I think it is time to give up the last vestiges of this ideal of a nation based on equality, dignity and respect for human rights. South Africa is no longer a nation, it is a privately held corporation on a massive scale. You have to look carefully if you want to catch a glimpse of it but it is there. The evidence is in the growing number of shiny new Mercs, Bentley’s and other luxury vehicles being driven (often pretty badly) by trendy young South Africans … um, make that shareholders. You also see it in the news (rumoured buyouts of major papers using custom designed companies formed by ANC politicos) and hear it in discussions between newly created business tycoons who talk about political influence as the means to greater wealth and influence in industry.
In a nutshell, we are now all citizens in South Africa (Proprietary) Limited. The problem is that the majority shareholder (the ANC) doesn’t play nicely with the minority shareholders (the millions of poor people in this country and those of us not card carrying members of the majority shareholder). South Africa (Proprietary) Limited has become a sad mixture of cliche and missed opportunities. Before I get into that, here are some interesting statistics from a recent post on Thought Leader by Charlene Smith titled "Wimps, political correctness and what it means to be a member of the ANC":
- Since 1994, according to the BusinessMap Foundation, there have been R225-billion-worth of BEE transactions, with 173 empowerment deals, worth R75-billion, in 2006 alone;
- The buying power of the country’s 2,6-million black diamonds is at about R180-billion;
- 40% of South Africans are unemployed and 54% of South Africans live below the poverty line;
- South Africa is the 4th largest creator of $$ millionaires in the world with around 50 000 in the country.
So how did the ANC get to where it is? Largely through the support of those millions of South Africans who are kept in line using old slogans and Struggle-era songs. That is all you really need to keep your political support base these days, it seems. Trot out a couple old songs and slogans and the masses and your continued control over the corporation is assured. The main thing is just to keep up pretences of being a socialist party by calling each other "comrade" whereas behind the scenes you have become a farcical living example of The Animal Farm. The catch is most members of the ANC probably wouldn’t appreciate the irony because The Animal Farm would hardly have been required reading in the former Soviet Union and its allies where ANC cadres of old were trained and educated.
Instead of taking advantage of BEE programs to radically improve the lot of the millions of poor in the country, the majority shareholders have binged on profit taking for the last decade or so. Consider the what the tens of billions of Rands made in empowerment deals could do for the literally starving masses if it was ploughed back into schools, the police and healthcare in meaningful amounts, not the token numbers presented each year at the annual shareholders meeting in Parliament. What did we need hideously expensive military hardware for when the people that hardware is meant to protect can barely afford to eat? Heck, buy another frigate or two and those people will die off from starvation, TB, HIV/AIDS and there will be even more money to distribute to the shareholders. That kind of equipment could even be a nice fat tax write off. Poor people don’t make for very good tax write offs, just lots of messy bodies strewn all over the place and that doesn’t look good to investors. Not one bit.
Here are a few ideas … what about uplifting the poor and marginalised members of our society before handing over even more money to the fat cats? What about a cheap and pervasive telecommunications infrastructure that gives all South Africans real broadband access to the Internet and to all the opportunities on the Web. Pay the police more money and hire more of them. What about our healthcare system. How many more headlines do we need to see about people waiting for weeks and months for procedures because there are not enough beds or about babies sleeping in boxes because there are not enough bassinets. How many beds does a Bentley buy? Pay health care workers at in the public healthcare system at least as much as their colleagues working in the private healthcare system and give them the equipment they need to do their jobs properly. It is shameful just how badly our educators and paid and supported with books and equipment. All these people who work in seemingly low end jobs are the ones who should be paid the most. Without them we are truly screwed. They form the backbone of our society and the government goes and gives more money to the people who don’t need it. Of course, teachers, nurses and police officers on the street aren’t nearly as profitable as deal-makers, mining magnates, CEOs and "consultants" so there probably isn’t much point giving them much money. So much for socialism … Even the union bosses are raking it in. How about they give up a share of their salaries and give back to their members? You know, a two way exchange of money?
Bottom line here is that this corporation, sorry, country is run as a profitable enterprise for the benefit of its shareholders. It is privately held (the rest of us get some scraps and contracts) and is going to stay that way for as long as the truth doesn’t emerge. Imagine of the impoverished millions found out how much their Dear Leaders are earning, spending and stashing in foreign bank accounts. Why, there would be an uproar and they may even strike, I mean vote, for a change in management. Imagine that.
Tags: south africa (Proprietary) Limited, south africa, privately held, country, corporation, nation, for profit, missed opportunities, politics, black diamonds, profit taking, poor, socialism, the animal farm, pillaging