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(A quick and lightweight aside on a Sunday morning … not part of the ‘deep blue’ series, but bleak enough – I wouldn’t want to disappoint anybody.)
Mandela ailing in the last few days before Mangaung?
Perhaps the universe does have a sense of humour; one that delights in casual cruelties, sneering irony and a deep, dark and impenetrable sarcasm.
Are we facing the death of the universally beloved founder of the (now) great teetering edifice of the South African democracy just as the ANC elects Jacob Zuma for a second term as president?
Just because it is chance and random does not mean that we are not compelled, by out basic humanity, to seek hidden connections and meanings in such coincidence … or rather such impending coincidences.
When the gods smite the earth with earthquakes and floods and drought (as they are regularly wont to do), representatives of those gods have forever and always said through their thin lips: “Well, what do you think? If you behave like this of course he is going to be furious. Bring me a virgin and sharp knife, quickly!”
I can imagine the voluptuaries in the halls of the African National Congress (or at least those halls that the hoi polloi don’t get to see – where real power is bought and sold and bought again), wiping their plump, greasy hands as they push suddenly away from the laden centenary celebration tables, their sweaty faces shocked, goose liver shiny lips pursed in a meaty sphincter: “oh …. my … god!”
(Yes, yes, I know that in amongst the many thousands of Nkandla beneficiaries (and friends and family), assassins, warlords, desperately confused hoi polloi, drivers of large gleaming cars, meeting-chair-breakers, confused little old ladies who had meant to go to the church next door, rent-a-crowd members … and those who are only there for the tshirts and braai, there are several good people fighting the good fight, making famous last stands and that sort of thing. So I obviously don’t mean you have any goose fat to wipe off your faces or that you have plump, grasping little hands … that’s those others, at the top-table – who have spent more on liposuction in the last 5 years than you will earn in your lifetime – no, don’t get up, we know who you are. Glad to have cleared that up.)
The point is that it is going to be impossible not to think of Mandela’s death as some kind of inevitable yin to Mangaung’s yang (it works the other way around too.)
A slaughter of a whole reed dance of virgins will not appease these gods (which are nothing more than our ape brain need to impute narrative to randomness) but might make a few supporters of the Traditional Courts Bill feel pious.
To ridiculously (and messily) extend the religious metaphor: what god would pop snake or stones into our trusting mouths, open to receive meat and bread?
The trickster/Pan/Loki would do precisely that, just as he/she would take Mandela with the one hand and give us the Nkandla legacy cast in military grade bunker cement with the other.
Okay, now I am ready to read the Sunday papers.
First off, let me admit, that I have no choice but to believe that the answer to the question in the title is: yes.
It’s an article of faith.
Who can live in a world where the bullies and thugs, the greedy and manipulative, the powerful and the arrogant have won so decisively that it is pointless to hope – and perhaps work – for an alternative?
Who would dare raise children in such a world?
Or bother to get up in the morning?
In a post titled “A church so broad belief is optional” I two years ago argued that the ANC’s huge electoral support and attempt to straddle every social divide had an upside (as well as several downsides).
Here’s a (slightly edited) quote from that post:
Our society has a number of real and urgent fault-lines along which clashing currents are difficult to manage:
- White versus black (versus Indian versus Coloured)
- poor versus rich;
- the employed versus the unemployed;
- Zulu versus Xhosa versus Pedi versus Ndebele versus Sotho versus Tswana versus Venda;
- Western versus African;
- Urban, modern and fast versus rural, traditional and conservative.
The fact of the matter is that these divisions are not adequately represented in the formal political processes of parliament and government. There is no one party on one side of any of these divisions and mostly no one party on the other.
We are a society in which the formal institutions of democracy are new and tentative – and the divisions are threatening and profound. As many groups and interests as possible need to find expression in the national political debate - and the formal institutions do not yet adequately represent them.
As a second prize, an overwhelmingly dominant ruling party that attempts to play the role of a parliament of all the people, that attempts to speak with the cacophony of the thousand arguing tongues, is not all bad.
It’s just loud, noisy, confusing and unsettling.
This argument came to mind as I picked through the weekly English language press (Mail & Guardian, City Press, Sunday Independent and the Sunday Times) this morning.
I do an exhaustive/exhausting reading of the English language weeklies every Sunday afternoon/night to produce a summary analysis for my main clients by Monday morning. It is an extremely painful task and I am always tempted to quote that famous Punch magazine cartoon from November 9 1895 by George du Maurier to describe what I really think of these newspapers. A bishop is dining, in a formal setting, with a junior curate:
Bishop: “I’m afraid you’ve got a bad egg, Mr Jones”;
Curate: “Oh, no, my Lord, I assure you that parts of it are excellent!”
But I never actually say that, because there are always a few articles, features and editorials in all four of these newspapers that are truly excellent: well researched, well written and insightful; and it would be untrue and unjust – and a little arrogant – for me to suggest they all stink by virtue of being surrounded, as they are, by rotten, ill-informed and sensationalist rubbish.
So back to the title question.*
The Sunday Times has Motlanthe rejecting Zuma’s deal of the deputy presidency in exchange for him (Motlanthe) not standing in the presidential race.
It’s a particularly poorly structured story (trying to get away with suggesting a whole range of things without actually saying any of them) although it is full of tantalising tidbits.
