South Africa is in a recession. Pravin Gordhan has warned against profligate spending calling for belt-tightening measures. With a shrinking tax base, growing unemployment, constant job losses, and the inability of the economy to create jobs, fiscal responsibility should start with politicians.
I firmly believe President Jacob Zuma wants to do the right thing to get the economy growing, the education system resurrected, and municipalities working. But Zuma’s intentions are at loggerheads with his party’s ideologies and inclinations hence the intractable problems of unemployment, service delivery, and job creation, remain. Dependent upon the Alliance partners for hegemony, Zuma is weakest in reining in the Unions when it comes to job creation and labour liberalization, reforming the education system by radically overhauling the teaching system, and subjecting proportional party representation to grassroots accountability.
The shift is difficult because the ANC is trapped by its antiquated verbiage of a national democratic movement and democratic centralism while it feeds at the trough like every other capitalist. All it needs to be is a modern political party guided by the principles of constitutional democracy. The rule of law, respect for human rights, the independence of the judiciary, constraints on executive power by parliament, as well as racial transformation in its most accountable form should be the tenets undergirding its democratic governance.
It is one thing to preach fiscal responsibility. It is another for the elected officials to set the example. Julius Malema, behaving increasingly like the ANC’s court jester, justifies communist Blade Nzimande’s one million Rand car as necessary for security reasons. But Blade is not alone. Most ministers, deputy or otherwise, use the state’s resources to enrich themselves in the most profligate of ways and use their security as a reason for this extravagance. Some even refuse to live in the houses allocated to them and live on golf estates. Fully aware of public rage by setting the Vampire state in motion, they feel unsafe in their own people’s republic. Thus the rationale for their security is strange given that MPs and MEC’s, travel accompanied by murderous blue light convoys in the tradition of Mugabe, Amin, Bokassa, Arap Moi and Seso Seko. These Blue Light brigades have often put the security of ministers at risk by smashing into other road users at illegally high speeds, in some instances killing them, shooting at motorists, attacking news photographers and confiscating their pictures.
Among the security features considered necessary in government cars are: electrical folding towbars (R8200), rear seat entertainment (R23400), high-gloss satin paint finish (R5600), leather seats (R41 100), 21-inch alloy wheels (R16 900), and sunroof (R13 600), and in some instances, massage car seats. No wonder, politicians are rarely in their offices, more often than not driven around in their own private spas!
However one of the essential security features not mentioned by critics is a high-tech, adaptive suspension system that guarantees a soft compliant ride. Is this perhaps because the purge of highly qualified engineers, replaced by deployed parasites at twice their salaries, has meant the deterioration of our roads to such an extent that in many parts of the country we have more potholes than roads?
In this respect, Helen Zille is a model of what public servants should be like. She has used her family skadonk for years without a body guard or blue light brigade until an attempt on her life in Khayelitsha, enthusiastically endorsed by Max Ozinsky. Zille has also exposed the lie that million rand luxury German Sedans instantly become a security risk, to be replaced when their odometers register 115 000 kilometres. A pool car driven by her health MEC has safely done double that distance, as have many of ours as citizens.
I did not expect our SACP representatives to personify Smuts Ngonyama’s immortal words, “I did not join the struggle to remain poor.” But the urgency to accumulate as much patronage as possible is understandable. The current leadership cannot be sure how long they will remain in office. With a growing current account deficit, a fast decreasing tax base as many more leave the country, the goose that lays South Africa’s golden egg is looking both anaemic and skeletal. With corruption systemic at every level of society, competition for the diminishing levels of the gravy in the state-funded trough is becoming increasingly savage.
President Zuma, you can stop the rot. But please start with your cabinet.