This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.
Shades of Difference - Transition In South Africa 1 Year on
Dispatches From The Subsahara:
South Africa 1995
There are many ways of looking at the changes taking place in South Africa. Each way will yield a different set of conclusions, because each begins from a different set of starting points. What is perceived as a learning curve by some is labeled mismanagement by others. The constant emphasis on consultation is dismissed as indecisiveness by some, as a necessary component of nation building by others. What is harshly condemned as corruption by some is excused as an almost an obligatory sense of duty by others.
Traditions clash; values differ; notions of civil society vary; deference to authority is rejected by some and overemphasized by others. In fact, there is not one South Africa but several, each with its unique characteristics, each with its unique responses to the tumultuous transitions that are sweeping, Phoenix-like, across its vast, heterogeneous terrain, laying the foundations for the much-heralded new South Africa.
But the new South Africa, to date, is very much the possession of the new elite, an elite which is beginning to show disturbing signs of emulating the habits of the old.
In short, South Africa does not lend itself to easy definition.
Moreover, it yet remains to be seen whether the process of transition is a revolution in the broadest sense of the term, or whether it will degenerate into one more ill-fated attempt to hoist a form of governance, which we, in the West, call the best - to paraphrase Winston Churchill's famous epigram: democracy may have its imperfections, but where does there exist a system of governance that has fewer imperfections? - onto the backs of people who have little understanding of what democracy means, and little capacity to master the next-to-insurmountable obstacles they face, some inherited from the wretched past, some self-inflicted delusions about the boundaries of democracy itself; almost all antithetical to synchronizing the relationships among diverse cultures, a prerequisite of democratic development, not only in the Third World, but increasingly in the First, despite the latter's vehement denial of new growing-pains.
Democracy, we like to think, is about values and standards. But we rarely ask: whose values? Whose standards? When an African spreads the blood of a goat across his suburban lawn in a sacred Zulu ritual, bringing the ancestors and the present together in order to divine the wisdom of the past, he is making a spiritual acknowledgement of the continuum of human relationships, of the bonds of family and kin that supersede the ephemeral present.
What, then is one to make of his white South African neighbors, most of whom adhere to the sanctuary of their own color and the prejudices of their class, when they call the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) to lodge complaints of animal-slaughter at their door-steps, bewildered at what they do not understand, disgusted at what they see as primitive, reassured at what appears to confirm the stereo-typical?
Few whites in South Africa, despite their affirmations to the contrary, know how to learn or how to reach out to other cultures, especially those that appear to envelop and threaten them. But, at least for the moment, in the post-apartheid era, they like to see themselves as responsible citizens, who give, at the very least, lip-service, even in the absence of belief, to the need to rectify the socio/economic imbalances of the past, provided, that is, that this will mean no change in their own socio/economic status, no pain, something more in the way of an "unbundling" of excess largess, rather than a sharing among equals.
But they are incapable of knowing where to start or what to do, or even how to begin to learn what to do, or how to deal with their own resentments, since all resentment is denied.
To reach out to other cultures would require them to acknowledge, in some way, their implicit collusion in the darkness of the past.
They will not confront the dark, or their collective responsibility for the actions of successive National Party governments they elected over a period of forty years, with not merely an imprimatur of approval but a carte blanche endorsement of the policies of governments that implemented with a ferocious commitment the abomination called apartheid; governments that made the racial superiority of whites the raison d'etre of their existence - and the raison d'etre of their adherents. And if errors were made, they were, of course, errors of ignorance, not of malice. To this day, in what they regard as a gesture of profound magnanimity, whites will contend that grand apartheid was the product of the best of intentions, of their sense of obligation to "free" Blacks, but that petty apartheid was just that - petty.
What, one might reasonably ask, is the test of success in the new political theater? Is it the degree to which the state devolves powers? Or some vague guarantee of the Zulu king's special position in a new dispensation? Or some fine balance between a unitary state and a federal system in which residual powers would be "left" to the center rather than the converse, in which residual powers would be devolved from the center to the peripheral provinces?
These may sound like arcane considerations, more abstractions than the stuff of day-to-day living, but it is out of such subtle distinctions that countries live or die. Blood merely cleanses the argument.
Revolutions are rarely about unemployment or lack of housing or the poor delivery of services. We simply use such pointers to try and understand revolution, to place it in a context that we can assimilate, to make comprehensible what is often incomprehensible, and, therefore, threatening to our neat understanding of how things work and change.
There is not one South Africa, but several; not one transition, but several; each one at a different stage of development, each one unique in its own right, each one having a relationship with the others, no matter how fragile; in the end, all must acknowledge their mutual interdependencies. The strongest province is only as strong as the weakest. Either South Africa gets a better grip on the things that make for these differences, or it will sink under the weight of its own contradictions.
Four years after Nelson Mandela was released and the ANC unbanned, the realities remain more or less the same. The economy stagnates except for a small blimp in growth expected in 1995; the faceless men in the South African Reserve Bank pull the financial strings; violence continues to exact an extraordinary toll.
Although the political component of violence fell after the April '94 election, it is on the rise again, especially in KwaZulu/Natal; "ordinary" criminal violence has skyrocketed, and has become the biggest challenge the country faces.
The rate of crime in South Africa, according to recent research, has increased at double the rate of population over the last four years. [Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation; Saturday Star 11/11/'95]
Statistics compiled by the South African Police Services (SAPS) indicate that there were 179,326 unsolved murders at the end of 1993 -over 100,000 more than in 1988, when there were 75,120 unsolved murder cases. Also, say the police, 94 people out of 100,000 of the population were murdered in 1993, compared with 74 out of 100,000 in 1988.
In France, the latest comparable figure is four, in Germany it is also four; and in the US eight. South Africa is the world's most murderous country, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with an average of 45 per 100,000 people murdered there each year, 800% higher than the world average of 5.5 people per 100,000 for the 122 countries that were studied. [ The Star 15/12/'95]. The same pathology can be seen in other trends involving violent crime. In South Africa, there is an assault rate of 840 per 100,000 compared to an international average of 142. [Saturday Star 11/11/'95]. The rape figure is 118 out of each 100,000 people, in France it is seven, in Germany fourteen, and in the US forty-one. . Ironically, given the pervasive perception that apartheid-South Africa was a police-state, Gauteng (the former Witswatersrand) can muster a mere 1.2 policemen for every 1,000 people. Country-wide the figure is 2.5 per 1,000. (The international standard ranges from 3.0 to 5.0 per 1,000.)
With the demise of the legal apparatus of apartheid, the South African Policce (SAP), renamed the South African Police Service (SAPS), found itself increasingly irrelevant to the maintenance of law and order; increasingly inwardly-looking, not so much out of the need for philosophic introspection to develop a new ethos, as out of a concern to protect its own and put the blinkers on the murky past.
Impaired discipline, a confused sense of identity, an inability to define what it stood for, (once upon a time kicking pure Black ass was the stepping-stone to a career full of promise), an inarticulate sense of mission, the collapse of morale, inevitable in the face of far-reaching change in the making, took their toll and practically eliminated much of the SAPS's effectiveness as the crime-fighting agency of the new state.
( At a hearing of the Portfolio Committee on Safety and Security, national Police Commissioner George Fivaz testified that "one of the most pressing issues is the capacity of the detective branch and one of the most crucial issues here is the lack of training. Seventy-five per cent of all detectives have not been trained even in their basic courses.") [Sowetan 15/2/'96]
But, as in all efforts involving attempts to pump massive tranfusions of new blood into dying organs, the police, too, find themselves on the same resuscitator. Sometimes, the transfusions are insufficient to stave off the inevitable hemorrhages. Sometimes, the new blood simply won't do the trick.
The price the police pay in the face of challenges they are not trained to face, of dangers no longer founded on the ideological certitudes of apartheid and the Total Onslaught, of the fragmentation of the tight-bonding based on what are now discredited values, of a camaraderie that was as much a product of fear of exposure as of the conspiratorial allures of unrestrained powers, of demands made which they are simply incapable of meeting, is enormous.
The present holds little hope of role-resolution, kindles no sense of a sustainable identity. For what will continue to be for a longtime the detritus of an apartheid-ridden police-force, redemption - a satisfying construct to the likes of Archbishop Tutu and the new (and well-annointed) commissars of Truth - infatuatued as they are with the notion that confession cleanses, that the act of seeking forgivenness paves the mysterious path to reconciliation - holds out no propect of understanding for the foot-soldiers of the new regime, (their confusion is compounded by the fact that they were also the foot-soldiers of the old-regime; both regimes being, of course, partners in the same government of national unity), provides no glimpse of a saving truth or the solace of a redemptive grace.
On the contrary, it encapulates abstraction, a distancing from the grim and dirty at odds with the perception of self. In the end, a distracted sense of self requires some outlet for expression.
In the confusion of their own magnificient (or horrific) ignorance of what is right and wrong; of the misgivings that erode the top-soil of the super-imposed self-awareness that has become a mandated requirement for understanding their role in a society that is trying desperately to erase the value-system that was their raison det're , they turn inward and look for disciplines they were thought to eviscerate.
Left to the well-meaning rhetoric of their new "superior" superiors who wish to imbue them with principles that they were trained to abhor if they were to care one whiddling shit about survival in the asylums of the townships they were supposed to bring order to, they are drowning in the quicksand of their own doomed sense of professional and personal oblivion.
The suicide rate among the SAPS is, like most statistics associated with the darker, more despairing side of South Africa, among the highest in the world. For every 100,000 police personnel in South Africa, 200 commit suicide. The comparable figure for the United States is 22. [The Star 22/4/'96]
If God giveth, God certainly taketh away.
And so sayeth the police commissioner, George Fivaz, who, in a remarkable moment of either officially-sanctioned or professionally -induced denial attributed the extraordinary suicide rate among police to the strain they endure in fighting against crime. [ibid]
Car hijackings are endemic. Gauteng alone accounted for more than 75% of all vehicle hijacked in the first eight months of 1995. Over 5,600 cars were taken by force, 94% of cases involved firearms. Less than 20% of cars hijacked were recovered, less than 1,000 suspects arrested. [The Argus 13/12/'95]
What has become far more ominous, however, is the degree of violence that accompanies the thefts. People who hand over their cars without the slightest resistance are shot on the spot; people who are unlucky enough to be passengers in cars whose drivers are assaulted at traffic-lights or other locations especially susceptible to hijackings are sometimes found murdered, their bodies dumped into convenient swamps or vacant land-lots.
A few years ago, certain types of routine, some urban areas or or specific locations of social unrest could be pinpointed as "most likely" targets of opportunity for would-be hijackers. But no longer. One's own home is no longer a haven. The impact on whites has been traumatic; the psychic effect devastating. Their discovery that fortress-like homes, state-of-the-art security, ten-foot high, unclimbable brick-walls topped by chocolate-like layers of razor wire, seemimgly unassailable "cactus" spikes stragegically placed to give pause to the most adventurious or entrap the least cautious, the electric wires that stun with their discharge of voltage guard against nothing, offer no protection, are Maginot lines preserving illusion, that when all is said and done and counted, they are no more than "sitting ducks" has eviscerated all notions of the privacy of the home and fail-proof protection. They have been condemned permanently to having to be on guard, foot-soldiers in the ranks of the "bewarers."
Figures, of course, fall short of giving any understanding of the predatory dimensions of the crime-levels that infest communities across South Africa; they fail to acknowledge that the problem is systemic, that contrary to the conventual wisdom, the sum of the parts never add up; they reduce injury and death to cursory abstractions. Yet, the figures convey a frightening sense of the underlying malevolence: 789,000 violent crimes, 100,000 car-hijacking (increasing at the rate of 30% a year), and 62,000 armed robberies were reported to the police in 1994. In other words, an average of 99 serious crimes were committed every hour - one every 35 seconds, an armed robbery every seven minutes.
Police investigators solved only 52% of violent crimes, and a meager 26% of the armed robberies.[The Argus 4 April '95]; a staggering 200,000 serious crimes remain unsolved. Only one in ten men who are brought to court for rape are convicted, and only one in 20 women who are raped are believed to report the incidents to the police. [Cape Times 26/3/'96]
In addition, 11,000 policemen were convicted of serious crimes: conservative estimates say one in ten policemen is corrupt, indicating a problem within the police force comparable to the one the police-force faces in dealing with crime at large.[The Star International Weekly, 23/2 to 1/3/'95] South Africa, according to Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad has become one of the main bases for international drug syndicates. Estimates put the number of drug syndicates operating in South Africa at 100 or more. [Business Day 2/4/'96]
Indeed,the situation is so precarious that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is currently using more troops in police support in the townships than the former South African Defence Force (SADF) had used in Angola at the height of the war there. Combating crime is now the defence force's main task.[Sowetan 6 April'95]
(One measure of the extent of desperation: at one point there were plans afoot to use 10,000 unemployed Soweto youths as unpaid police reservists; fortunately more rational heads prevailed.) [Business Day 26/3/'96]
Crime has become a national obsession. Fear of it permeates everything. It is an incessant topic of conversation. It dominates the air-waves, as people call the talk-shows, vying to out-horror each other with macabre tales of encounters with muggers, car-jackers, thieves, burglars rapists, and all sorts of assault-with-intent-to-kill types. And while whites are more vociferous in the outcry they raise and are increasingly becoming inmates in security-protected housing enclaves, 80% of the police are deployed in white areas and over 500 of the country's 700 police stations are located in what are primarily or exclusively white communities. The stories that make the headlines, are, of course, the stories of the 13% protected by the 80% -- some things do not change. There are hundreds of stories of the mindless preying of the roving gangs that stalk, vulture-like, their vulnerable human quarry, who scurry, like frightened rabbits, into what they hope are the burrow-holes of safety. Only some, invariably white, get their three inches of print.
A typical headline: "FLEEING FROM THE TASTE OF FEAR" in the Argus [13/12/'95] The accompanying article chronicles the sad travails of the Moller family who have packed their bags and are preparing to leave the country of their birth for Germany, without, they tell us "a hint of regret." The husband's business is not doing well, the school system is falling apart, put most importantly the family has slowly succumbed to the miasma of fear.
In short measure, the husband was shot at as he drove to work; then, a few months later, he was forced off the road by hijackers and shot in the leg. One of the family's best friends was shot in the hip and her husband shot dead in front of their children. A brother-in-law was shot at in his driveway as four armed men tried to steal his car, also with his family watching helplessly from the house. "One year ago," Mrs. Moller told the New York Times, "I was so elated -- standing in the queques to vote was the most incredible feeling. It was the first time I could walk around and look everyone in the eye. I was acquiring my freedom, too. But with the hijacking I got my first taste of fear." [The Argus 13/12/'95]
The trickle is in danger of becoming a flow, bleeding the country of needed expertize, decimating the ranks of many professions, robbing the country of the gifts one generation should be passing on to the next, precluding that symbiosis of white skill and Black acquisitiveness germane to the emergence of sustainable development.
Despite the euphoria that followed the April '94 elections when neither race-war or civil-war engulfed the country and South Africans of every hue rejoiced in their "miracle", the exodus that peaked in the first half of 1994, just before the elections, has not subsided.
According to government data, over 6,000 people, filling out departure forms at the airport, said they were emigrating, about twice the number saying so five years before.
Most experts say that the data collected at departure forms is notoriously unreliable: many people lie to avoid inconvenience and arkward questions regarding taxes and currency restrictions. From another perspective, moving companies and relocation specialists say they are more busy now than at any time since the early 1970s when a wave of brutal riots triggered what is euphemistically referred to in the business as "the chicken run." [Susanne Daley in the New York Times, reprinted in The Argus 13/12/'95]
Or take another headline: "DOCTORS FLEE HOSPITAL'S CORRIDORS OF CRIME." Attention-grabbing? Yes. Bone-chilling and adequately hair-raising? Yes. Macabre and damning? Yes.
An indictment? Certainly. But of whom and what? In the end, it is one more township-tale, on this occasion of the hospital at Thembisa, one of the endless extensions of the sprawling East Rand townships that disfigure the natural contours of the veld and could be 10,000 miles removed from the chic boutiques and trendy restaurants that cuddle each other along the tree-lined, manicured streets of Rosebank and Sandton.
Here the victims are a doctor and his pregnant wife, also a doctor, who were assaulted and robbed by five armed men. Victims, too, are the hospital's 37 unarmed security guards who were held hostage over and over again, robbed repeatedly at gunpoint, until they became unwilling to guard the gates because they felt defenceless in the face of armed attackers.
Or perhaps the most victimized of all are the patients, deprived of the drugs they desperately need, drugs that are routinely stolen from the hospital's dispensaries, in many cases with the collusion of the hospital's staff, and sold openly, with a brazen disregard for any risk of apprehension, in full sight of hospital officials, on the pavements abutting the hospital. Even pre-packaged drugs, already prescribed and handed to patients in the wards end up on the streets. More drugs, more thefts; more thefts, more raids on the drug chests. And so it goes: endless cycles of drug-thievery, drug-bereft patients, drug-thirsting addicts, bound in a vicious strangle-hold of imposed thuggery, silently accepted in the absence of any recourse to the contrary. [The Star 15/12/'95]
Deals are understood; the rules of the games require no negotiation. Silence is the currency of last resort.
The townships are steeped in criminal violence, their residents, especially in the sprawling squatters'camps bear the overwhelming brunt of criminal activity, yet their voices are among the last to be heard. Crime has people changing life-long habits; they no longer walk the streets they live on; they avoid certain areas altogether, even if it means taking a more circuitous route to get from one place to the next; they uxude suspicion; wariness has become instinctual; even neighbors are regarded with a caution unheard of in the worst days of apartheid; the world is not to be trusted.
In the more affluent white areas "rape-gates" have become the fashion of the times (many whites, when they go to bed, literally imprison themselves behind locked and well-barricaded iron-barred doors - a thief may ravage their houses, but not their bodies.) The pervasive sense that anything may happen at any time has destroyed people's sense of personal security and their collective sense of living in a safe community.
Perhaps the most telling data regarding the impact of crime, however, relate to the growth of the security industry. Uniformed security officers outnumber the police by about three to one. Listings of security companies run to 16 pages in the Johannesburg Yellow Pages'telephonedirectory. There are about 2,700 private companies in the security business countrywide. These companies employ about 100,000 security officers and are increasingly turning to armed response activities, one bellwether of the extent to which the industry has usurped the state's role in maintaining law and order.[WeekEnd Argus 29/30 April '95]
Most devastatingly, knee-jerk crime has reduced the value of human life to a pittance or less. There are no degrees of motive attached to the use of violence; one shoots dead someone as much for a dime as for a million; gender and age have ceased to be considerations; being in the way or just being is a sufficient reason for the snuffing-out of a life; the sight of living appears to justify erasing it. The sheer purposelessness of it all, the intimations of reflex boredom, are beginning to rob violence of its horror; the casualness of the way death is delivered is beginning to be matched by the casualness of the way it is being received. Not that there is any lack of outrage. On the contrary, the victims increasingly take matters into their own hands, and administer savage retribution to would-be culprits who are unlucky enough to get in the way of their inveterate wrath.
Anarchy is gaining its own momentum, and the continuing incapacity of the police to check the avalanches of crime suffocating people on every side has led to a disillusionment with, and disrespect for the rule of law. (In a recent case, it was uncovered that some of President Mandela's security-guards at his Houghton residence, a not-too pretentious dwelling in the affluent suburb, were treating themselves to possessions of his in the adjacent guest-house.) [The Sunday Independent 3/12/'95]
And as with all problems that do not lend themselves to easy solution, would-be-victims look for the most obvious. Home-owners are drawing-up plans to turn their communities into fortresses, separated from neighboring communities by what would amount to Berlin-type walls.
In the Greater Johannesburg Metropole, the residents of at least eleven suburbs drew-up proposals for building walls in the Sandton, Hurlington, Fourways Extension 12, and Senderwood for the sole purpose of trying to hermetically seal themselves off from the ravages of crime. Roads will be closed; access and egress, with the necessary security-checks at either end, will be in strictly-controlled directions; bollards and guard- railings will be erected to either channel, divert, or otherwise monitor the flow of traffic The entrance to Hurlingnon, for example, will have a boom across the road, a 24-hour guard, and a telephone link to each house. It is a measure of the defeat of the authorities that Gauteng safety and security minister Jessie Duarte resignedly acknowleded that "It is not unreasonable to [have people] request that their suburbs be closed off - where it has been done hijackings have decreased dramatically." [The Sunday Independent 3/12/'95]
And thus perhaps one of the final ironies of the repeal of the apartheid laws. In the place of the walls that have supposedly come down between the races, walls designed by law as part of the architecture of apartheid, have come other walls, walls designed by concrete. Where once people colluded in separation in the name of racial purity, they now collude in separation in the name of security as part of the architecture of security. One, of course, has always been a code-word for the other. Apartheid by other names is still apartheid.
