Opinionista Ian Von Memerty 15 October 2018

Jessie Duarte perfectly encapsulates the ANC’s failure

The greatest weakness of the ANC was perfectly articulated in Jessie Duarte’s article on 11 October. For 20 years when confronted with failure the ANC has said “our policies have failed, but we are planning to do more of the same”, and that is intrinsically what Duarte said on Thursday. The ANC is fundamentally incapable of looking at results and adapting policies to ensure its goals. This aside from the cancer of corruption that has eaten at every vital organ of the ANC body politic since Schabir Shaik, Jackie Selebi and Tony Yengeni led the charge down the moral toilet.

Let’s look at some of our country’s greatest problems and see how the ANC has failed systematically to solve them in the last quarter of a century. I list my personal top five indicators of how life could have changed for poor South Africans. Inequality. Crime/murder. HIV/Aids. Education. Corruption. All impact all South Africans in some way — but there are those for whom the impact is greater.

So let us look at what the ANC has achieved in terms of inequality in this country. Since 1994 Brazil dropped from a rating of 60 to 52. In Rwanda, after the genocide, their inequality soared from 40 to 55 but in the last five years has dropped to 50. Turkey has inched down from 42.5 to 40. Meanwhile South Africa has increased from a post-apartheid tragedy of 58 to an ANC catastrophe of 63. After 25 years of democratic government the most advanced economy on the continent, with the best infrastructure, is more unequal than ever before and more unequal than anywhere else on the continent.

Duarte’s promises of job creation are hollow — the ANC is lost when it comes to job creation and reducing inequality. It either doesn’t know how to improve things, or it wants voters left poor and uninformed. Either the ANC can’t fix the problem — or it doesn’t want to.

Let’s look at murder rates — a pretty good indicator of how safe a citizen is in their own country. Aside from Lesotho (which probably suffers because of its proximity to South Africa).

South Africa is nearly twice as murderous as the Central African Republic, the Congo or South Sudan. Nearly 25 years post-liberation, with no civil war, with courts upholding the rule of law in both criminal and civil cases, South Africans are more unsafe than any other Africans and are as unsafe as they were under apartheid. (And just in case we get distracted by Ramaphosa’s denial of farm murders — of the 20,000 murders in 2017, 63 were from farm attacks and 48 of those were white.) Interestingly women and children accounted for 20% of murder nationally. This means if you are a poor black South African man you stand more chance of being murdered in your own country than anyone else, anywhere. Just like apartheid. Either the ANC can’t fix the problem — or it doesn’t want to.

HIV/Aids. The statistics speak volumes about the tragedy which the ANC in its arrogant know-it-all, come-late-to-the-party incompetence unleashed on our poorest countrymen. Infection rates in population percentage terms in 1994 were Zimbabwe 5.2 %, Kenya 2.15%, and South Africa 1.34%. In 2004 South Africa was 1.83%, Zimbabwe was 1.5%, and Kenya 0.55%. In 2014 South Africa was 1.43%, Zimbabwe was 1.05% and Kenya was 0.45%.

Which means that Kenya and Zimbabwe, whose governments were rife with corruption, and whose democracies have been consistently under attack, managed to drop their infection rates by 80%. Meanwhile at the same time South African infection rates grew, and we are now back to where we were under apartheid. Either the ANC can’t fix the problem — or it doesn’t want to.

Education. Here are a few devastating facts from the Centre for Risk Analysis at the Institute of Race Relations.

Just under half the children who enrol in Grade 1 will make it to Grade 12. Just 28% of people aged 20 or older have completed high school. Just 6.9% of matric candidates will pass maths with a grade of 70% to 100% — a smaller proportion than in 2008 (bearing in mind that, once the near 50% pre-matric drop-out rate is factored in, this means that about three out of 100 children will pass maths in matric with such a grade).

The black higher education participation rate is just 15.6%, while that for Indian and white people (aged 20–24) is 49.3% and 52.8%. These stats reveal the wholesale decimation of the future of millions of poor black South Africans. Either the ANC can’t fix the problem — or it doesn’t want to.

Corruption. Everybody who reads Daily Maverick or even the Daily Sun knows that South Africans have been robbed, repeatedly and rapaciously, by friends of the ANC. From Atul Gupta to Ace Magashule, from the Buffalo City mayor who stole from Madiba’s funeral fund to Bathabile Dlamini’s spending R11,000 a night at The Oyster Box hotel, the ANC has tolerated and encouraged corruption.

From their great leaders such as Trevor Manuel and Pravin Gordhan to the ladies who lunch like Lindiwe Zulu, Angie Motshekga, Faith Muthambi and so on, they stood shoulder to shoulder and silently defended Jacob Zuma as he either escaped or survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

They allowed him to plunge their party further into the sleazy world of backhanders, kick-backs and theft, until the very end, when they could see that his time was running out. And of course by then it was too late.

Every act of corruption is a theft from someone at the bottom of our society. Either the ANC cannot fix the problem of corruption – or they don’t want to.

The ANC has done some great work, especially in its first 10 years of power. I am not doubting that. If nothing else it has given us five presidents, one great (Madiba), one good (Motlanthe), one trying his best (Ramaphosa), one mixed (Mbeki), and one catastrophically bad (Zuma). By doing this they have broken the strong-man-cycle of post-colonial democracies.

But granting the ANC all the best intentions in the world, we have to judge it by what it does and deliver as opposed to what it promises. And judging by that, Jessie Duarte is guilty of wilful ignorance or self-righteous delusion.

Meanwhile South Africans, especially poor black South Africans (the base of the ANC vote) suffer needlessly.

No one is pretending that in 25 years we could have gone from the poison of apartheid to paradise. However we should be considerably healthier, safer, more equal, better educated and better led — but in many ways we are exactly where we were in 1994. And the ANC at least needs to say:

We’ve have tried, but our policies have failed. So we will find ways to solve these problems that have worked around the world.”

But either it can’t fix the problem — or it doesn’t want to. DM

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