Friday, October 23, 2009

The Whitey in the Woodpile

By Pat Rogers (Richmark Sentinel)

It is hard to imagine, any other place or time, a political party could win its first democratic election by a landslide, led by a living historic icon, and proceed to screw up seriously in every direction. That the ANC remains arrogantly and ignorantly in power is, as I have mentioned before, due to an electorate that complains and complains but does nothing. You know, as we used to say about Zimbabwe? The Rhodesian Ruins?

The SA Institute of Race Relations reported in 2006 that the number of people living in extreme poverty (the measure used by the World Bank being $1 per day) had increased from 1.9 million in 2005 to 4.2 million in 2006. Jobs this year, instead of increasing by 500 000 as promised, are likely to decrease by just about that number.

Consensus on the number of people who died from AIDS, as a result of Government’s denial policy and obstruction of anti- retroviral treatment, is around 300 000 or more. Apart from a few activists, no sweeping voter reaction. The arms deal still haunts us and still costs us: R47 billion more for unneeded aircraft? Eskom power costs to more than treble and treble and treble again?

But surprise, surprise - things have changed, partly through continued lack of basic services at the bottom of the totem pole. Many of us in the middle classes have wondered how so many of those people from “human settlements” emerge from there to arrive at work looking so presentable. Squatting on the top end of the pole and spending like drunken sailors are uncaring and hopelessly performing ministerial and departmental heads and retinues – the police minister, I think, squandered R500 000 for short-term hotel accommodation.

Are we looking at a French revolution here (Marie Antoinette and “let them eat cake”)? No, but while the electorate does not like change, there is a split now within the tripartite alliance itself - the ANC, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party – the latter two being the “Polokwane” Left, while the ANC has said it believes that the burning tyres, smoke, stone- throwing and police action we have seen on our screens lately, mirroring the anti-apartheid demonstrations of yesteryear, are instigated by the SACP.

That excellent-value newspaper, “The Times”, has put it well. “What the SACP and Cosatu are hoping to achieve is fundamentally undemocratic … massive influence over government policy without ever testing the views of the public in an election… Much better would be an openly contested election where the strengths of contradictory policy positions were established with the voters”.

While we are mentioning the Press, and I write this on Press Freedom Day, commemorating the effective closing down of the free black press by the apartheid government some 30 years ago, I should acknowledge also columnist Justice Malala, and his contribution “ANC – Capitalists vs Socialists”.

I think that is flattering to both sides, and that what they have in common is stronger – the
Great God Greed, which here supercedes ideology and frustrates the electorate. True, they could be reminded that under Stalin’s regime (1924 – 1953) , some 20 million people lost their lives. And that our CP leader was quick to order another of those snazzy
automobiles at R1 million plus.

When leftist Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, says inequality between rich and poor in SA has widened and that this is constraining growth, I would refer him to the SAIRR figures and suggest that in any event if we are looking at equality rather than advancement as our priority, it would be easy to simply lower everybody’s income. “Don’t work, take” could be the slogan, if you like Siberia. The fact is also that many of our unemployed are unemployable, thanks to declining standards of education and training, and just about the lowest productivity in the world.

Looking at the already formidable list of starter disasters perpetrated by the ANC in power, I neglected to mention Zimbabwe, which I presume we still supply with cheap electricity (we will never know), and with which we could still have been trading in all kinds of goodies. We hear that SADEC and the AU and assorted such nomenclatures are now meeting to discuss the Roy Bennett affair (designate deputy agriculture minister, charged with some death-sentence offence).

All I know about Roy (52) is that he married my brother Buck’s daughter, Heather. He was a member of the Rhodesian (British South Africa) Police Force (the BSAP) where I was before him, became a wealthy farmer focused on switching the eastern districts from tobacco to ground and canned coffee, and was everywhere with his tractors, building bridges, during the great floods (remember the pictures of the woman giving birth in a tree?).

On the few occasions we met over the years he would never listen to wise and patient explanations about Mugabe and the need to get himself and the family the hell out of there.

I think I am now entitled to say “I told you so”, and to add that if I were the ultimate judge of the Nobel Peace Prize nominees, I would make it: 1) Morgan Tsvangerai 2) Roy Bennett 3) Barack Obama.

Roy would be the whitey in the wood pile, coming in from left field.

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