According to the South Africa Chamber of business (Sacob), the country's frightening rate of crime and lawless image is deterring foreign investment, and even more disturbing, it is forcing some local firms to close down and others to move to safer locations. Ken Warren, Sacob's director of legal affairs, says that "The perception overseas is that through crime and violence the country is unstable, notwithstanding what has been achieved over the last five years." Or, as economist Tony Twine put it, a little less elegantly, perhaps, but certainly more pithily: "People who want to put money into South Africa want to put people in as well. They don't want to see them go home in body bags." [Cape Times 13 April '95]
(According to a survey carried out on behalf of the American Chamber of Commerce in South Africa, almost two-thirds of its members believe that business confidence is affected by South Africa's high crime rate. Half of the chamber members who responded tothe survey had experienced a car hijacking in the past year; 48 per cent had had a burgulary, and 27 per cent had experienced an assault on an employee. In the same period 24 per cent had experienced a car hijacking and 48 per cent a vehicle delivery hijacking.
Nearly 90 per cent of respondents felt the level of policing was inadequate, with 80 per cent saying the service of the police was poor. On South Africa's political climate, 83 per cent described it as volatile, 84 per cent said progress to mpolitical maturity ws slow; only 13 per cent thought it bwas "quite fast." [Business Day 3/4/'96]
What is happening is not untypical of what happens when the lid of repression is lifted in any society which has been governed through repression. In South Africa, the result has been an explosion in the crime rate since the collapse of apartheid has been accompanied by a simultaneous breakdown in law enforcement and in the morale of the police. "You had an illegitimate government," says Lloyd Vogelman, director of the University of Witswaterand's Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, "that could not provide for any kind of moral authority over why there should not be crime. People felt that they could justify crime on the basis of politics, but frequently the kind of crime carried out in the name of politics was just basic thuggery." [Ellen Barlett, Boston Sunday Globe 28 May '95]
Once again, old habits are hard to break. The new government, no matter how legitimate in the eyes of the people, has to contend with the same old problems: unemployment, easy access to cheap weapons ( an AK -47 can routinely be purchased for under $30.00 ); the continued breakdown of law-enforcement, and, in the townships a continued lack of trust in the police, whose job had been to enforce apartheid, not to protect citizens.[ibid] What, after all, is one to expect from the same old faces in the same old uniforms? What is the difference between the South African Police (SAP) and the South African Police Services (SAPS), other than a euphemistic change in emphasis, despite the high-minded incantations about community policing and the like?
Not that the new SAPS is closed to change. On the contrary, two years after the abolition of apartheid, nearly 25% of the country's brigade staff in the SAPS has quit or been forced to quit; golden handshakes cost taxpayers tensof millions of rands. [The Citizen, 10/3/'95]. In the year following the election in April'94, 217 police officers retired, 196 on grounds of health. They included 15 major-generals and lieutenant-generals, 12 of whom retired for reasons of ill-health; 25 majors, 55 lieutenant-colonels, 66 colonels, 38 brigadiers, 11 major generals and one lieutenant-general.[Cape Times 31 March '95] The government paid out more than R17 million to 84 former members of the notorious Vlakplass counter-insurgency unit. [The Star, 6/9/'95]
(In the most notorious case, Colonel Eugene De Kock was paid R1.6 million in a cash compensation "for early termination of services". In return, De Kock forfeited all his pension and other benefits except the expenses he might incur "as a result of any legal action...resulting from and in the course of his services."
De Kock, former commander of the Vlakplaas counter-intelligence unit is facing 121 criminal charges, including nine of murder, multiple fraud charges, conspiracy to murder charges and charges relating to the illegal possession of arms and ammunition. In the first eight months of his trial,the taxpayer footed R2.6 million to cover his legal expenses.) [The Star 10 October '95]
Among whites, apartheid created a society, carefully calibrated along racial lines, artfully organized, to preclude feelings of guilt. But this, in turn, created a poisonous counterpoint. Because the oppressed in time are innured with the indifference of the oppressor. They become partners in suppression, inebriated with the numbness of the same guiltlessness. Apartheid endured because its proponents were willing to employ brutal and inhumane measures to ensure its survival. Apartheid was destroyed because its opponents were willing to use brutal and inhumane measures to ensure its annihilation. The heartlessness of one became in time matched by the heartlessness of the other.
At the heart of oppression is collusion between oppressor and oppressed, some awfulness, an unbearable commonality of non-being, a shared requiem of non-redemption. Once both sides succumb to the allures brutalization entices, desistance is impossible; rationalization becomes a matter of fruitless self-discourse. Once oppressed and oppressor submit to the exigiencies of brutality, they can feel no remorse. Because remorse induces madness, a psychic crack-up that leaves one beyond spiritual repair, in perptual abeyance from oneself - and with the good grace of God permanently extirpated, each looks to the hideous-power one can exercise over the other, each promiscuously earns his mother-lode of savage callousness off the spade-work of the other, each becomes emeshed in the symmetry of the centrigual forces that bind them in their atrocities, each incarcerates the other in the prism of mutual containment, forever bonded through hatred or forgivenness - the difference between the two becomes at some point pointlessly irrelevant.
The mathematical dynamics of violence are almost grotesquely simple: Brutality is a learned behavior. But when the practitioners of brutality become indifferent to their own practices, prisoners of the lassitude of endless repetition, the practices, like bad habits, become addictive; and the greater the addiction, the more tempting the inclination to excess. In the end, all habits consume, yielding to the intemperate dispositions that harden the heart and destroy compassion.
Anger is the one emotion both oppressor and oppressed go to exceeding lengths to conceal, the one because of the need to justify oppression on some moral basis, the other not to forfeit what is left of his dignity, since the withholding of anger is the one emotion the oppressor cannot rob the oppressed of.
But anger permeates the lives of the oppressed, leaving in its wake its concealments, its passive-aggressiveness, the cloud-tunnels of passing frenzies of despair, tornados of rage, grievances twisting in the winds of century-old discontents, anger at once magificient and dangerous, at once perilous and exhiliarating: The realities of the ending of oppression can never compensate for the damage oppression inflicts.
When the boomlets of rejoicing and exuberance that follow political emancipation peter out in disappointment as they invariably do - and a desolation for which there is no remedy takes hold with the knowledge that there is no Messiah, no hope of the innumerable injuries of the past being redressed, the dams that held and channeled anger simply collapse, and the pent-up anger, free at last, sweeps everything aside, destroying whatever lies in its path. And to a very large extent, crime, brutal and casual, is a simple and logical outcome. Indeed, for South Africa, caught between the contradictions of so many countervailing worlds, survival is a message of success.
But the soul of the country is in trouble. Indeed, it is ironic that despite its many-acclaimed successes in the last eighteen months - and there are many - the spiritual myth that transmogrified the apartheid-era, the cohesive and seamless beingnness that connected the immense diversity that is the hallmark ofthe many South Africas is gone, or is at the very least dormant.
The who-is-to-blame-for the failure to check the ever-escalating rate of increase in crime came to a head in late September. At a Black tie dinner (Black-tie, that is for everyone except the president who, in his wickedly convention-defying tastes, was dressed in one of what his staff indulgently refer to as his "Madiba" shirts - a colorful multi-patterned garment, worn lose at the waist with a buttoned collar), at Gencor's new headquarters in Hollard Street in Johannesburg, the president departed from his prepared speech to charge that the country's crime problem was inherited from the the apartheid regime. ("When President Nelson Mandela removes his glasses and puts his prepared speech to one-side it's wise to pay attention." observes Shaun Johnson, editor of The Sunday Independent. "Pretty much anything can happen when he gives this characteristic indication that he has something to get off his chest, extempore.")
Mandela, aware that De Klerk, who was also a guest at the dinner, had appeared offended by his remarks, had reportedly told his aides to ask the deputy president to speak to him before he departed. The two men met on the kerbside in Hollard Street, alongside the presidential limousine; after they shook hands, De Klerk said he had been "deeply offended" by Mandela's comments. Mandela immediately raised a finger towards De Klerk and responded animatedly. In turn, De Klerk replied with equal animation, gesticulating vigorously with both hands, as if to drive home his points forcibly and with obvious anger.
De Klerk's office said the deputy president's main concern had not been a personal one. What he had objected to was the fact that Mandela did "not do South Africa a favor when he uses occasions to which he is invited as president for party-political attacks." Mandela's office, on the otherhand, said it was "interesting" that De Klerk had taken the president's remarks personally. The Sunday Independent, which captured the angry exchange between the two men in a series of dramatic photographs, captioned the exchange: "THE SHOWDOWN ON HOLLARD STREET." [The Sunday Independent 1 October '95]
(Two weeks later, Mandela, talking to journalists in Midrand, said he did not blame the previous government for South Afric's crime problem, but that certain realities from the past, such as the fact that 80% of the police and police equipment were deployed in white areas under the previous government. "Crime has rocketed," he said, "because there were no security in Black areas to see to the maintenance of law and order." At best, this seems to be a semantical shift in his stated position, perhaps to mollify De Klerk, or, perhaps because Mandela is Mandela).
What is remarkable, of course, was the intensity of De Klerk's reactions, remarkable that he could take personal umbrage at what is uncontestibly true: Apartheid did leave behind it the conditions that would inevitably lead to a soaring increase in crime. In an editorial, The Citizen tried to "apportion" blame.
Not one to be left on the sidelines when matters of controversy were being aired, General Constand Viljoen, leader of the Freedom Front and a former chief of the SADF added his own two cents worth to the argument. The problem, he opined, was that the the command structure of the SAPS had for all practical purposes collapsed following the resignation of many of its generals. The "disappearance" of the generals had created "great instability" within the police force. And, for good measure, he added that the integration of Umkhonto we Siswe and the Azanian Peoples' Liberation Army (APLA) cadres into the defense force had caused an irreversible deterioration in levels of discipline, the inference being that the SANDF was well on its way to becoming one more African army, a motley crew at best, at worst a rag-tag collection of ill-trained uncorrigibles. [The Citizen 25 October '95]
National police commissioner George Fivaz at a workshop attended by the police chiefs of eleven southern african countries told his peers that crime in the region had reached alarming proportions and was threatening to "ruthlessly rip our civilized world apart."
His analysis of the causes for the spiralling levels of crime in South Africa was conspicuous for the absence of reference to apartheid. Instead, he singled out the smuggling of firearms into South Africa, the increasing international trade in illegal firearms originating from, among others, former eastern bloc countries, and abundantly available in SA's neighboring countries, illegal immigration, which was also tied in with organized crime, and led to an increase in the already intense competition for scarce resources. [Business Day 7 November'95]
(Irony: in early October, after all the hoop-la about crime and after President Mandela signed into law a comprehensive crime bill and the public outcry against crime had reached new crescendos of dismay and anger, in Orange Farm (a relatively new township/squatters' settlement about 40 km outside Johannesburg) an anti-crime meeting, organized by the Impumelelo Trust, was called off when no invited organization turned up. Among the most prominent organizations, who had accepted invitations to attend the forum but who did not turn up were : the local South African Police Service, Community Policing Forum, Municipal Management Services and God's Love of Orange Farm Ministers' Association.)
Most aspects of daily life remain damningly the same. Bad air, bad water, pollution from coal-fires, with their smothering residue of anthracite, deadly dust sweep across the barren landscapes and the garbage-littered wastelands of the townships; unheeded by the community, uncomplained of. Purulent streams of god-knows-what belch out of the steel chimney-stacks that sentinel-like envelop the townships or whatever you want to call the sparse, grim, infertile places people - the Godots of their miserable lots - squat and wait for change. Meanwhile, eyes, nose, ears are saturated with the insidious inhalation of the fumes of disease.
Townships and the inescapable sense of being smothered by the chaotic physical closeness of people to each other are a permanent part of the landscape; squatter camps continue to proliferate with blind randomness, entrapped in a Catch 22: the more the word gets out that the government is building houses, the more the population flocks to urban areas with the result that the backlog of houses increases, since the rate of influx exceeds the rate of housing construction; it's like trying to fill a bottomless bucket. The harder you try, the quicker it empties. In addition, what housing schemes do function are enmeshed in unending bureaucratic squabbles; unemployment remains as high as ever, and the ANC's promises of what a government of the people would do for the people remain promises on a distant horizon, a wish-list rather than an agenda, something that might come back to haunt the ANC, as it feverously tries to dampen expectations with frequent reminders to the grass-roots that Rome wasn't built in a day. No one stops to ask whether anyone knows where the hell Rome is.
On 17th February, President Nelson Mandela addresses parliament and lays out the blueprint of what the Government of National Unity (GNU) will try to accomplish in the coming year.
But there still remains, after nine months of the ANC-dominated GNU an ambience of unsettlement, the feeling that at any time things could fall apart, in tandem with the feeling that everything is going well, considering the inexperience of the new government, the travails it has had to cope with on its path to power, the enormity of the problems it faces, and the scarcity of the resources at its disposal.
(The GNU has had its successes, which deserve due acknowledgement. Some four million school children are fed every day as part of a school-feeding program; there is free medical care for children and pregnant women; free education for Grade One children; and no child can be turned away from school, simply because he cannot afford school fees.)
In parliament, President Mandela addresses the assembled MPs, the dignitaries from abroad, and other eminences who pack the galleries. He acknowledges that the government has a ways to go before it can congratulate itself on the job it is doing. ( "Undoubtedly many of us, both in the legislature and the executive, have made mistakes. But mistakes are an inevitable element of any process of learning.")
(Outside, things are more like the old days. More than six hundred police as well as troops line the streets leading to parliament. Police halt six buses, carrying hundreds of students, at the Khayelitsha off-ramp, to prevent them from reaching the city, and train services between Khayelitsha and Cape Town are suspended to ensure that the students, who had ran amok in the city the day before demanding free education for all, do not disrupt the opening of parliament)
Inside, President Mandela pledges, in short measure, to root out corruption wherever it occurs; warns anarchists, rioters, and looters that freedom does not mean license: ("I speak of those who engage in such totally unacceptable practices as the murder of police officers, the taking of hostages, riots, looting, the forcible occupation of public buildings, blocking of public highways, vandalization of public and private property. Anarchy will meet its match in the government.") He declares war on criminals and discloses that the security forces have been instructed to bring down the level of crime. He tells public servants that the government cannot meet their demands and that mass action will not create cash. ("Mass action of any kind will not create resources the government does not have and will only serve to subvert the capacity of government to serve the people.") He literally excoriates college administrators for their reluctance to take the metaphorical cane to students, who, in their absolute belief that a free third-level education is their birthright, trashed their campuses in the name of the right to freedom of expression. ("I'm asking all university authorities to take strong disciplinary action," he would later tell a function in Johannesburg, "White rectors seemed scared of dealing firmly with unruly Blacks." This, he would say is "racism in reverse.") [The Citizen, 10/3/'95]
The performance is vintage Mandela, forever the stern but understanding father, who has to read the facts of life, from time-to-time, to his unruly, over-demanding children, and who threatens harsh measures if they do not fall into line. The irony is not lost. In his warnings to criminals, President Mandela uncannily sounds like his erstwhile nemesis, the "Old Crocodile" himself, former State President, PW Botha.
The intent may be different, but the language is the same. The language is the language of crack down, of impatience with those elements in society, whether they are students or squatters, who, by their actions, are disrupting the orderly march to the new South Africa. ( Could he be more blunt? "I am going to crack down on all people creating chaos in this country.")[The Citizen, 10/3/'95]
But unlike Botha, who habitually used intimidation rather than consultation to get his way, Mandela's persona is such that no matter what the occasion, he rises above it to convey an aura of a moral austerity and reclusiveness, the distance of serenity imbues his remarks, no matter how mundane, with the stamp of authenticity and an almost child-like sincerity that sets him apart from his peers, whether enemy or friend. They simply cannot command the authority that slips easily off his shoulders. No burden asked for, no burden unremitted.
Having been imprisoned for twenty seven years, Mandela brings the fastidiousness he had to practice in jail to match that of the regimen he had to live with in order to master his conceptions of how to survive not just the physical isolation, but the sense of spiritual abandonment that can accompany it.
Inevitably, having been imprisoned for that length of time, the fault-line between having to follow a routine based on regulation and discipline and the discipline and regulation that are imperative for an orderly transition to democracy disappears. His visions of the future are lanced by his experience of the past. The personal and the political converge. Symbiosis is complete, but uncomfortable, less a matter of principle than a raw awareness of reality: Deal or you're done for - easy to understand in the grim world of subterranean politics, hard to accept in the equally grim world of electoral politics.
What shapes Mandela's vision of the future is rooted irrevocably in the cold stone of Robben Island, where self-discipline was not only the yardstick of survival, but the hallmark of triumph over adversity and the redemption of the mythological self. One cedes the self to cause, not to God, but since God is always more rewarding than cause, the self is always more vulnerable to doubt.
In prison, he shaped himself. Out of prison he shapes his people. Which is why he talks about behavior rather than issues. Issues are transient -- behavior has the benefit of permanence. You reach into the soul to find the hidden graces, or you suffocate on the fumes of your deeply-held hatred.
Mandela is building his legacy: Stability is not in itself a sufficient but a necessary prerequisite for prosperity, and, if,in the few years he has left in office, he cannot leave behind him the level of social and economic upliftment he so desperately seeks on behalf of his people, he will, at least, leave a climate of stability and order in which prosperity can thrive.
The foundations for nation-building, he is telling his people, come from within; from the understanding, acknowledgement, and acceptance that freedom has its corollaries: self-generated senses of discipline, obligation and responsibility, and if it takes a good crack of the whip, now and then, to drive home this message, well, so be it.
Ironies abound: For three hundred years, Blacks were systematically excluded from having any say in how they were governed. The minority white community arrogated all power to itself, treating the Black majority as chattels, as less than human. In 1948, it went one step further, institutionalizing Black exclusion with the introduction of apartheid. Blacks simply became non-persons, and were to remain so until the country's first fully-enfranchised elections were held in April 1994.
And what an extraordinary occasion it was. Blacks waited patiently in line for up to ten hours to cast the first vote of their lives. Old people wept. Young people strutted with pride.
Yet, less than nine months after the so-called "miracle", the same people balk at having to register to vote for the local elections in November. In February, two months prior to the cut-off date, only 3% had registered. Eventually, after an extention of the registration deadline for a number of months, about 76% of eligible voters would register, or, perhaps one should more accurately say, were cajoled into registering.
Everyone believes that the new South Africa has benefitted somebody else. The people don't understand why they have to register to vote _ they didn't have to register for the April elections, so why, they ask, should they have to do so now? People are afraid to register, believing that it will be used somehow to compromise the secrecy of their ballot or for tracking them down, if they are in arrears for services and rent.
People don't know what they will be voting for; they have very limited understanding of what local government is, and many associate it with the old, discredited bantustan councils. A lot of people are still suspicious of councillors and have yet to be convinced that they are not voting for previous apartheid officials. And why, they also ask, should they have to vote so soon after the April '94 elections, especially since the April elections had produced so little ?
Besides, with less than two months to go before registration came to a close, there were no procedures in place on how to register the millions of potential voters who lived in squatter camps and had no recognizable addresses.
Demographics compound registration problems. Whites look at the population make-up of a Local Transitional Council (LTC), and see that their vote is minuscule and will make no difference to the outcome. Blacks take a similar look, see their overwhelming numbers, and conclude that their individual votes aren't necessary, that Blacks are going to win no matter what.
Hence their apathy. With less than a month to go before the April 26th cut-off date for registration, fewer than 1,000 of an expected 20,000 people turned up for a local government rally at the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Gauteng premier, Tokyo Sexwale, cancelled a planned appearance, because the crowd was so small.--hardly a voter-friendly gesture on Tokyo's part. [Sowetan 10 April '95]
And, as if all these problems were not enough to tax the energies of even the most lion-hearted, there is the voting procedure itself, a mixture of first-past-the post and party- list PR which varies depending on whether you are voting at the ward level, the local council level, or the metropolitan chamber level. It is difficult to find any two election officials who have the same understanding of how the voting process works. In one year, South Africa went from having what was arguably the most simple voting procedure in the world to having undeniably the most complex.
Confusion abounds; disputes regarding the delineation of wards, the composition of rural district councils, the composition of "substructures," (among the few who profess to know what a substructure is), and the eligibility of candidates have created havoc. In KwaZulu/Natal and metropolitan Cape Town, disputes over the interpretation of the law in these respects forces the postponement of elections. In the end, the government gives communities an option: if they feel they are not adequately prepared to hold elections on November 1st, they can postpone them until next year.
Some indicators of where things stood with less than two weeks to go before the elections:
* In some rural areas, all or most ANC candidates have been rejected for one reasonor another, usually technical,raising the prospect of National Party (NP) or far-right walkovers. The options: unrepresentative government or the postponement of elections.
* The Gauteng ANC has suggested that registration be re-opened "for a day or two" so that candidates disqualified because they did not appear on the voters'roll can register.
* In the Eastern Cape, the provincial cabinet endorsed a request by the rural authorities of Albany, Bathurst, Alexandria, Uitenhague and Port Elizabeth to postpone elections until November 29th after ANC party lists were rejected because candidates' addresses were incomplete.
* In the Algoa regional services council area, with about 800,000 voters, 95% of ANC candidates were rejected because their nomination forms arrived late. If elections go ahead, they can hardly claim to be legitimate, setting the scene for violent reaction.
* In Mpumalanga province, 157 of the 800 candidates were disqualified, because potential candidates were not registered in their areas to vote, because of irregularities in their applications, or because they did not satisy the requirement that candidates must be up-to-date in their service payments.
