Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Opposition Wins Again

Cheers erupted from the ANC caucus in parliament as speaker Baleka Mbete read the results of the secret ballot vote of no confidence against Jacob Zuma. 177 for. 198 against. The irony is that this group of jubilant souls were only celebrating their own demise.

To say the opposition lost would be technically accurate, but not at all a fair reflection of the bigger picture. The vote of no confidence failed, but the opposition won. You see, this was always a win-win situation. The very idea of the no-confidence vote was to put the ANC between a rock and a hard place. That is why we have had 8 of them already. Each time the ANC votes to keep Jacob Zuma in power they tie themselves ever closer to their greatest liability and alienate those who "love the ANC but hate Zuma." Every time the ANC caucus puts their weight behind Zuma they lose seats in the 2019 election.

I'm sure most ANC MPs know this, but are more concerned about saving themselves from the whip of party discipline than saving the party from the wrath of the voters and the mire of immorality. Though sometimes I do wonder.

On the other hand, voting Zuma out would also be a dangerous road and additionally, it would be an unpredictable one. No one really knows what would have happened had the required 50 ANC MP's broken ranks and had the president removed. It is far from inconceivable that it would cause an irreparable rift and possibly a split in the party. Far less likely, it would have been the turning point for the ANC to course correct and repair its once honourable reputation. But those possibilities are just what-ifs now. The ruling party has chosen the slow poison.

The only way for the ANC to escape this trap would be to recall Zuma itself. This would allow them to show some semblance of morality while not bending to the will of the opposition, though at this point it may even be too late for such a move to still be considered a show of strength. But this hasn't yet and certainly will not happen until at least the electoral conference in December. There are too many people high up on his side who would go down with him.

The country needs Jacob Zuma gone. But Jacob Zuma is not the extent of the problem. The ANC is the problem. You cannot separate Zuma from the ANC, and the secret ballot vote proved that. Zuma is not unique, he is a representation of what is happening in the rest of his party. Most of the ANC are as morally decayed as Zuma. If it were not so, he would not be in power. The whole party needs to go.

So while the DA and the EFF publicly mourn the retaining of President Zuma, privately they will be celebrating another hole fired into the sinking ship of the ruling party, all while its hopeless crew drown, shackled to their own pride.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Just Us and Venezuela

As we approach the decade mark since the start of the great recession all countries are now in recovery, well, all but two that is: economically devastated Venezuela and yup, you guessed it, South Africa. As of, well now, along with Venezuela we are the only economy (out of more than 200!) in recession.

First off, this means that any excuses about a slow global economy for our our limited growth are null and void. Second, although they are major contributors, Zuma and the Guptas are not the sole cause.

I'm sure most people know that there is trouble in Venezuela, but probably not the extent. In 1998 Hugo Chavez and his United Socialist Party took over the government, and as with all socialist projects things were wonderful at first, with the poor suddenly having access to housing, healthcare and education amongst other things. But socialists live on borrowed time and things quickly turned south. In 2016 Venezeula's GDP dropped more that 18% and inflation rose to 500%. Today the people of the once most prosperous state in South America are starving. The shops are empty and when they do have food lines stretch for hundreds of metres outside the store and around the block. And to make matters worse, Chavez' successor, Nicolas Maduro just used a bogus election to take control of all branches of government to further oppress the people.

So now you're thinking, "But Venezuela is nothing like South Africa?" You'll be surprised at the similarities:

  • Venezuela's economy is completely oil based, so when the oil price collapsed several years ago, so did their economy. Our economy is heavily reliant on the mining sector and so when there is trouble in the mining industry, as there has been in recent years, the whole economy suffers. Fortunately, unlike Venezuela, we are not completely a one-trick-pony.
  • When oil prices were high the Venezuelan government used the money for extensive social spending. When the oil price dropped they decided to keep spending and so put themselves into a debt crisis. Our government also does an unhealthy amount of social spending and it is putting us in debt. Yes many people have a better quality of life courtesy of the government purse, but if you feed the people today with tomorrow's bread, tomorrow the people will starve.
  • The United Socialist Party of Venezuela came to and maintains power not on sound policy and economic principles, but on populist rhetoric and Robin Hood economics. That is the same way the ANC maintains power. Free housing, free electricity, grants and government handouts: people are far more likely to believe according to what pleases the ear than what is true. They don't realise that the magic well of free stuff will eventually run dry.
  • Finally, and most importantly, the power in Venezuela is too concentrated. The government does far more than it should ever need to do, even by mainstream centre-left standards today. This is the root of the crisis. In South Africa the government also does far more than it has the right to do. It can't handle all the responsibilities it has taken upon itself, but it is yet seeking more. And worse yet, power within the government is becoming more centralised, with the Zupta faction now controlling the national assembly, the NPA, the judiciary, the public protector and many other institutions. We are on dangerous ground.
I honestly don't think we will reach the point Venezuela has. Even though we are heading in the same direction we are going slower and have sharper breaks in the form of power and influential moderates, who stand up against wannabe dictators. But we can't sit back and relax. Our country is in deep trouble. Unlike Venezuela, we have diagnosed our problems (at least some of them) early. Now we must be quick to act as well.