So lets take the hints (from all four of the mentioned newspapers) as real possibilities:
- Motlanthe stands against Zuma;
- Unraveling patronage networks, especially in eThikwine, open(s?) the possibility of driving a wedge in Zuma’s Kwazulu-Natal support base;
- To strengthen his ticket against Motlanthe, Zuma offers Cyril Ramaphosa the deputy presidency;
- Gauteng suggests Joel Netshitenzhe as part of the Motlanthe challenge – essentially to stand against Gwede Mantashe (who’s a cornerstone of the SACP support for Zuma);
- Winnie Madikizela-Mandela comes out more explicitly anti-Zuma (especially of his handling of Julius Malema) and supportive of the putative Motlanthe challenge.
So what do we have there?
A Zuma, Ramaphosa, SACP ticket versus a Motlanthe, Netshitenzhe, Winnie, Malema ticket?
Oh Lord, give me strength.
Can’t we have a Joel Neshitenzhe, Cyril Ramaphosa ticket supported by Motlanthe and opposed by the ANC Youth League, Winnie Mandela and an unholy alliance of the Kwazulu-Natal and Mpumalanga patronage networks? (I have written previously about Joel on this website here, here and here.)
That desire is the moral and intellectual equivalent of arm-chair sports selecting. It would be nice … as would a leadership consisting of a young and vigorous Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu …
So quickly, before I go back to picking my way through the odorous wreckage of the four weeklies spread out on my table and floor (the soul-crushing banality of etv’s Sunday afternoon offering in the background and the Cape Town winter sun finally beckoning outside):
What happens at Mangaung will not decisively determine the character of the ANC.
Polokwane was billed as a major rescue attempt – saving the ANC from the dead hand of Mbeki and rolling back the power of the narrow BEE elite which was allied to the most predatory forms of global monopoly capitalism.
Polokwane was going to reinstill the movement with idealism, energy and enthusiasm and channel it into ‘a pro-poor strategy’.
Well, we know how that played out.
Mangaung, like Polokwane, was a result of a complex interplay of forces and contests that go deep into South Africa’s past.
I cannot honestly argue that Jacob Zuma is a better or worse candidate for the ANC or the South African presidency than Kgalema Motlanthe – although I accept that some people can and do (with a lot of enthusiasm).
However, politics is a matter of contingency. It really is the art of the possible … in this sense it is full of difficult compromises.
Any individual who finds him or her self in an ANC branch or region or leadership position, will be faced with choices that, when aggregated, will shape the future of the ANC and, quite possibly, the country. (The same is, of course, true for any South African, inside or outside the ANC.)
Those choices might be circumscribed – by history, by existing power structures and alliances, by the momentum invested by those who control the patronage networks and by wherever it is that the individual finds him or her self.
But if you are not going to throw up your hands in despair and retreat to your bed forever, if you are unable to cut and run, then you have an obligation to make some kind of decision and choice.
I do believe that what the ANC becomes matters – although what it becomes is not going to be determined at Mangaung or as a result of it being led by Kgalema Motlanthe or by Jacob Zuma.
* (Note added a few hours later. On reflection, I might have empasised that the cartoon is even more apt for the ANC than it is for the English language SA weeklies … it was meant to be suggested, almost by my omission … but on reflection, I think I will spell it out … which I have now done.)
I’ve been itching to get in my two cents worth about Jimmy Manyi’s various comments concerning ethnic minorities (here for his original statement on YouTube, here for Trevor Manuel’s robust criticism, here for the ANCYL’s counter-attack on Manuel and defence of Manyi, here for ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe’s implicit criticism of Manuel … “we won’t get in the mud with him”. Here‘s Cosatu joining the attack on Manyi and here‘s the SACP criticising Manyi but warning not to become part of the agenda of Afriforum and Solidarity - probably implying that Manuel has become part of that agenda.)
So much for curating the spat … now I want to say something about it.
I’ve written about Jimmy Manyi and the various endeavours by both the Black Management Forum and the ANC Youth League to gouge economic advantage out of transformation – catch that here and here for how that agenda was expressed as support for Eskom’s Jacob Maroga.
Jimmy Manyi’s comments about Coloured people must be understood in the context of the interests of the constituency he represents.
Jimmy Manyi is the quintessential spokesman of those who have got rich (or hope to get rich) through Black Economic Empowerment – including racially weighted tendering procedures – and Employment Equity regulations.
Those who define themselves as the beneficiaries of these processes are encouraged to express themselves in ever more racially chauvinistic and exclusive terms.
These Black Management Forum and the ANC Youth League leaders increasingly draw a distinction between themselves and any other ethnic group that also might have suffered under Apartheid i.e. they need to argue that they suffered the most, that everyone else was a relative beneficiary of the oppression of Africans.
The moral high ground of “non-racialism” was built and defended at great cost and effort by the ANC and its allies during the struggle against Apartheid. Apartheid planners and architects did everything they could to emphasise differences and spread fear and hatred betwixt and between as many ethnic identities as possible. This is one of the most important keys to understanding how and why that system worked and survived as long as it did.
Which is precisely why the ANC always understood its main ideological task as combating these attempts.