* In the TLC of Hazyview, all the ANC's candidates were rejected after failing to hand in party lists on time.
* Six ANC candidates for the Volksrust TLC were disqualified after registering for the neighboring Amersfoort TLC.
* Thirty three ANC candidates in the Eastern Services Council area of Gauteng were debarred because they had not registered, ensuring white control of councils in the rural towns of Bronsberg, Blesbokspruit, Suikerbosrivier and Vischkuil, and thus unrepresentative government, if the elections are not postponed.
* All ANC candidated were also disqualified in Cullinan, Gauteng, on the grounds that they were in arrears with their municipal services payment.
* ANC lists were also rejected in parts of the Western Cape and the Free State.
* In the North West, allegations that about 5,000 registration forms completed by voters in Mothibistadt and Papierstad near the Northern Cape border were illegally transferred to the Northern Cape town of Kuruman were under investigation.
* The North West government postponed elections in Mannakato, near Rustenburg, after authorities closed the village's municipal offices to prevent registration from taking place. Residents had closed the municipal offices in protest against the village's exclusion from Rustenburg - which they regarded as their tax base.
* In parts of the Northern Province, serious logistical problems were hampering the establishment of polling stations. Many voting districts were situated in inaccessible mountain regions, and some could only be reached by helicopter or four-wheel drive vehicles. [Business Day 19 October '95]
Eventually, many, if not most, of these cases were referred to the courts, and in most cases disqualified candidates were reinstated or elections were postponed, especially in rural areas that were experiencing problems. But with time running out for court action and for remedying the plethora of problems that seemed to proliferate exponentially as the election date drew closer, it appeared that postponement of elections would become the remedy of last resort in an increasingly unacceptable number of voting districts. The fact that it did not 1s testimony to the South African propensity for resolving disputes through consensual procedures, and also to the extent to which the ANC dominates the political life of the country. But more of this later.
However, the essential non-recalcitrant nature of consensual politics has yet to make itself felt at the grass-roots. Intolerance of political opposition is still deeply-ingrained, and not only in KwaZulu/Natal where it continues to erupt into explosive and at times frenzied upheavals of violence. According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Democracy only 26% of respondents were prepared to allow their political opponents to engage in political activity in their communities. Supporters of particular political parties were among the most intolerant --between 60% and 80% would not allow activity by political opponents.
A "snapshot" pre-election survey on the local government elections, conducted among rural Black voters in four provinces and metropolitan voters in Gauteng by the Institute for Democratic Alternatives in South Africa (IDASA) one month before the elections, indicated that although voters intended to turn out in large numbers, they had only a vague idea about what they would be voting for or who they would be voting for. These conclusions appeared to invalidate the very reason for holding local elections in the first place, which placed great emphasis on getting people to vote for candidates from their communities, people they know and trust.
Up to 33% of unregistered voters (about 15% of all voters surveyed) believed voting officials would find a way of allowing them to vote, suggesting the possibility of disruptions at polling places when voters were told they were ineligible to vote. (In response to the IDASA survey, the ANC demanded that the registration of voters should be reopened to avoid chaos at the polls. It called for a "tendered ballot" system. This system usually consists of a presiding officer verifying that a prospective voter, whose name does not appear on the voters' roll, is eligible to cast a ballot. Tendered ballots are kept separately in an envelope, and are not put in the ballot box. Tendered votes are not opened and counted.) [The Argus 6 October '95]
More than half those surveyed did not know where to vote. In the Northern Province 90% did not know where to vote, and in Gauteng, 62% did not. About 81% of respondents did not know or have the time to find out the names ofthe candidates they would be voting for. In the Free State, ignorance of candidates was complete - 100% of those interviewed were unable to name one candidate. IDASA said that while voters appeared to have accepted the need for registration, low levels of interest in the campaign and abysmal levels of familiarity with candidates suggested that unless political parties swung into high gear, it would be a low visibility and low information election. [Business Day 6 October '95]
(The IDASA report, it should be added, came under heavy criticism, especially from the ANC, for its finding that voters were unfamiliar with their local candidates, on the grounds that the survey was carried out in early October, weeks before the election campaign got properly underway. On the other hand, the ANC had no qualms using the survey's conclusions to call for a tendered ballot)
However, despite these anomalies, a majority of respondents expected that the elections would improve local government performance and were concerned enough to enumerate the issues they believed local government can and should solve.
Concerns were unemployment (53%), housing (51%), services (43%),crime (35%), education (25%), violence (18%), health care (14%),and water shortage (14%). At least 54% of the voters surveyed expected their new councils to do something about their problems, reinforcing the belief, once again, that as empowerment trickled down, this time to the local level, delivery would improve and living standards would start to get better.[ Sowetan, 6 October '95]
As yet they have not. A national household survey carried out on behalf of the Kaiser Family Foundation by the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE) indicates that political change is slow to translate into an improvement in the living conditions of Black people.
Among the study's findings: 60% of Africans still have no electricity; only 20% have a water tap inside their homes; 16% have no toilet of any kind. Nearly two-thirds of all African households (and more than three-quarters of African households in rural areas) have monthly incomes below the minimum living level of R900. In contrast, two-thirds of white households have monthly incomes in excess of R2,000.
The survey found that 70% of the five million African children aged five years or under live in rural areas and that three-quarters of these children live in households that struggle to survive with less than subsistence levels of income. More than 2.7 million African children aged five years or under who live in the country's rural areas live below the breadline. Seven out of ten African children aged five or under live in homes without electricity; one in three live in homes where someone fetches water daily from a river, stream or borehole; and one in five live in homes where there are no toilet facilities. Almost one in three live in traditional dwellings and at least one in ten live in shacks.
One disturbing finding was that the government's feeding scheme for primary school children is not benefitting a significant proportion of those who need it most. A third of rural inhabitants travel more than one hour to the nearest health facility, wait for two hours before being attended to; and are examined for five minutes or less. [City Press 8 October '95; Sowetan 5 October'95]
More ironies : the advertising firm selected by the government to create and conduct the broad-based national education campaign for the local elections in November is Saitchi and Saitchi, the London-based advertising firm that masterminded Margaret Thatcher's campaigns in the UK for the better part of sixteen years, and that used to count among its "illustrious" clients the National Party in South Africa.
Now, mysteriously, ( not so mysteriously, says the Department of Constitutional Affairs - the contract was put out to public bid), Saitchi and Scaitchi counts the Government of National Unity (GNU) among its clientele. In the first months of their endeavors, they succeeded in creating a country- wide campaign (only country-wide, that is, in the sense of it being confined for the most part to cities and towns in the more-densely populated areas; and the whiter the town, the more visible the campaign) that befuddled the literate and made no sense whatsoever to the illiterate. If the purpose of the campaign is to persuade people, still unfamiliar with the nuts and bolts of democracy that democracy is some type of scam, it is doing quite a convincing job.
All over the country, posters, billboards, and posters on every lighting pole, sometimes only ten feet apart, ask dramatic questions: DO YOU WANT CLEAN WATER? REGISTER; DO YOU WANT NEW ROADS? REGISTER; DO YOU WANT BETTER HOUSING? REGISTER. DO YOU WANT BETTER EDUCATION PROGRAMS? REGISTER.
Few seem to have noticed that the word "register," touches the raw-bone of the Black subconsciousness with the pathological impact of a screaming jackhammer, that it is irreversibly, irrevocably associated with the past when every Black had to carry an ID book - the notorious pass book - the most hated symbol of apartheid.
Where in the political lexicon of Blacks does the word "register" appear? What happens if I do register? In fact, what does the word "register" mean? What psychological connotations does the word have for Blacks? Who decided to put the emphasis on "delivery", when the ANC itself is furiously back-pedalling on the issue.
Once again, people are being asked again to accept the GNU's (read ANC's) promises of delivery, when there is an overwhelming preponderance of evidence to show that it has little to show for its first year in office. Indeed, in the run-up to the elections in April '94, the ANC made all sorts of promises: there would be a million housing units built in five years; there would be a National Health Service providing free medical care to all; there would be free education for all, and school would be mandatory up to Grade 8. And there was more: sewage systems that would not contaminate, electricity, fresh water, toilet systems that would provide some semblance of cleanliness and privacy; phones that worked.
It would be unfair to say that the ANC did not try to dampen expectations, but it went about the process in a desultory manner at best, and unenthusiastically at worst. Not that it was promising new everythings for everybody -- but it didn't go out of its way to tell the people the truth; that it would be a long haul, and for the country to succeed, it would require sacrifice on the part of all, that the disadvantaged, too, had their obligations and responsibilities. But when it appeared that the ANC might break through the magical constitutional barrier of sixty-six and two-thirds per cent, the hardball got tougher, and the promises more all-encompassing.
Whether it is a matter of remarkable coincidence, no one in the ANC leadership seems able to explain how Saitchi and Saitchi commandeered the R43 million account. To a person the leadership shrug their shoulders, gesticulate with their hands and shuffle their feet in bemused embarrassment; they give expansive, but not convincing expressions of disbelief, fiddle with their ties, and ask whether you want another cup of tea or coffee.
The result has been that Saitchi and Saitchi has put together a communications' plan that is mind-boggling in its ineptitude, lacks focus, insight into, and knowledge of the electorate they are presumably to serve; a plan that has little understanding of the issues or how to translate the opinions and feelings of an ordinary and confused populace into a systemic vision that might have some chance of arousing it out of its lethargy and apathetic withdrawal.
At some point, someone must have pointed out to the Saitchi whiz kids that, in the townships, the word "register" either means nothing or carries with it the unlanced boils of history and that the people would not do it in the absence of some connection they could understand. Presumably, the message got through to someone in a position to make a decision, that in itself unusual, and in the space of weeks REGISTER was replaced by the legend REGISTER TO VOTE - a different message, but with a crucial difference.
Saitchi and Saitchi, however, were not done with their inventive ways of confusing prospective voters. In full-page advertisements that ran in all major newspapers during the last three weeks of the campaign, they gave illustrations of how the voting process worked, using two sample ballots.
The script accompanying the first read: "If you live in a town or stand alone urban area, you'll first vote on a white ballot paper for an individual to represent your ward. He or she will either be a member of a political party, interest group or could be an independent candidate." The script for the second read: "If your town is freestanding, your second vote on a yellow ballot paper will be for a political party or interest group to represent you on the local council. If you live in a large metropolitan area, this vote will be for your substructure council."
Nowhere in the advertisement was there any explanation of what a "stand-alone" urban area is, of what a "freestanding" town is, or of what a "substructure" is. To many people, "standing-alone" and "freestanding" seemed to be synonyms for each other, while "substructures" appeared to have more to do with architecture than with local government.
Now, the ANC has to live with the consequences of its own promises. The masses are impatient. To run a campaign on one more series of promises, and then to tell the masses that promises can't be met overnight, is an invitation to civil cynicism, something an apprentice-democracy can hardly afford, and, duplicitous at the very least. The masses want to see something change; it is possible, although unlikely, that they may even settle for the appearance of change, but they will not go away, and the ANC might yet find itself hoisted on its own petard.
The lure of making promises, however, would appear to be irresistable come election time. It is, perhaps, endemic to the process itself, inseparable from the inescapable need for politicians to justify not only why they should be elected, but to provide some raison det're for their own existence; the compulsion to paint a rosy picture of the lives their constitutents will enjoy, once their party is elected part of their genetic encoding.
Hence the announcement by Minister Without Portfolio Jay Naidoo, three weeks before local elections, that the Government would spend R61 billion over the next ten years in order to provide basic services to every South African.
In short order, the Government promised that at least 55% of the urban population would have services such as tarred roads, waterborne sewerage, street lights, and full electricity connections. About 20% of the population would qualify for intermediate services, and 25% for basic services. The funding for this ambitious program would come from "Government grants and loans from organizations such as the Development Bank of Southern Africa." [The Star 13 October '95]
The challenge of delivery is complicated by other factors, including different ideological dispositions toward centralization and federalism. Under the direction of the late Joe Slovo, the Ministry of Housing was virtually resuscitated. The ministry developed a tough anti-federalist orientation: policy was developed at the center, the provinces were to have the responsibility of delivery. "Provinces that contested this idea were brought into line by Mr. Slovo, who earned a reputation for his unequivocal dismissal of those who sought popularity at the expense of long term viability." [Sunday Times, 5/3/'95]
But delivery of housing is proving to be a more difficult challenge. The ministry is facing a battle to put in place a its policy jig-saw puzzle: the National Home Builders' Warranty Scheme. Without the scheme's guarantee against poor workmanship, the ministry's efforts to bring the banks to the low-income housing market will be set back, with serious consequences for delivery.
In fact, the interminable efforts to get everyone aboard the same housing platform has grid-locked the process to the point that in the first eighteen months of the GNU, only slightly more than 10,000 houses were built by the government. The mediocrity of that performance is only somewhat offset by the 155,000 subsides that were approved. [Sunday Times, 5/3/'95; The Star 13 October'95].
In Gauteng, Premier Tokyo Sexwale made the spectacular promise that he would build 150,000 houses before the end of the year. During the first 18 months of his administration, however, a meagre 1,277 houses were built: 506 in Soweto; 10 in Germinston; 67 in Pretoria; 209 in Kempton Park; 12 in Midrand, and 26 in Roodepoort. [The Star 13 October '95]
Once more there is an ironic side. Building and construction industry statistics indicate that the sector will enter a boom period in 1996. However, if that happens, it may mean that material costs will soar and undermine the government's housing program. In addition to putting severe strains on the capacity of the sector, a serious shortage of skills is likely to be experienced.
A lot of money will have to be spent on training and recruitment to meet the anticipated increase in demand. (Carpenters don't come out of the woodwork!) The problem of bottlenecks is something that the Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP) has not made adequate provision for; unfortunately they could derail the entire program. [Business Day, 27/3/'95]
Even as things stand, the construction industry, the centerpiece of the RDP is not in particularly good competitive shape. Construction costs are almost double those of other countries. The cost of housing in South Africa is $192m, compared with $155m in Thailand, $135m in Chile, $107m in Kenya, and $64m in Indonesia. [Business Day, 6 April '95]
But, in the absence of things that do not exist in concrete and mortar, subsides, too, are a form of promise: what does exist is an edifice of hope, not actuality. Even the symbols of change, the intangibles that are the building-blocks of the tangible have to have some visible impact on the community's sense of self-direction and self-empowerment.
(Further cause for concern: By October'95, South Africa's four biggest mortgage lenders had approved fewer than 1,000 bonds to low-income earners over the previous four months, sparking fears that they would not meet the 50,000 loan target agreed on with the government last year.
The Building Industries Federation of SA has said it would review its participation in the builders' warranty scheme if the 50,000 loan target was not met. This would create more tension between the construction industry, banks and the government, since the extension of bonds for low-income earners was a key agreement entered into between government and mortgage lenders last year to draw more people into the housing market. Unconfirmed figures from industry sources put the total number of home loans granted by all South African banks during 1995 at around 1,500.) [Business Day, 6 October '95]
Moreover, the initiative to rehabilitate the repossessed homes market also appears to be in trouble, with an official report showing that more than 60% of people occupying about 13,500 repossessed homes under the program have failed to begin repayments. The initiative, involving joint ventures between the government and banks was designed to deal with non-performing bank loans of at least R700 million. The program was setup in October 1994 following an agreement between the Association of Mortgage Lenders and the government to deal with repossessed properties.
Disillusionment has set in, but not yet of the deadly kind. People don't believe politicians deliver; they think that "new structures" are euphemisms for climbing aboard the "gravy train." But while there is anger, and angst, there is also a willingness to give the process one more chance, especially if the "Old Man" tells them to do so.
No where was this apathy and political inertia more manifestly apparent than at the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) rally on May Day. Having waited more than two hours to address a crowd of a few hundred people in Johannesburg's Rand Stadium, Cyril Ramaphosa, ANC secretary-general and constitutional assembly chairman told the sparse crowd that the dismal attendance was evidence of serious weakness in trade unions, COSATU, and even the ANC itself. "Our organizations need to be stronger than ever," he said "to tackle futures challenges, especially as opponents try to sabotage our efforts."[Business Day 2 May '95]
But the masses are not the only ones who are impatient. While the people are being asked to "build together," and to share in the sacrifices of creating a new nation, the Parliamentary Staff Association announces that staffers will not work outside normal hours unless they were paid overtime.[The Citizen,24/3/'95]; NUMSA calls for a national campaign to close the wage gap between Blacks and whites; and municipal workers begin to make ominous noises about their rates of remuneration.
It is well documented that the once-oppressed have an unhappy proclivity to imitate the less desirable practices of their erstwhile oppressors, and the ANC is no exception in this regard. The giddiness of power reveals itself in the expensively-tailored Armani suits, the customized, monogrammed Ralph Lauren silk-shirts, the Bertelli ties, the Gucci shoes, the nonchalantly displayed Rolodexes and the equally-nonchalantly displayed gold wristlets, the conspicuously-positioned cellular phones, and, of course, the ubiquitous Mercedes.
This is what is what the impoverished masses see -- former activists who used to dress in T-shirts and jeans and earn R20,000 a year in NGOs suddenly taking over the state apparatus, emerging as replacements for their former white oppressors and earning up to R120,000 a year.
The African political elite which has assumed power from FW de Klerk is largely drawn from the resistance movement that used to vilify the privileged life-styles in which it now comfortably ensconces itself - perhaps the ultimate form of co-option.
The perks, after all, encourage extravagance: R95,000 for being an MP of any description, another R50,000 for being the chair of one of the innumerable Select Committees, R195,000 for being a Deputy-Minister plus official residence, R354,000 for being a Minister plus an even more grandiose residence; and, as if to put the seal of avarice on the allure of money, the newly-elected parliaments were about to give themselves hefty wage increases, recommended by a commission set up under the last white government, (what would one expect?) until public outcry stopped this particular "gravy-train" in its tracks.
But other "gravy trains" were leaving the station with even heavier payloads. The Johannesburg Transitional Metropolitan Chamber recommended that councillors be paid at least two salaries - which would cost ratepayers almost R2 million every month. Councillors would get a cheque for being on the council, and another for being on the metropolitan substructure. Some councillors would even receive a third salary, if they were members of the Central Business District sub-structure. And why stop there? If, in addition you are a member of the provincial parliament, you would, of course, receive a fourth salary. [Sunday Times, 26/3/'95]
Not that the Johannesburg councillors were alone in their elevated estimations of their own worth: in Durban and Cape Town, would-be transitional councillors allotted themselves R3,500 per meeting to attend one meeting a month.[SOURCE]
Of more concern than the money involved, is the precedent being set and the attitude it reflects. Black MPs and their superiors, it would appear, did not look askance, even once, at the fact that they would be drawing-down salaries thirty-five to forty times that of the employed Black person, to say nothing of the 40% who are unemployed. If you compare their salaries to what parliamentarians are paid in developed countries, they may not look all that much out of line. But the comparison would be false. First, these are first-world countries, whereas South Africa very definitely is not. And, second, what matters is the size of the differential between what the governed earn and what those who do the governing earn. The greater the size of that gap, the greater the size of the "democratic deficit". On this basis of accounting, western countries have relatively small democratic deficits, and South Africa has a huge one.
A new culture of self-entitlement, based loosely on the principle that those who suffered the most should earn the most, has entrenched itself: the new political elite would be just as good at the game as the old political elite. And as for the masses, they had to learn to be patient, that their problems couldn't be resolved over-night, that things took time, and that ubiquitous "new structures" had to be put in place in order for results to materialize.
The results could be catastrophic: the increasing absence of practical connections between the political leadership and the people who voted it into power is beginning to create a void that is crying out to be filled. [The Star, 15/2/'95. Sandile Memela]
No one, outside of the president himself, seems to have even paused to consider that a national example of frugality and fastidiousness that reflected empathy with the unrelieved miseries of the masses might imbue the country as a whole with the spirit of "mashakane". On the contrary, you had Minister of Public Works, Jeff Radebe, telling parliament that almost five million rand had been spent on refurbishing and redecorating the homes or, more accurately mansions, of 44 ministers and deputy-ministers, and that he had gotten "good value for the money spent.") [Sunday Times, 26/3/'95]
But what if you look at it this way: half of the R10 million paid in tax by the poorest 60% of the population was eaten up by expenditures incurred to satisfy the tastes of the 44 people they had elected to the most important government positions in the country, ostensibly to look after their interests. [Business Day, 6 April '95]
"At every level of government," the WeekEndStar said in an editorial, "there is still way too much spent on official banquets, plush offices, costly consultants, expensive cars and homes, and first-class travel."
"It has simply not sunk in that South Africa cannot afford to offer our leaders this executive lifestyle -- not when the country is unable to come up with the basics, like an efficient police force that is properly paid."
And it ended on a warning note: "It is often pointed out that the last government was even more proliferate. Yes, it was. And one year ago, the country's voters told them exactly what they thought of that." (WeekEndStar 8/9 April'95).
