THE launch of the National Health Insurance plan has taken South Africa another step down the road to becoming a welfare state which seeks to redistribute resources from its tax base to a population which faces dimming job opportunities.
As the Financial Mail pointed out this week in an editorial under the banner “Welfare state by stealth”, South Africa now pays social grants to 15 million people.
There are countries where this approach has been successful. The Scandinavian nations have a high tax rate in exchange for which all citizens enjoy access to cheap or free health care and education.
They have done so while their economies have been competitive global players that have created employment and kept tax revenues coming.
Then there are other, less salutary examples. Health care in Cuba and North Korea is free, but the price has been industrial stagnation under repressive regimes which have encouraged desperate poverty.
The question which remains unanswered is which direction South Africa will take. There are very loud voices within the ruling party which would like to see the destruction of the free market and “bourgeois” freedoms enshrined in the constitution. They believe in a hegemonic state of the Cuban stripe.
These loud voices are no longer on the “outside”. President Zuma himself believes that the media enjoys too much freedom and that the constitution is overly liberal.
His youth league leader, Julius Malema, is allowed to develop and propagate a doctrinaire Stalinist vision for this country with only the meekest censure.
The ANC’s economic policy approach — a free market model with a firm regulatory hand and a socially responsible state — is being openly challenged and there are very few voices arguing for the status quo.
Even powerful figures such as Cyril Ramaphosa, who have done well for themselves in business, are unable to criticise nationalisation without first subjecting business to a rhetorical tongue-lashing, such is the power of this lobby.
Whichever welfare model South Africa ultimately adopts, it will be a bold experiment because just 10 percent of the population — five million people — pay the taxes that are being allocated to these ambitious projects.
While the super-rich can easily afford this growing burden, the middle classes are under pressure. Rising education, health and security costs are causing those traditionally loyal to the ruling party to seek political alternatives. Perhaps most sobering is the fact that, unless economic growth miraculously takes off, we are setting ourselves up to borrow on a large scale to finance a very expensive state just as the world wakes up to the consequences of accumulating debt.
PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma publicly takes an Aids test. Afterwards, he tells the nation that he is HIV negative. The response is not one of happiness that we have a president who not only acknowledges the existence and impact of Aids, but one who publicly takes a test and then is, thankfully, negative.
No, we rise as one to question why Zuma made this announcement. We ask why he did not release the actual test results for public scrutiny because we cannot rely on his claim to be HIV negative. We bemoan the fact that he made his status positive because this sends a signal that you can indulge in reckless sex and remain HIV negative. There are very few voices in this melee that say that Zuma has done a good, perhaps even a great thing here.
In all this determination to be critical, we may have lost an opportunity because the message about the importance of taking an HIV test somehow got lost in the noise. The opportunity to send a signal to the country about HIV testing in every newspaper, on every radio and TV station may have been lost.
THERE have been calls for calm following the alleged murder of the AWB leader, Eugene Terre Blanche.
But, make no mistake, the overwhelming majority of South Africans are calm and would like to see justice take its course.
Those who are not calm are the racists to the left and right for whom calm is the enemy.
To them the idea that a murder should be dispassionately investigated, the culprits subjected to a fair trial and then be found innocent or guilty is not acceptable.
They would like to turn this event, which has all the hallmarks of another senseless farm killing, into an occasion for political mobilisation.
There are those who say that Terre Blanche got what he deserved and there are those who say he was the victim of a grand political conspiracy against whites.
Both are fanning the flames of intolerance when they should be entrusting this country’s institutions to handle the matter.
It is wrong to say that Terre Blanche got what he deserved because the strength of the rule of law is most severely tested when society’s least loved require justice.
It is also wrong to conjure a conspiracy against whites when there is no evidence for this.
The fact that numerous government leaders have been at pains to go to the scene of the crime and to condemn the murder in no uncertain terms has done much to set aside these sorts of conspiracy theories.
So to has the statement by President Jacob Zuma who addressed the nation to reassure all with the words: “I call upon our people, black and white to remain calm, and allow police and other organs of state to do their work. This is not the time for speculation that can worsen the situation.”
We should all heed the President’s call.
Those who would like to polarise South Africa are rubbing their hands with glee at the alleged murder of Eugene Terre Blanche with sickening excitement.