This is the reason Trever Manuel quotes that famous and moving last paragraph of Mandela’s speech from the dock in 1964:
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
The Jimmy Manyi’s and Julius Malema’s are a post 1994 phenomenon not contemplated by the great men and women who sacrificed so much in the struggle against Aparthied.
They are parasites of transformation, emphasising and nurturing an exclusive African racial identity because it benefits their imperative to extract a rent out of the economy.
The frenzied symphony of incompetence, pomposity, imperiousness and hysteria that the press, the Mandela family, Graça Machel and the Nelson Mandela Trust managed to produce around the mobile sickbed of the former president gives a small hint of things to come. (I personally enjoyed Peter Bruce’s comments – catch those here.)
Clearly when the Old Man finally goes, as he must, this country will initially be bathed in a blinding light and then buried in mountains of obscuring verbiage taller and wider than those that cover the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the US invasions of Iraq and Global Warming combined.
It is only the usually skittish financial markets that seemed to take the old man’s health with equanimity.
Here is my Thursday last week’s comment. (This from a piece destined for a paying client but which never made it, but also based on a previous post of mine discussing the “meaning” of the old man’s 91st birthday).
The price of one man’s health
For those who comment on South African financial markets, the national concerns about Nelson Mandela’s health – and his actual health – should be considered “investment neutral”.
But all that shows is that financial markets do not list the price of everything.
Nelson Mandela is the last symbolic link to the full ambit of the struggle of all Africans, but black South Africans in particular, to free themselves from colonialism and Apartheid.
Crucially, he is also the symbolic representative of the compromises and tolerance that characterised the negotiations from 1990 and the election in 1994.
If that was not enough for the symbol to carry, Nelson Mandela’s 27 years in prison and his calm forbearance have come to represent for many throughout the world the manifestation of the human spirit in its best possible form.
With each passing moment Mandela’s death is closer and this gives focus to anxiety about South Africa’s future – but also to anxieties about the world, about the predation of humans on each other and on the planet.
Our feelings about the lives and deaths of “great” men and women allow us an emotional link to the grand scope of the history we live in and through.
The death of Pope John Paul II and of Diana Spencer gave a sense of how, in the age of celebrity, the so-called ‘general public’ becomes emotionally connected to the grand human drama that can usually only be understood a long time afterwards and at many degrees of abstraction.
Nelson Mandela’s death will be such a moment for humanity, because it will represent the drawing together of important threads of the last several hundred years of human history.
The point, however, for the investment specialist in South African financial markets is that little will change in South Africa with the passing of the man. The real running of the country and the dealing in the compromises between the old South Africa and the new, has long moved on from Nelson Mandela.
It has now become a truism that even in his last years as president Nelson Mandela was already more important as a symbol than as a politician and statesman.
When he dies there will be real and visceral grief from comrades, friends and citizens who have participated with him in the struggles for African liberation. I imagine too, that throughout the world there will be an unprecedented outpouring of emotion that will elevate the symbol even higher than the man.
South Africa, for one last time, will be bathed in light and the centre of puzzled global attention – as it often has been since the formal beginnings of Grand Apartheid in the late 40′s and early 50′s.
It is impossible to say whether the current bout of ill-health will lead immediately to the death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.
But when he does die, which is only a matter of time, the South African financial markets – the currency, the equities, the bonds and products that derive from these – are unlikely to falter.
But that only tells us one thing: that the ticker tape does not list the price of every important thing.
This is the first of three articles that look at the political and policy bloodline of the New Growth Path and the main criticisms that have emerged about the policy in the public domain over the last few days.
This first post is a summary – using quotes and paraphrasing – of Ruling Alliance statements about macro-economic policy since 1990.
To understand the policy we have to understand:
- firstly how the policy fits into the discussion/dog fight in the Alliance over the last 20 years;
- and secondly the fact that the policy comes from Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, whose department and position, in my opinion, was a last-minute structural compromise to reward Cosatu (and to a lesser degree the SACP) for having backed Jacob Zuma against Mbeki.
So the big bulls (ANC and the SACP) have been butting heads for 20 years (see below) and now the little bull is trying to horn in on the action.
20 years in the trenches of the ideological squabble
Since the release of Mandela from prison in 1990 (and, in fact, well before that – mostly behind closed doors) different factions of the ANC, the SACP and Cosatu have had a sometimes productive and sometimes vicious policy debate about economic policy. At issue has always been the stance the state should take towards private business and the appropriate amount of persuasion and coercion required to achieve redress and redistribution.
The first sign of things to come was the speech Nelson Mandela made on his release from prison in 1990. After the excerpt from Mandela’s speech I will let the comments flow and tell their own story of the conflict within the Ruling Alliance.
A history of the conflict in quotes and paraphrases
“The nationalisation of mines, banks and monopoly industry is the policy of the ANC and the change or modification of our views in this regard is inconceivable”
Nelson Mandela paraphrasing the Freedom Charter on his release from prison in 1990
“We are convinced that neither a commandist central planning system nor an unfettered free market system can provide adequate solutions.”
The 48th ANC National Conference, July 1991 from a conference resolution
“It was a demand-led and internal infrastructural development proposal, which envisaged less immediate concern with budget deficit reduction and inflation.”
