The ANC’s coup de grâce – if it con­tin­ues to fail its sup­port­ers – could be South Africa’s sav­ing grace

CityPress - - Voices - Tebogo Khaas voices@city­

Post-apartheid South Africa, just like the post-Cold War world, wasn’t sup­posed to be this way.

At the end of apartheid South Africa looked out on a dot­ing world in which the “rain­bow na­tion” wielded un­prece­dented lev­els of prom­ise, hope and in­flu­ence.

With the fall of the Iron Cur­tain, US pol­i­cy­mak­ers were free not only to pur­sue their di­rect na­tional in­ter­ests, but also to pur­sue grand vi­sions of mould­ing the world in the US’s image and idea of democ­racy.

Now, a once-promis­ing, pros­per­ous African democ­racy and world or­der stand at a cross­roads. Let me ex­plain.

The col­lapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 ush­ered in a unipo­lar world sys­tem in which the US be­came the world’s only su­per­power.

For the most part a glow­ing vi­sion of the fu­ture – based on a con­cep­tion of free mar­kets, demo­cratic gov­er­nance and the pro­mo­tion of hu­man rights across the world – came to pass.

The US has been for­tu­nate to be able to ex­ter­nalise the colos­sal costs, both in eco­nomic and hu­man terms, of its failed poli­cies on to oth­ers and carry on largely with min­i­mal po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic con­se­quence.

The col­lapse of the Soviet Union gen­er­ated wide­spread re­sent­ment among Rus­sians. Their bit­ter­ness is em­bod­ied by Rus­sian pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin who vis­cer­ally laments the col­lapse of the for­mer uni­fied eco­nomic sys­tem.

A few months ago Putin used his an­nual na­tional ad­dress to an­nounce a se­ries of new weapon tech­nolo­gies that he deemed “in­vin­ci­ble”. These in­clude nu­clear-pow­ered mis­siles that ap­par­ently would be dif­fi­cult for con­ven­tional mis­sile de­fence sys­tems to counter.

Although Putin har­bours bit­ter­ness to­wards the West, it is Trump’s unchecked ego or ac­ci­den­tal tweet that could trig­ger the next world nu­clear at­tack.

Rus­sia’s in­creased in­vest­ments in the de­fence in­dus­try seems to be mo­ti­vated largely by eco­nom­ics. Rus­sia is ex­pected to re­alise con­sid­er­able com­mer­cial spinoffs from tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion re­sult­ing from in­vest­ing in its de­fence sec­tor.

Lest we for­get, the US De­fence Force’s in­vest­ments in in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy yielded the in­ter­net and GPS tech­nolo­gies. This was a pre­cur­sor to a sus­tained boom in the tech econ­omy.

With­out these dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies there’d be no Google, Uber, Ap­ple, YouTube, Face­book, Airbnb, drones, smart­phones, en­hanced ge­olo­ca­tion, and au­ton­o­mous trans­porta­tion sys­tems, among oth­ers.

Thus, Rus­sia’s “un­set­tling” mil­i­tary ad­vances and pos­tures could merely be a sign of a crouch­ing bear.

With the rise of China and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing shift in the global bal­ance of power the US may, by sheer ne­ces­sity, find it­self forced to ac­cept a less am­bi­tious and more ef­fec­tively “re­al­ist” ap­proach to global af­fairs.

Much has changed in the years since the apartheid beast lay dy­ing.

For South Africans old enough to re­mem­ber the pe­riod 1994 to 2008, the pres­i­dency of Cyril Ramaphosa must have a fa­mil­iar feel. Although it is still early days, Ramaphosa’s pres­i­dency can be de­scribed as a fu­sion of Nel­son Man­dela and Thabo Mbeki’s lead­er­ship ethos.

But per­haps the most strik­ing par­al­lel is with Mbeki who un­der­stood that pro­bity, eco­nomic growth and fis­cal pru­dence mat­ter.

For the most part South Africa was on track un­til progress was rudely in­ter­rupted by for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

The less said about the con­sti­tu­tional delin­quent Zuma the bet­ter. Suf­fice it to state, though, that Zuma is a deeply di­vi­sive fig­ure, a po­lit­i­cal street fighter who sur­vived by play­ing in­di­vid­u­als and fac­tions against one an­other. Ow­ing to com­plex cor­rupt re­la­tion­ships with fig­ures in­side his sphere of in­flu­ence, “state cap­ture” has be­come Zuma’s legacy.