Murdered by two farmworkers after a dispute over R600 in wages, Terre Blanche has been saved from a legacy as a racist thug who beat a petrol attendant so badly he lost his mental faculties. He is now a national symbol for those who believe that farm murders are political acts aimed at driving whites from the land.
On paper, the ANC has recently been at pains to reassure farmers that it has no intention of nationalising the land as was suggested in an official discussion document.
But in Zimbabwe, its Youth League president, Julius Malema has just been given a rousing heroes welcome by Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF. The “Kill the Boer” song was sung in his honour.
Then, after addressing a rally of 2000 Zanu-PF youth (a dissapointing tournout?), Malema said:
“In SA we are just starting. Here in Zimbabwe you are already very far. The land question has been addressed. We are very happy that today you can account for more than 300000 new farmers against the 4000 who used to dominate agriculture. We hear you are now going straight to the mines. That’s what we are going to be doing in South Africa.
“We want the mines. They have been exploiting our minerals for a long time. Now it’s our turn to also enjoy from these minerals. They are so bright, they are colourful, we refer to them as white people, maybe their colour came as a result of exploiting our minerals and perhaps if some of us can get opportunities in these minerals we can develop some nice colour like them.”
Malema’s words are chilling. They remind one of the sort of racist rhetoric practised by Terre Blanche.
But there is a stark difference.
Terre Blanche was always on the fringes of power and had become somewhat of a comic figure.
Malema is a member of a highly dominant ruling party and he is being indulged by its leaders, suggesting a best a passive indifference to his rhetoric, at worst quiet support for what he is saying.
The ANC must wake up to the monster it is creating by allowing Malema to occupy the public arena without contradiction. Jacob Zuma’s comment that it is a free country and all can do as they please is evidence of very weak leadership. His predecessor Thabo Mbeki would not have tolerated this sort of rubbish.
In the absence of political censure, the courts are stepping in to narrow the definition of free speech. This is a very regrettable turn of events. The ANC must lead. Leadership means being willing to be unpopular.
JULIUS Malema’s utterances are challenging the very foundation of our democracy by juxtaposing free speech with the need to prevent hatred.
These two imperatives are both contained in our pact with ourselves never to allow the oppression of one by another in post-Apartheid South Africa.
And so we have Clause 16 of the Constitution which reads:
16. Freedom of expression Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes
freedom of the press and other media;
freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
freedom of artistic creativity; and
academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
The right in subsection (1) does not extend to
propaganda for war;
incitement of imminent violence; or
advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.
So Julius Malema has the right to say what he wants about what rape victims might or might not say the day after the event provided he doesn’t go too far. The recent finding by the Equality court that he did go to far when he commented that Jacob Zuma’s rape accuser enjoyed herself because she asked for taxi money on the morning after has been found to have gone too far.
And the South Gauteng High Court has also found that Malema went too far because he has been singing the lyrics “Kill the Boers”.
A court has also found that Martin Williams writing in the Citizen newspaper went too far when he referred to Robert McBride as a murderer because he had been given amnesty for his crimes.
In all these cases, the courts have taken the conservative route and backed limitations on free speech.
While the decisions have so far been benign, there is a danger that they are paving the way for a growing list of “banned” commentary which offends the sensitivity of this or that lobby. Not good.
You’ve got to feel for Jacob Zuma. There he is in London being described by one right-wing commentator as a buffoon and bigot. The state visit to the UK was supposed to finally afford him the opportunity to move on from weeks of criticism of his sex scandal with Sonono Khoza. Instead it was following him around like chewing gum on the sole of his brogues.
But why, oh why, did he choose to react by saying that the British believed Africans were barbaric? This because one blogger on the Daily Mail’s web site was provoking him.
His ill-considered response accomplished two things:
1. It soured the attitude of his hosts who were now being charicatured as racist jingos – not by a lone South African blogger, but by its president; and
2. He displayed vulnerability when he ought to have projected strength.
Whoever is advising Zuma ought to be taken out back and given a sharp kick on the shin.
Far sharper and more considered was the ANC’s response via spokesman Jackson Mthembu.
Instead of issuing a generalised blast at the British in general he expressed confidence that the majority of British citizens viewed South Africa and its president in a positive light.
He said: “We are confident that the views by this misplaced journalist does not contain the generally held view of the people of Britain and the government, but it is a view of a fringe rightwing minority who have no respect for international protocol.”
