Llewellyn Kriel is back in town, with one of his finest pieces to date! My toes were curling in delight at this one. I love his style, his turn of phrase and his "in your face" criticism of the ANC. Reading his articles, it is hard to believe that he once was a Daily Mail, anti apartheid, Nat basher. Nowadays, he just hates the ANC. And I just luv to see him doing it.
Africa-time is alive and deadly as usual
Almost within minutes of moving into the White House, US President Barack Obama was issuing orders, addressing priorities and meeting ordinary Americans on their terms, in their towns and face to face. He even wrote a note for a 10-year-old girl to be excused from school for attending a town hall meeting with her dad.
His flurry of foreign visits saw a no-nonsense leader of intellectual stature, sniper-like insight, enormous vision and unassailable integrity assuming his role as the “First Citizen” of the world’s most powerful nation.
And Americans, deservedly, stuck their chests out with patriotic pride.
At home, the Obamas epitomised familial cohesion, genuine love and exemplary moral values. And Michelle rocketed to the acme of popularity as the reigning paragon of the 21st century woman, effortlessly combining femininity, style, personality and grace with her maternal duties, spousal support and individual yet intellectually astute opinions in her new role as Flotus (as the Secret Service dubs the First Lady).
Obama is backed by one of the better administrations the US has seen with effective, respected, dedicated and charismatic civil servants such as Hillary Clinton, Tim Geithner, Eric Holder, Robert Gates, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs and the best speechwriter in the world, 27-year-old Jon Favreau.
All of this stands in diametric and dramatic contrast with the newly elected/same old ANC regime under Jacob Zuma which generates no admiration and a largely disinterested, dysfunctional and arrogant cluster of egotists along for the regular relaxing, all-expenses-paid joyride. And arguably one of the worst speechwriters in the universe in some unknown, semi-literate, backroom sycophant.
This week Zuma, full of “sound and fury, signifying nothing”, tried to chastise loyal ANC voters whose rage at 15 years of empty promises without service delivery is boiling over into random rioting, looting, arson and murderous xenophobia — same as last year. In a scene reminiscent of an apartheid-era Broederbond convocation, he told an audience of exclusively black business moguls violence would not be tolerated. Such a message from someone who sings about wanting his machine gun more often than he sings the national anthem rings hollow and risible around the world.
And ordinary South Africans hang their heads in shame.
After a six-month sojourn with my family in the United States, 15 minutes from the heart of Washington DC, the White House and the Capitol, I have experienced first-hand the reality of what is achievable and what it will take to get there. It is certainly not a flawless future, but is infinitely preferable to the ruinous, unimaginative and unrealistic prospects under Zuma.
When the “Big Three” most powerful automakers in America, Alan Mulally of Ford, Robert Nardelli of Chrysler and Richard Wagoner of GM, came to Washington with bailout begging bowls outstretched, they made the now-infamous and egregious blunder of flying in via multimillion-dollar executive jets. They were publicly humiliated and universally excoriated, and deserved every ounce of disgust they received. Not only did their inexcusable arrogance demonstrate they were completely out of touch with reality and hopelessly insensitive to the woes of their customers, but they made global fools of themselves. And their companies.
It is equally disgraceful that, on the odd occasion when some bloated minister does take time out from admiring his or her vast bank balance, she or he arrives in some wretched tin-shanty ghetto, rank with the stench of open sewers and mountains of putrid litter, in gleaming multimillion-rand luxury armoured security-guarded entourages costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of rands. These visits are always more publicity photo ops than sincere efforts to attend to or rectify the problems — problems mostly of their own creation.
The Zumaphrodites (neither public servant nor political leader), who spend more time defending their profligacy and abuse of office than they dedicate to doing any good, then scurry back to securing more lucrative executive posts for unqualified distant family members or signing off on a multimillion-rand tender for a company they invariably own.
Since the ruling ANC was returned by a huge majority in April’s election, it has done and achieved virtually nothing. And the evidence of ruinous decrepitude is everywhere. It was evident to global television audiences during the rather limp-wristed Confederations Cup, the unofficial appetiser for the Fifa Soccer World Cup, as it is on news and documentary broadcasts throughout the world. And today, less than a year from kick-off, frenzied activity is everywhere, but real progress is AWOL.
Bearing in mind the 2010 World Cup has been touted by the same government as South Africa’s “hallelujah event”, akin to a national winning of the lottery, that will miraculously catapult the country from its 16 years of wandering in the desert into its rightful inheritance as the land they promised in 1994, to which it is cosmically entitled. It will be a cruel, though not undeserved irony when it turns out that in that fabled land of milk and honey, 80% of the population is lactose intolerant and allergic to bees.
