Uplift the poor — with a free economy

Wednesday, 20 July 2011
“WHEREAS it is the right of every person to be protected from fear, intimidation and physical harm caused by the criminal activities of violent gangs and individuals; …
AND BEARING IN MIND that it is usually very difficult to prove the direct involvement of organised crime leaders in particular cases, because they do not perform the actual criminal activities themselves, it is necessary to criminalise the management of, and related conduct in connection with enterprises which are involved in a pattern of racketeering activity…”

Act number 121 of 1998, Prevention of Organised Crime, was signed into law by President Nelson Mandela on 24 November of that year. Like many of the wise words spoken by our nation’s greatest son, it has proved to be an empty gesture. Organised crime has taken control of our land, and they enjoy the full protection of law.

Not too long ago, they blockaded hospitals and prevented people from receiving medical care. Many people died as a result of their action. The names and faces of the criminals are known to the authorities from video footage, but not a single person was disciplined or prosecuted as a result.

This week, they have turned off the nations fuel supply, they have shot at people going to work, and beaten and petrol bombed others. Again, there is photographic evidence of their criminality; again, the authorities are silent; and again, no one will be held accountable.

They call themselves trade unions, and they have the law on their side.

How the hell did we get into this situation?

The ANC is concerned ostensibly with a “better life for all” which at its most basic level translates to uplifting the rural poor. I’m on their side in this. I’m also very clear that the best way to uplift the rural poor is to allow the capitalist economy to fly free, and plough the resultant increase in tax revenue back into rural development, particularly at the level of basic infrastructure such as water, electricity, and roads.

The ANC’s partners have a different agenda. Cosatu is in the business of ensuring the hegemony of the unionised working class. The Youth League is focussed on taking money away from “white monopoly capital” and putting it into their pet projects — such as blowing millions upon NYDA conferences.

Under Thabo Mbeki’s presidency, Cosatu and the ANCYL were told exactly where to get off. When the ANCYL got out of line, Mbeki simply cut their funding. When Cosatu tried to bring the public service to its knees, Mbeki sent in the diminutive but tenacious Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi to take them on.

Unfortunately, Mbeki messed up by firing his deputy. The ostracised hyenas of Cosatu and the ANCYL and the SACP found someone to rally around and got rid of the man who had led South Africa through its longest sustained period of economic growth since the gold rush.

Today, the chair which supports President Jacob Zuma has four legs — one belongs to Cosatu, one belongs to the ANC Youth League, and one belongs to the SACP. The president cannot make a move lest one of the players withdraw their support and cause his perch to collapse.

The result is a nation in gridlock where Alliance muggers stroll casually between vehicles of the masses in a legalised smash-and-grab operation.

There is only one way out of this mess, and it is in the hands of our president.

Whatever opinions one may have of Zuma, there is no question that he is the only person capable of leading the ANC at this time. Motlanthe, Ramaphosa, Sexwale, Vavi, Nzimande, and Malema all have their support structures, but none of them have the president’s combination of credentials and charisma.

What is required of our president is that he be brave enough to face the possibility of being deposed.

Zuma has significant advantages that Mbeki did not have – firstly, that there is no immediate challenger to the throne, and secondly that Zuma has the ability to rally the masses around him and to convince them that he acts in their interest. Now combine that with the fact that Mbeki’s intellectual cadre with the likes of Joel Netshitenzhe, Trevor Manuel, Praveen Gordhan, and others continue to be loyal and disciplined members of the ANC.

Zuma is 69 years old. For a man who had no formal education, he spearheaded KwaZulu-Natal’s economic transformation, successfully negotiated a fragile but tangible peace in Burundi, and rose to occupy the highest office in our land. He has nothing to prove, but he has no legacy yet. This is his opportunity.

The worst thing that could happen to him is that he ends up being a one term president. And as our first president has shown, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.