Zuma has only himself to blame for his scandals. But there are many others who should be blamed for mismanaging the way he deals with them in public.
Somebody get Mthembu to London to guide Zuma through the next two days.
THE decision by President Jacob Zuma to expand his cabinet by adding new portfolios is going to cost this country billions in new expenditure.
The newly minted national planning commission under Trevor Manuel will cost an additional R30 million as will the monitoring and evaluation ministry under Collins Chabane.
The new economic development ministry under Ebrahim Patel will set us back a cool R520 million over the next three ye3ars.
The splitting of ministries such as education and environmental affairs and tourism will cost millions in new administration costs.
The new ministry of women, children and people with disabilities will cost R114-million.
Of course President Zuma should be constantly thinking about how he could re-organise government to make it more effective. New ministries or the splitting of ministries might be a very good idea.
But to simply add this expenditure to existing spending exposes a mindset that is dangerous.
Zuma should have made his choices and downscaled or done away with other ministries to pay for his new ones. He could have started by dumping that most ludicrous of all ministries, Sport and Recreation, with absolutely no effect on anything.
It suggests that Zuma believes he has infinite resources at his disposal and does not have to match his plans to the finite resources available to him.
The end result is government spending rising at almost 9 percent in an environment where the economy is weak and the cost of capital to finance any shortfall has never been higher.
This mindset needs to change. This budget should have been a reduction on the previous year’s spending in recognition of the enormous financial pressure on the taxpayer.
Zuma appears unable or unwilling to make the difficult choices demanded of leadership.
If you read nothing else on the budget, take a look at this graphic breakdown prepared by the Finance Ministry which shows the relative size of allocations and how government is organised.
JACOB Zuma yesterday finally confronted the calls for the nationalisation of the mines by ANC Youth League leader, Julius Malema.
His stance was that what Malema was saying was not government policy, but he had every right to say it.
“We have noted that political formations including the ruling party’s youth wing have decided to debate the matter. What members should do in an open democratic society, if Julius Malema raises nationalisation, is raise their counter arguments with him … debate the views of Malema and don’t confuse a debate raised with policy of government.” Zuma said.
He pointed out that changing the ruling party’s policy was a long process leading up to the adoption of policy at the ANC’s national conference.
“On matters of policy, the ANC is very clear and those who are the in the ANC recently know the process I am talking about, have been party to it.”
Zuma’s response is at best ambiguous. He does not state what his view on the matter is nor does he restate the party’s view.
Instead, he somewhat disingenuously invites the opposition to debate the matter with Malema himself.
The fact is that the opposition has been debating the matter with Malema quite vociferously for quite some time now.
What has been missing is the voice of the ANC leadership who have been openly challenged by Malema to support his position.
It could be that they are entertaining Malema’s strident calls with patronising titters behind their fans.
Or it could be that they don’t feel that strongly about the matter and are prepared to allow Malema to build up a head of steam.
Either way, it’s not good enough.
Jacob Zuma, who came under scathing attack from opposition MPs for failing to live up to Nelson Mandela’s legacy, has given his response in Parliament. But he gave no comment on his relationship with Sonono Khoza who gave birth to his child last year.
He started out, predictably, by referring once again to the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release.
Then he undertook a rather peculiar detour into viewership statistics.
“Workers, students and all who have no control over their own time and resources were able to be part of the event. As we had predicted, the results are phenomenal. According to audience measurement figures, last year when the SoN was delivered, SABC 2 viewership was 1,5 million and etv viewership was 487 000. This year the SABC 2 viewership at 7 pm shot up to more than 2,5 million and etv rose to slightly more than 1,3 million.”
Then more on Mandela: “He taught us to overcome anger, pain and hatred and to offer calm … to move forward to build a non-racial and democratic future nation.” Read More…
I am Ray Hartley, the editor of The Sunday Times in South Africa.
|Steve Welsh ... er Walsh ... played a blinder in the number 16 jersey today|
|When I saw the headline "Katolieke het nuwe Pous" my first thought was that Steve Hofmeyr had converted (with apologies)|
|When I saw the headline "Katolieke het nuwe Pous" my first thought was that Steve Hofmeyr had converted (with apologies)|
|The Cardinals got it done before the Arsenal, Bayern game. Very telling.|
|So, what are they smoking in the Sistine Chapel?|