Monday, 11 August 2008

South Africa - a land of hope and dashed dreams

As I drive through Sandton I see cranes and evidence of construction in all directions. The Gautrain is on the way and driving from Johannesburg to Pretoria reveals the evidence. Stadiums are being built for the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

The world is currently suffering the effects of high oil prices, spiralling food costs and the aftermath of the Sub-Prime crisis. South Africa is not immune. Interest rates have increased by 500 basis points over two years to counter inflation. Belts are being tightened.

Yet all around I see signs of a vibrant economy. Business has not shied away from investing. Houses are being built, office buildings rise to the sky, roads are being improved. Inflation is showing signs of peaking and the fall in the oil price should help fuel a continued slowdown in inflation.

These signs make me feel positive and hopeful. South Africa has a bright future, and once interest rates fall the economy should boom once again.

But there is another worrying side to the story. The ruling party - the ANC - has undergone something of a transformation over the last few months. Jacob Zuma - due to stand trial on charges of corruption - has been elected as the new president of the organisation. The left has put its weight behind him as well. The ANC "old guard" have largely been side-lined in favour of Zuma supporters. The unofficial split in the organisation has been very bitter.

The new leadership is full of people that have been convicted of fraud and corruption. The value system and principles of the organisation are a thing of the past. What has been replaced is a kind of fanatical support for Jacob Zuma. The Judiciary is attacked for having a "political agenda". The Scorpions - South Africa's equivalent of the FBI is to be abolished.

The Scorpions made it possible for Jacob Zuma to be prosecuted for corruption. He is fighting to stop the prosecution. The Scorpions uncovered the Travelgate scandal where MPs received cash for non-existant travel. Many of the new leadership of the ANC were convicted in this scandal. Without the Scorpions' "political agenda" their records would have been clean.

Julius Malema is the new president of the ANC Youth League. He has vowed to "kill for Zuma" though he was unspecific as to who was on the list. He will "eliminate" the "counter-revolutionary forces" that do not support Jacob Zuma. There have been threats of "No Zuma, No South Africa" from supporters outside the court.

Democracy is no longer important. The rule of law is not important. The courts are being undermined. It is a kind of emerging fascism. An emerging fascism strongly supported by the left. The SA Communist Party and the Trade Union movement naively believe that the new leadership will deliver what they want.

In the meantime the "old school" ANC members are keeping very quiet. Many have distanced themselves from the new rhetoric, but few have spoken out. The ANC is set to lose votes at the next election, but there is no viable opposition.

The answer for now is to wait and see. But some of our dreams have been dashed.

1 comment:

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