Ig­nor­ing vot­ers at its peril

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - DOU­GLAS GIB­SON

THERE is noth­ing that switches off vot­ers as much as po­lit­i­cal par­ties that navel gaze and fo­cus on in­ter­nal pol­i­tick­ing and in­fight­ing. When that goes on all the time, vot­ers know in­stinc­tively that they are not re­garded as im­por­tant; they re­alise their in­ter­ests are be­ing ne­glected.

Our gov­ern­ment is in deep trou­ble. The rea­son is that it is riven from top to bot­tom by fac­tion-fight­ing. Sure, it mouths plat­i­tudes and pop­ulist slo­gans de­signed to at­tract vot­ers, but the in­ep­ti­tude, the cor­rup­tion and the all too ap­par­ent urge to fight for the power to feed at the trough while the go­ing is good, un­der­mines the im­age of the gov­ern­ing po­lit­i­cal party.

Af­ter all, the pres­i­dent him­self said some months ago that, to him, the ANC came first, be­fore the coun­try.

While that com­ment was not as crude as the fa­mous state­ment by Min­is­ter Nomvula Mokonyane when she told the vot­ers of Bekkers­dal: “We don’t want your dirty votes,” it had the same im­pact.

One does not have to be a ge­nius to know that the main prob­lem is un­em­ploy­ment. We have one of the high­est youth un­em­ploy­ment rates in the world. Un­til our econ­omy grows, like the economies of al­most all the other de­vel­op­ing and de­vel­oped coun­tries, we will not solve our un­em­ploy­ment. Politi­cians who care would surely fo­cus on poli­cies aimed at mak­ing us grow and cre­at­ing jobs.

In­stead, at its re­cent pol­icy conference, thou­sands of ANC lead­ing lights spent days dis­cussing rub­bish like “white monopoly cap­i­tal”. The phrase was in­vented for the Gup­tas, an In­dian im­mi­grant fam­ily, a year or two ago by the Lon­don firm Bell Pot­tinger to as­sist them in di­vid­ing the races in our coun­try to dis­tract the at­ten­tion of the vot­ers from the Gup­tas’ cap­ture of the ANC.

Af­ter days of de­bate it was an­nounced tri­umphantly, as a great vic­tory by the an­tiZuma fac­tion, that the word “white” had been dropped and the vil­lain of the piece would hence­forth be “monopoly cap­i­tal”. This was in­ter­preted as a re­pu­di­a­tion of the Zuma fac­tion and a ma­jor achieve­ment of the Ramaphosa fac­tion.

As far as I could see, with tears in my eyes, not one hour was de­voted to some­thing prac­ti­cal like the ques­tion: What can we do to grow the econ­omy and cre­ate jobs for our young peo­ple?

Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – who is dumb­ing her­self down so she be­comes ac­cept­able to the likes of the ANC Youth League (ANCYL), of for­mer army chef and now Deputy Min­is­ter Kebby Maphat­soe of the Umkhonto we Sizwe Veter­ans and Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) – said af­ter the conference that she was in favour of the term white monopoly cap­i­tal, which had just been de­feated in favour of “monopoly cap­i­tal”.

“There is no doubt that in South Africa as a whole, it is a monopoly of the white con­glom­er­ates that dom­i­nates the econ­omy. So, I don’t think it is even an is­sue, but else­where and in gen­eral, it is monopoly cap­i­tal. But in South Africa, if you look at Group Five, the food, bev­er­ages and con­struc­tion in­dus­tries, it’s all white-dom­i­nated,” she said.

The poor woman is not dumb and there should be some lim­its to vote-seek­ing. I know her well and know that she is highly in­tel­li­gent but to be fair, she is a doc­tor and not an econ­o­mist. Surely, though, she can un­der­stand that the only real mo­nop­o­lies in our coun­try are the state-owned en­ti­ties like SAA, Denel, the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of South Africa, Transnet, PetroSA and the SABC, many of which are a by-word for cor­rup­tion and mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion?

Dlamini Zuma thinks Group Five and the con­struc­tion in­dus­tries are mo­nop­o­lies. Has she no idea that there is fierce com­pe­ti­tion be­tween these com­pa­nies, es­pe­cially when some of them were slapped with huge penal­ties for price-col­lu­sion over the World Cup con­struc­tion?

Dlamini Zuma thinks too, that the food and bev­er­age in­dus­tries are mo­nop­o­lies. She ob­vi­ously has not the vaguest idea of what goes on in our econ­omy. These com­pa­nies are among the most highly com­pet­i­tive busi­nesses any­where, many with small mar­gins of profit on a very large turnover.

Mem­bers of the ANCWL who, ac­cord­ing to their pres­i­dent, are in­clined to get too emo­tional and lose de­bates as a re­sult and the ANCYL, whose mem­bers are prod­ucts of the low standard of ed­u­ca­tion we give our chil­dren, might be­lieve and ap­pre­ci­ate this non­sense; oth­ers do not.

What peo­ple want to know is what the gov­ern­ment is do­ing (af­ter all, it has been in power for a quar­ter of a cen­tury) to strengthen our econ­omy and grow it. No an­swers are forth­com­ing other than inani­ties like the fu­tile de­bate about white monopoly cap­i­tal.

In­stead, we hear from the pres­i­dent and some of his fac­tion that the con­sti­tu­tion is to blame for the land ques­tion and that what is needed is ex­pro­pri­a­tion with­out com­pen­sa­tion. He does not dare call it what it is: Theft from the haves to give to the have-nots.

One is not sure how many peo­ple be­lieve this ig­no­rant and cyn­i­cal anti-con­sti­tu­tion­al­ism from the very man who took an oath of of­fice to up­hold the con­sti­tu­tion. No doubt to some who are not own­ers, it sounds madly at­trac­tive. To any­one who has any idea of in­vest­ing in our coun­try and help­ing us grow our econ­omy, rather than look­ing else­where in the world for in­vest­ment havens, it sounds mad.

One could go on. The point is that while dis­cussing and pro­mot­ing ide­o­log­i­cal fan­cies and fan­tasies, some of which are mere rub­bish, we are miss­ing the op­por­tu­nity to ar­rest the drift and de­struc­tive pol­icy con­fu­sion of the Zuma years by adopt­ing poli­cies that have a chance of cre­at­ing a bet­ter life for all. The vot­ers might well re­alise soon that we need a new begin­ning.

HUNG OUT TO DRY: Un­em­ployed youths sit around in Louisville, Mpumalanga. Politi­cians who cared for peo­ple would fo­cus on SA’s main prob­lem – un­em­ploy­ment, says the writer.

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