African Communist No 147, third quarter 1997 discussing the Macro Economic Research Group’s (MERG’s) proposals from 1993
“Of particular importance was the proposal to restructure the economy by way of a policy of ‘growth through redistribution in which redistribution acts as a spur to growth and in which the fruits of growth are redistributed to satisfy basic needs’. This proposal was predicated on the central policy idea that the state needed to boost demand, primarily by ensuring that greater amounts of income would be received by the poorer sections of the population, which in turn would stimulate output and hence economic growth.”
Dennis Davis in From the Freedom Charter to the Washington Consensus 2002 discussing the RDP proposal of 1993
“Despite its ideology while in opposition, once in power the ANC government implemented an orthodox macroeconomic policy which stressed deficit reduction and a tight monetary policy, combined with trade liberalisation. The stated purpose of this package (the Growth, Employment, and Redistribution programme, or GEAR) was to increase economic growth, with a 4.2% rate programmed for 1996-2000. At mid-term of the programme, growth remained far below this target. The GEAR’s lack of success cannot be explained by unfavourable external factors; rather, the disappointing performance seemed the result of fiscal contraction and excessively high interest rates”
A standard left criticism of GEAR from: Stuck in Low GEAR? Macroeconomic Policy in South Africa, 1996-98 John Weeks Cambridge Journal of Economics, 1999, vol. 23, issue 6, pages 795-811
“Faced with deepening unemployment, poverty, and inequality, and with disappointing growth and investment, the GEAR policy framework has met with persisting criticism from COSATU and the SACP in particular. From the side of its principal proponents within the government, there have been several adjustments in the face of disappointment. Increasingly, GEAR has been redefined as a conjunctural stabilization program and not what its acronym suggested it once aspired to be (a growth, employment and redistribution strategy). In this rereading, GEAR was necessitated by global turbulence and by a very precarious foreign currency reserve situation in 1996. Its “success” is now measured not in terms of growth, employment, and redistribution outcomes, but anecdotally and by way of comparison—“whatever our problems, South Africa’s economy is not in the same predicament as Argentina, or Turkey, or Zimbabwe,” or “GEAR has helped us to survive the worst of global turbulence” (which may not be completely incorrect).”
Jeremy Cronin rephrasing GEAR as a conjectural stabilisation strategy – 1998
In an address to the Socialist International October 2003 and then in various speeches in 2004, Thabo Mbeki argued that solving unemployment, poverty and low levels of black participation in ownership and control of the economy had become very urgent. Further, he argued that to solve these problems an effective, strong and interventionist developmental state was needed – just proving that there is nothing new in heaven and earth. He put the case for improving the public service and extending the state’s influence and ability to lead the economy. “Influence” meant keeping hold of strategic state assets (and therefore a partial withdrawal from the privatisation specified in GEAR) as well as a detailing of micro-reforms including BEE. He placed a strong emphasis on private public partnerships as well as on galvanising a collective consciousness about the “common good”. From this shift the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (AsgiSA) was codified in 2005/2006. While it set targets for growth and employment, Asgisa was primarily an infrastructure investment programme combined with various (mostly supply-side) measures to remove impediments to growth – much of which the economy continues to benefit from today.
My own summary of Thabo Mbeki’s initial motivations for AsgiSA
In the lead up to Polokwane this was the definitive statement from ‘the left’ attacking the direction that the Mbeki government had taken: “The post-1996 class project” was led by a “technocratic vanguardist” state with the mission for “a restoration of the conditions for capitalist profit accumulation on a new and supposedly sustainable basis” (as opposed to “a revolutionary … transformation … to resolve the .. contradictions in favour of .. the working class ..”). The document argued that “The post-1996 class project” rests on three pillars: Firstly, the ANC leadership has mistakenly bought into a myth of a gentler, kinder world, but imperialism is stronger and more hostile to popular democracy than ever; secondly, to fit into this world “the second pillar of the project is a powerful presidential centre” that necessarily installs a top state/ leadership group of state managers and ‘technocratically’-inclined ministers and (often overlapping with them) a new generation of black private sector BEE; and finally, the project calls for the organisational modernisation of the ANC … “to transform the ANC from a mobilising mass movement into a ‘modern’, centre- left, electoral party”. There is a “manifest inability of capitalist stabilisation and growth to resolve the deep-seated social and economic crises of unemployment, poverty and radical inequality in our society. The ravages to the ANC’s organisational capacity and coherence (are caused by) “the attempts to assert a managerialist, technocratic control over a mass movement, and in the crises of corruption, factionalism and personal careerism inherent in trying to build a leading cadre based on (explicit or implicit) capitalist values and on a symbiosis between the leading echelons of the state and emerging black capital.”
