South Africa Watch

South Africa desperately needs a rescue plan

Zuma goodbye not the end

As South Africa’s democracy tomorrow reaches an epic battle in the war for its soul in parliament, the landscape of its national household looks as if a scourged earth campaign has hit it.

The analogy with the results left behind in the country by the mightiest colonial power of its time, the United Kingdom, almost 120 years ago, is an apt one – if not at a physical level, then at least in the scope of the challenges awaiting the country in the rebuilding process that lies ahead.

The vote on the motion of no confidence in President Jacob Zuma tomorrow, is unlikely to be the equivalent, for the forces of state capture, what the battle of Magersfontein was for the British during the Anglo-Boer War. But that day will come.

Whatever tomorrow’s result, or whenever the decisive battle happens, the damage to the country is done, and the challenges ahead will remain.

Considering the width, and depth of the damage done, especially in the last almost decade since 2009, the much touted and little implemented National Development Plan (NDP), will not be enough to turn the country’s fortunes around.

And, let it be said, as reported elsewhere, roots of many the problems can be traced back to those 19th century colonial times and the forces of apartheid that eventually took over from it.

Neither can all the blame be placed on the shoulders of the present government, as become clear in yet another article in this edition. The private sector has to carry some of the blame.

It is also not only offshore corporations that have been cashing-in on the crumbling of governance ethics and standards in the country. Just yesterday the Sunday Times reported how South African ICT giant, Altech (now part of Altron) paid one of President Zuma’s sons a R54-million “consultancy fee” in return for him helping the company win a government tender to manufacture set-top boxes for South Africa’s migration from analogue to digital television.

The cynical nature of this “transaction” is that it involves the manufacture of subsidised set-top boxes earmarked for poor households – some 500 000 of which have been sitting in Post Office warehouses while implementation has fallen behind by several years.

Largest devastation in state administration

To what extent the separation between the state’s executive- and administrative branches have been destroyed by the ANC’s policy of so-called ‘cadre deployment,’ and its devastating effect on the quality of public administration, is clear from a just published report by the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

The cornerstone ANC policy of capturing all centres of state power, facilitated the stacking of public administration and state enterprises by a party faction associated with Mr. Zuma and his Gupta cohorts. Not only did it facilitate the plunder of state resources, but it also seriously destabilised sound administration.

The report reveals that since becoming president in 2009, Zuma made 126 changes to his cabinet at 11 occasions. But more seriously disruptive to state administration, at directors-general (DG) level alone, there have been 172 changes of the guard.

This perpetual revolving door for administrative leadership probably goes a long way in explaining why in so many instances strategic plans and -policies get announced, just to never come be implemented – DGs are just not allowed the opportunity for follow-through on their plans.

Not only does this imply massive fruitless expenditure – arriving at plans and strategies cost a pretty penny in research, consultants, and the like – but every time a DG gets a golden handshake to leave, institutional knowledge and experience move out the door with him, or her.

If the total of 215 senior officials and executive members who passed through the Zuma-revolving door in his 100 months in office, have only had on average five years of experience in their respective fields, cumulatively, more than a thousand years of institutional knowledge and experience have been lost.

No organisation can endure losses of such a nature and remain stable, and the gap left by such losses cannot be instantly overcome. A recovery period of sustained stability for an extended number of years will be required to turn things around.

Rescue plan needed

Just removing Mr. Zuma and/or his faction in the ANC from the levers of political power might be a first step towards turning South Africa’s fortunes around. A comprehensive focused turn-around plan is, however, needed.

And first up, the executive and administrative branches of government need to be separated again, with the policy of ‘cadre deployment’ scraped as a first step – prohibited, or made illegal, for whichever party might govern in future.

Then, Paul Hoffman in an article in Politicsweb last week, in the run-up to this week’s no confidence vote, posted the legitimate question: “Which comes first: The ANC or the Constitution?”

Fact is, this parliamentary vote exposed a fault line in our Constitution. MP’s who under their oath of office is supposed to put the interest of voters first, hold their positions in parliament by the grace of their political party – in this instance confronting some of them with an impossible dilemma, in their once-removed relationship with voters.

This is a legacy, at least in part, of a ‘swart gevaar’ faction in the then National Party during the constitutional negotiations of the 1990s – refusing to consider a mixed electoral system of constituencies, and a proportional element.

It might be an idea to make considering this weakness, as an enabler element of state capture, part of the brief of the judicial commission of enquiry into state capture – that is if, and when the commission eventually gets appointed.

Finally, the cadre deployed, and state captured administration of especially the last decade, has also left the South African economy in such tatters, that it too desperately needs some holistic attention.

 The suggestion by Professor Matthew Kofi Ocran of the University of the Western Cape in an article on The Conversation website that “South Africa should consider help from the IMF to fix its economy,” has much merit.

He writes: “The prognosis that the South African economy is in dire straits is pretty obvious even to the untrained eye. The solution to the country’s present predicament is also pretty much understood. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has recently produced a comprehensive view which deserves to be considered.”

He concludes: “An IMF programme would send a clear and unassailable signal to investors that the country was committed to pursuing a given set of policy options. And it would make the commitment appear credible.”


 The fact that ordinary citizen, under the leadership of opposition parties and civil organisations, are taking to the streets with a message of “enough-is-enough now,” and senior ANC members are finally finding their protesting voices, is a good start. But the battle to save the soul of the country’s democracy, and its economy for all its habitants, has a long challenging road ahead of it.

Some considered plans need to be put forward by some real leaders of integrity.

Also read: South Africa’s infantry comes to the rescue

by Intelligence Bulletin Team

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