Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Friday, May 30, 2008

A balance of injustices
I often have to raise an eyebrow at some decisions taken at municipal governance level, but this one is more jaw-dropping.

There is a street in Amanzimtoti, Durban called Kingsway Road, where in 1985, a man called Andrew Zondo planted a limpet mine at a shopping centre, killing 5 people. Now, the eThekwini Metro Council, in all its wisdom, has decided to rename the street after the man who took those lives.

Now, I'm a realist, I know that many people justify this taking of life as an anti-apartheid stand, and I'm not calling here for a debate of this, but more to draw attention to the insensetivity of renaming that particular street. If you want to honour this man, for Pete's sake, choose any road but that one. There are people that still live on that street (including the man who's wife was killed in the attack) that were affected by this man's activities, and this decision is not made with a lot of foresight.

Strange indeed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Motlanthe escapes
It seems that African National Congress deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe has escaped the career suicide of cabinet - for now. Motlanthe, recently sworn in as an MP, will remain a back-bencher for the forseeable future.

This gives him, and his high-powered backers, the time to monitor the situation with Jacob Zuma and have an 'on the ground' presence to challenge for the Presidency. It also most likely signals Motlanthe's willingness to challenge for the position. Time will tell...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The trouble with Umshini Wami
I must say I did take some interest in Jacob Zuma trying to wriggle his way out of the fact that Umshini Wami, such a rallying call during his journey to president-elect, has become a rallying call during the xenophobic violence recently.

While many of these thugs have been singing "his" song between belting some poor Somalian, Zimbabwean and/or anyone else in their paths, Zuma asks "Umshini wami belongs to the ANC. Who are these people abusing this song while they are doing wrong things?".

While it seems incredibly disengenious to suggest that those perpetrating this violence cannot be from the ANC as they are "doing wrong things", it does show the razor's edge that has to be walked as a leader with largely populist support base.

He went on to say that "Maybe we (ANC) haven't been able to explain how much African countries helped us during the struggle for our freedom." For me, this shows a fundamental disconnect and continuing signs of cracks in the much vaunted "freedom voting" in the electorate.

We continue to see signs that the electorate (please note that I'm not talking here about the xenophobic attacks, but much more broader debate and criticisms) is starting to criticise the grand party of emancipation on socio-political issues and more importantly, to reduce the respect for the party as such. This can only be a good thing within the confines of our democracy.

Monday, May 19, 2008

...for the lack of posting. I've been really swamped at work. Normal service to resume.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

You have got to be kidding...

NPA date blunder casts new doubt on Zuma trial

I'm speechless...

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mbeki falls away
This really is a sad, sad end for Thabo Mbeki, a once-proud international leader now reduced to the stature of a naughty pet no-one wants around. Over the weekend, the SACP failed in its bid to have Mbeki removed from office at the ANC conference, but more because that nobody seemed to think he was a real threat to their interests anyway. We also heard this weekend that Mbeki is being publicly castigated for refusal to heed the advice of two appointed judges that the 2002 Zimbabwean election was rigged. International affairs was all the Mbeki had left, and its rapidly being stripped away. If you think that it was coincidental that these allegations surfaced this weekend, think again.

Looking forward, of some concern for Motlanthe is him losing the fight to stay within the ANC rather than be sent to Mbeki's Cabinet. If Motlanthe is to make a run for the presidency whilst Zuma is caught up in the graft trial later this year, he needs to be able to be on the ground, not stuck being a spy in Mbeki's cabinet. No wonder he's not that happy about it...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Drama in Vusi's office
Well, we're finally getting proof that Vusi Pikoli's sacking was solely due to his refusal to obey orders from the Presidency not to arrest police chief Jackie Selebi. Now this has obviously been South Africa's worst kept secret over the past two years, and it's not surprising that Mbeki's having more trouble than usual keeping the lid on it, giving his current standing within the party and the Government.

At present, the best the Presidency can do is to claim that he wasn't booted for wanting to continue to arrest Selebi after the President's order, but that he didn't want to treat his arrest "sensitively". And by "sensitively", they obviously mean "swept under the carpet"...

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Is the bad mood justified?
For all of you looking for guru analysts to lead you through the turbulent intellectual times defending South Africa at present, look no further than one of my personal heroes, JP Landman. Landman has been BOE Private Clients' (not that I'm one - it's available on the internet!) chief analyst on political and investment research, and his latest document rebuffs a few of negative South Africans greatest myths.

For example:
One hears a lot that SA spends on social welfare but not on investment. This fiscal year the country will invest 7% of GDP …. and spend 4,6% of GDP on social security, including the Road Accident Fund, UIF and of course the 12,4 million social allowances paid out every 30 days. Whilst the state probably spends 80% of what is spent on social security (churches, NGOs and individual do the rest), its investment spend is only about 30% of what the country invests. The private sector does the rest.

Can we now please bin this nonsense that we spend more on social welfare than investment?
Landman writes with an ease and a knowledge that I could only hope for, and all of his commentary pieces are well worth a read here.

I'll leave the last word to him:
* Rising incomes mean resources to tackle problems, create jobs, fight poverty and build infrastructure. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, it is about per capita incomes, stupid.
* Over the next seven years per capita incomes can rise as much as during the last 14 years. This will trump the negative fallout from politics. The economist prof De Kiewiet wrote several decades ago that SA progresses through “political disasters and economic windfalls.” Between rising incomes and post-Polokwane political uncertainty, it will happen again.
* SA is responding to its infrastructure crises (which will be around for a while, make no mistake) with a massive investment programme.

All that remains now, is to put one foot in front of the other, carry on and expect a lot of messiness. Sometimes I think it is our inability to live with messiness that paralyses us. If Whites can make this paradigm shift their mood might not be so bleak. More importantly, they can capitalise on the opportunities.