My paraphrasing of the SACP Central Committee Discussion Document. Bua Komanisi – Volume 5, Issue No1 May 2006 – difficult to read but a perfect summary of the position that exists to this day in the SACP
Then came the answer to the ‘left critique’ from the central ANC leadership: “…the trapeze act here is to co-opt the ANC, formally, as an organisation pursuing socialism; and then condemn it as having betrayed the socialist project”. First, and most importantly the ANC denies that it ever was or should have been an organisation whose objectives was to achieve socialism. The ANC, the document claims, is the organic result of the struggle of black South Africans for national liberation and redress for what they suffered and lost under Apartheid. Additionally the ANC prioritises the poor and the working class. Once this point is made, the ANC argues, all the rest of the SACP critique falls away. The ANC accuses the authors of the SACP document of “ahistoricism, subjectivism and voluntarism”. This is more than just name calling. In the argument of the authors of this document: ahistoricism refers to the SACP’s alleged failure to understand what led to the present conditions as well as the character of the historical moment in which they find themselves, subjectivism means that the SACP has used its own preconceptions to guide its views and has seen the world as they wish it to be rather than how it really is; voluntarism means the SACP believes that through pure force of will, hard work and determination it can achieve socialism in South Africa, whatever limitations the domestic or global environment and balance of forces, especially the strength of global capital markets, impose on possible outcomes.
Managing National Democratic Transformation – ANC response to SACP discussion document – probably the last time the ANC spoke plainly and confidently about economics and the class struggle – 19 June 2006 the official NWC response to the above quoted SACP Central Committee discussion document
The next post will summarise the actual policy contest (from an economists point of view) of the last 15 years. This will essentially be the actual macro-economic policy of the ANC (run from the Treasury) and the SACP’s consistent “industrialisation” alternative (proposed from the Department of Trade and Industry).
I phrase it like that deliberately to suggest that the Department of Economic Development and the New Growth Path Framework represents a new political assertion even if the policy formulation ultimately turns out to be a hodgepodge of previous proposals – as suggested by my summary of Thabo Mbeki’s AsgiSA policy above.
My sister was a famous model and in that capacity was invited to judge the Miss World competition at Sun City in 1995.
She asked me to accompany her as her official partner for a whole weekend of glitzy celebration and judging.
The event was interesting to me for a number of different reasons but the only aspect that might apply to a column on politics and investment risk is the astonishing effect that being treated as a celebrity can have on one’s moral and intellectual soul.
I had been living alone on a farm in the Southern Cape for 5 years when Josie invited me to accompany her to the competition.
I had spent the 1980′s involved in “the struggle” in various capacities. By 1990 I’d had enough and I left politics and my myriad comrades and friends as they got on with the business of negotiating the peace and then running the country.
Of course I had some contact from afar with previous friends, but those who had moved into the ethereal realms of Mandela’s first cabinet seemed to have been lifted body and soul out of the social networks they had previously occupied .
I would only meet again those of my old friends who had become senior politicians in government a year and a half after the Miss World competition when I returned to ‘civilisation’ to become a father and take up a permanent position as a political analyst for a Cape Town based investment broker.
At the Miss World competition we stayed in the The Palace of the Lost City at Sun City (a big step for me because we had spent the 1980′s promoting the boycott of the resort that was built in the then bantustan of Bophuthatswana).
The point I wanted to make about all of this is that from early morning to late at night the organisers of the event and the hotel treated me as if I was a celebrity. It was a peculiar but not altogether unpleasant experience. I couldn’t walk out of my room without a dapper assistant type person reaching for my arm to accompany me to waiting vehicles or parties of fabulously beautiful women sipping at drinks.
Every second of the day there was someone right beside me nodding with interest at everything I said and did. Everything was paid for. It was like being in a dream where the lights swirl around you and you are the centre of the attention of some vast organisation of doormen, waiters and compliant and beautiful people.
An air-conditioned limousine (there really is such a thing – it is not just a cliché in bad spy novels) delivered me to Jan Smuts airport for my trip back to the farm after the celebrations were finally over.
What I remember most vividly about the whole weekend was standing alone with my bag just in the entrance to the airport.
“Hello!” I might have thought shrilly to myself . “Excuse me? I’m here – where the hell is everybody?”
Two years later I met again, mostly in their formal capacities, my previous friends who had become ministers and deputy ministers, ambassadors and persons of similar august standing in society.
I was never shocked and surprised at the grandiosity and extraordinary pomposity most of them came to exhibit.
I have since sat around tables with men I had previously watched fight Apartheid police with their fists and feet and watched as they lean back from the table, eyes closed, their voices drawling as their massive new brains formulate positions that keep all of those present silent as the great man speaks.
I have sat with ambassadors at formal dinners where the guest are subjected to a reading by the said ambassador of her extremely bad poetry. We all sit in silence and most nod in awed approval.
This is a different world they inhabit.
Their whole lives, every moment of the waking day, is spent surrounded by a system that takes them extremely seriously. They travel first class and they are met at the plane by luxury vehicles driven by people trained to give the impression that this is the most precious cargo they have ever carried.
Everyone they interact with confirms the lived reality that they are, in fact, a different kind of person: cleverer, more interesting and more valuable.
There is often a faux gentleness and compassion that goes along with this kind of celebrity. When someone with whom you might once have thrown stones at the police as you dodged through billowing clouds of tear gas puts her hand on your arm and looks into your eyes and says “we really appreciate the work you are doing” you don’t screw up your face and ask “what work?” You just nod.
I believe there is something intrinsically harmful to ourselves and our society in the way we elevate our politicians. I recommend taking every opportunity to deflate the individuals, prick the bubble that we have surrounded them with.
I do not think it is inevitable that politicians, ministers or even super models become pompous wind bags but I can name very few who have escaped the corroding effects of celebrity and power.
I still see Jeremy Cronin flying with real people on the plane and chatting like a normal human being (what will we do if that stalwart ever goes over to the dark side?)
