South Africa – where are we heading?

At the recent Pork Producers’ Association Symposium in Gordon’s Bay, Theo Venter, political analyst and conflict resolution facilitator at the North-West University, spoke about the effect the current political climate has on policy-making in South Africa, and what it means for farmers.
Issue date : 03 October 2008

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Fourteen years into the new South Africa, the country is being confronted with some serious challenges. Polokwane reflected two important issues: a vote against Mbeki and a new collective decision-making approach

Anti-Mbeki protest
Fervent support for Zuma and the growing Zuma cult are in fact an anti-Mbeki protest. Zuma is seen as the champion of the poor, while Mbeki is seen as elitist. The anti-Mbeki stance is also linked to perceived non-delivery. In other words, support for Zuma is a form of protest against failed service delivery under Mbeki. I fear, however, that the inability of Zuma supporters to recognise that non-delivery is largely due to a poor skills base, will eventually generate a backlash when it continues under Zuma. T here are several instances where service delivery has been dismal. From 2004 onwards the government couldn’t present audited data for municipal government. About 32,4% of all national departments received qualified audits. The figure is 47,7% for provinces. n May 2008, public opinion on the delivery of basic services reached an all-time low. April’s election will definitely focus on perceptions of service delivery. People will ask, “Do get the sewerage management, lights and roads need?” predict a sizeable erosion of the ANC supporter base, but a majority vote for the party nevertheless.

Disparate groups
The Zuma camp consists of disparate groups whose cohesion requires very strong leadership: Cosatu/SA Communist Party, ANC Youth League, the old intelligence network (with Billy Masetla as kingpin) and Zuma’s KZN base (eg Zweli Mkhize). There are those in it for own material gain and those (like Matthews Phosa) who were marginalised by Mbeki. Finally there’s an influential group, including Pallo Jordan, Zola Skweyiya and Valli Moosa, calling for a “third way”. believe cracks are appearing in the pro-Zuma camp. Zuma plays around with a number of things. If you look at his partners, he’ll have to swing to the left. you look at where the money is coming from, he must swing to the right. Zuma’s assurance that there’ll be no change in economic policy is a contradiction. Support for Zuma implies support for pro-poor economic policies. A s long as Manuel and Mbeki were there, there would have been no major shifts, but the longer term economic policy is bound to shift leftwards.
A liberation government O ne should interpret the developments in the ANC against the background of liberation government theory. Liberation governments are typically a consortium of interests held together by a common thing. Apartheid kept the ANC together. Theory tells us that the political cement lasts 15 to 30 years.

Confused priorities
I’m concerned about the list of 25 national priorities Cabinet drew up in October 2007 at the Business Unusual Imbizo. While the country is suffering from endemic levels of crime and 40 000 people in jails are awaiting trial, the management of crime prevention and security were 18th on the list of national priorities drawn up prior to Polokwane; reducing the number of cases pending trial was 19th. The first priority was an Industrial Development Policy and Plan, the second was setting up an investment call centre and third was speeding up information and communications technology interventions. On other lists you find crime, Zimbabwe and Aids at the top of the priority list. This prioritisation tells you something about where budget priorities are. My message to pork farmers specifically is that they should invest in their lobbying capacity with government, anticipate change and new leadership following the elections, and develop their agricultural sector without expecting much support from government.

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Labour force
I predict that labour will become scarce in the future. Some 12 million South Africans currently receive social grants. Of these only 2,2 million are old-age pensions and 8,1 million are child-support grants. There’s therefore little incentive to work, especially in rural areas. Those willing to work are coming from outside. What worries me even more is the life expectancy in South Africa. In 2001 the average age (males and females) was 52. In 2008 it is 48,5 years. One in five of all races are being infected with HIV. I foresee problems ahead in terms of our labour force.

Some light at the end of the tunnel
But all is not doom and gloom. Liberation governments can be efficient, as the ANC has shown with the best taxation and economic policy we’ve had in 20 to 30 years, and good changes to environmental legislation. Liberation governments have a “self-correcting” ability. The shelving of the Expropriation Bill is an example, but who knows, it might come back later. Right now we can’t look like a country with draconian expropriation laws if we want foreigners to buy property in 2010! My gut tells me the Bill will only be tabled again post-2010, if it is tabled again. Despite the complexity of our society, race relations remain fairly good. South Africans aren’t fighting each other in the streets. We’ve developed interesting skills to handle race differences and that’s very encouraging. – Sonja Burger |fw