Iden­tity cri­sis

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - Due to in­com­pe­tence, SA’s cit­i­zens can no longer freely visit Bri­tain

IS IT THE WORST OF TIMES as we drift, it seems in­ex­orably, into the African morass? Our lat­est set­back – the with­drawal of visa-waiver sta­tus by Bri­tain – isn’t sur­pris­ing given the sto­ried cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tence of the Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs. As fraud is a crim­i­nal of­fence, it seems our law en­force­ment ap­pa­ra­tus was also de­fi­cient in this mat­ter.

It means – for the first time in its his­tory – this coun­try’s cit­i­zens can no longer freely visit Bri­tain. South Africans wish­ing to visit Bri­tain will now have to pay al­most R1 000 for a visa or sev­eral times that for a mul­ti­ple en­try ver­sion.

A full year ago South Africa’s di­rec­tor­gen­eral at Home Af­fairs, Mavuso Msi­mang, met Bri­tain’s top for­eign af­fairs of­fi­cial, Sir Peter Rick­etts, to deal with the then se­ri­ous prob­lem of fraud­u­lent SA pass­ports. As Peter Fabri­cius, the In­de­pen­dent for­eign af­fairs ed­i­tor, re­ported at the time, Rick­etts ad­vised Msi­mang that “the gross abuse of SA pass­ports” was en­dan­ger­ing our sta­tus as a waiver-free coun­try. It was said that in Nige­ria there’s a “par­al­lel South African high com­mis­sion” com­mit­ted ex­clu­sively to buy­ing and is­su­ing fraud­u­lent SA pass­ports.

Ap­par­ently, Msi­mang was un­able to fix Home Af­fairs’ rot­ten pass­port struc­tures al­though given a year to do so by the Brits, leav­ing us in the Third World ranks. Pass­ing the visa-waiver test were Botswana, Brazil, Mau­ri­tius and Trinidad. We failed along with Bo­livia, Le­sotho, Swazi­land and Venezuela.

De­spite spending al­most R200m of our money on some snake-oil con­sul­tants, Home Af­fairs con­tin­ues to re­ceive a red card from SA’s Au­di­tor-Gen­eral while of 8 000 of its staff sub­jected to com­pe­tency tests no less than 70% failed.

It could be ar­gued that all it does is make it less con­ve­nient and more ex­pen­sive for South Africans to visit Bri­tain.

An­other view could be that this is all part of our slow de­scent into the ranks of those so­ci­eties where the in­fra­struc­ture – both phys­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual – has ei­ther dis­ap­peared or is on its way to do­ing so. It was Adam Smith who wrote in 1776 in his Wealth of Na­tions that “there is a deal of ruin in a na­tion”.

Well, yes – as we can see from the fact it’s taken the best ef­forts over the past 15 years of the de­luded but ad­mit­tedly clever Robert Mu­gabe – con­stantly aided and abet­ted by his pow­er­ful neigh­bour’s com­pli­ant leader, Thabo Mbeki – to bring that coun­try to ruin.

Without wish­ing to put a hex on the es­timable Bobby God­sell, new chair­man of Eskom, that or­gan­i­sa­tion is yet an­other ex­am­ple of how the ANC keeps shoot­ing this coun­try in its foot. A com­bi­na­tion of racist, racial prefer­ment, ig­no­rant buy­ing strate­gies that ru­ined the flow of coal to power sta­tions and in­sane re­fusals by the Mbeki ad­min­is­tra­tion to sup­port cap­i­tal ex­pan­sion all led to the near-col­lapse of what was once one of the world’s most ad­mired pub­lic util­i­ties.

Lately we’ve read about the ruin of our na­tional rail grid built over more than a cen­tury’s worth of com­mit­ment to link the na­tion’s farm­ers to their mar­kets. That’s led to the ruin of SA’s road sys­tem.

Men­tion of farm­ers leads us to the wor­ri­some signs we’re con­tem­plat­ing the road Mu­gabe chose and which, as the en­tire world knows, led to the ruin of Zim­babwe. We’re un­able, it seems, to learn from his­tory – even re­cent his­tory – with our sus­tained com­mit­ment to en­sure that, by 2014, 30% of all agri­cul­tural land is in the hands of black folks, what­ever that means.

Cur­rently, only 5% of that tar­get has been achieved, with some sound ar­gu­ments about this that re­flects not white in­tran­si­gence but State in­com­pe­tence, par­tic­u­larly when you ex­am­ine the spec­tac­u­lar fail­ures of some agri­cul­tural projects en­gi­neered by Gov­ern­ment.

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