And my lovely sister Josie seems to have escaped with her humility and charm intact – although I rather suspect that is because even as whole restaurants full of New Yorkers would break into spontaneous applause as she entered in the 1980′s she never quite lost the sense that there had been some huge and embarrassing mistake – one she was just too polite and sweet to correct.
*from the poem: Heron Rex by Michael Ondaatje in The Cinnamon Peeler – Selected Poems – 1989 … my long time favourite collection of poetry.
I came across a long research note that I wrote in early 2007 exploring the impending succession process in the ANC to culminate at the Polokwane conference 7 months later.
So I was writing before the June 2007 National General Council during which Jacob Zuma’s resignation/suspension as ANC deputy president was overturned from the floor and it became clear that change was inevitable.
I thought I should upload the document onto this web log so that one day when some student decides to examine the accuracy or otherwise of the predictions of political analysts they’ve got some publicly available data to work with.
Also, it’s an interesting read – both because of how wrong and how right it was, but also because how defensive I was about Mbeki and how suspicious I was of Zuma. I regret the former but not the latter.
Click here for the whole document, but below are some highlights and lowlights:
Why I thought markets were nervous about a change in ANC leadership
All change is unsettling, but a South Africa without these illustrious, high-minded leaders of global eminence and distinction (Mandela and Mbeki) might feel less of a sure thing and the fears that waned from 1994 may wax again with their departure and replacement by people’s whose names cannot be pronounced in London and New York.
My learned views on why the global context made the transition even scarier for investors
New and untested leadership of the ruling party and the country will enter the stage of history in a context of unexpected and growing global uncertainty. The inherently unsettling nature of the domestic political succession is amplified as an apparently natural and stable global order has revealed itself to be increasingly tricky, unstable and unpredictable.
The ending of the Cold War did not end history and the US did not come to represent a unipolarity around which democracy and stability could spread. Instead, the Washington Consensus has crumbled and the rise of China, Russia and India is in the process of rewriting the rules of global trade, economic governance and the structure of capital markets. The world’s major economic and military power extends itself and commits ever more of its myriad apparatuses, fashioned to achieve its national goals, to perplexing military campaigns. And while the cat’s away: the emerging world is experimenting with different forms of governance, including economic governance, that would have been unthinkable only ten years ago.
… this country has developed a habit, possibly a mythology, of what I term “leadership exceptionalism”. In short this refers to the belief, erroneous or otherwise, that South Africa has achieved an unlikely stability primarily through the exceptional quality of leaders throughout the society – including on both sides of the Apartheid fence and in the churches, trade unions and business.
(It helps that I already thought this idea was rubbish.)
Getting it wrong about Polokwane (and one might ask: who’s the “our” in “our first case scenario”?)
Throughout the early stages of the transition contest it appeared that Zuma was the main contender and the person most likely to get the job – an outcome we will dispute below … It’s foolish to predict such a close run race so long in advance, but our first case scenario is one in which Zuma fails to become president of the ANC in 2007. If this is the case, the 2009 successor to Mbeki will not be known until the ANC goes through a specific nomination and election process for this position – probably starting in 2008.”
Why corruption was making the process so much worse (and, goodness, look how uncomfortable I was about criticising Mbeki)
‘True or false and for better or for worse;
- the allegations of corruption against Jacob Zuma
- the multiple and uncontested economic transactions and favours that passed between the ANC Deputy President and Shabir Shaik – now convicted of two counts of corruption and one of fraud
- the widespread, but entirely untested, charge that President Mbeki has allowed the courts and prosecution authority to be used less to stop Zuma’s alleged corruption and more to prevent him ascending to the presidency in 2009
has stamped the succession process with the twin burdens of being a proxy for the fight against corruption and being tainted by the alleged misuse of state resources by the highest power in the land.
and I could’t hide what I thought of the challenger
Aside from the actual corruption allegations mentioned in 4.2, to put the icing on the anxiety cookie, Zuma’s various statements and legal tribulations have portrayed a man who is:
- a polygamist;
- poorly educated,
- apparently ready to play into ethnic divisions for political advantage,
- undisciplined in his sexual behaviour,
- under the guise of “ Zulu traditionalism” unsettlingly cavalier towards women.
There’s lots about the left backing Zuma, but his own position was clear
This is not to suggest that Zuma is a leftist, worker friendly or naturally close to the SACP and Cosatu – in fact the very opposite might be true. The left backing of Zuma, which has caused bitter internal debates in the trade union movement and amongst the communists, must be understood as primarily an attempt to wield any likely candidate against those who represents the rightward drift of policy, namely Thabo Mbeki and his anointed successor.