At present there is hardly a road in Gauteng that is not in life-threateningly dangerous condition and the cost in traffic congestion, lost productivity and vehicle damage is astonishing — shocking in the midst of the country’s worst recession. Power failures are part of the working day (and if you don’t like it, buy a fucking generator, arsehole!), house building is half of what it was last year while it takes twice as long to sell your home than it did. And the vaunted ubercop-unit, the Hawks (hahaha!), that replaced the obviously effective Scorpions, disbanded because the latter was building case after case against minister after minister, including the Man With The Shower On His Head, only has one lonely employee months after coming into existence.
A crippling week-long strike set construction of stadiums and the Gautrain (which the ANC has now acknowledged won’t be fully operational by “Hallelujah Day” anyway) back at least two weeks. And flexing their communist muscles, union leaders continue to hold the nation to ransom with the threat of yet more strikes if businesses don’t dance to their tune. The country is doomed to more extensive strikes this week across a broad spectrum of industries and essential services after unions rejected double-digit percentage pay hikes by employers. Worst hit will be municipal services further devastating SA’s already ineffective and terminally ill local service delivery, dealing Hallelujah Day another body blow, and ultimately entrenching poverty and joblessness as take-it-or-leave-it facts of life.
On Friday the long-overdue R4.5 billion Seacom undersea telecommunications cable with a delivery capacity of 1.28 terabytes a second went live — and beleaguered consumers, buckling under some of the most expensive telecommunications costs in the world, were immediately warned not to expect cheaper bandwidth any time soon, so wretched is the country’s communications infrastructure.
“Africa time” is a derogatory term for the extravagantly slow pace characteristic of the Dark Continent. The closest concept in English is borrowed from Spanish — mañana — meaning “tomorrow”, but in Africa’s indigenous languages there is no phrase that conveys the same sense of urgency.
Where Barack Obama has galvanised — despite the battle his health care reforms now face — Americans to urgently fight the economic crash, Jacob Zuma, still shrouded in clouds of corruption and fraud, has managed to attend a couple of conferences and sign into law an odious and intrusive piece of legislation euphemistically called “Rica” requiring registration of cellphone SIM cards. This Orwellian law, like Fica and a host of others, compels users to provide personal information (including home addresses) and amounts to a further violation of civil liberties on top of an existing litany of viral invasions. All of this personal information is held by clandestine government departments with no private sector oversight. Heaven help any soccer fan with an iPhone wanting to call the missus back home from some half-finished stadium next year!
In a country in which identity theft is rampant and easy — all you need is a person’s birthday or identity number (and these are tossed about with gullible childlike abandon) — the wealthy, and especially wealthy tourists who won’t be staying long anyway, are constant targets. And Africa time ensures that, in the unlikely event of action by a corrupt and dysfunctional justice system, years will pass before any finality is reached. Experts estimate that more than 80% of tourists to SA don’t even bother reporting crime any more. But they do talk about it back home from Sebastopol to San Francisco.
Buoyed by a lack of political will, an inept, understaffed, underequipped and deeply corrupt police service and uniformly ineffectual deterrents, crime is way out in front as South Africa’s biggest industry and largest employer. Furthermore it is singularly characterised by extreme and wanton violence — a murder every half hour and rape every 20 seconds — making SA one of the most dangerous countries and the most violent country in which a war or terrorist activities are not being waged. This “industry” is salivating at the potential next year’s Soccer World Cup holds. We’re told the authorities “have plans in place to deal with crime” — yeah, right!
Into this lethal maelstrom the government, its battalions of sycophantish corporate sector sponsors and organisers expect the world’s soccer fans (the number has recently been downscaled to only about 400 000) to step next year — placing their trust and their lives in nothing more than the flimsy promises from a government now under siege by its own supporters for not keeping its promises.
It is scant wonder then that Barack Obama’s only visit to Africa was not to the economic and developmental powerhouse of the continent, but to Ghana. Obama, who is a real president and not the tatty imitation we have to survive, is too astute to legitimise SA’s buffoonery with a state visit (though he will have to do so some time because of diplomatic necessity). But his harsh warnings to every African leader, especially ours, were not lost on the rest of the world.
Loosely translated, he said: “Put away your perennial begging bowls. We will no longer keep doling out the bucks. The US and the rest of the world will definitely help you, but only if you quit whining about the past, get off your arses and sort out your shit — and do it NOW!”
He might as well have added: “And not on Africa time either”.
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