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.