Were it not for this concluding statement, which is preposterous beyond the ludicrous, equating as it does the demise of the National Party government with some sense of voter outrage at its profligacy - the government's profligacy was probably the last thing on the minds of the newly-enfranchised voters as they cast their ballots for the first time - the Star's somber rebuke might have counted for something. Instead, its thoughtless coupling of profligacy with voting behavior shows how little whites, even well-meaning ones who are trying so hard to be on the right side, really understand the rot at the core of their past.
(A few days after this editorial appeared, it was discovered that some retired MPs from the previous National Party government were still comfortingly ensconced in official accommodations.) [Business Day 10 April '95] And so it goes.
But the "gravy train" syndrome, and the penchant of the white -controlled media to high-light every case of questionable expenditure that seems to affirm the media's investment in its exposure irks the ANC which sees the media's concentration on the issue as a subtle form of racism i.e. that Blacks in South Africa, once they became the governing class were no less disposed to enriching themselves than their brethern in the rest of Black Africa, long being notorious for being short on performance and long on self-enrichment.
The feeling is of things on hold; there's a waiting, a suspension of judgement, the verdict is still in the making as to whether South Africa is out of the woods, or stumbling unwittingly into the forests. But you've had that sense of holding before. Each time the meltdown slowly but meticulously inched its way to the point of irreversibility, the doomsayers reached back to pluck out of oblivion their failed predictions of the past, and each time events have confounded them.
1995 will be the make or break year, senior ANC officials used to say in 1994, a prediction that withered on the vine as one committee meeting blurred into the next in a welter of unceasing chatter, unfathomable motions, undecipherable drafts, and delusions of grandeur .
In the first week of September, with parliament due to recess on 15 September, the liberal Mail & Guardian led with the legend: "SHAMBLES OF A PARLIAMENT", and with the sub-legend: "With a flood of crucial Bills to be passed within two weeks, large-scale absenteeism and administrative chaos, MPs are drowning in disorder."
On two occasions, parliament couldn't muster a quorum to pass the Budget Bill, the most crucial piece of legislation to come before it and the one piece of legislation that provides the government with the wherewithal to run the country on a day-to-day basis. On another, members of a senate committee on defence, safety and security, and correctional services (a strange mishmash to begin with) were scheduled to attend five meetings on the same day. The Mail reported "massive organizational and management problems."
Whips determine when committees meet with a resulting proliferation of all kinds of problems - too many meetings scheduled, clashes over venues, shortage of support staff, and meetings being held when the house is in plenary session, a practice that is inimical to the fundamental premises of democratic parliamentarianism.
In addition, there are not enough experts to vet legislation, adding to the bottlenecks and putting the quality of legislation being produced in jeopardy. Forty three bills were received before May 31, twenty coming in that month alone. Between June and September, a further forty nine bills were slated for processing.
Government sources are quick to point the finger of blame at departmental law drafters, who they say come from "the old order," and are not able to deliver, whether out of unwillingness or incompetence, what is required to draft major legislation focussed on transformation. The "old order" simply smirks, smug in their belief - no, their article of faith - that the new boys on the block simply can't cut it.
Perhaps the heart of the problem is that Parliament cannot keep track of its members, because, as the Mail rather generously puts it, "[the] attendance register is inaccurate, old-fashioned, and out of date." While efforts are underway to install a computerized register, the Mail reports with evident sympathy the plight of Yasim Johnson, the lone parliamentary clerk who is responsible for maintaining the attendance register.
The parliamentary register dominates her life. She takes it home at nights to try to catch up on months of attendance.
Every parliamentary sitting demands that Johnson counts all members' attendance slips manually and that she marks off the absentees in pink felt-tip pen on a long register. She then has to cross-reference the absentees from the registers of more than sixty committees, to check that those absent from the house are not in fact sitting in committees.
Johnson also has to check absenteeism with medical certificates that might be handed in some weeks late.
No small wonder, [the Mail concludes] that the register is already a month behind. No small wonder that MPs who have resigned from the National Assembly to become ambassadors, or who have died, are still being marked absent some months after their departure. No small wonder that Prince James Mahlangu, the ANC MP who was expelled for non-attendance, missed almost 40 consecutive days of parliamentary sitting before his absence was noted. [Mail & Guardian, September 1 to 7 '95]
But even when the register is accurate, there is no guarantee that a member is spending any length of time in Parliament on any given sitting day. While members fill in an attendance slip when they enter the chamber, they simply fold it up and put it in a box when they leave. There is no recording of the length of time a member spends in the house. Similarly, members fill out an attendance slip when they arrive for a committee meeting, but they can leave whenever they want.
(Despite the slipshodiness, the snafus, the glitches and gaffes, the sheer inefficiences that seemed to permeate the whole system and to be so apparent to parliamentary critics, the newly-enfranchised are far more tolerant of whatever shortcomings their new institutions might be encumbered with. In a public opinion survey, the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (IDASA) found that 63% of Africans approved of Parliament's performance after its first 20 months of operation. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, whites have a radically different perception. Only 24% of whites approved parliament's performance, while 62% disapproved. [Mail and Guardian 9-15/2/'96]
Crunch-time is 1st November when local elections will take place; already the politicians are beating the drums of the RDP, the all-purpose manifesto that manages to be all things to all people which will be financed with manna from heaven, in the absence of earthly investors. But the drums' reverberations are a little hollow, the manna from heaven a little wanting.
It was the sobering duty of Mr. Kurt von Schirnding, the director-general of the South Africa Foundation (SAF), to report to his organization that it was a fallacy to believe that investors representing the major world economies would necessarily invest in South Africa rather than anywhere else, and that the insidious comfort South Africa took in this misguided belief was not only entirely misplaced, but destructively self-deceiving.
Indeed, there is a certain naivete that is a feature of divided societies or societies that have experienced protracted conflict, an almost child-like faith that the rest of the world will bail them out, once they appear to be getting their acts together, a reward of some sort for their taking responsibility for their own actions.
Meanwhile, the "culture of entitlement", is largely unmoved, despite appeals by Mandela himself, by cabinet ministers from both central and regional government, by an assortment of celebrities and civic organizations, by the very people, former United Democratic Front (UDF) activists, who organized the withholding of payment for services during the 1980s. Now, a concerted campaign is under way to drive home the message that unless the people who receive services are prepared to pay for them, the new South Africa will end up looking conspicuously like the old.
(Moses Mayekiso stares out at me from a full-page advert in the City Press. Mayekiso is the former head of the South African National Civics Organization (SANCO), which spear-headed the non-service payment campaign.)
"When the people of this land," he is saying "mobilized to stop paying their bonds, to withhold their rent, and to refuse paying for services, it proved to be the most powerful weapon in the struggle against apartheid.
Without money, local government became paralysed, unable to function and enforce the apartheid laws.
The people of this land can be proud of what they achieved.
But who can be proud of not paying for housing and services now that we have a democratic government?
Not paying today hurts the new South Africa. We're hurting our provincial governments, who cannot offer us a better life if we don't contribute.
But most of all we're hurting ourselves.
Because every Rand that is withheld is one Rand less for building houses and upgrading services.
This is the new struggle which faces all of us.
The boycotts helped us gain our freedom apartheid.
Paying will help us build a prosperous nation.
Masakhane. ( Let us build our country together now.)
But all to limited appeal. In March '95, it was estimated that up to 80% of township residents were not paying for services or had completely stopped payments due on their housing bonds. Worse still, most local authorities lack the administrative capacity to send out monthly bills, which means that most service-users are not even used to being asked to pay for services they have consumed.
The non-payment for rents and services started out as one more tool in the arsenal of the ways in which the masses could fight apartheid. In time, however, it has become a way of life, a convenient habit; items in the monthly household budget which do not have to factored in, essential components of a larger disposable income, increasingly taken for granted to the point at which it has stopped being something one associates with an obligation to pay and becomes something one is entitled to, something that government supplies free of cost.
Not surprisingly, when residents in Colored and Indian areas copped on to the fact that residents in African townships were continuing to ignore the government's pleas for payment, they, too, took matters into their own hands, becoming part of the boycott, on the difficult to rebut grounds that "if they don't pay, why should we?"
In Black townships, about 33% of residents make service payments, but residents arrears now stand at R810 million. Much of the R1.8 billion in arrears accumulated before the April '94 elections was written of in terms of a January '94 agreement between Mandela and De Klerk, but the agreement has not succeeded in breaking the boycott.
In Gauteng's 41 townships, further arrears of R349 million accumulated between January'94 and November'94. During the same period, the Free State's 73 townships built-up additional arrears of R78 million. The Eastern Cape was worst affected. The average payment in 61 townships was 18%; next worst was the Northwest with an average payment of 21%, followed by Gauteng (29%) and the Free State (29%) [Business Day, March 10 1995]
The boycotts have had devastating repercussions in many townships, as might be expected. In some there has been a complete breakdown of administration and even postal services. In fact, the majority of township residents are not even being sent accounts by Black local authorities. Which means that in many townships, non-payment for services occurs, not because of the unwillingness of residents to pay, but because of the inability of local administrations to process their accounts. [Cape Times, March 1 1995]
Aggravating the problem is the substandard or the complete breakdown in the provision of services or lack of basic infrastructure in a large number of townships. The World Bank estimates that it will cost R27 billion to install basic infrastructure in urban areas alone. The cost of psychological rehabilitation may cost a lot more.
Nor has the "Masekhane" campaign had the desired effects. (Tony Tony Leon, leader of the Democratic Party claims that a mere 220,000 of Greater Johannesburg residents were actual ratepayers). In the beginning, the "Masekhane" campaign seemed to be successful in making people understand that services, once provided, had to be paid for, or if not, forfeited. Increasing numbers of households began to pay for current services, and some even began to address their arrears. But within months, the campaign began to falter, and people slipped back into their old habits.
Figures indicate a fall in the number of households paying for services: in Soweto they fell from 30% in June to 24% in August and from 31% to 24% in heighboring Diepmeadow. In the East Rand, the situation has become catastrophic: in Vosloorus, they fell from 51% in June to 22% in August, and in Katlehong the fall during the same period was from 68% to 16% (An example of success and slippage: in Diepmeadow, the fall in the level of payment between June and August was preceded by a rise from 23% to 36% between October'94 and March '95. [Southern Africa Report 13 October '95]
Immediately following local elections on 1st November, the government and the Mortage Indemnity Fund - which indemnifies banks against losses sustained following a breakdown in law and order - released preliminary figures that showed that non-payment of bond and services had reached critical levels, and was perhaps the single most important reason for the failure of the government's housing program to deliver.
The figures suggested that financial institutions had up to 70,000 non-performing loans and repossessed properties on their books. These figures included all financial institutions, including the SA Housing Trust's Khayalethu Home loans. The figures also suggested that up to 65% of the residents of the townships were not paying for services, a growing number of local government structures were close to bankrupcy, and the Masakhane campaign had simply failed to take root. [Business Day 7/11/'95]
In a statement following the release of these figures, Mortgage Indemnity Fund chairman Johan de Ridder indicated how the current state of non-payment was affecting the slow delivery of housing. "The housing policy," he said,
was forged on a number of assumptions, including that the breakdown in local administration and the due process of law was rectified and the non-payment of bonds and services was moving to a more normal scenario. Unfortunately, [he added], this is taking longer than anticipated and we are even finding a deterioration in services as well as bond and service boycotts in a few areas. This means the private sector is finding the risk too great to invest in townships and the housing programme cannot deliver.
At the same time Eskom announced that it had lost about R1 billion in non-payment of electricity accounts in the townships in the last ten years, while current arrears of R230 million were threatening to slow down its electricification program. [Business Day 7 November '95]
The one certainty that appears to emerge out of the mass of data is that a lot of officials, newly elected in November, will find themselves taking over financially unstable or bankrupt administrations.
But even giving the Masakhane campaign the benefit of every reason for its failure to achieve its stated objectives, and for its virtual collapse in many of the larger townships, the fact is that the government spent R30 million to fund the campaign up to the eve of the local elections and had little, perhaps nothing, to show for its efforts. Indeed, in one of those peculiar twists of irony, the Masakhane campaign may have had more of an impact on poorer whites than on the Black audience for whom it was intended. The more aware poorer whites are becoming that the townships are not kicking in for their share of services, the more prone they have become to withhold their own payments, driving one more nail into the fiscal coffin.
In effect, little has been achieved in the way of changing the belief in the townships that the new government "owes" them in return for their support in last year's election and in the "struggle" before that.
Unfortunately, for many Blacks, the first real impact of the post-apartheid government, the government they themselves voted for, in the first election they were able to vote in, will be a reduction in their standards of living as a result of their having to pay for services they heretofore regarded as being costless. They are being asked to give before they receive; to pay out before there is a pay-back. This is hardly what they thought they were voting for and a far cry from what liberation was supposed to be all about.
In the absence of strong civic organizations, which can instill in the community the ethic of obligation and responsibility, and with no visible improvement in the delivery of services, many township residents will continue to withhold payments. The more alienated the community, the lower the level of payment - in Crossroads, they pay nothing at all.
Here again, a Catch-22 is at work: the more residents withhold payments, the more the delivery of services deteriorates; the more the delivery of services deteriorates, the more residents will continue to withhold payments. The masses do not distinguish between the short-term and the long-term; indeed, for most the need to survive consumes all of their time: the long-term is simply some metaphysical abstraction which people who do not live in the real world speculate about.
Ultimately, the RDP will depend for its success on how services are delivered at the grass-roots. If the current boycotts cannot be brought to conclusion, they will undermine the RDP, and hence the GNU. Indeed, the situation had reached such a level of crisis by the end of the year that the Weekend Argus warned bluntly that "There is no way the new South Africa can function unless people are prepared to pay for services they receive."
There is no way the Reconstruction and Development Programme can uplift people [it continued] unless people themselves show willingness to do their part.
We cannot grow as a nation of parasites.
....the painful truth is that the Masakhane campaign to encourage people to pay for their services has, in general terms, been a monumental flop.
[This week] details became known of the extent ofthe amounts owing to Cape Town's city council. Rates arrears total R92 million; electricity R63 million; water R23 million; housing R44 million; and another R103 million on sundry debts....
It is a bottomless pit,it seems. It is a situation that is simply not sustainable. Cape Town and many other municipalities face financial ruin unless the rot is stopped. [Weekend Argus 25-26/ November '95]
Take, for example the question of train-fares. Nobody ever called for a boycott of train fares, but there is one in place. Every day, 666,000 commuters on urban railways simply don't bother to pay their fares - that's nearly 30% of all the people who use the trains in South Africa's cities, and it's costing Metro Rail Services R80 million a year. Again what is alarming about the de facto train fare boycott is that it has simply become a casual habit and the railway authorities are overwhelmed by the scale of it, and do not have the resources to enforce payment. [WeekEndStar, 25-26/3/'95]
Mandela himself is acutely aware of the potential for disaster, unless something is done to shore-up the state's sagging revenues. In his speech to parliament closing the debate on his opening address, he made an impassioned plea to rent and service charge boycotters to start paying up. Hence his announcement of the Masakhane ("Let us build together") campaign, aimed at breaking the boycotts and resurrecting local government:
"The process of democratization is irreversible. The time has come to accept in our hearts and minds that with freedom comes responsibility.
The urgent task is to instill everywhere a culture of payment for services rendered.
Non-payment today hurts those who have nothing and who are waiting for houses, electricity, and sewerage. It hurts neighbors who carry an unfair burden.
The government is committed to putting massive resources into socio-economic upliftment but it will not be able to continue doing so if money does not come back into the system through payment for these services."
[WeekendStar, February 25/26 1995]
Thunderous applause greeted his remarks in the chamber of parliament, and on the streets the people went their own way. Not even Madiba can make his people pay.
Perhaps their reluctance or downright refusal to do so has more to do with their sense of being let down, more widely diffuse than the ANC would care to admit, or of their skepticism, more palpable than the ANC would care to admit, albeit skepticism more in sorrow than in anger.
Issues count, and the failure of the government to deliver in any visible way is what has rankled so much.
(According to the Centre for Policy Studies, their research indicates that certain assumptions behind Masekhane do not work. "These include the assumption that people will pay if a public figure points out reasons why it is good to pay and also the assumption that the issue should be tackled as a group issue instead of which it should be individualised"
"At present," it concludes, "there is no clear correlation between what communities are saying and what communities are doing." - "a strange phenomenon that had astounded researchers.") [The Citizen 12/2/'96]
At the end of 1995, the areas in the Vaal Triangle around Sebokeng, were averaging a five per cent payment level; townships around Durban and Bloemfonteina 30 per cent level; Soweto a 31 per cent level, Lenasia 45 per cent, Dobsonville26 per cent and Alexandra 18 per cent. [The Citizen 12/2/'96]
Hence the spate of protests. Taxi-drivers blocking the main routes to and from Johannesburg, holding the city hostage for all intents and purposes; former MK members, now soldiers in the SANDF, mutinying; recurring incidences of racism, on occasion involving shootings, in the police force; a call by an independent mediation service that criminal charges be brought against members of the Internal Stability Unit (ISU) for its role in the killing of a policeman; the ugly confrontations at Ruyerwacht, where club-wielding whites try to stop Black students from being bussed in from overcrowded schools in Khayelitsha to an empty white school; the resulting "protest" by the students when they descend on Cape Town and trash everything in sight; more labor disputes, despite Mandela's warning to COSATU that the country cannot afford further wage increases; simmering racial tensions in the civil service when the militant South African Health and Public Service Workers' Union (SAHPSWU) threaten to take senior white bureaucrats hostage to achieve their wage-demands; a police mutiny in Umtata that has to be put down by the SANDF; unrest in the Ciskei; students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) holding senior officials hostage; students at the University of South Africa (UNISA) running wild in the streets of Pretoria; students at the University of the Witswaterand (Wits) vandalizing the Johannesburg campus, spreading litter and flooding toilets; seemingly interminable taxi-wars; rising tides of political violence in KwaZulu/ Natal; squatters, mainly from the Colored township of Eldorado Park, taking over houses that had been unoccupied for two years, in the mainly Indian township of Lenasia, defying government officials calling on them to leave, being evicted summarily in a manner reminiscent of the bad old days of PW Botha; and racial animosity itself always lurking under the surface, always prised to draw a wedge between the races, should the right opportunity present itself.
(Members of the Azanian Student Movement refused to join Gauteng MEC for education, Ms. Mary Metcalfe, in condemning the murder of a white school teacher in Tembisa who was shot dead by robbers attempting to steal the school personnel bus she was driving. "It surprises AZASM," their statement said, "that the death of a White teacher raises the provincial government's eyebrows to greater extent than the killing of many Blacks in the same fashion." [ ]
Police threaten to go on strike - at one point, 60,000 policemen work to rule - and are temporarily bought off with an allocation of R95.6 million for overtime pay, which one prominent member of the South African Police Union (Sapu) describes as a "drop in the ocean." [The Mercury 14 April '95]
Not that policemen are without a case - an assistant constable earns as little as R790 a month - less than what is needed to keep a family of four above the poverty line. A sergeant, regardless of years of service, earns no more than R3,254 a month. [The Citizen 27 March '95] Many policemen have to work an average of 14 hours a day without overtime or danger money in order to make ends meet. There even have been reports of cases in which a policeman ends up owing the state when pay-time comes around because deductions are made for so many items he uses in the course of his work. [Business Day 5/5/'95] In the Transkei, members of the SANDF, on the explicit orders of President Mandela, use fire-power to break-up an illegal police road-blockade. (This is the same Mandela who observed a little later that human lives were more important than the constitution. [Weekend Star 6/7 May '95]
How ironic that the workers who were the enforcers of apartheid and at the front-lines in the townships throughout the '80s should have been so diligent in their duty to a state that paid them so miserably.
But what makes the police actions more ominous is their willingness to embrace the culture of protest, even when it puts the community it serves in severe jeopardy - one more example of the me-first syndrome slowly choking the country to death.
Civil servants growl, and the government's plans to clamp down on public sector pay are promptly scuppered. A further R840 million, on top of the R2.5 billion already provided for in the budget, is "borrowed" from state pensions funds to pacify the angry civil servants -- a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The state, true to old habits, continues to insist that the increase can still be seen as a reflection of fiscal discipline, and, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. [Cape Times 24 April '95]
Teachers' unions threaten to go on strike unless their pay grievances are addressed.[Sowetan 20 April '95] Meanwhile, in the Northern Transvaal, the provincial government announces that it can only employ 400 teachers, leaving 11,000 others without jobs because of lack of funds. Overcrowding in schools there is so bad that 8,000 teachers would be needed to reduce the teacher/pupil ratio to 1/40. The unemployed teachers threaten the usual: chaos would erupt, if they did not get jobs. [Sowetan 6 April '95]
(In a village only 70 km from Pretoria, 1,300 children attend school in a single school hall. There is one teacher for every 144 pupils, no water, no play grounds, no toilets). [Sunday Times 7 May '95]
In Cape Town 33 municipal ambulance workers, members of the militant South African Heath and Public Service Union (SAHPSU), are arrested after they occupied the emergency control room in Pinelands. In the process, they disable the 10177 emergency line, jam the ambulance radio, and render all emergency services helpless.[The Cape Times 26 April '95] The union says it plans to bring the Western Cape government to its knees. It does not rule out the blockading of highways and even threatens to hold cabinet ministers and white health-workers hostage.