The left was already taking a clear stand against corruption
Organisations of the left, but particularly the South African Communist Party, have been the most consistent moral watchdog in the Ruling Alliance. They have held government to account for tendencies of “cronyism” and the “compradorist and parasitic” nature of much of the emerging “bourgeois” elite which they argue is characterised by “primitive consumption”; they have insisted government focus on HIV/AIDS and expunge any denialism in its ranks, they have fought for a principled approach to the Zimbabwe situation, and, most importantly, they have presented themselves as the bastion against corruption within the state, government and business.
which made their backing of Zuma so difficult for me to swallow …
The decision (implicit or explicit) to back Zuma’s candidacy has deeply divided the left and soundly removed them from the moral high ground they had come to occupy. Those who won the debate to back Zuma – with the uncontested facts of his unhealthy relationship with the corrupt and fraudulent Shabir Shaik and his distasteful statements about HIV/AIDS, women and Zulu traditionalism already out there in the world – have cast the individuals and organisations of the left as opportunistic and willing to back any candidate from whom they can expect improved political access and influence. Given the idealism of much of the membership of the SACP and like minded groups, the opportunism of some of the left’s current leadership’s will probably prove to be their undoing.
Hmm, the sweet idealism of my youth …
That’s enough … there is lots more revealing stuff in there, including comments on every possible candidate. I will just add the comments I made then about Tokyo (because I believe they are true today) and then leave it up to you to read or dip into when it suits you.
On Tokyo Sexwale
Popular, ex-Robben Islander and exile; flamboyant – soldier adventurer type, trained in USSR for the ANC before his capture. After 1994 turned to business with a lot of flair (Mvelaphanda Holdings) and undoubtedly made the system work for him in a very successful way. He is probably the most charismatic character with the broadest appeal amongst this lot. He also has the ability to build a strong and loyal group around himself – hints of “cult of the personality”.. He is rich and flash enough for this to count against him. He has constantly denied that he may run but there are constant rumours that he is assembling a team to make a run for the top job.
Occasionally our correct and coded political dialogue is enlivened by a less experienced politician whose staff were out to lunch when their boss put pen to paper – or word in mouth, as the case may be.
One such instructive episode has been a piece by Minister of Safety and Security (Police) Nathi Mthethwa in which he attacks Helen Zille for, essentially, challenging the notion that Jacob Zuma is in any way the inheritor of the mantel of Nelson Mandela.
This article (astonishingly I think you will agree) is prominently and proudly carried in the official ANC journal, ANC Today. You can catch the full text here.
Minister Mthethwa breathlessly and breathtakingly lacerates that “disgusting madam”, … “Helen Zille and her ilk sinking in the foul waters of self-aggrandisement”.
She is the “pitiless lone voice from the gutter” with her “disgusting, shallow and shameful short memory” she is “obsessed and blinded by her hatred of the ANC” .
She has “unveiled yet again her infamous stripes” by “urinating on the progress being made” and “(s)he continues to suffocate in her own choking fires of hatred and unrestrained banal rank opportunism” with her “barren infantile political posturing”.
You might well ask what the scary and threatening leader of the Democratic Alliance said that caused the Minister of Police to wax so lyrical.
Helen Zille in her weekly missive (SA Today) took up the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s birthday to make a few sharp points about the blurring between party and state in celebrations around the old man’s 92nd birthday.
She ends her stern, school headmistress admonition with:
The great irony is that the more the ANC diverges from Nelson Mandela’s vision, the more the ANC seeks to own it … The ANC does not own Mandela. The ANC gave up its claim to Mandela’s legacy when it diverged from the values he cherished. Instead, Mandela’s legacy belongs to all those people in South Africa, from all backgrounds, who still value selflessness, integrity, non-racialism and freedom for all under the law.
This really must have hurt to have sent Minister Mthethwa into such babbling apoplexy.
The minister and his colleagues who allowed the article to be published with such proud prominence have failed to learn the most important thing about politics. Politics is always about winning the middle ground and isolating your most dangerous enemy from his/her potential friends.
The immense value of the symbol of Nelson Mandela to the ANC is precisely that he is a lifetime leader of the ANC and is venerated across the political spectrum. The political task of the ANC must be to give leadership to “the nation” and to the middle-ground, to be accepted as the legitimate leader of the South African state. Part of achieving this goal surely must be – for the ANC – to welcome its political opponents to venerate Mandela?
It seems obvious to me that through this defensive bullying and bombast Mthethwa achieves the very opposite – and frankly must be making DA strategists wring their hands with glee.
But I am coming to think I expect too much from a political party that advertises the death of its strategic sense by placing this kind of ignorant diatribe by one of its leading members in its leading publication.
Twenty years ago today Nelson Mandela was released after serving 27 years in prison. Zapiro, as always, is the most elequent in his praise of the old man.
Jacob Zuma will deliver his State of the Nation address tonight, in part in honour of the service and leadership of Rohlihlala, in part to stand briefly in the aura of the respect and love the great man still commands.
I am trying to work out if Jacob Zuma is condemned to be a one term president; shuffled off the stage by a shamefaced ANC leadership as soon as humanly possible.
I think he will be, unless he is saved by a titanic power-struggle that is not settled in time for the 2012 ANC national conference and centenary. That way he might blunder on, apparently happily, until 2017. Heaven forbid.
There was something endearing about our president’s deep chuckle at Davos last week after he defended his polygamy:
That’s my culture. It does not take anything from me, from my political beliefs, including the belief in the equality of women. (Chuckle, chuckle, chuckle)
But ‘endearing’ became ‘tragic’ when three short days later the Sunday papers brought us the slightly belated news of another happy event in Jacob Zuma’s life: the birth of a baby daughter to proud mum Sonono Khoza, daughter of Iron Duke Irvin Khoza.
