Is South Africa following in Zimbabwe’s footsteps?
Posted by CM on June 20, 2007
In South Africa’s Business Day :
A crime that many of SA’s ministers keep their jobs
by Rhoda Kadalie*
President Thabo Mbeki will go down in history as someone who fired only one person from his cabinet, and not for mismanagement but for being a political competitor. This when more than half his ministers are incompetent and pose direct threats to the wellbeing of the public. They are allowed to continue, however, regardless of the havoc they wreak on the nation in their respective portfolios.
Ministers from the departments of correctional services, safety and security, home affairs, justice, labour, health, public enterprises, transport, agriculture, constitutional development and communications, to mention a few, should all be given the boot for the gross mismanagement of major aspects of their portfolios.
For one, it is unfathomable why Mbeki has reinstated the sickly and sickening Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, despite her spectacular failure. But then, we should not forget that as someone connected to one of the most senior members of the African National Congress (ANC) , she may not be dumped. Maybe the president keeps her on so she can benefit from the substantial pension benefits ministers get upon retirement as a reward for her self-denying loyalty to him. Or maybe he did so just to spite the Treatment Action Campaign.
Given the decline of the public sector, Tshabalala-Msimang is not the only one who should be fired. At least half the cabinet should go. The gross mismanagement of the sector education and training authorities (Setas) is good enough reason for Labour Minister Membathisi Mdladlana to be fired. The continuing debacle around South African Airways is good enough reason to give Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin the boot; eNatis is one among many reasons Transport Minister Jeff Radebe should be relieved of his duties.
I can go on and on about our cabinet ministers, whose services should be terminated for good reason, but the one who escapes scrutiny is Agriculture Minister Lulama Xingwana. Her failure to stem the farming crisis is astounding. The Cape Times reported recently that 20,000 farmers have left the land because of “low import tariffs and the dumping of cheap agricultural products from rich countries where farmers are heavily subsidised.” Add to that the more than 2,000 farmers murdered since 1994, and the picture looks grim.
Nothing is done to protect agriculture, leaving a tenuous food security situation. We are ironically losing farmers to Mozambique and other neighbouring African countries, where many have started new lives with the support of their new host countries. Tne agricultural union claims the government is the biggest single threat to commercial farmers and has warned Xingwana that any agricultural policy driven by ideology and not for economically sustainable reasons will lead to chronic famines and food shortages .
As with the doctors who leave in droves, so too, farmers are leaving in great numbers, not least because of land expropriations due to land claims and the lack of support from the government. The Land Bank, which should be helping farmers, gave an R800m loan to Pamodzi Investment Holdings — a nonagricultural investment — whose shareholders include ANC high-ups Kgalema Motlanthe and Manne Dipico, yet it cannot help farmers and subsidise those who have been adversely affected by drought, global competition, a weak export market, and other factors. The Land Bank’s constitutional duty is to provide affordable finance for the development of the agricultural sector, not for the development of the bank accounts of ANC cronies.
Can anyone explain who decides that R800m of the Land Bank’s funds go into an investment company in which senior ANC politicians have major shares, bankrupting the bank and leaving it to rely on the state to bale it out? Where is the logic in this? Where are the checks and balances? Can we imagine the amount of support and subsidisation possible to farmers with this amount of money?
The Land Bank has never recovered since the departure of Helena Dolny, who would never have allowed it to deteriorate to the levels we have now. Her successors, the former CEO Alan Mukoki, chief financial officer Xolile Ncame and risk manager Godfrey Masilela, earned exorbitant salaries and bonuses while seriously mismanaging the bank. Where are these people? Why does Mbeki allow such major forms of mismanagement when Jacob Zuma is dragged into court for amounts that pale into insignificance by comparison? The mind boggles.
*Kadalie is a human rights activist based in Cape Town.
Very strong stuff! I don’t know enough about South African issues to have an opinion on the veracity or otherwise of Kadalie’s passionately expressed criticisms. But what struck me about this opinion piece is how it parallels criticisms that were made at a time in Zimbabwe when warnings about averting the situation we are in now first began to be made.
It was easy to ignore them when things seemed to be ticking along well, as they seem to be doing in South Africa now. Any such criticisms of the “revolutionary” government could easily be dismissed as wanting to perpetuate the old order.
For me one of the lessons of Zimbabwe has been that in trying to change a system, one must accept putting up with some functioning but perhaps unpalatable parts of it while one is devising a careful plan to replace it.
And regardless of the flavour of government, if there is even half a truth to Kadalie’s criticisms, it does not bode well for South Africa’s mid to long term future, no matter how glossy some say the present is. The “saviour” mentality towards political leaders that makes us afraid to criticise them has been disastrous for Africa.
My hope is that South Africa does not have to travel Zimbabwe’s painful path to find what works and what doesn’t for a modern nation state in transition from a painful recent past.