(SAHPSU is demanding official recognition by the Cape Town City Council and the removal of the ambulance service's entire top structure, which it accuses of being racist.) [The Argus 26 April '95]
University of the Western Cape (UWC) students hold senior staff hostage; police station-commanders are held hostage by their own policemen. Khayelitsha municipal workers hold officials hostage; and in the Eastern Cape, prisoners hold a warden hostage.
In some cases whole communities are held to ransom. Hospital workers blockade hospitals, and in KwaZulu-Natal at Madadeni hospital in Newcastle, hospital workers release the AIDS virus and hepatitis B viruses and bacteria into the maternity and nursery wards of the hospital. (About 60 women and 30 newly-born children had to be evacuated when the striking workers stormed the wards and sprayed the floors and beds with the germs-contaminated laboratory samples.) [The Argus 11 April '95]
Late in the year, nurses in hospitals across Gauteng go on strike. At Baragwanath, they demand a 25% pay increase, parity, and a revision of the tax system. They are joined by other nurses at Coronationville, Hillbrow, and Boksburg and health services threaten to collapse as action spreads. Critically-ill patients are air-lifted from one hospital to another. At least two patients die apparently because they were unable to swallow and they choked when striking nurses were unwilling to supply the necessary drains.
In labour wards, women deliver their own babies, sometimes with the help of other women, who are themselves in labour. One doctor is on call for 15 wards, each with 68 patients. Analgesics are locked in cupboards and are inaccessible, because the nurses have the keys. There is no pain relief for those in serious condition; in the place of morphine, patients are given over-the-counter painkillers.[The Star, 6 September '95]
And thus the incomprehensible: Ordinary people allowing other ordinary people to die, not because of some extraordinary outbreak of disease, but because the most routinely-available medical treatment for the most imminently- curable illnesses are willfully withheld - death not because of indifference or the absence of diligence, but simply because of a set of industrial demands.
The nurses who abandoned their patients for the streets became national scapegoats, castigated on every side for letting their patients go unheeded or even die in apparent violation of every oath of medical practice they had sworn to uphold.
But who are they, the quite ones, the unheard from, who suddenly exploded in a combustion of resistance that stigmatizes them with the cruel smear that their previous docility single them out, in retrospect, as the phantom-like appeasers of apartheid?
They are, if the truth counts for anything, the true heroes of that era, the ones who gave unstintingly of themselves to take care of others,, their people, the merely sick and the terminally ill, the down-trodden and neglected, the millions bearing the stamp of being the inadequately credentialed members of humanity.
Working under the harshest of conditions, with no voice raised on their behalf, they were the victims of things they could not understand, or understood too well, step-children of their own silence; the exigency to survive and care for their families and struggle for the simple but absolutely necessary essentials of day-to-day living superceded their willingness to oppose what had become the tedious appurtenances of habitual oppression.
In the wards of 'Bara and Boksburg, Coronationville and Hillbrow, and hundreds of hospitals across Gauteng, patients, Black patients in hospitals that were segregated under the rule of apartheid were treated by their people, their nurses with a dignity they were denied in the world outside. The nurses afforded their patients the dignity that is the core of self-esteem, they made their lives worth the future, and they made their own lives worth the sacrifice.
In the liberation movement, nurses and their companion employees in the social service sectors, were seen as compliant and acquiescent, Quislings-in-the-making, weak links in the interweaving chains of imperative opposition and necessary cooperation, falling into the despised space that separated the distance between the two. They were dismissed then, and even when they cried out in desperation after the much-heralded repeal of hospital segregation that enough is enough, no one listened. Ignored by the struggle when apartheid ruled, they were forgotten by the struggle when apartheid collapsed.
Mandela imperiously announced his own ingenuously-designed compromise - go back to work or you're fired, he told the nurses, bluntly, - as if thousands of nurses could be arbitrarily dismissed in the face of a presidential decree without any visible impact on the quality of health-care services.
Apparently, in government circles, the need to show the muscle to crush this minor revolt on the part of a hugely disorganized work-rebellion, was the paramount consideration, eerily reminiscent of government actions during the heydays of apartheid.
The Minister for Health, Dr. Nkosazana Zuma, on the instructions of President Mandela himself, remained holed-up in Beijing pleading the larger cause of women at an international conference attended by thousands of women who had come to this city, site of the infamous Tinnemann Square masssacre, to argue for the rights of women in a cruelly-constructed male-dominated world, seemingly in a convenient oblivion to the massive violations of human rights, carried out in the name of humanity by the Bejing regime.
And while thousands of women marched through the streets of Bejing decrying the injustices they were subjected to, thousands of nurses marched through the streets of Soweto seeking a similar justice.
Far from heeding Mandela's autocratic summons to return to work or face immediate dismissal, the nurses escalate their strike, and it quickly spreads across the country, paralysing the public health-care system. The SANDF is mobilized and deployed to hospitals in the provinces.
The government remains firm: it has no money to meet the nurses' demands and while their grievances might be legitimate - and non one denies that they are, nor does anyone deny the gross inequalities in pay that existed from one jurisdiction to the next - there can be no remedy in the immediate future.
In the end, the nurses abandon their strikes, but sporadically and under threat, as the government lays down one deadline after another: nurses who refused to return to work would be fired; if they reapplied for their jobs, they would lose all their accrued pension benefits and start over at the lowest salary level.
( In the Transkei, where close to 8,000 nurses had gone on strike on September 28th, 7,000 were fired when they had not returned to work by October 10th. Many who did return to work wore civilian clothes since they were afraid of being intimidated and harassed by other strikers.) [The Star 10 October '95]
Weeks after the nurses have reluctantly and with great bitterness returned to work, belligerent municipal workers in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Northern Province, and the North West take to the streets. Violent protest marches ensue in which municipal property is trashed, striking workers clash with police, and the government issues warnings that it will crack down on the perpetrators of vandalism.
The ANC say the workers' grievances are legitimate and need to be urgently addressed.
Police use teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition on striking workers in Pietersburg in the Northern Province - one worker was killed, 61 injured, and 390 were arrested, although only nine were charged.
In Johannesburg, police use teargas and stun grenades to disperse strikers rampaging through the city streets. Strikers break concrete dust-bins and damage water pipes. The Greater Johannesburg Transitional Metropolitan Council demand repayment for the damages.
In Pretoria, 14 strikers are injured in a clash with police, when police fire rubber bullets into a crowd of workers who refused to leave the vicinity of the municipal head-office.
After a couple of weeks of increasing mayhem and mounting tension, the strikes are settled, but not before the impression of a slide towards anarchy is further strengthened and the rift between workers and government has become more pronounced. [The Citizen 5 October '95]
What is, perhaps, most disturbing about these incidences is the complete unwillingness of some of the workers involved, (and one should hasten to add that they represented a minority of the workers involved in these labor disputes) to recognize any limit to the actions they might take in pursuit of their goals, thus diminishing the moral legitimacy of their grievances, even when their grievances were valid and had to be addressed. Instead, the excessiveness of their actions and the desperation that accompanied them were in contravention of all understandings of the notion of a civil society, and reiterate what must be reiterated again and again: there is no necessary corollary between elections and democracy.
Elections are value-free. Free and fair elections are a necessary perquisite for democracy, but not in themselves a sufficient one. In the case of the hospital workers at Madadeni and the later strike of nurses in Gauteng, their actions suggest a dehumanization to the point where the workers involved regard other people's lives as legitimate fodder to further their own agendas. Respect for their own lives has fallen to such a low level, one of the inexorable consequences of apartheid, that they cannot command respect for the lives of others. In the face of continuous desperation, who is fodder for whom?
There is an undercurrent of the insurmountable; that problems proliferate at a rate that exceeds the capacity to deal with them; that the country is treading water, but that the undertow of the powerful waves may slowly pulling it under. So many problems simultaneously on so many fronts; the absence of any sense of national cohesiveness; over-reliance on Mandela's ability to appear to be all things to all people; a population of young people who don't grasp the fact that the rules of the game have changed and who don't understand why they are now being chided for actions they were applauded for a few years ago.
(In Gauteng, the ANC blamed a "hidden hand" for the labor unrest. ANC provincial secretary, Paul Mashatile, said that although his party believed in the grievances of striking workers and nurses were legitimate and needed to be addressed, there seemed to be a hidden hand that was exploiting these grievances to undermine and weaken the ANC-led government. He called for an urgent meeting with COSATU. He said there were pointers that there were elements within the ANC who might want to "spoil matters now that elections were around the corner." Indeed the allegation of hidden forces, Sekola Sello, Assistant Editor of the Black-owned CITY PRESS, pointed out "had a ring of what the the NP used to say in the past about communists being behind each and every protest action by Black workers or residents." [CITY PRESS 22 October '95]
More ironic, when municipal workers in Johannesburg went on strike in early October and trashed the city with widespread acts of vandalism, the ANC fully backed the decision of the Transitional Metropolitan Council to hold the South African Municipal Workers' Union (SAMWU) accountable for the damage caused by their members while on strike.) [Business Day 5 October '95]
(More hidden hands: Gauteng MEC for Development Planning, Works and Environment, Sicelo Shiceka, instructed Gauteng residents who saw any signs of shacks being built on land that was not specifically set aside for development to inform their local authorities immediately so that the shacks could be trashed before they were fully erected. Sicelo gave two reasons for his decision: "The government," he said,"is vulnerable right now while it is preparing for elections and political parties other than the ANC are using land invasion as a means of embarrassing the government." [The Star 10 October '95]
The RDP, the cornerstone of the GNU's national policies, becomes more ephemeral as time passes; it has become a mantra, something to which all dutifully pay homage; something to which few have given much thought. For some it is a clarion call to action; but for most it is a pied piper whose tune foreign investors are reluctant to follow. Increasingly, you hear talk about what will happen in a post-Mandela period, when the Old Man steps down, or is otherwise incapacitated. (Mandela has already indicated that he will not run for office in 1999).
What faction in the ANC will emerge to fill his place? Will the populists, who harangue the masses with the rhetoric of sell-out, of a revolution betrayed, seize the moment and lead to a flight of whatever foreign capital has been wooed, or will the pragmatists, their eyes focussed on the processes that make things work, regardless of ideology, continue to hold the center? And, if they do, will the ANC fragment and leave in its place a number of political hybrids that will in turn splinter, thus fulfilling the fantasies of all their political opponents. Thabo Mbeki, Deputy President, thinks the "unbungling" of the ANC is inevitable in the long run, but not before it has successfully achieved the deracialization of society.[SOURCE] - an observation so lacking in insight that it begs to be ignored. (It can, perhaps, be excused on the grounds that the heir-apparent has the right to be dutifully ambiguous, a necessary qualification for heir-apparency. Here, he simply invokes the would-be-successor's right to be suitably uncontentious).
Nevertheless, given the divergent interests that are the key elements of the ANC coalition, it would appear that Mbeki's observation is predestined to be correct, although the timing he envisions is more likely Utopian. Weeks before the local elections, the ANC announced that ANC MPs who joined the growing opposition to the party from civic associations and traditional leaders would "face the full force of disciplinary action" and possibly expulsion from Parliament. [Business Day 12 October '95] "It is understood," the report went on, "that there is serious concern at national level that with members opposing each other in certain constituencies it could split the vote and allow opposition parties to dominate the elections.")
Despite what might be said to the opposite, Mandela is the glue that holds the body politic together. With a moral authority, unsurpassed in South Africa, and unrivalled in the world, he holds court, admonishing when he deems it to be necessary; exhorting, usually by example, when he feels the example he sets will suffice to bring the masses with him; praising when he feels that praise will induce that extra effort and push the individual to go the extra yard; calculating when a symbiosis of Solomon and Machiavelli is required to exercise the prerogatives of power.
Unfortunately, while the power that Mandela wields is good for the country in the short-run, it may well be the country's undoing in the longer run. In a sense, Mandela has institutionalized himself, or allowed himself to be institutionalized. It does not make much difference which, since the outcomes are the same. He has become the remedy of first resort. When disputes arise, the disputants simply abjure the conventional means of settling such matters and demand Mandela's intervention.
Among whites, you sense an air of a slightly amused condescension. Increasing numbers of them will tell you, but without any sense of definiteness, that they were right, that Blacks can't make a go of things.
There is too much unwillingness to give credit and too much willingness to fault affirmative action, or whatever appears to be a remedial program to address imbalances, for everything that doesn't measure up to white standards. Which is a little ludicrous, not to say hypocritical, since each day brings fresh discoveries of the legacy the National Party has bequeathed the nation -- evidence of financial mismanagement, dubious deals, malfeasance, kickbacks, collusion with contractors, conspiracy to commit fraud, and outright fraud.
A few vintage examples:
* In the Western Cape, the government calls for R2 million to be set aside to investigate pension fund fraud that is probably costing the Western Cape government an estimated R240 million a year.[ The Argus 25 April '95] An investigation is to follow.
* At least R2 billion is lost to corruption in the state pension system every year -- and this does not include the TBVC states. "What astonishes us," says Cas Saloojee, chairperson of the National Assembly's committee on welfare and population development, "is that this abuse has been going on for some time and we cannot understand why nothing was done." [The Argus 21 March '95] An investigation is to follow.
* The PW Botha government buys a building ten years ago in New York, for use as a consulate, pays R36 million for it, pays out another R33 million in renovations, and then sells the house in 1994 for a pittance - a niggardly R6 million. An investigation is to follow. [The Argus 6 April '95].
* Gold is being stolen from South African mines and refineries at the rate of R500 million to R1 billion a year, as wealthy people, uncertain about the future under a Black government, try to move their assets abroad in the form of gold bullion. The bullion is smelted into ingots, smuggled abroad, sold on the international bullion markets, and the proceeds - US dollars, British pounds and German and Swiss marks - are channeled into Swiss bank accounts. An investigation is to follow.[WeekendStar 4/5 February '95].
* Only one-in-three eligible taxpayers actually pay taxes
. South Africa's uncollected taxes, in the region of R8.5 billion would be enough to fund the RDP. This figure would double if tax evasions were added. All of which is supposedly accounted for by the lack of expert staff.[Cape Times 30 March '95] An investigation is to follow. (A subsequent rport of the parliamentary finance committee estimated that the level of tax comlpiance was at a 50-year low.) [Business Day
* The Western Cape finds that it is bankrupt to the tune of R11.2 billion. An investigation is to follow.
More responsible for either the delays in getting things done or the failure to get them done, is the recalcitrance of elements in the civil service, especially at a senior level which is still largely white. Here mind-sets remain a problem and in some cases senior white officials openly resist change and work to the detriment of their departments and the interests of their colleagues.
One case made headlines, perhaps because of the audacity of the action and its challenge to the old order. Public Works Minister Jeff Radabe fired his entire senior staff. He publicly charged them with being ineffective and unwilling to carry out the policies of the new government. Radabe said, in a memorandum to President Mandela that "inefficient management systems allowed fraud and wastage to flourish." "Preliminary investigations had discovered that R3.5 million had been fraudulently expended." He furthermore charged that the Acting- Director General, Mr. van Robboeck, had resisted the commissioning of a report to change the ways state contracts were awarded and had blocked the implementation of the changes. [Sunday Times 9 April '95]
Unfortunately, this is but one of several cases in which the mentality of the hold-over apartheid bureaucracy, serves to impede rather than to give. The irony is that the new state has gone out of its way to protect the interests of the old, so much so that its grassroots is becoming disenchanted with the government for appearing to pay more attention to assuaging the fears of whites than addressing the grievances of Blacks.
The outcome will be interesting but sufficiently indicative of white attitudes in the public sector: they can obstruct the process, they can be neutral, engage in passive form of obstruction; or, they can acknowledge, though they may not like it, that the old order is dead, and that in the vacuum created by the demise of the old order, a new order invariably emerges, almost certainly not of their choosing.
But in all their deliberations of what the order of things should be, they should never forget that the center of power has shifted in its entirety, that the shift is permanent and irreversible, that the order they once represented so ably is now merely a matter of memory, already collecting dust on side-boards of history.
In an interview given on the occasion of his 500th day in office President Mandela addressed some of these perceptions:
"He blamed the media for the impression that most of his attention was given to whites, saying white editors and owners glossed over his work for the majority and focussed on gestures towards white conservatives." [The Argus 26 September '95] "One must take into account," said the president, "that the media is controlled by whites and the element of racism is still there."
In short, the media was up to its usual mischief: embarrass the ANC at every turn. But then what should one expect from the propagators of "pseudo-liberal values?" This constant criticism of the media was a recurring feature of ANC propaganda in 1995; media-bashing was in, a practice indulged in by Mandela himself whenever a propitious occasion presented itself - a free media, yes; but free within the context of serving to further the aims of the liberation movement.
And this is the genesis the "new" argument is beginning to take, for it is an argument, not a rational debate. To the Black South African, the logic is all too familiar: Blacks, the white-controlled media are insinuating, are incapable of doing the "job"; hence Black South Africans are inexorably being pushed into the same corner as the rest of Africa; they are slowly but painstakingly being portrayed by the white media as being incapable of managing the country's affairs, thus confirming to whites what they so assiduously like to believe: that without the assistance of whites, Blacks simply can't hack it - when the going get's rough, Blacks have to roll in the whites.
Thus, when Mandela says: "My task is to unite the country, to prevent whites from leaving with their skills,which should be put to use here", whites interpret his statement as an acknowledgement of desperation on the need for their skills, rather than as a statement acknowledging the need for racial reconciliation.
The delicate balance that exists between the ANC dominated Black government of national unity in which the ANC has become increasingly assertive and the white NP participation in that government became apparent when rumors spread that FW de Klerk was going to resign from the government.
The ANC accused De Klerk's office of "deliberately manipulating the financial markets" by leaking the rumor. The rumor caused "jitters in financial markets," with key long bonds falling. The NP's intention, according to Carl Niehaus, the ANC's local elections' campaign organizer, was to "negatively affect the markets and thereby exaggerate the party's importance in the South African political equation." Markets recovered after both Mr. De Klerk's office and President's Mandela's office denied that Mr. De Klerk was resigning. [The Citizen 14 October '95]
The insinuation of the accusation, of course, which was made during the height of a vindictively fought local elections' campaign, was that the NP was trying to destabilize the South African economy i.e that without "guidance," the financial markets believed that Blacks would make a shambles of things. Ironically, the behavior of the markets in the wake of the rumor of the GNU simply reinforced the reality of the ANC's need for the NP's participation in the GNU. President Mandela, after a week in which the ANC accused Mr. De Klerk of everything from being a traitor to wanting to use the army to cling to power, put the matter to rest with the simple declaration that he and Mr. De Klerk "needed" each other.
Which, brings everything to the point of what is perhaps a recognition of the impermeable: the fact that in the end all things are seen through one prism only : the prism of race. Since all matters are literally, almost theologically, passed through the eye of this prism, all perceptions are distorted, but, more importantly, perceptions ensure that this prism has the racial contours that ensure the sameness of interpretation.
Debate becomes heresy. Intellectual discourse has evolved into intellectual orthodoxy; intellectual debate has degenerated into intellectual stereotyping. Ironically, this hemorrhaging of intellectual energy, energy heretofore harnessed in its opposition to apartheid and now dissipated in its opposition to the voices of criticism, has resulted in a stasis of sorts. Blacks have become increasingly vocal in their own defence, attributing all criticism to whites' need to justify their way of having done things in the past, to their paramount need to compress all things to the precepts of order.
The belief that Blacks can't manage the transition, and lack the skills and know-how that make change happen comes in many subtle ways, most oblivious to the ways in which apartheid precluded the advancement of Blacks at every level of civil society.
Hence, for example, the views of Professor Fanie Cloete of Stellenbosch University - hardly in the past a bastion of liberal values -that SA's public service is experiencing the "gravest crisis in its existence and that a compromise would have to be struck between the demands for accelerated change and government's incapacity to effect those changes."
In some cases, he argues, as many as 50% of approved posts in many departments, including key decision- making positions have been vacant for months, with the prospect of recruiting "experienced bureaucrats extremely thin." The process of replacing lost expertise was mired in red tape, with the preference for the centralized government's transformation causing bottlenecks. Many of the 11,000 posts that were advertised over a year ago, he insists, are still vacant.
A problem that will become more serious, according to his analysis, is the duplication between line function departments and the RDP office. Some ministries, he concludes, have attempted to create "a separate corp of loyal officials," thus "institutionalizing conflict between different sections of the same department."
Among his other conclusions: Isolated new appointments that reflected the composition of the majority of the population had been made, "but these were few in numbers and insufficient to deal with the larger problems facing SA." And "highly- skilled professional staff, in particular, are for various other reasons, thinking of leaving the proverbial sinking ship."
These reasons included "low morale, non-competitive service conditions, and a belief that positions could be insecure as a result of affirmative action." [Business Day 6 October '95]
Professor Cloete's work is no doubt meticulously researched and factually errorless. All of what he says is probablyunquestionably correct. But it misses the larger point: the world has changed. South Africa must be allowed to "Africanize." Indeed, nothing can stand in the way of the winds of change, now a veritable storm; nothing can ameliorate the trauma it will inflict on whites --africanization is as inevitable as it is necessary, and whites would do well to accept that inevitability and work with it rather than engage in futile rear-guard actions.
