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This is why Ramaphosa is committed to his corporatist path. It may even get him through the 2019 elections. But it is bound to fail. The real question is what happens then. One way of answering that question is to realise that in the situation Ramaphosa now faces the logical thing to do would be to call in tbe IMF, apply for an emergency loan and then take the tough medicine imposed by IMF conditionalities. This is, however, anathema to the ANC not only because of the loss of economic sovereignty it entails but because of the public admission that ANC government has failed. But one senses that sooner or later this is where we shall end up. What it boils down to is that the political system, sunk in its parochial fixations, its past historical resentments, and its outdated ideology is incapable of carrying out indispensable reforms itself and that they will happen only when they are externally imposed. Much as the end of apartheid — another outdated ideology — was brought about to a large extent by sanctions, boycotts and international pressure.

South Africa became a democracy in 1994, fully 30 years after the rest of Africa and many of its problems now are simply a re-enactment of where most of Africa went wrong. Everywhere the continent is governed by a bureaucratic bourgeoisie which is almost wholly unproductive and parasitic. Someone had to pay for the salaries and privileges of this new bourgeoisie — since it produced nothing itself — and inevitably that had to be the 80 or 90 per cent of the population that were still peasants. This meant a perverse redistribution from the poor to the rich, with a consequent increase in inequality. This siphoning-off of resources from the peasantry saw one African country after another plunge into dependency on food imports.

Exactly the same process has occurred in South Africa, with the difference that in this case the transfer of resources to the new bourgeoisie is mainly from the tiny white tax base and the immiserated urban poor. The consequent increase in inequality has made South Africa into one of the two most unequal societies in the world. Here, of course, white farmers still produce almost all the food in the shops — the farms redistributed by land reform to Africans have had a 90 per cent failure rate — but the trend is the same. The number of white commercial farmers has decreased dramatically and the large agricultural surpluses of the pre-liberation period have fallen back into a situation where exports merely balance imports.

Most African states chose either “African socialism” or “scientific socialism”: both were uniformly disastrous. They not only achieved little economic growth but the extension of public ownership that this involved invariably ended up with large, loss-making, overstaffed entities which were — and still are — a byword for nepotism and corruption. Indeed, it is hard to see how public ownership can work in countries where the extended family system makes it obligatory to help family members get jobs, where political elites insist on pushing their cadres into key management positions and where the general urge for primary accumulation is so strong that corruption is ubiquitous. Public ownership even in Europe and North America is a difficult business but there are sociological reasons why this can’t work in Africa now. Inevitably, the tentacles of patronage and corruption lead into the private sector as well.
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July 27th, 2018
8:07 PM
I regret things are worse than RWJ reports. The corruption and sheer incompetence at every level, has even led the majority of municipalities to be totally dysfunctional and bankrupt. Those residents up-to-date with their rates and taxes and utility bills often find the water or electricity cut off to the entire community because their local council hasn't paid for the electricity or water to the bulk supplier - but they collected the money from the residents which they have stolen or misappropriated. The money set aside for maintenance of infrastructure such as sewage works etc has 'vanished' and they then allow raw sewage to flow into the rivers causing major pollution, the fish and birds die and even the trees along the banks die (eg. Vaal river) Everybody suffers, Black, White, rich and poor. Cry the beloved country.

July 1st, 2018
12:07 PM
The SACP must be over the moon. Heroic effort brings great reward. Tough on the ordinary folk. 'Twas ever thus.

May 3rd, 2018
7:05 AM
I have never read a more accurate analysis of South Africa, and indeed, Africa as a whole. If a South African leader who can implement the structural changes required is not elected within the next five years, SA will be doomed to the same future as most other African countries, especially Zimbabwe. What a pity this will be.

Michael Coulter
April 19th, 2018
9:04 PM
Most insightful. Thanks for writing this.

April 19th, 2018
8:04 AM
In response to "Anonymous" 16 April 9.04 "Apartheid regime caused a much greater genocide. Its rule resulted in millions of black South Africans, mainly infants and children, dying of starvation because they were deprived of food" I would dearly like to know where and when these death occurred

Keith Phillips
April 19th, 2018
3:04 AM
I sadden at this having experienced the Zimbabwean collapse. I fear that the starvation that is coming to SA will eclipse anything that has happened in the past as the outflow of capital and capability in the sector collapses food production. Forget the past. Rescue the future.

Rob Bass
April 18th, 2018
5:04 AM
RW Johnson has summarised the South African situation perfectly. It's impossible for me to challenge any one of his statements. Life for all SA inhabitants, except the black elite, will become more difficult in future. Dependent upon one's age & energy level, it is either a country with unbounded opportunity or one from which those capable should emigrate sooner rather than later.

April 17th, 2018
4:04 PM
Very balanced but not touching on Malena and his extremists. On land expropriation : This will certainly lead to famine as it has done in the rest of Africa. When you combine that with the well meaning Australians that want to speed up visas for white South African farmers, it certainly will happen. HOWEVER, the well meaning Australians( I love them) should keep in mind that this will just antagonize the SA Government and they now “have to be right” and stick to their policies just as the Apartheid regime did when sanctions were imposed. Angry people do not make sane decisions. Angry people break and destroy without pain initially to themselves. Have you ever hurt yourself in a moment of anger?....Did you feel it? Afterwards, possibly when you saw the blood! What we need is diplomacy and communication, showing respect and gradually educating so that we can arrive at a common, sane, reality. Don’t vent your anger and antagonize. It serves no purpose. And. Also, don’t antagonize inderctly by offering help via the media. Wage a private war in private and keep the sensationalist media out of it, please! P.B.

April 16th, 2018
9:04 PM
While Thabo Mbeki deprived black South Africans of retroviral drugs the Apartheid regime caused a much greater genocide. Its rule resulted in millions of black South Africans, mainly infants and children, dying of starvation because they were deprived of food.

April 13th, 2018
3:04 PM
There is much truth in this piece but it gives white South Africans a free pass.They have white Messiah Syndrome deeply embedded—most senior positions in companies are held by whites not because they are more competent but because most whites have refused to change and embrace meritocracy. The decisions are made in secret white laager committees—so nothing has changed from Johan Anthoniszoon "Jan" van Riebeeck’s days.

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