ANC setting South Africa on path towards failed statehood
The recent explosion of xenophobic violence in South Africa has caused President Thabo Mbeki finally to be written off. Can Jacob Zuma reverse the slide towards failed statehood?
The question is about both Zuma himself and the African National Congress (ANC). This party wants to tighten control of the state, but the party, like the state, is increasingly characterised by arrogance, complacency, corruption, and cronyism. They would sooner rename streets than repair them. They can vote millions for a ‘Pan-African parliament’ but cannot supply all schools with lavatories. They can provide billions for an international soccer jamboree but little for sports facilities in poor communities.
The rot set into Mbeki’s presidency when he torpedoed the parliamentary investigation into the arms deal. The state presidency to which Zuma aspires will start on an equally rotten note, the destruction of the Scorpions.
Affirmative action, nepotism, corruption, and the ANC’s deployment policy have undermined almost every department at every level of government and eroded the capacity of local authorities to provide the services promised to poor communities. The independence of regulatory bodies such as the Medicines Control Council is under threat. Having been hijacked by one faction of the party, the SABC is now a target for another hijack. Factionalism also helped to turn the nation’s intelligence services into a comic opera.
Among the things already destroyed are the commandos responsible for rural security.
Destruction now threatens private health care, property rights, the Land Bank, and commercial agriculture. The country’s capacity to produce enough food will be undermined, just as its ability to produce enough electricity has been jeopardised. Our capacity to combat AIDS has been undermined by ministers who trash modern medicine in favour of quack remedies. Poor people battle through the courts to obtain social grants that thousands of civil servants are happy to steal. We cannot produce, retain, or attract the skills we need. Nor can we keep our borders and airports secure, let alone our roads, suburbs, and townships safe.
Even as their ability to do anything useful declines, our ministers seek more intrusive and arbitrary powers. But their ability to build is far outweighed by their power to destroy. Think of the mostly useless sector education and training authorities (Setas). How easy it was by contrast simply to shut down teacher training colleges.
For none of this is anyone held accountable. Accountability has been shed in as cavalier a fashion as Eskom sheds its loads. The only person to pay a price for his actions is the one who tried to upset the gravy cart of cronyism, Vusi Pikoli.
Along with the legacy of apartheid and the liberation struggle itself, the ANC inherited the most technically advanced state in Africa. No other liberation movement started with so valuable an asset, built by people of all races, yet it shows a greater capacity to run it down than to run it.
South Africans are not naturally xenophobic. Millions of workers from neighbouring states lived in hostels and toiled on our mines for generations with relatively little conflict. Now their entrepreneurial abilities and work ethic seem too much for local people to stomach in the context of the corruption, crime, unemployment, poverty, squalor, and despair for which the ANC is responsible. Unlike the Soweto explosions in 1976, the current violence has not been accompanied by widespread destruction of government property. But once the foreigners have been chased home, there will be other targets to attack next time round. A few years ago local councillors were among them.
Like Mbeki in his aeroplane, the ANC seems remote from the consequences of its failed policies. Can Zuma see the writing on the wall? It is hardly conceivable that he will not fire the health minister. His visits to Western countries suggest he will pursue a foreign policy less hostile to the liberal democracies than that of Mbeki. His call for labour market reform – though retracted – can nevertheless open up debate on an issue that Mbeki finally ducked.
But the big question is whether Zuma has the wisdom, strength of character, and leadership skills to turn the ruling party into a different kind of animal.
POSTED BY CFC NEWSROOM- W.CAPE