As South Africa approaches the anniversary of the second year of the ANC-dominated GNU, the punters hedge their bets. And, so do the foreign investors. [INSERT] Mandela declared war on crime and poverty and called in the troops; at the same time 60,000 members of the revamped SANDF, mostly former members of the MK, are to be retrenched and left to fend for themselves in the inhospitable labor market; the cost of retrenchment will cost taxpayers approximately R2 billion a year in pensions and other handouts.
But anarchy is the step-child of apartheid, which was managed by many of the people who now hold high positions in the GNU. They created a monster, but no longer know how to control it. Every day there are horror stories of young people running wild, of hostage-taking, which is be fad of the moment, of mutiny in the military and rebellion in the police, of theft and corruption in high places, of unprecedented levels of murder and mayhem in the streets.
What to do ? . And even when it is clear what to do, how does one measure the iniquities of instability against the moral imperatives of legitimacy; on what principles does one balance the arbitrary measures a low-intensity emergency demands against the newly-found freedoms of a newly-emerging democracy?
Suffice to say that the hard-nosed international business community is still not sufficiently convinced that all is well. Not that the country is not functioning -- it is, and many would say remarkably well for a country going through a difficult and painful transition to democracy and it is certainly functioning better than it was during the last years of apartheid-rule. But when something's a mess, it's often difficult to make more of a mess of it.
Whites, not surprisingly, think otherwise; "Going the way of the rest of Africa," is a bond-building phrase. Denial is still rampant; many whites sugar-coat the past, enveloping it in a dream-like fantasy of a world that never was (crime, for example, was only discovered after the abolition of apartheid.) and refuse to swallow the bitter-sweet reality of today. On the one hand, they try to behave as if nothing has changed; on the other hand, in the small hours of the night, they know everything has changed, and they do not know how to reconcile the two. By and large, they equate the past with law and order, a sense of being on top, and deservedly so by virtue of their hard work and talent; and they equate the present with growing anarchy, ineptitude,inefficiency, the inability to get things done, the debilitating impact of affirmative action, without for a moment pausing to inquire into their own part in the squalid past, a past that practically mandates the inefficiencies they so elaborately belabor because of the inequalities they so effectively legislated.
Good news: For the first time in eight years, the economy will register a positive rate of economic growth, perhaps up to 3.4%, according to Old Mutual, a rate, however, that will barely outstrip the rate of growth of the population. [The Argus 11 April'95] and nowhere near the 5-6 percent needed to address the country's structurally embedded inequalities.
Inflation fell to 7.5%, its lowest level in 22 years, car sales doubled in one year, and the Business Confidence Index rocketed in September to its highest level in ten years. "SIGNS LOOK GOOD FOR SA BOOM," The Star headlines grandly announced, and the rest of the media duly followed suit with their own optimistic interpretations of the latest economic news. [The Star 6 October '95]
But even that good news has to be tempered by a cautionary note. Three major studies of the prospects for the South African economy are far less sanguine about the future.
A confidential report prepared by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says that urgent action is needed to address South Africa's jobs crisis. The report says the outlook for employment is dire. Unit labor costs have increased by 40%, relative to export prices since 1985. The low level of domestic savings makes foreign investment necessary to fund economic growth, but, the IMF says in the polite, almost passive-aggressive language it uses to convey imminent disaster, "to the extent that profit margins are being reduced by wage cost developments, foreign investment might not be spontaneously forthcoming..."
The IMF's projections see growth of 3.5% in 1995, arresting the rise in unemployment, but growth slowing in 1996 and beyond, with negative consequences for employment. Labor organizations, it says, should be persuaded to champion the interests of the whole labor force and not just the interests of its constituent members. And, it concludes, "given the urgent problem of youth unemployment, the statutory floors on wages payable to young people should be lowered in real terms, while efforts are made to enhance their skills." [Sunday Times 9 April '95]
A second study, conducted by the global Manufacturing Futures Survey (MFS) for 1994 indicates that of the 20 countries surveyed, South Africa's manufacturing industry is the least competitive. Again, the problem is identified as one in which the level of real wages must be lower, or if not, that the depreciation of the exchange rate of the rand must accelerate - something the Reserve Board (RB) won't engineer, probably because it faces a Hobsonian choice.
If it leaves things as they are, the country's level of competitiveness will continue to decline in the global marketplace. If it countenances depreciation of the currency, it will impede the growth of productivity, the mother-lode of economic growth, since depreciation would make imports, especially of capital goods, more expensive, and hence unleash inflationary pressures because the country's propensity to import exceeds its propensity to grow.
Either choice leaves South Africa in the same dilemma: Rising costs and increasing uncompetitiveness.
South Africa's need to replace its aging capital stock long ago reached crisis proportions: the MFS found that South Africa rated 19th out of the 20 countries surveyed in regard to the average age of fixed capital stock. Taiwan ranks first with equipment an average of seven years: in contrast the average age of equipment in South Africa is 12.4 years.
Trevor Manuel, the then Minister for Trade and Development,laid it on the line: "...because the SA economy has been highly and overly protected by the ineptitude of the previous governments, our firms must concentrate on reducing prices, getting smarter methodology and better training for management and workers alike. Unless we can compete in both foreign and domestic markets, we will see more and more of our firms collapse," he told a group of businessmen in Durban. [Cape Times 24 April '95]
A third report hammers home even more mercilessly the same message. A survey by Monitor, conducted under the direction of Harvard University Professor Michael Porter found that South Africa's industrial sector is simply unable and unequipped to compete on world markets.
South Africa can only reach the level of Taiwan's GDP if it achieves an average economic growth rate of 13% per year over a ten year period. This means that, with the population growing at the rate of 2.5% a year, a growth rate of 4% per year in GDP, which is the best estimate the most optimistic economists will commit themselves to, would hardly make a dent in the problem.
The study says that in order to bring about a strong and coordinated economy, the country needs to attract foreign investment, upgrade its information base, and reduce transport costs. It must also upgrade its management systems, ironic in light of the vaunted opinion SA business has of its own management skills; a work-force must be nurtured that will develop the skills that will match the requirements of the new generation of electronic and computer-controlled machines that require team-oriented problem-solving. Rivalry between firms is essential - a concept that borders on heresey in a country in which the business establishment is dominated by a small number of huge conglomerates connected through a maze-like network of interweaving directorships.
Furthermore, the report states bluntly that policy design in the future must pay greater attention to its impact on growth and competitiveness, even if it takes place at the expense of certain RDP goals.
Possible trade-offs that would improve competitiveness include: wages versus lower consumer prices; labor-intensity and less efficiency versus capital-intensity and more efficiency; short-term quick-fixes versus long-term sustainability; spreading resources over a wide and integrated front versus concentration on one; searching for unique advantage and strategy versus imitating success elsewhere; time consuming consultation processes versus active decision making.
These trade-offs would be painful and difficult, perhaps, politically impossible, especially as the country moves toward the 1999 elections; or, perhaps, as is often the case with fledgling democracies, the country will become addicted to too many elections within too-short a period, making it difficult for the community to face-up to difficult choices, and difficult for the politicians to address them.
Other somber findings of the report in regard to sectoral performance: the interest consumers pay on purchasing vehicles in South Africa is currently in the region of R5.00 billion a year. This is approximately equal to the RDP and the National Housing budgets. The cost of making a vehicle in SA is 70% greater in terms of component costs.
And most disturbing of all, in the construction industry, the cost of a standardized house is almost double what would be expected from the experience in other countries. Achieving lower costs could enable 60% of the population to afford housing -- with the subsidy scheme -- compared with the current situation, in which less than 20% of South Africans can afford housing.
In almost every sectoral comparison with countries with similar levels of development South Africa finished last, or next to last..
Looking at what is supposed to be the pivot on which the SA economy will turn -- tourism -- the report says that costs are similar to those in Australia, which has a far higher standard of living, a far better infrastructure, and landscapes as rapturous as those in South Africa. [Sowetan 11 April '95, Patrick Wadula]
(In fairness, in 1995, tourism in South Africa reached new peaks of achievement. Overall, the number of tourists increased by 40%; hotels in major cities were consistently overbooked, resorts were sold out, and game-parks were stretched to the limit to meet the demands being made on them.) International hotel groups are building multi-purpose hotels in Johannesburg, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and Cape Town.)
But for reasons no one can adequately pinpoint, tourism in the first two months of 1996 was down 25 per cent over the comparable period in 1995 [SOURCE]
Notwithstanding the country's success in tourism, other indicators are not so sanguine. According to NPL, a leading marketing consultancy, as many as one-third of the 160 South African companies it surveyed will not exist in ten years time.
Among NPL's other findings:
* A third of the companies can only guess the current size or growth of the industry in which they operated, the needs of their customers, and the market share of major competitors.
* More than half of the companies are unaware of customer perceptions of performance, and fewer still understand how their competitors' were perceived.
* The lack of knowledge of rapidly growing foreign markets raise disturbing questions regarding the preparedness of South African businesses to effectively engage in export activities.
* Fewer than 50% of South African CEOs in the companies surveyed are adequately informed about sub-Saharan markets despite the fact that SA had a recognizable competitive advantage over US and European firms seeking long-term growth in the region.
* Executives rely on their own experience as a source of data for decision making.
* And, finally, SA companies concern themselves almost exclusively with the immediacy of the issues facing their businesses, rather than focussing on long-term strategies. [SOURCE]
According to the 1995 World Competitiveness Report, published by the World Economic Forum, South Africa slipped seven places to 42nd position, an indicator that there are 41 other countries that are, at least on a prima facie basis, more attractive locations for foreign investors. [Business Africa 16-31/10/'95] "The [fact] is," the report notes, "the country is still failing to attract meaningful levels of foreign direct investment. Portfolio flows through the Johannesburg Stock Exchange are all very well, but such secondary market investment does not increase capacity and exports or generate jobs." (During 1995, foreign investors pumped R3 billion into South Africa. However, most of this inward-investment consisted of buying into existing operations, forming joint-ventures, or buying South African-owned firms. Foreign investment has not generated employment.) [Business Day 15/11/'95]
Nor is there any consensus among leading economists regarding the future flight-path of the economy. Sandlam takes an optimistic view of the immediate future; ABSA is far more restrained in its optimism. David Brink, president of Business South Africa and chairman of ABSA says South Africa needs to increase its gross domestic fixed investment to 30% of gross domestic product to achieve an economic growth rate of 5% per year - the minimum necessary to start making meaningful inroads into eliminating the huge disparities in the distribution of resources that disfigure the landscape of the country. [The Namibian 10 November'95]
So, what are we to make of these predictions? Each of the economic alchemists who predicts is the prisoner of his own mysterious ingestions; each divines truth according to his own pre-ordained rights; each gainsays all on the bewitchments of his interpretations of the micro-movements of what he considers to be the key economic indices, themselves constructs of even more arcane movements in other indices, which in turn etc.
What does one make of the plethora of forecasts when each alchemist is invested in his prognosis to the point where the relativity of truth becomes subordinated to the prerogatives of the forecasting ego; each possessed of his own dogma to the point where the fascinating predilections of the econometric models that he constructs allow "dummy" variables - aptly named - to account for the "residuals" that his models cannot account for?
When we set aside the regurgitations of "economeese", the one unstated conclusion common to all models, whether inductive or deductive, whether optimistic or pessimistic, is that no matter how you juggle the figures, no matter what magical attributes you ascribe to the RDP, no matter what configurations of the economy you conjure, you cannot do one thing: you cannot create jobs.
Worse: the economy is unable to create enough jobs to absorb school-leavers entering the labor-market. [Financial Times 30/10/'95]. Only 12,000 jobs have been created since the beginning of the upswing in the economy in May '93 and the average income is the same as 25 years ago, according to the Reserve Bank. [The Sunday Independent 17/3/'96]
Unemployment, says the IMF, custodian of of the understatement, is not just another "big" problem in South Africa. It is, the IMF states, in what for it must be close to being almost unheard of IMF-ish language, "the mother of all problems, the crisis of crises," the resolution of which is key to the country's social, economic, and political prospects. South Africa's unenployment rate is nearly four times the average for developing industrial countries. [Business Day 9/4/'96]
And on score, the issue of employment, South Africa will rise or fall. Democracy is not edible - how often heard, how often ignored.
Half of all Black people under the age of 30 are unemployed, and of the Black unemployed at least 60 per cent are under 25. Almost all Black unemployed have less than a Standard 10 education, (whatever that passes for in the wake of the school boycotts of the 1980s), and 70 per cent have been unemployed for more than a year.
Hence the case again for the accelerated removal of tariffs on finished goods. Protected industries can employ skilled workers and meet their wage demands, induced in part by apartheid-generated skill shortages, because they do not have to face foreign competition and the merciless rigors of the international marketplace.
The IMF calculates that the average effective rate of protection for finished goods made in South Africa is between 30 and 35 per cent. Which means that South African manufacturers operate, on average, at a cost differential that is about 30 per cent higher than the foreign competition they would face in an open market. Which, in turn, means, that they can sell only in their domestic markets, and are, therefore, contained by the limited sizes of these markets.
Hence the paucity of direct foreign investment in South Africa: in the absence of competition, protection has allowed wage levels to skyrocket, making the country a non-viable location for foreign companies hoping to use it as a springboard to access export markets. And hence, the protection of industry hampers the growth of the very industries that could begin to absorb large blocks of the unemployed, especially new entrants into the labor market.[ See Simon Barber, Business Day 26/3/'96].
Adding to the uncertainty bedevilling the economic situation, is the uncertainty concerning the elimination of exchange controls. . While there is widespread agreement among government, the financial community, and the international monetary-aid agencies that the country's exchange controls must go, there is far less agreement on the timing, the process, and the possible consequences of their being dismantled.
There are many layers to the debate.
Business claims that concentration of ownership, which the ANC is committed to breaking-up or at least to "restructuring", to use the egalitarian terminology of the times, is a direct result of exchange controls.
As long as controls remain in place, business maintains that it is pointless for a conglomerate to sell-off corporate assets and subsidiaries when the proceeds can only be used to acquire new domestic assets - it would amount to little more than financial musical chairs.
The South African Chamber of Business (Sacob) argues that the retention of exchange controls is interpreted overseas as an official vote of no-confidence in the economy. If the government believes that the relaxation of controls would result in large capital outflows, then it can hardly expect foreigners to invest in the economy when residents won't. Therefore, the more reluctant the government is to abolish controls, the more, according to this argument, it reinforces the belief that the government is apprehensive about the possible consequences, thus highlighting the government's own uncertainty about the future of the economy and the efficacy of its policies.
Sacob, on the other hand, argues that swift abolition of controls would be perceived oveseas as evidence of the South African's government confidence in the future and would unleash a flood of foreign investment. As an assumption, this has all the hallmarks of rationality; as a psychological extrapolation of human behavior it is pure surmise.
Choosing some middle-ground between the opposing contentions is the problem facing the government. Neither takes account of the crucial variable: the question of timing. Above all, the market is ethereal; it's its very unearthliness that allows the exercise of th Invisible Hand to exorcise. But in its arrogance it succumbs to its own pretentions.
There are factors, for example, that are beyond the market's persuasion to factor into how the abolition of controls might be received.
For example, while South Africa's gold and foreign currency reserves were in the region of $3.2 billion in September '95, it is estimated that the blocked funds of South Africanswho have emigrated might be as highas $3.0 billion - most of which could be expected to leave the country once exchange controls were lifted.
Besides, the Financial Times reports that there is also close to $100 billion in South African-managed funds, such as pensions and unit trusts; some brokers estimate that at least 5 per cent, and perhaps up to 10 per cent, would be moved offshore in the first year after exchange controls were removed.
Add to that the approximate $60 billion held by individuals, the proceeds raised by indigenous companies as a result of their selling off local assets, non-shareholder distributed accumulations of corporate profits, all of which might wish to hedge against the risk-potential married, perhaps even by shotgun, to the emergence of a new South Africa, and the government faces a possible situation in which the outflows of capital could well exceed the inflow of foreign capital, and if the former weree to happen on any significant scale, the latter would dry up.
And with it the Alliance.
Since many in the liberation movements now in power would regard much of the aggregate capital involved as the accumulations of the ill-gotten gains of apartheid and liquid enough for swift relocation to foreign destinations, the enthusiasm for the unconditional lifting of exchange controls is tempered by fears of the potentially destabilizing outflows of capital in persuit of more secure and lucrative global havens.
Pressure on the rand, (recent rumors about Mandela's health, which culminated in one of the most media-calibrated medical check-ups in recent history and the appointment of the first Black Minister of Finance, Trevor Manuel, played havoc with its own sense of propriety - its righteous adherence to the belief, nay, gospel that the market is color-blind.
But once one gives implicit acknowledgement to the undercurrents of the racist belief, never explicitly articulated, that the "Blackees" aren't quite up to the mark - why should one query the acceleration, in the aftermath, of large capital outflows and the inevitable depreciations that follow?
The problems here are two-fold, and since the GNU lacks the documentation that might enable it to differentiate between the two, the solution lies in Limbo. (Ironic that the National Party regime, creatures to the obsessive habits ofenumeration overlooked the enumerations that actually tell you something).
Allowing the rand to depreciate compensates for the relatively high unit wage costs of production, makes exports cheaper, and, therefore, more competitive. In short, a rand depreciating in value compensates for a wage structure out of sync with its competitors in other developing countries.
On the other hand, a depreciating rand increases the costs of imports. In the case of imports demanded by upper-income whites or the emerging new Black elite, the higher prices they would have to pay for imported goods and services might perhaps serve as a break on their consumption patterns and slow the rate of growth of demand for the "luxury" items involved.
But, more importantly, while currency depreciation in these cases might lower the standards of living of the few, it would expand opportunities for employment among the many - the many not among the connoisseurs of the latest Halstons or Araminis designs.
But every Faust must pay his Devil.
If South Africa is to get to the point of being able to generate sustainable development, it must add value to its primary products; it must, therefore, develop internationally competitive manufacturing and service sectors. This will require the import of the capital equipment necessary to develop the productive capacity and comcomitant infrastructure germane to the need "to add value, the overriding prequisite for creating more jobs.
A weak rand, however, increases the cost ot the imported capital goods necessary to generate the increase in productivity necessary to achieve the desired results. The higher the costs of these intermediate capital goods and whatever other goods are required to add value to local production, whether of primary products or any of their ancillary spin-offs, the less competitive the finished products are on world markets. And hence the less the impact on job creation.
Economists will tell you it's a matter of elasticities. Elasticities, however, do not impress politicians. Obituaries are written of less ambitious stuff. And hence the not-to unsurprising propensity of the ANC alliance to eschew the debate on the implications of abandoning exchange controls, especially with their labor allies, and to rely on the cliches of the politically correct position: explore the politics of the pragmatic, but always in the context of the politics of the opportune. President Mandela himself expressed it most succintly, perhaps with unintended irony, when he said on Human Rights' Day, "We have gained political control, but we we have not gained power." [SOURCE]
Not that the ANC has much of a choice. The imperatives of the global village are arbitrarily ruthless in their application, which could mean that all of the Sub-Sahara will be written-off for the time being.
But there is, of course, no future time-future.
These studies are not being used as a way to damn trade unions, especially South African Black trade unions, which have an enviable and unparalleled record for supporting their country's liberation movement. The unions' shrewd ability to organize and orchestrate mass mobilizations helped make liberation possible.
But like all organs of civil society, the unions, too, must redefine their role in the new scheme of things. Above all, they must rein in their own membership and make it understand that being present at the creation of a new society and having been one of the architects of that creation means that it has special responsibilities to the new-born. Black trade unions almost single-handedly dug the foundations of resistance; they clawed the ground-breaking concessions that opened the way to new forms of resistance and hastened the demise of apartheid.
But there are disquieting clouds on the labor horizon, not the least of which is the increasing propensity to identify the "enemy" of the labor movement as the migrant worker. Already you hear the harping, "why do they get the jobs when our own people can't?" Simple. Because they come from poorer countries, are prepared to work for lower wages than South Africans, and consequently underbid them in the labor market.
What adds a stickier dimension to the growing xenophobia is the fact that most of the migrant workers come from countries that strongly supported the liberation movement in the past, even to the point of their own considerable detriment. It would be an obviously unthankful South Africa that would now try to curb migration from these countries.
The feeling among South African workers is, however, not quite that solicitous. With perhaps up to 40% of the Black labor-force unemployed, they vehemently oppose the preference employers are often prone to give to non-South African workers. The result is a growing demand that migrant workers should be sent back to where they have come from - South African jobs only for South Africans. Complicating the problem enormously is the sheer number of migrant workers in South Africa -- up to eight million according to some estimates.
More ominous is the way in which the backlash manifests itself. The situation in the gold mines, long a metaphor for both South Africa's wealth and oppression, is perhaps most illustrative. "The growing crisis of violence in South African mines," City Press informs its readers, "is not only taking a heavy toll in lives, but seriously threatens thousands of jobs and the RDP." [City Press 16 April'95].
