After the Bell: A three-act circus — the interregnum of morbid symptoms
The ANC has just passed, or is about to pass, three pieces of legislation that suggest it has completely lost its grip on reality: the Employment Equity Amendment Act, the National Health Insurance Bill and the National Water Act.
The Employment Equity Amendment Act purports to enforce racial quotas on private companies and public institutions – without imposing racial quotas, which would be illegal.
The National Health Insurance aims to create, gradually, a health system that is free at the point of use – without any plan for how the country can afford it.
And the National Water Act seeks to impose racial requirements for water use licences – even though outlawing basic water use is not legally permitted.
There is a lot to say about all this legislation, but taken together they reflect a government in decline, desperate for the ability to shout political slogans but without the ability to appreciate how a modern state actually works and what works in a modern state.
We are in the sunset period of this government and what lies ahead, honestly, fills me with dread.
In the single phrase for which communist writer Antonio Gramsci is remembered, “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum, a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
So how morbid are our symptoms going to be? Pretty morbid, I expect.
Take, for example, the Employment Equity Amendment Act. According to Johan Botha of Solidarity Teacher’s Network, who warns that to implement the regulations in the education sector, they will have to get rid of just under 75% of white teachers, 55% of Indian teachers and 25.3% of coloured teachers, when students are already underserved by the education system as it stands.
This implies that to meet the minister’s targets, two out of three white and Indian teachers, and one out of four coloured teachers, would have to be replaced.
But here is the problem; it’s illegal to sack an existing staff member to comply with a racial quota. For some commentators, the solution is simple: offer them inducements to leave. Putting aside the expense of doing so, what will the effect be of removing, generally speaking, some of the skilled members of your staff?
Well, in health, education, transport, electricity provision – and every other sector you can think of – the results are already obvious because this methodology, if you can call it that, has already been applied in the public sector, and it’s been a disaster.
As far as the NHI is concerned, even people who support the idea criticise the legislation for a lack of consideration for the technical details about how it will be financed. The approach of the government has been and seems to continue to be, largely based on the premise that there is nothing to learn from the private sector. It has also shunned the idea of a compromise solution, and it’s done a terrible job of selling its vision.
So what is going to happen? All of this legislation is so gratuitously inept there will be court cases up the wazoo. They may help the situation or perhaps just delay it. Who knows?
Companies are going to reduce their headcount to avoid restrictive legislation, as they do in France. What farmers will do, I just don’t know: fronting will be extreme, I suspect. But in this interregnum, there will be a kind of mass ad-hocism, which, in some ways, is the worst of all possible worlds.
Fortunately, I have a solution. I think it would be worthwhile to delay the implementation of all the legislation for a period and insist that parliamentarians who plan to vote in favour of this legislation take their children out of private schools and give up their Discovery membership.
Oh, you didn’t know that parliamentarians don’t use the public health system and very few use public education? Well, you learn something new every day.
I just suspect that when the babies of parliamentarians are delivered in cardboard boxes, their attitude to private healthcare might change. Just saying. DM