I am forced to assume the story is true; that Jacob Zuma is the father of Thandekile Matina Zuma. He has neither denied nor confirmed the rumour but his record in this department would make it unsurprising that the number of his (known) offspring rises from 19 to 20.
There is little that needs be said about this matter, except maybe: Sonono is 39, her sister died of AIDS; Jacob Zuma is 67, the president of South Africa and the guy who infamously took a shower after having unprotected sex with another young woman, someone who was HIV positive, someone who immediately went on to accuse him of raping her. He married his fifth wife in January – bringing the number of current wives to 3. Enough.
Those who conspired to oust Thabo Mbeki by backing the then beleaguered Zuma must be feeling queasy about how this first term is going.
Mbeki spent much of 2006 and 2007 arguing (never directly but always strongly) that this man appeared to have his pants around his ankles and his hands in the till; he was just not the right sort of chap to inherit the mantle that had been passed down from Mbeki himself, from Madiba, from OR Tambo and a host of other legendary leaders.
Zuma’s Polokwane backers, that peculiar alliance of traditional ANC democrats, trade unionists, criminals who Mbeki had cleaned out of the state and BEE aspirants who wanted their bite at the cherry, decided to ignore the evidence of Zuma’s moral turpitude and take the gap he presented.
I wonder if those who genuinely wanted to improve governance or fix the ANC’s internal democracy and those who believed Mbeki had failed the poor consider this path we are on, on balance and after all is said and done, to be worth it?
None of the things that apparently so concerned them has been fixed. Most problems have deepened and the most serious problems, especially the rise to dominance of vampire capitalism and corruption, are significantly worse today than they were under Mbeki.
The trends might have been heading this direction anyway, but we feel adrift: leaderless and defenceless against the predations of the hordes of pirates who came along for the Polokwane ride.
So do not look to the president for the strength – of politics, ideology or character – to lead us through this swamp.
Take a trip through the blogs and discussions about this matter in the popular media. It seems that aside from satisfying his own needs and whims, Zuma has achieved one thing: he has become grist to the mill of racists and Afro-pessimists everywhere.
They love him, in a complicated and twisted way, because for them he confirms their deepest fears and hatreds.
And for this, we are all significantly poorer.
Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday
Symbolic events usually have more than one meaning. For those who comment on South African financial markets, Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday (today) is probably “investment neutral”.
However, financial markets do not list the price of everything.
Born in Mvezo on the banks of the Mbashe near Qunu in the rural Transkei Nelson Mandela has become a perfect mirror of the struggle of black South Africans for liberation.
His biographer, Anthony Sampson, points to two events at the time of his birth that for the historian are real gifts:
- the African National Congress – formed 6 years before, sent a delegation to London to plead for the rights of black South Africans;
- Hendry Mandela, the boys father, was stripped of land, cattle and income by a white magistrate for refusing a summons.
From circumcision to missionary school, from Fort Hare to the ANC Youth League and the Defiance Campaign, Nelson Mandela’s life is the movement of the ANC from polite deputation to the British government, through peaceful resistance and on to the massive repression of the late fifties, the growing rapprochement between the African nationalists and the South African communists, the decision to launch armed resistance and the finding of comfort and succour with the Soviet Union.
Then prison for Mandela and exile for Oliver Tambo and 27 years in which the African National Congress travailed in these parallel wildernesses.
The rest is recent history.
For the last 6 years the Mandela heritage has been marketed by the slightly tacky 46664 campaign (it’s his prison number and the campaign is Disneyesque with an aging “Live Aid” feel about it; completely divorced from the culture and issues of the South African liberation struggle).
Today 46664 is punting another clunky number: 67 minutes. This is the number of years Nelson Mandela performed “unbroken and dedicated community service”. The idea is that those who support him will do 67 minutes of community work in honour of the great man … and a worthy thing it undoubtedly is.
Despite all of that, Nelson Mandela is the last symbolic link to the full ambit of the ANC’s struggle – which is the struggle of most black South Africans. Crucially, he also represents the compromises and tolerance that characterised the negotiations from 1990 and the election in 1994.
With each passing moment Mandela’s death is closer and this gives focus to anxiety about South Africa’s future.
Our feelings about the lives and deaths of “great” men and women allow us an emotional link to the grand scope of the history we live in and through.
The death of Pope John Paul II and of Diana Spencer gave a sense of how, in the age of celebrity, the so called general public become emotionally connected to the grand human drama that can usually only be understood a long time afterwards and at many degrees of abstraction.
Nelson Mandela’s death will be such a moment for humanity, because it will represent the drawing together of important threads of the last several hundred years of human history.
The point, however, for the investment specialist in South African financial markets is that the real running of the country and the dealing in the compromises between the old South Africa and the new, has long moved on from Nelson Mandela. It has now become a truism that even in his last years as president Nelson Mandela was already more important as a symbol than as a politician and statesman.
When he dies there will be real and visceral grief from comrades, friends and citizens who have participated with him in the struggles for African liberation. I imagine too, that throughout the world there will be an unprecedented outpouring of emotion that will will elevate the symbol even higher than the man.
When Nelson Mandela dies the South African financial markets – the currency, the equities and the bonds and products that derive from these – will not falter. But that only tells us a small thing: the ticker tape does not list the price of every important thing.