At least 38 miners were murdered in the first four months of 1995, all of them attributable to ethnic violence. In Westonaria, 600 mineworkers go on what is described as "a wild orgy of murder and destruction," after Zulu miners fail to heed a strike-call. Armed with knobkerries, crowbars, iron-rods and sticks, the migrant workers ended up murdering four Zulus. After the killings, seven miners, all migrants were arrested.[City Press 16 April '95]
But more often it is the other way around. Because of the impact of relentlessly rising costs, a proliferating number of mines continue to become economically non-viable, with the inevitable result that thousands of mineworkers are laid off every year. As the level of retrenchments escalates, South African workers have become increasingly intolerant of migrant workers who are able to hold on to their jobs while South African miners lose theirs.
The situation in the mines, however, is merely symptomatic of the more disturbing trend - the increasing resentment of migrant workers in all walks of life.
President Mandela, as is his penchant, spoke in the most blunt terms about the problem in Alexandria township when he admonished residents for their hostility toward migrant Mosambique workers. Mosambique, he reminded residents, had always welcomed South African who had to flee South Africa for political reasons. It was time, Mandela announced, for South Africa to reciprocate, even if this imposed some hardship on township residents, a presidential proclamation that was greeted with less than enthusiastic acclamation. Altruism and empty bellies do not easily mix.
There are tensions,too, between the trade unions and big business. Speaking at a rally in Cape Town, COSATU's second most senior official, deputy secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi, called Black economic empowerment, as implemented in South Africa by big business, a shambles. Moreover, COSATU leaders have clearly indicated that nationalization of major industries still forms a central part of their economic policy and is the only way of addressing the social and economic problems of Black people. Vavi called for the "full nationalization of Telkom,the Post Office, the SABC, Eskom,Iscor, and all industries that are key to the delivery of the RDP." [City Press 7 May '95].
(Six months later the government announced plans to privatize in some form most of these industries leading to spontaneous work-stoppages in the affected industries and a 24 hour nation-wide strike officially sanctioned by COSATU.)
Government is asking workers to sacrifice; unions want to raise the standard of living of its members. Workers are being asked to develop a long-term vision when they've struggled desperately to look no further than to the next day. They have been indoctrinated with the belief that there is a glorious tomorrow. Now the glorious tomorrow has come to pass, but as they see tomorrow unfold before their eyes, they realize that the new dawn does not free them of the relentless toil of yesterday. It is difficult to reconcile the promise and the reality.
What if you want to be free to pursue what you want, free of the obligations to the collective "we", what happens when you begin to understand that it will be next to impossible for you to get what you want, despite the intoxicating rhetoric, the do-or-die sacrifices, the years of "rolling mass action," what happens when you realize that the years ahead only hold out the promise of the drudgery of the years behind?
And what if you know that education, the supposed miracle-panacea for the destitute and the unemployed, is merely a fiction-remedy in the imagination of the people you have chosen to represent you, not because they are being dishonest, but because they, too, are the willing dupes of the false-gods of hope that inspire revolutions and promise a world in which adherence to the rules of the game is rewarded? (Only 14 per cent of Black students who matriculat get jobs; only 5 per cent qualify for college busaries) [Business Day 24/10/'95]
None of this is palatable to the country's Black trade unions. Indeed, the unions are making it as plain as plain could be that for the moment, at least, their own parochial interests will come first. According to industry analysts, wages will rise on average by 11.5 per cent to 12 per cent in 1995, further reducing the country's competitiveness in world markets. The impact is already apparent. [Business Day 6 September '95] In the forst two months of 1996 the number of strikes more than doubled over the comparable period last year, and when COSATU floated a proposal that there should be cutbacks in overtime in order tom create more jobs, the response from the rank and file was less than overwhelming [The Star 4/4/'96]
Aggravating the problem is the absence of strong leadership in the upper echelons of the unions themselves. The upper ranks were decimated by the defection of many of the most effective and skilled union-leaders to the political arena, [The Citizen 10 April '95], leaving behind them a new, untested leadership anxious to prove to the rank and file that it had the muscle and resoluteness to face down employers and a rank and file anxious to see how far it could push its own leadership. The result is often strike action characterized by "rank and file tactics", with new union leadership hard-pressed to exercise influence. [The Citizen 10 April '95]
Industrial consultants Gavin Brown and Associates, warned that the 1995 wage-bargaining season would be characterized by the same conditions that led to largely spontaneous and undisciplined strikes between April and July in 1994.[Cape Times 25 April '95] Public service demands, they said, would be "far beyond the capacity of the state to deliver." One fall-out, they concluded, would be the emergence of "more natural tensions .... between the ANC and organized labor [flowing] from the former's status as the largest single employer in the country."
Unfortunately, what's good for labour is not necessarily good for the country. There is a disturbing element of "me-firstism" among the "haves" (among whom must be included Black workers who are members of trade unions) who are not particularly enthused with the prospect of having to forego higher standards of living in order to alleviate the hapless lot of the "have-nots."
Nor is the ANC being wholly responsible in this respect. Once the local elections were done with and the necessary restructuring completed with its own people in control at the community level, it would, it pledged yet again, be in a position to deliver the services it had so earnestly promised in the past. But the harsh reality is that no matter what the ANC's good intentions are, the country is going to be faced with a plethora of difficulties in delivering the services the ANC so easily promises. In many parts of the country, the socio/economic situation will get worse before it gets better - if in fact it ever gets better.
"South Africa's trade unions should accept the urgency of wage restraint." says Harvard economist Jeffrey Sachs. "The small proportion of Black, unionized workers who have found a niche in the formal economy earn two or three times the wages of underemployed Black workers struggling in the informal economy. A unionized unskilled Black factory worker earns $400 a month, well above his global competitors in Brazil, Poland, Malaysia, and vastly above his unemployed counterpart in the townships."
( According to Clothing Federation executive director Hennie van Zyl, SA clothing companies are exploring opportunities to relocate operations to neighboring countries to cut costs in the face of stiff competition from growing imports. [Business Day 25 October '95]
Unemployment in 1996, Sanlam's chief economist Johan Louw forecasts, will rise, "reflecting the shortcomings of the South African labour market which prevent wages and wage demands from racting to the growing over-supply of labour." Available jobs will fail to keep pace with the number of new entrants to the labour market. In spite of this, he predicts that pay raises will increase on average by between 11 per cent and 12 per cent - well ahead of the rate of increase of inflation - and the rate of increase of productivity. [The Star 23 October '95]
But Sachs does not argue for wage restraint in isolation. "Wage restraint," he writes, "should be expected of t unions only as part of a larger social and political strategy, in which Black households can look forward to a future in which they are increasingly owners in the new South Africa." Among the financial arrangements he mentions that would facilitate this ownership are voucher privatization, pension fund reform, profit-sharing plans, and employee stock-ownership plans.
But the key to promoting economic growth that will lead to job-creation, he insists, "is the willingness of industry and agriculture to forego "decades of protectionism" by slashing tariffs and other hidden barriers to trade : "An internationally competitive export industry has to be able to import the inputs and machinery it needs at world prices, not at the inflated prices of the now-protected domestic market." [Sunday Times 1 October'95]
One small but illustrative example of how the process stalls: In October, the KwaZulu/Natal provincial minister for economic affairs, the ANC'c Jacob Zuma informed the KwaZulu legislature that about R400 million earmarked for the RDP in the province had not been spent and that most had yet to arrive from central government.
Hold-ups in the disbursement of RDP funds were tied to a complicated process, Zuma said. For certain programs, a provincial department had to draft a business plan before submitting it to its sister department at national level. The national department then prepared a consolidated business plan incorporating all provincial plans submitted. Which meant, of course, that delays in one of the nine provincial departments stalled the whole process. [Business Day 6 October '95]
These are the realities the ANC should be spelling out to the masses. Instead, once again, people are being led to believe that things are going to get better, when there is no evidence that they will.[City Press 30 April '95}]
Meanwhile, a somewhat skeptical international community is diddling out the promised largess in small spoonfuls rather than in the huge mouthfuls South Africa had come to expect. One year after the April'94 elections, the US had sent $2-billion, Japan $1.3-billion, Europe $0.5-billion. Much of this is in open credit to a country spending 20% of its budget on internal debt.[Simon Jenkins, The Star, 23 March '95]
Furthermore, only a fraction of the billions of rands pledged by foreign heads of state "in the euphoric aftermath of President's Mandela's inauguration 18 months ago" has materialized into hard cash, according to The Sunday Independent [1 October '95] Twenty countries promised to channel more than R11 billion into the newly-established RDP fund.
But a combination of factors, [the Independent reports] -including donor reticence or costly aid conditions, a changing international assistance environment, and the lack of an appropriate domestic mechanism for processing the huge pledges" has resulted in a situation in which little more than R1 billion a year or R4.7 billion over five years has been committed so far to the fund's Reserve Bank account, and of this a substantial proportion has strings attached.
In, perhaps, the most telling case to date of bureaucratic snafu, a R24 million Swedish donation to the RDP was returned because no suitable projects could be identified quickly enough. [The Sunday Independent 1 October '95]
The fact is, of course, when all the posturing is done with, economic control of the country continues to lie comfortably in white hands, and white grip on that power is in some ways stronger and more secure than a year ago. They have the staunch backing of the IMF, the World Bank, and the ears of reclusive European bankers for whom profit is an existential rather than a material concept.
The police commissioner is white, the Minister of Finance is white, the Chairperson of the Reserve Bank is white. Whites control the huge oligarchies that dominate the economy to an extent unheard of in other countries.
What will challenge white control, and the whites' much cherished illusion of their vaunted business acumen is good old-fashioned competition. The industrial sector will increasingly have to face international competition on a scale it has never before experienced. It will not be able to run to government for protection every time foreign competition eats into its domestic share of the market, unlike the "good-old" days under National Party rule when business clung to the even more cherished illusion that it was the hub of a free-enterprise system.
Unless South Africa is able to meet the rigors of competition in foreign markets, as world tariffs continue to drop, the country will simply fall by the economic wayside until it develops a business and labour culture which recognizes that their mutual interests and dependence on each other for survival far outweigh whatever differences come between them.
Becoming competitive on world markets will mean modernization of plant and equipment, becoming more capital-intensive and dramatically lowering the labor unit costs of production.
Which means the shedding of labor.
There is a notion abroad here that business recognizes its obligations in terms of the need to balance public social responsibilities against private gain, and that the weight of its opinion is coming down on the side of the public good.
However, even if this is the case, it invites misgiving. In protected markets, there may be some grounds for arguing the relative trade-offs between equity and efficiency, as long as the society in question is willing to absorb the costs of inefficiency, or, perhaps, more accurately, as long as the larger society is willing to pay the price of the trade-off.
But global competition offers no such indulgences. It's not a question of right and wrong, but of the "Invisible Hand" - the hand of the abstruse alchemists who sedulously persist in their quest for perfect equilibrium, so beguiling to economists, in all factors of production.
"Competitive behavior cannot be enforced" warns Marinus Daling, chairman of Sanlam. "It is neither practical or desirable to force people through law to deconglomerise."
Foreign investors, he maintains, had tried to convince the government to make it easier for them to enter the market by encouraging it to break-up the conglomerates; South Africa's conglomerates, while big in local terms, were small in a world context; "competition was not an aim in itself. We want competition in order to create a more efficient economy."
Hardly the voice of a company poised to enter the post-GATT world. But South African policy-makers would be either misguided or determinedly self-destructive if they were to allow themselves to be persuaded by the theoretical logic of the "Invisible Hand," a piece of laissez faire hand-me-down that resonates with all the allure of some Nintendo left-over. The Adam Smith of the 1750s is not the Information Super-Highway of the 1990s. Markets may be global, but like some-so-called democracies, they are not free.
Meanwhile, prognostications about the future of the economy appear on a regular basis; on every other day research reports are as likely to contradict as to complement each other. Sometimes both use the same assumptions, sometimes not. In either case, the differences in interpretation, relaxing an assumption here and there, are so infinitesimal that the adage "garbage in, garage out," comes readily to mind, a rare case in which the oracles of the myriad econometric models that clutter the marketplace of predictions manage, with the carefully calibrated generalities worthy of Class "C" diplomats, to forecast recovery and impending prosperity, or recession and impending economic collapse, with equal authoritativeness.
This is not at all facetious. No one doubts the potential for prosperity, but the potential for prosperity and the alleviation of unemployment have little to do with each other.[SOURCES] So, the question of "garbage in, garbage out" begs the obvious: whose garbage are we talking about, and into which ideological dumpster does it fall?.
Take the question of AIDS, now beginning to ravage South Africa. The number of people diagnosed as being HIV-positive has doubled in the last ten years, the number with full-blown AIDS has tripled. The disease is primarily heterosexually transmitted and is more prevalent among the emerging Black elites and migrant workers. Its impact on the economy, especially in light of the likelihood that it will strike hardest at educated and skilled workers could be catastrophic.
But if you ask government officials whether AIDS has been taken into account in economic and social planning, they will greet your question with the blank stare of the great unwashed. What, they seem to suggest in a rather puzzled way, has AIDS got to do with anything? Which, given the fact that AIDS is spreading more quickly in South Africa than in any other country in the African continent, is indicative of how the most pressing public policy issues have been cauterized in the process of transition. Yet, the HIV virus is potentially a more deadly threat to the country than any other life-threatening problem, including murder and deaths as a result of political violence. [CITE FIGURES]
There is no simple way to define the public good. In the absence of protected markets, trade-offs between capital and labor become one-sided: Labor becomes the first casualty of the attempt to protect it.
So, where will the unions stand? And where will the government stand in relation to union demands, especially a government committed to the upliftment of the millions of underprivileged, homeless, destitute, forgotten, and the merely poor?
But if the ANC does not appear to stand with union demands, with the unions' increasing invocations of the Freedom Charter, the growing whispers among the seasoned youth to throw the weak-kneed bastards out will become a babble of voices, rising to a crescendo of disillusionment and despair; when patience runs thin and emotions run thick, where stand those who speak of change?
And of whose change? And on whose behalf?
You read reports that a row has developed between Labour Minister Tito Mbowbeni and members of his labour market commission over research being conducted on the correlation between wages and employment. Mbowbeni apparently disclosed during a Centre for Policy Studies Centre seminar that initial research for the commission by University of Massachusetts Professor Sam Bowles indicated that the level of union-negotiated wage increases was having a negative impact on job-creation.
Nomsense, says COSATU general-secretary Sam Shilowa, rejecting out-of-hand the notion that wage increases contribute to the growth in unemployment. The real issue, he argues, is the high level of inequality in the workplace between the huge wage-gaps that exist between worker and management earnings. It is a right-wing view, he protests, to insist that it is better to earn R1 an hour than to have no job at all. [Business Day 23 October '95] Right-wing or not, surely the individual should not be deprived of the right of choosing between the two?
Old and new bespeak changing attitudes. A clash is inevitable. According to Business Day, controvertial resolutions calling for the dissolution of the COSATU/ANC alliance were withdrawn at the last minute from the agenda of the COSATU Wits regional congress. The paper's sources (left-wing elements in the labor movement, obviously disillusioned with what they perceive as COSATU's selling out to the proponents of a mixed-market economy) claim the move was an attempt to suppress debate within the ranks about the future of the alliance.
The resolution which called for the dissolution of the alliance after the 1995 local elections was originally tabled by the Wits branch of the Chemical Workers' Industrial Union. It was deemed unconstitutional since it was adopted by the branch shop stewards' council instead of the branch executive committee. The union said in its resolution that the ANC had adopted policies "of the capitalist class" and had abandoned many of the policies of the mass democratic movement. Gauteng premier Tokyo Sexwale told the 1,000 delegates that the proposal to end the alliance with the ANC had been introduced by opportunists. [Business Day 23 October '95]
Solidarity is not immune to the slings of outrageous in-fighting. Few doubt that the tripartite alliance will survive innumerable internal disputes, as the relentless pressure of events beyond the control of the individual partners drives a wedge through their respective agendas, and maintain their political cohesion intact, if not always tactful until the elections of 1999 are over with. But few also doubt that the alliance can operate indefinitely in its present form.
Does the ANC go out of its way to appease its militant constituency? How does it maintain its support among the masses, if it appears to be the instrument of a cynical sell-out? Why, having suffered so badly and so indefinitely, should the masses have endured so much in order to achieve so little?
For the ANC, the question of how it maintains the support of the African masses, especially the young, becomes paramount. How do you make them understand the difference between the short-term and the long-term, when they have no conception of the differences between the two because life has taught them not to distinguish between the two?
The danger for the ANC is that if it tries to maintain the "popular" support of the masses, i.e. to appear to be mass-oriented and mass-driven, it will implode, because it will hamstring itself, become hostage to the habits of mass-mobilization and civil disorder, worker walk-outs, wild-cat strikes, work-stoppages enforced by coercion rather than by voluntary compliance, outright sabotage and acts of random violence; hostage, in effect, to the legacy of the last twenty years.
The deeply-ingrained culture of protest that emerged in the 1980s has been inculcated, absorbed and passed on to a new generation that has known nothing except virulent opposition to every form of authority; in which values, distorted by abuse, becomes tools of abuse; a generation that sees revolution as something entirely different than what their parents believed in; a generation that sees itself as having had to take over from its pusillanimous elders who surrendered to the indignities of apartheid.
It does not bow and scratch before a government which they feel little connection to; it will not wait while the wheels of bureaucracy oil themselves; it no longer measure government in terms of oppressiveness, since oppressiveness is no longer a yardstick of relevance; an contraire, it flaunts its independence, listens to Mandela but does not heed him; its distaste for what has now become the new reality is untempered by any respect for the past. It has its own agenda, which it is not called upon to articulate, because grievance no longer requires articulation when the anger it inspires is anchored to the incipient presence of anarchy, making most grievances irrelevant, even when they are justified. The degree of disproportionality between grievance and the means chosen to address it is so extraordinary that it reduces grievance to the level of petulance.
Militant youth are merely one more blip on the screen of hopelessness; the farrow of the ANC, the first sucklings of the revolutionary sow to spit out their mother's milk. The question is how far can they spit, and who can they contaminate.
And, of course there are the scandals involving senior members of the ANC, bringing the "sleaze" factor in African politics closer to home.
The scandals. Elected on a platform to give the people a government that was "squeaky clean", transparent and accountable, and having berated the National Party for decades of corruption and malfeasance, the ANC found itself enmeshed in a series of allegations involving some of its leading lights.
What has been troubling is the manner in which the ANC chose to deal with these allegations: with reluctance, or at least perceived reluctance and benign tolerance, unwilling to wield the axe, until the pressure to do so becomes unsurmountable. In the unfortunate scheme of things, in what we call the "real world", perceived wrong-doing, especially among people holding positions of public trust, and actual wrongdoing are one and the same. It's the accusation that sticks; subsequent exoneration rarely alleviates the damage that's been done.
The case of Dr. Alan Boesak is, perhaps, the most poignant because his fall from grace is so complete. One of the true heroes of the struggle during the 1980s, when his oratorical skills and charismatic attributes personified opposition to apartheid, he stands accused of using his Foundation for Peace and Justice to "substantially enrich" himself at the expense of the victims of apartheid for whom monies donated by a number of Scandinavian countries under the umbrella of the DanAid foundation were intended for.
Part of the money went to his purchase of a very up-market house in Constantia, one of the more affluent suburbs in Cape Town; part went to pay-off the debts of his new wife; part to the purchase of luxury cars, part to increasing his salary from R8,000 to R20,000 a month, and part to maintaining a life-style, which, he believed befitted his position. In addition, huge "loans" were made to his accountant and other staff members. Although the figures were incontrovertible and damning, Boesak choose to deny the allegations and would not step down as ambassador-designate to the United Nations until he was compelled to bow to the inevitable, having exhausted all other options.
However, instead of distancing itself from Dr. Boesak, the ANC stood by him to the very end, and even then it accepted his withdrawal for consideration for the UN post "with regret." Not that Dr. Boesak should have been thrown to the wolves or pilloried once the allegations of the misuse of donor funds was made by the donors themselves.
But the ANC does not fully understand that it cannot countenance even the appearance of impropriety, given the special relationship it claims to have with the poverty-ridden masses. Like Caesar's wife, it must be seen to be above reproach.
Perhaps the saddest part of this sad story is Dr. Boesak's own behavior. When it was apparent that he had nothing or nobody to fall back on, he played the racist card. In a letter to overseas VIPs, including the head of the World Council of Churches and the Swedish Prime Minister, he asked why "one of our people" had not been used in the investigation; he denigrated the use of a white legal firm to conduct the investigation; he charged the investigating team with using "security-police tactics." They had attempted to get him to crack, he said, and confess to things he had not done simply to the escape the pressure.
The manner of his going tarred his accomplishments.
