Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Poor old South Africa, I should think Nelson Mandela will already be turning in his grave. The poor man didn't say very much for the last few years of his life and as he viewed the state of SA from his home or hospital bed it's not surprising. SA has not changes a great deal since the bad old days of apartheid. The police are still fairly brutal, witness the shooting dead of 34 workers who were on strike at the Marikana mine. In the bad old days that would have been plastered across every newspaper in the West and sanctions would have been tightened at the very least. Now it hardly gets a mention and not many people even know it happened.

Corruption has hit new levels of efficiency. In fact, the new elite, the Africans who took over, particularly in government, are the nouveau rich and have just replaced the ruling white minority but carry on and enjoy in the same manner of power. Apartheid may be gone and the population have far more freedom to do and go where they want but ask Mr or Mrs average whether they feel any better off and the answer is usually 'no'. The poor remain poor and many get poorer by the day. Little has been done since majority rule to alleviate their problems. Townships and all the squalor that goes with them still exist.

The economy is going down the pan. When majority rule was attained the SA rand was worth two to the pound Stirling, it is now worth 15 and corruption has done most to devalue it. There are now over 7 million unemployed in SA and that is a rise of 1.5 million since Zuma came to power with his promise to foster industry and investment and create jobs. This in a country of 52 million souls. According to an MP (Lindiwe Mazibuko) in a parliamentary speech, 30 billion rand go missing every year directly into the pockets of the politically connected insiders. A classic example of this is the 200 million rand spent on upgrading Zuma's private residence. SA bonds are fast heading towards junk status which does nothing to help future investment.

The crime rate soars, since 2007 there have been more that 12,000 murders a year and rising. The world average for murder is 7.6 per 100,000. In SA it is 36.5 per 100,000. In fact, in the year 2011/2012 nearly 16,000 people were murdered. During the same period there were 300,000 reported sexual offences. Over 400 drug related crimes are reported to the police every day.

The ANC, founded in 1912, was an a-tribal organisation that genuinely wished to abolish tribalism. However, this is Africa and abolishing tribalism is about as easy as chewing iron. The last three leaders of the ANC were Tambo, Mandela and Mbeki and they were all Xhosa. If you are going to ignore tribal attachments then this should not matter. But the Zulus are the biggest tribe in SA and the ANC was actually founded by a Zulu. When Mbeki was the president he fired Zuma, a Zulu, and this put the cat amongst the pigeons. Zuma waged a long campaign to oust Mbeki and when he succeeded and became presided he filled all top posts with fellow Zulus. The result, a return to tribalism in a big way and, in fact, this aids corruption. Inevitably the Mandela family are still a very influential group but they are Xhosa.

This flammable mixture of nepotism, cronyism and tribalism will lead to serious trouble in SA unless the next elections, due this year, throws up a leader of stature. Most sub-Saharan countries have fallen victim to this mixture of corruption and it usually ends in bloodshed. Even Kenya, long seen as an island of stability surrounded by an ocean of storms, fell victim to mass murders and inter tribal killings. You only have to peek over the boarder at Zimbabwe. Mugabe's inaugural speech promised a land of peace and racial harmony free from tribalism. He then, as a Shona, ordered the killing of thousands of his political opponents most of whom were Matabele. He has systematically deprived his white citizens of their jobs, firms and farms and given them to his cronies. He has turned one of the richest countries in Africa in to one of the poorest.

SA is still held up as the rainbow nation and it is by no means too late to pull it back from the brink of destruction but it does need a charismatic leader. Another Mandela may be too much to ask for but if such a leader does not come forth the signs are ominous.

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