Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lighting a fire under the DA
It seems that COPE is doing great things for the DA. Now that their mantle of Official Opposition is under threat, they're finally cleaning house and doing the things that they should have done a decade ago.

My biggest gripe with the DA has been their focus - most acutely under Tony Leon - of sniping at the heels of the ANC at every turn, whilst at the same time offering a bare cupboard of alternative policy proposals. Since COPE has entered the arena, the DA has relaunched the party image, refocused their slogans and proposals, and is finally communicating policy directly to the electorate.

The latest has been their healthcare policies, which they released today:
International experience showed the most effective health care delivery model to be a partnership between the state and private sector, DA spokesperson Mike Waters told a media briefing to launch the party's health policy document.

Under a DA government, a first priority would be to open up a tender process for managing those hospitals not delivering according to required standards.

This tender process would be open to any group of individuals in the public or the private sector able to meet the requirements, including a proven track record in hospital management.

Anyone awarded a tender to manage a public hospital would be funded by the state on a per-patient basis for providing health care, and rigorous performance criteria would be applied to ensure quality.

This would go hand in hand with a more decentralised model of health care administration, which would give hospital managers the powers they currently lacked to manage their hospitals effectively, he said.

Two key responsibilities for the state in terms of the DA's plans would be ensuring the availability of medicines and a supply of enough doctors and nurses to meet demands.

The DA proposed that the state involve pharmacies in a more grass-roots system for distributing medicines, so that patients at state hospitals were able to collect their medicines directly from their local pharmacy rather than waiting days or hours in a queue at a state hospital.

Waters said the critical shortage of medical professionals should be confronted head-on with a dynamic campaign to both increase the number of doctors and nurses available to the health system and make conditions attractive enough to ensure they stayed.

Among other things, the DA proposed a system whereby doctors in the private sector conducted a certain number of hours of pro bono work in the public sector every year, as some lawyers were currently required to do.

"We also propose a SADC [Southern African Development Community] health workers' protocol, to allow for the ethical recruitment of health staff from neighbouring countries, an international recruitment drive, and the classification of health worker skills as scarce skills to increase the number of foreign-qualified doctors and nurses we are able to employ."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Noami Klein on the bailout
Strap yourself in, you know it's going to be a wild ride!
And the folks at Morgan Stanley? They're planning to pay themselves $10.7 billion this year, much of it in bonuses — almost exactly the amount they are receiving in the first phase of the bailout. "You can imagine the devilish grins on the faces of Morgan Stanley employees," writes Bloomberg columnist Jonathan Weil. "Not only did we, the taxpayers, save their company...we funded their 2008 bonus pool."

It didn't have to be this way. Five days before Paulson struck his deal with the banks, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown negotiated a similar bailout — only he extracted meaningful guarantees for taxpayers: voting rights at the banks, seats on their boards, 12 percent in annual dividend payments to the government, a suspension of dividend payments to shareholders, restrictions on executive bonuses, and a legal requirement that the banks lend money to homeowners and small businesses.

In sharp contrast, this is what U.S. taxpayers received: no controlling interest, no voting rights, no seats on the bank boards and just five percent in dividend payouts to the government, while shareholders continue to collect billions in dividends every quarter. What's more, golden parachutes and bonuses already promised by the banks will still be paid out to executives — all before taxpayers are paid back.

No wonder it took just one hour for Paulson to convince all nine CEOs to accept his offer — less than seven minutes per bank. Not even the firms' own lawyers could have drafted a sweeter deal.

Read the entire piece here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

DA sees the light...
This day has been a long long time coming and I can honestly say that I am really interested in this step that the DA has taken to open up the party. I have long bemoaned both the fact that the DA has remained a "white privilege" party and the lost chances that availed themselves after Tony Leon's departure. The DA though, seemingly only at the threat of losing their official opposition status to the COP, have finally decided to undertake some introspection and to review the position and future of the party with relation to the electorate that it targets.

The DA has failed in the past decade to be a true opposition, merely falling into the all-to-easily dismissible trap of biting at the ANC's heels and reacting to ANC decisions rather than setting a true alternative for policy development. The ANC has communicated policy so poorly to the South African electorate, but the DA chose not to take advantage of this, rather diving into petty squabbles and rhetorical debates at any opportunity.

This weekend, according to Helen Zille, the party will 'relaunch' itself, after "an internal process of self-examination... an assessment of how the DA presented itself and how it was perceived by voters, given the effects of a divided past":
The DA had long been aware that wooing black voters was the only way to increase its share of the vote, but had struggled to get its message heard.

"The DA has significant potential among voters who share our values but who have not historically supported us," Zille said.

New research commissioned by the party showed voters of all races were looking for a political re-alignment, where parties and people sharing the same values came together to forge an open society with equal opportunities, "as opposed to a closed, patronage-driven society under the ANC".

"We are determined to do whatever possible to overcome these barriers, transcend race and enable all South Africans who share our values to give us their support," Zille said.

The party will fight elections next year with an important trump card: its track record in governing Cape Town since the 2006 local government elections saw the ANC forced to make way for a DA-led multi-party coalition.

The DA aims to rule the country by 2014, which may be a decade or two too soon for the electorate, but I applaud their review nonetheless. Not to see what this re-imagined DA looks like...

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Palin thought South Africa was a province of the country, Africa

Hmmmm, a heartbeat away from the Presidency?

Read here...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

ANC will remain centrist
Whilst I posted previously that a concern with the formation of the new Shikota party is that it may push the ANC further left, the Business Day has an opposing view, which does make a lot of sense:
Economists say the founding of a viable new opposition party by ANC dissidents is likely to put pressure on the ruling party to deliver on its pledges.

However, it may also prompt the ANC to do more to keep the support of business leaders and an expanding black middle class, which its market-friendly economic policies helped create.

“The key concern — ahead of the formation of this political party — was whether it would lead to an exodus of centrists from the ruling ANC,” said Razia Khan, regional Africa research head at Standard Chartered.

“While that is certainly a possibility ... we do not yet see it as the main risk”. Leading “centrists” who remain in the ANC include Mathews Phosa, its treasurer, and prominent businessmen such as Cyril Ramaphosa and Tokyo Sexwale, Khan says. By the same token, Willie Madisha, the former president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), has joined the new party.

Cosatu and the South African Communist Party (SACP) are the left-wing allies of the ANC, so Madisha is not an ideological “centrist” even though he lost his post over his support for former president Thabo Mbeki.

When Mbeki was axed in September, the initial perception in financial markets was that if a new political party was formed, it would drain supporters who had backed prudent economic policies.

Read the entire piece here.