the economy does not work - pretty much nothing else in society is going to. It was probably the smartest thing he ever said.

Now take a look at what happens here.

Not only do we have the world’s highest recorded unemployment rate, but our growth rate is unlikely to breach even one percent this year. That is shy of even our population growth rate, which at its very simplest tells you that on average people are getting poorer.

So the government proposes a national minimum wage! Hello.

The fact that 37,8% of the potential working population won’t benefit because they can’t find any work seems to have gone unnoticed and, as we have pointed out previously the average person is already getting poorer as a result of poor or zero growth.

So instead of reducing impediments to business and encouraging entrepreneurial activity that would create jobs, government rather adds to inequality by seeking to legislate a national minimum wage.

What are the results going to be?

A national minimum wage will at very best further discourage small businesses and new start-ups, but, far more likely - boost unemployment. But the highest cost is likely to be to the nation’s psyche.

Because the only weapon available to the least privileged and most marginalized in society is the asking price they place on their labour, a national minimum wage ranks as a body blow to all attempting to enter the job market or seeking a toe hold into the economy.

4. A Delinquent President

When called to account Zuma always deflects blame.

So when questioned in parliament on November 23rd about the state capture report he squealed that he had been “treated unfairly”, had not had a chance to see an interim draft and that “something funny” had been going on.

What is abundantly clear is that Zuma has no intention of addressing the issues highlighted in Madonsela’s State of Capture report and will use any legal machinations available to him to escape accountability. He seems also to have the new Public Protector in his lap - although the jury is still out on that.

Add that to his 783 pending counts of fraud, breaking his presidential oath of office, his attempts to commandeer the treasury by means most foul – and you have the ultimate icon of duplicity and sleaze.

Conclusion

If the confluence of these elements – racist populism; a collapsing economy; ham fisted government interventions in a tenuous economy; and a crooked president - do not rupture the very fabric of the nation state, it is impossible to imagine what might. They constitute a perfect storm fanned by deep seated dysfunctionalities and an absence of nous, leadership and ethics.

They are issues that simply cannot be addressed without recognizing ultimate cause – which places them beyond the capacity of the ruling elite and the ANC.

All of which begs one final question. Can our society survive - and if not, quo vadis South Africa?

If the trend continues, civil war would seem to be an increasingly likely option. There are too many smart and moral people around for it to be otherwise - and because the state has been hijacked (captured) they will be left with no other way out.

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