Danger of raising expectations
THERE has come from President Jacob Zuma an encouraging indication that, contrary to the sort of opinion popular here at the Mahogany Ridge on a payday Friday night, he is not hermetically sealed from the outside world, blithely unaware of sentiment out there but is rather a finger-on-thepulse, ear-to-the-ground kind of guy.
“I have heard rumours,” he told the ruling party’s KwaZulu-Natal conference in Pietermaritzburg last weekend, “that I have become a liability. How can a member of the ANC be referred to as a liability? No member can be a liability.”
To be honest, they weren’t rumours as such, but more like the gnashing of teeth and howls of frustration.
But the good thing is that while he won’t actually listen to what people are saying, or screaming, he can at least hear them; the hopeless optimists among us believe it won’t be too long before some of it sinks into his consciousness – perhaps by osmosis – and changes his thinking for the better. No sign of that just yet, though. Zuma was reportedly quite angry when he made his comments which, I suppose, is better than merely giggling at his growing legion of critics. It was particularly vexing, it seemed, that the biggest were past leaders and those drawn from the ranks of the stalwarts and veterans – like former president Kgalema Motlanthe, who recently claimed all was not healthy with the tripartite alliance, the state of the ANC and its leaders.
They were, Zuma suggested, people who – as if overnight – suddenly did know better. “Why now,” he asked, “when they’re sitting out there, they have wisdom? When they were in here, why did they not bring that wisdom? ‘Alliance is dead?’ … They must sit down and be quiet. In fact, (the) unwritten rule is, when you’re out, don’t criticise those who come after you… simple A, B, C, D.” Or as we think of it: S, H, U, T, U, P. “Don’t provoke us too far,” he continued. “Don’t. We have a job to do, to achieve prosperity. Don’t. No one is bigger than the ANC. They are cowards. Just an unnecessary irritation. And we may not tolerate this for too long.”
On and on he went, like a big stick inside an empty bucket, as he explained the basic food pyramid. “Me, me, me, then myself, then I, then party, and then, way back at the end of the line, the constitution.”
But if we could could just rewind to that bit about achieving “prosperity”. Even as Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba were rushing forward to defend Zuma, saying he had once again been misunderstood and was quoted out of context, there came more of those unnecessary irritations.
Recent research by political scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology into the countrywide service delivery protests between 2001 and 2011 has shown, against expectations, voter support for the ANC dwindled in communities that had large increases in the provision of services.
“In other words,” Daniel de Kadt and Evan Lieberman wrote, “individuals with basic services appear to be happier with their living conditions, but they are less likely to want to keep the ANC in power, at least compared with those still living without services.”
Increases in service delivery, they argued, appeared to heighten an awareness of corruption. “One could imagine that those places in which there is the greatest improvement in services are also those places in which local politicians self-enrich the most.”
Service delivery could also raise expectations. “Once voters are provided with basic services,” De Kadt and Lieberman said, “they may alter their expectations and demands of government, seeking out alternative parties.”
Damned, then, if you do – but not as damned if you don’t. So best do nothing. Which may or may not explain why Minister of Water Affairs Nomvula Mokonyane was not present at this week’s parliamentary crisis meeting on the drought and water crisis. Why solve problems when that will just threaten your livelihood?
On the other hand, the rand’s freefall against the dollar will continue unless there are dramatic changes in the management of the economy.
One analyst, Dwaine van Vuuren, has suggested, on current projections, we could have an exchange rate of R18.50 to the dollar by the end of Zuma’s second term in 2018.
As matters stand, the government has already presided over the rand’s worst decline against the dollar since 1984 and the PW Botha era. It’s not an encouraging picture, is it?
The bunker at Nkandla may yet prove necessary. And fill the fire pool with drinking water.