Opinionista Stephen Grootes 13 May 2013

As I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself…

So, it's been a while. One year, one month, two weeks and three days to be precise [that long?.... We really hadn't noticed – Ed]. In that time my life has changed slightly. The kids are less small, louder, and most frighteningly, more mobile. My wife is, of course, lovelier. My iPad has a few more dings in it (journalism being a dangerous and exciting field), the keyboard a little more tattered. I myself am a little older, greyer, and, dare I say it, stouter [well, we didn't want to say, but... – Ed]. But enough about me. What else has changed in our wonderful Republic of South Africa?

South Africa today is a wonderful place!

First off, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now, e-tolling is a reality. And what a difference it’s made to travelling on those smooth and immaculate roads. Those clever Austrians! Really, it’s so marvellous and quick, and you know, European! Amazing how quickly Cosatu rolled over when the pressure really came. And gosh, who’d have thunk, everyone is quite happily getting their toll-bills in the post, and paying them by money-order every month. Along with their speeding fines! South Africans, such orderly, obedient people.

And what about our labour relations?! Those really have improved over the last year. Those clever chaps at the National Union of Mineworkers were right, it’s all about using your political connections. Once small-fry like AMCU see that JZ has got your back, well, they’ll just disappear into the ether. Especially at Lonmin, which remained an oasis of health and happiness.

And while we’re here, we saw that that wonderfully capitalist trio of Rob Davies, Ebrahim Patel and Tina Joemett-Petterson were absolutely right about Walmart. It alone has brought pestilence and plague upon the land. In fact, since Walmart took over, South African business has come to a complete stop. Our economy is an ex-economy. It has ceased to be. It has gone to meet its maker, shuffled off its mortal coil. You know the rest. Oh well, time to admit they know capitalism better than us.

And then there’s the management of our political formations. Because the best way to give everyone a voice and make sure that the traffic lights work and the lights stay on in the first place is to ensure party conferences are sewn up way in advance. Like the SACP in Richards Bay. Or Cosatu in Midrand. Or the ANC in Mangaung.

Come to think of it, Cosatu’s was so successful, NUMSA wants to hold another conference just because it was so much fun.

Clearly that all worked.

Oh, and before we forget, a big round of applause for Julius Malema [err, who? – Ed] and Kgalema Motlanthe. There you go. A book launch here and a say-nothing speech there. That’ll always do it against a well-organised, clever and ruthless opponent.

What else has changed? That newspaper that started a whole age ago is doing really well… as we all predicted. Hundreds of thousands of readers can’t wait to get their paws on its distilled wisdom, while millions use their business breakfasts as measurements of truth. And what happened to its owners? Can anyone remember? Were they the ones who got a fetish for police-blue uniforms and wailing sirens and big throbbing jets that thrust themselves through the sky while waving those blue books that are a particular shade of diplomatic passport?

Which takes me straight to my unconstrained delight at the fact the president has really changed since telling us all back in 2005 that the money from Prisoner S. Shaik was “a loan”. Good of him to pay it back so quickly.

You know, I think I wrote my last piece in this cyberspace after watching Wouter Basson in a hearing about his doctor-hood. They were trying to take it away from him. Well, they managed that, didn’t they? He’s had to give up his practice, hey? Justice, finally after what, nineteen years? That’s about as speedy as the ANC’s policy processes.

But surely the real success of the last year has been the thing that used to sadden me the most, our employment issues. As you saw last week, that’s really improved. We now have a real policy aimed at creating jobs, and making sure those who have lost hope regain it.

Dear reader, in case you’re tiring of this frothy foamy sarcastic twaddle, there’s a serious point. The fact is, there is a reason so many in the ANC are looking further east than India. There’s a sense of frustration stalking the land, that nothing is really happening. Every year we have more South Africans entering the jobs market, with no hope of actually doing anything with their lives.

Drift is setting in. People are so frustrated they’re looking to China. Fine, you might think. Great, we’ll actually get something done.

But we are not Chinese. We are a free people, the Chinese are not. Can you imagine giving up just one of our freedoms? We’re at the point when so many of us would contemplate that just to reduce the unemployment rate by 10%. And yet it would be completely the wrong thing to do. It would be turning our back on those who gave their all to secure those freedoms in the first place.

And don’t ever, ever forget that once you give up one freedom, all the others follow almost immediately. That’s just how governments work.

Which is why the fact the Info Bill isn’t yet law is such a good thing. And truly South African. DM


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