As he un­tan­gles Zuma’s morass, Ramaphosa set an am­bi­tious five-year goal to at­tract $100 bil­lion through di­rect in­vest­ments in the econ­omy. Ramaphosa seems to be on track to re­alise his goals.

What is cru­cial is to en­sure that in­vest­ments, in­clud­ing gov­ern­ment’s own com­mit­ment to pro­vide free ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion to the needy, are aligned with de­mands of a chang­ing global eco­nomic vil­lage. This also de­mands a labour force at­tuned to the op­por­tu­ni­ties her­alded by the ad­vanc­ing fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion. The de­fence in­dus­try, buoyed by a repo­si­tioned and re­cap­i­talised Denel, could be our Holy Grail for the tech econ­omy.

Lever­ag­ing ex­ist­ing in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and busi­ness ven­tures within the group, Denel could also act as guar­an­tor for high-tech in­no­va­tions in part­ner­ship with pri­vate sec­tor tech funds and en­trepreneurs. This would help mit­i­gate pro­hib­i­tively high cap­i­tal out­lays of­ten as­so­ci­ated with re­search and early-stage prod­uct de­vel­op­ment cy­cles for green­field projects.

Also, am­bi­tious pub­lic in­fra­struc­ture projects could in­volve recla­ma­tion of land now used as mine dumps in the pe­riph­ery of min­ing ar­eas. Af­ford­able pub­lic hous­ing or light in­dus­trial hubs could be de­vel­oped. Such mas­sive projects could help re­duce un­em­ploy­ment while also re­dress­ing the in­iq­ui­ties of apartheid-era spa­tial plan­ning.

Over the years or­di­nary South Africans have shoul­dered the bur­den, both in eco­nomic and hu­man terms, caused by the ANC gov­ern­ment’s pay­ing lip ser­vice to the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment mantra, in­clud­ing through the much-vaunted Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan (NDP).

In some in­stances where the NDP was in­voked, this pro­vided golden op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­sti­tu­tional sub­ver­sion and cor­rup­tion.

More irk­some is gov­ern­ment’s con­tin­ued fail­ure to ef­fect con­se­quence man­age­ment where wrong­do­ing has been iden­ti­fied.

Con­sider for a mo­ment the sham­bolic Ma­si­bam­bisane Agri­cul­tural Co­op­er­a­tive, which was in­tended to pro­vide a leg-up for emerg­ing black small–scale and com­mer­cial farm­ers.

Zuma chaired Ma­si­bam­bisane and his nephew (mis)man­aged it. The duo re­port­edly fun­nelled more than a bil­lion rands into this project by var­i­ous gov­ern­ment de­part­ments, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and sta­te­owned en­ter­prises.

Bold ac­tion must be taken against those fin­gered for wrong­do­ing, ir­re­spec­tive of their po­lit­i­cal sta­tus or prox­im­ity to power. Ramaphosa must just let the chips fall where they may.

A learned friend of mine as­serts that most of those fin­gered for wrong­do­ing ought to, by ne­ces­sity, ei­ther be out on bail or await­ing trial as in­mates. This, he ar­gues, would va­cate the need for drawn-out and costly dis­ci­plinary hear­ings, in­clud­ing a plethora of ju­di­cial in­quiries.

There are time­less and painful les­sons that need to be avoided, learnt or re­learnt if we gen­uinely are to suc­ceed in re­vers­ing this per­ilous course of his­tory.

For­mer Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gor­bachev, the co-ar­chi­tect of the pact that ended the arms race with late US Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Reagan, must surely re­gret liv­ing long enough to wit­ness the world im­per­illed by nar­cis­sis­tic Don­ald Trump.

Ex­perts warn that not since the Cuban mis­sile stand­off has the world been this close to the pos­si­bil­ity of a nu­clear at­tack. Sadly, it is left to the US elec­torate to rein in Trump and save the world.

With­out a clear un­der­stand­ing of the fear and trep­i­da­tion that lie be­hind calls for bold ac­tion, Ramaphosa could find him­self bound to po­lit­i­cal self-doubt or, worse still, ANC ar­ro­gance and tur­moil. Ramaphosa has a solemn duty to take bold ac­tion and help re­verse the per­ilous tra­jec­tory on which his pre­de­ces­sor and the ANC set our democ­racy. Oth­er­wise, the ANC’s coup de grâce – should it fail to pla­cate the ma­jor­ity of its sup­port­ers ahead of next year’s polls – may be South Africa’s sav­ing grace.

Khaas is ex­ec­u­tive chair­per­son of Cor­po­rate SA. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @tebo­gokhaas


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