But the going was not quite done. Some weeks later, Advocate Mojanku Gumbi, appointed by President Mandela to investigate the allegations that Boesak had misappropriated R2-million of relief and development projects' funds issued a three page report that virtually exonerated him from blame for abuse of relief aid funds. It further concluded that there was no evidence that Boesak personally misappropriated funds. Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, who was in charge of the investigation, endorsed the findings of the report. Boesak demanded an apology from DanAid. President Mandela conferred the official benediction of his office when he said that Boesak was "a gifted young leader" who deserved a high diplomatic posting, in line with the government's policy of allowing past offenders a chance of a new start. [Business Day 25 April'95]
DanAid denounced the report in the most scathing terms it could muster. Within days of the release of Gumbi's report, a furor of protest erupted. Criticism from virtually every quarter, withering commentary on the ineptitude of the report itself (within days Gumbi herself was back-pedalling, admitting that her findings were inconclusive, but not before both Mbeki and Mandela had publicly declared that her report had cleared Dr.Boesak) [Weekly Mail 28 April '95] raised more questions than the Gumbi report had answered. Opposition parties cried whitewash, cover-up, insinuating more salacious wheeling and dealing than had come to light.
Meanwhile, the Office for Serious Offence (OSEO) continues its own investigation, while stories of how the ANC "owed" Dr. Boesak for fund-raising and the like do the rounds.[Weekend Argus 29/30 April '95] Throughout the imbroglio the ANC has remained conspicuously quiet, and if silence speaks for itself, Dr. Boesak has little to listen to. Mandela's office has also qualified its support: No decision would be taken on Boesak's future in government until the OSEO gives a positive indication of the course of its investigations.
All of this is pie in the face of the ANC. The mismanagement of Mbeki's investigation, the precipitous endorsement of the Gumbi findings, the eagerness to exonerate Dr. Boesak, the reluctance to back-off conveyed a sense of a style of governing that was slip-shod, at cross- purposes, poorly coordinated, severely lacking in judgement, unable to protect the president from what are, perhaps, his excusable follies.
And then, of course, there is the extraordinary saga of Winnie Mandela, former Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology who poses a different kind of challenge for the ANC, a challenge it has yet to face. She has been written off many times: before the release of Mandela when senior members of the United Democratic Front (UHF) publicly disassociated themselves and the movement from her (most prominently, the present Secretary General of the ANC, Carl Ramaphosa) because of her actions in connection with the murder of 14-year old Stompie Seipei; again after the convictions of members of her "Football Team" on a number of charges, and specifically the conviction of her personal body guard, Jerry Richardson, for the murder of Stompie; again after her own conviction on kidnapping charges relating to the Stompie case; again when she had to step down as head of the ANC's Welfare Department after irregularities in financial disbursements were uncovered; and yet again when Mandela separated from her, and she lost the special access that made her so formidable.
But on each occasion, she clawed her way back, showing a resilience that commanded respect, a tenacity that her outward appearance belies. And, at the ANC's general conference in December '94, when the votes for the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) were tallied, Mrs. Mandela ended up receiving the fifth most votes, a warning to the ANC establishment that in the eyes of large numbers of the masses she can do no wrong.
More surprises were in store. She was elected President of the ANC's Women's League (ANCWL), confounding her political enemies - and she has many.
She cannot be ignored.
In politics, Mrs. Mandela has always hewed to her own ways, and when she was banned to Brandfort for repeated acts of political incorrectness, after her husband was jailed for life, she became the mother of the country, the embodiment of resistance. For years, she was her husband's only voice to the outside world, and her persona developed an aura that reflected this uniqueness, but one that became increasingly imbued with hubris, as if his words were hers, as if her own pronouncements were as worthy of consideration as his.
In defiance of the government, she returned to Soweto in 1985, and in the murderous struggle to make the townships ungovernable she was with the "comrades," and the comrades were with her. There was a bonding.
For the young, she is the symbol of militancy; she and they are at one in the belief that you cannot reform the remnants of the apartheid system; you must destroy them. Her appeal is to the masses, the economically disenfranchised, especially the jobless, uneducated young, the 7.3 million in the squalid squatter camps pock-marking the country-side who bestow on her the trappings of royalty.
She speaks their language, the language of victims whose sole recourse is protest, who do not have the will or the know-how within themselves to move beyond the politics of grievance, who are incapable of articulating their own powerlessness.
She articulates that powerlessness, provides them with the hope of a future free of the drudgery of their own lives, identifies with their abject poverty and the squalor in which they live; she is the manifestation of their aspirations, forever the mother of the nation, no matter the slights and arrows of outrageous fortune she has had to endure, no matter the travails of her turbulent personal life.
When she is excoriated in the white media, they leap to her defense; allegations of improper or unbecoming conduct are dismissed because her legions of loyal supporters see them as attempts on the part of the white establishment - and now the newly emerging Black establishment - to silence her. All is conspiracy.
When she angrily berated the government for its failure to deliver the services it had publicly committed itself to at the funeral of Jabulani Xaba, a Black policeman shot dead during an altercation between Black and white policemen at the Orlando police station in Soweto, the people gathered in the cemetery knew exactly what she meant -and she had their enthusiastic support.
The President and ANC members of the government didn't quite see matters in the same way. They were infuriated with her, not because they disagreed with the substance of what she said, but because she had the dared to say it in public, to upbraid, as it were, the GNU, more specifically the ANC, and, in particular the president.
The president, glacial to a fault, called on her to retract or resign. Her first attempt to retract, he found unacceptable, and Thabo Mbeki, increasingly the messenger-boy of the President, was dispatched to deliver the ultimatum: grovel or you're gone. Mbeki, a long-time ally of Mrs. Mandela who has backed him in the leadership battle to succeed the president, drafted a sufficiently grovelling apology, which she signed, and for the time being he rescued her place in government.
(She, however, insists that it is the president himself who drafts these letters of apology. She is sick, she says, of having to sign letters written by the president to himself.)
(One of the most touching moments at the president's inauguration occurred when Mbeki left the inauguration stand, where all the glitterati were seated alongside the to-be-inaugurated President and his VIPs, walked into the crowd assembled beneath the platform, found Mrs. Mandela, took her hand, brought her back to the inauguration stand, and had her seated.
The president-to-be never cast as much as an eye in her direction. Sometimes, the president can be oblivious to what is going on around him, and sometimes he can be obviously oblivious, a statement of his knowingly disassociating himself from the matter at hand. His subtlety in this regard is unparalleled, the absence of a gesture more telling than the fulsome expression of one).
But Mrs. Mandela's problems were not over. Questions have been raised, and left unanswered, about what happened to a R500,000 cheque given to Mrs. Mandela by Pakistan's President, Benazir Bhutto, when she was on a state visit to South Africa; eleven of her colleagues on the Executive Council of the African National Congress Women's League (ANCWL), including the much respected Adelaide Tambo (widow of former ANC chairman, Oliver Tambo, who was head of the ANC during its years in exile), resigned when Mrs. Mandela persisted in going ahead with a joint business venture involving the League with Omar Sharif, despite their vociferous opposition ( The full board of the ANCWL without the eleven resignees gave their approval to the project.)
She flagrantly defied the president when she refused to postpone a trip to West Africa, despite his explicit instructions that she not do so (again a scintilla of irony: one of the reasons the President gives for falling in love with Winnie was her "willfulness" ); and finally, the much-publicized raid on her home in Soweto, conducted by the South African Police Services (SAPS), which accused her, among a number of allegations, of having received R75,000 for ensuring that a building company, Professional Builders, was awarded a contract at the Ironside low-cost housing project for the under-privileged in Vereeniging, south of Johannesburg.
Mrs. Mandela cut short her visit to West Africa to face a barrage of questions, and was withering in her condemnation of the raid on her home. For its part, the ANC was witheringly silent. The matter would be left to the police.
But not the matter of her trip to West Africa. Here the authority of the presidency itself was at issue, and the consensus, from all sides of the political divide, was that the president would have to fire her. His procrastination in the face of her willful lack of loyalty to both himself and the government he led was beginning to diminish his authority; it gave the appearance of indecisiveness, thus undermining public confidence in his often-stated resolve to meet other challenges head-on. ("Who's in charge here, anyway?" asked the Associated Press) [The Citizen, 10/3/'95]
Once again, Thabo Mbeki, was dispatched to discuss the matter with her. For a time, she refused to meet with him on the grounds that she would only meet with the president. But the days of the imperial edict were over, and, in the end, she met with Mbeki, still defiant - and one-and-a-half hours late for the meeting. She emerged from the meeting uncharacteristically subdued. She was gone.
The next day, at a funeral service, she spoke of being betrayed, of being turned on by the very people she had put her trust in, of the efforts within the ANC to demonize her, that this was the "reward" she was receiving for her decades of unselfish service to the movement, for the humiliations the apartheid regime had heaped on her. She was bitter, and didn't try to hide it.
She fought back. Like an outrageous gambler, she upped the stakes: she would take on everyone: her estranged husband (the word "estranged", taking on a new calibration when it was repeated ad nauseam; when the wise old men of the ANC, Govan Mbeki, Thabo's father, 84- years old, strong as the proverbial oxen, still a powerhouse in the Eastern Cape, and Walter Sisulu, the 82- year old, former Deputy-President of the ANC - the ANC's silent leader - turned on her, she took the fight to their doorsteps. She went to court to have the President explain the reasons to her and the people for her dismissal.
She fought back hard, defiantly. Her lawyers argued that improper procedures had been used to remove her from office, that the decision to do so had ben taken without sufficient consultation. (Buthelezi, never one to miss the opportunity to dig the knife a little deeper into the back of the ANC used this egregious argument to support her.)
Her lawyers further argued that the president's office had used the wrong stationery, that the absence of the official presidential seal on stationery rendered the whole proceedings null and void.
The president, unwilling to get involved in what could become a tawdry and protracted court-case reinstated her, and gave her the option of being fired in accordance with all the proper procedures or resigning. She choose the latter, not quite believing that her husband, the President of South Africa, disinterestedly accepted her resignation, as if she were little more than a dispensable hanger-on, an irritant, a revolutionary groupie that could be gotten rid of with a flick of the presidential hand. This time there was no Thabo to broker a gracefully balanced compromise.
Days later, she was admitted to hospital with what turned out to be a life-threatening case of diabetics. The President sent her flowers.
And so it would ever be. Just as he had molded himself in jail, in his absence, he molded her.
That he loves her, there can be no doubt. You have only to read his autobiography to begin to understand the depth of the love he has for her.
(" One afternoon," he recalls, "I drove a friend of mine from Orlando to the medical school at the University of Witswaterand and went past Baragwanath Hospital, the premier Black hospital in Johannesburg. As I passed by a nearby bus stop I noticed out of the corner of my eye a lovely young woman waiting for the bus. I was struck by her beauty, and I turned my head to get a better look at her, but my car had gone by too fast. This woman's face stayed with me -- I even considered turning around to drive by her in the other direction -- but I went on....
I can not say for certain if there is such a thing as love at first sight, but I do know that the moment I glimpsed Winnie Nomzamo, I knew that I wanted to have her as my wife."
On their first date, "I knew right there that I wanted to marry her -- and I told her so. Her spirit, her youth, her courage,her willfulness -- I felt all of these things the moment I first saw her...."
"The wife of a freedom fighter," Mandela observes in one of many poignant passages, "is often like a widow, even when her husband is not in prison. Though I was on trial for treason, Winnie gave me cause for hope. I felt as though I had a new and second chance at life. My love for her gave me added strength for the struggles that lay ahead.")
He recalls his wedding day, again with the poignancy of an old man looking back on a moment full of the promise that in his heart he knew could never be fulfilled, but with the hope, so desperately embraced, that they had a future, despite the overwhelming odds against them; for without that hope they could not share the intimacy they so passionately sought, if the future held out the promise of no redemption.
"The final reception [on our wedding day] was at the Bizana Town Hall." he writes, "The speech I recall best was given by Winnie's father."
He took note, as did everyone, that among the uninvited guests at the wedding were a number of security police. He spoke of his love for his daughter, my commitment to the country, and my dangerous career as a politician. When Winnie had first told him of the marriage, he had exclaimed, 'But you are marrying a jailbird!' At the wedding he said he was not optimistic about the future,and that such a marriage, in such difficult times would be unremittingly tested. He told Winnie that she was marrying a man who was already married to the struggle. He bade his daughter good luck, and ended his speech by saying, 'If your man is a wizard,, you must become a witch!' It was a way of saying that you must follow your man on whatever path he takes."
But in the end, his was an arrested love, having more to do with the evocations of his own loneliness for the many dark periods he had to endure during twenty-seven years of incarceration, no matter what his internal fortitude or self-discipline; times when he despaired of ever being free, especially when he knew that decision lay largely with him; and knowing himself, knowing, too, that the thin line between co-option and compromise is like the dividing line on a super-highway, knowing that his release would necessarily involve a blurring of the two, knowing that blurring inevitably leads to accidents and the irreconcilable claims that invariably follow; knowing that release was almost an interminable impossibility, given the incorrigible recalcitrance of the government he was dealing with. And as one year melted into the next, until the melting became merely existential, and hope an adjunct of the existential, he carried on, never revealing, because there was no one to reveal to.
Intimacy was an illusion in a world that carefully made intimacy impossible.
That he feels guilty about the life he left her to deal with, there can also be no doubt. But he does not regret it. Nor can he ever allow himself to, even less so now than if he had died in jail.
And that she should feel bitter is equally so. For she, too, sacrificed all. But something triggered a disconnection in her. She has become the personification, fair or not, of what has come to be called the "sleaze" factor in government. Not that it didn't exist when the NP ruled.
The difference now is the constant barrage of attention given to her every action, her own craving for attention, the passions she arouses, her penchant for getting involved in enterprises that have a dubious legality at best. The result is that in the court of public opinion ala the mainstream media she has been tried and convicted, even when no hard evidence exists to vindicate such arbitrary judgement.
Many would argue that hard evidence existed in the case of poor 14-year Stompie Siepei, mercilessly beaten to death, to make her at the very least an accessory before the act: that her subsequent conviction on lesser charges was a travesty of justice with key witnesses conveniently disappearing and allegations of ANC interference.
For whites, Mrs. Mandela has become the symbol of corruption, or at least of the misuse of money, especially of monies donated from abroad. They look at her mansion in Soweto and nod their heads in the fashion of the knowing. What is particularly ironic, of course, is the manner in which the media have latched on to the issue.
No matter that the same media were notorious in previous years for ignoring the systematic corruption that besotted the NP government for the better part of 40 years. They are treating corruption and intimations of corruption as if they were completely new phenomena, an African "curse" that followed the abolition of apartheid, something that is specifically African, something excoriated, at every opportunity, by whites, themselves past masters of the art of the sleight-of-hand.
Besides, corruption, especially official corruption, has a completely different construction in Africa than in the West. In Africa, it is not seen as a way of self- aggrandizement per se, but as the fulfilling of a duty to an extended family; with the scarcities of resources, the virtual absence of employment, the ravages of drought and AIDS, your obligations are not only to take care of the here and now, but to use your position to generate as much as you can to forestall the possibility of there being no future.
In societies that define themselves in terms of uncertain presents and undefinable futures, accumulations that can be amassed in the moment of having power are seen as a necessary safeguard against the moment when that power disappears. You hold what you have, for there may never be a moment to hold anything again. You seize the moment, for that is all that exists. Corruption is more often a matter of hoarding to survive rather than the deliberate intention to accumulate a lot of wealth as surreptitiously. It is, of course, one of the ways in which tribal allegiances manifest themselves - the taking care of own is not a particularly recent anthropological phenomenon - but an ubiquitous practice that is a hedge against an uncertain future.
But beyond that, one must keep in mind, that Africans think differently about many issues that the West would group under the umbrella of corruption, and carte blanche condemnations fall on deaf ears. The West would be well advised to put its own house in order.
The troubling thing in South Africa is the propensity of the media to treat revelations of extraordinary corruption in the former Homelands or the Independent states, in the old provincial governments or in the former National Party government itself, as if the present government, and in particular the ANC, were somehow responsible for it all.
Perhaps it is the manner in which allegations of corruptions are dealt with in the here and now. Charges are levelled against individuals, (usually members of the ANC), the media pounce on the individual, and the issue becomes personalized. On the other hand, revelations of corruption that are associated with previous governments are more abstract, there's an underlying inference that the "system" i.e. apartheid was responsible. Having an all-purpose explanation that can account for every reprehensible act negates the concept of individual responsibility and its corollary, individual accountability.
Apartheid, in fact, is a convenient scapegoat for all the wrongs of the past. And, of course, the reasoning goes, since apartheid has been dismantled and the financial chicanery that characterized the closed world of the Broederbond brought to an abrupt halt, the door is closed on official corruption. There are too many pressing problems, the venial past comes across as depersonalized and lacking in immediacy.
There is the "old" corruption and the "new" corruption. The "new" corruption carries with it the stigma of being typically "African,"; it fits the stereotypical belief that Africans are inherently corrupt, and that given the opportunity, they will plunder the state in pursuit of personal accumulation of wealth.
In "mature" democracies, there may well be just as much public corruption (for example, there are few scams that would compete with the Saving and Loans banking scandal in the United States, which cost the American taxpayer upwards of $75 billion), but there are enough checks and balances, enough belief in the relative self-sufficiency of the system to cushion the impact of fraud, even on a massive scale.
In South Africa, signals of fraud, double-dealing, dubious deals and the like are treated far more seriously by the predominantly white media than they were during the rule of the National Party. They wish to hold the ANC to a higher standard, whereas before there was no standard at all. Even when the ANC investigates allegations of wrong-doing and finds that there is nothing to the charges, the media are not satisfied, the investigating committee becomes part of a bigger ruse to discredit the press.
Part of this preoccupation with corruption is the white community's conscious or subconscious belief that South Africa will "go the way of the rest of Africa." This, after all, is what has been hammered into their heads for the better part of 50 years, to the point where they have an unwitting desire to prove themselves right. Hence their propensity to inflate the significance of anything that allows them the satisfaction of being able to lump South Africa with the rest of Africa in a denigratory way.
The controversies that swirled around former Transkei military ruler, General Bantu Holomisa and former ANC Youth League president Peter Mokaba are how whites resort to knee-jerk reactions.
When Holomisa's repudiation of the president's charge that Transkei civil servants had stolen "millions, perhaps billions" by fixing the computers that controlled their salary disbursements ( "I don't attach too much importance to what he said. The allegations made by the President can never be regarded as the final word in this matter until an investigation has tabled its findings.") went unrebuked, and Mokaba's payment to himself of an annual salary of R250,000 while he was director of the National Tourism Forum, also went unrebuked, even though he was also receiving a salary of R17,000 per month as a member of parliament, an apparent contravention of the ANC's code of conduct, the white media were quick to put their own on matters.
The former, they pointed out, finished first and the latter third in the NEC elections in December'94, a warning of sorts to the pragmatists who controlled the levers of power in the ANC. Collectively, the media asserted, the inner leadership circles of the ANC believed that the two had the potential to mobilize the youth. Hence the reluctance to discipline.
Even when the ANC issued a statement excoriating the Press, ("Both print and electronic media have through their malicious reporting charged and sentenced these members for corruption. The ANC takes strong exception to the conduct of the Press in this regard. The ANC has no evidence of wrongdoing or corruption by these members, as alleged by the Press.") [The Citizen, 1 March'95], the press would not let go of their preoccupation with the issue, dragging it up whenever the occasion seemed propitious for their purposes, continuing to suggest that the ANC had put a lid on the matter out of expedience.
The "standards" the West uses to judge African countries are Western notions of the common good. In the West, the public believe that another election will be held at a time and in the manner prescribed by the constitution. Democracy is an accepted value, if not a fully understood one. In African countries, it is neither an accepted value nor even a marginally understood one, even in countries undergoing the process of transition. In "mature " democracies, the social and political infrastructure is strong enough to absorb the pulls and pushes and contradictory demands placed on the system. In African countries they are not, except it might be argued, in South Africa, but even here, the remnants of what was a limited and fundamentally flawed democracy were carried over into the new franchise with disastrous consequences. [Huntington]
In Africa, corruption has its own rules and regulations. Unless it is managed and kept within the boundaries of these rules and regulations, it can easily escalate into conflict. One's grievance is not that others are corrupt i.e. in the sense of taking care of their own, but that you are not in a position to do likewise for your people. You rarely hear a condemnation of corruption on moral grounds; the condemnations are purely on pragmatic grounds, that is, some other group, ethnic or tribal, is getting a larger share of the pie than you are. Hence the constant fears of the "ins" that if the "outs" win in a democratically conducted election, they are going to be the loser in the only way that counts - they will lose control over the distribution of resources.
It must be made absolutely clear to the people, who have at best an extremely limited understanding of what democracy is and how it works, that the popular equation of winner take-all with democracy is as far off the mark as you can get; that the failure of democracy in many underdeveloped countries is the result of the failure to distinguish between the two and the concomitant failure to develop an institutional infrastructure to accommodate what the difference is.
"Victors gain access to economic resources as well as power," writes Richard Sandbrook, "losers have virtually no alternatives to upward mobility. Democratic competition tends, therefore, to degenerate into a frantic and violent struggle." [Mt. Etjo Proceedings] In these situations, a constitutional guarantee that free and fair elections will be held every five years means nothing. Five years is a lifetime; the concept of waiting is irrelevant. You eliminate that by slaughtering the present.
Moreover, to further muddy the waters, when the IMF or the World Bank talk about corruption in African countries, they are make judgements in moral not cultural terms, since cultural yardsticks are not seen for what they are, but as impediments to development--development that is, according to Western norms. But the more developmental theory evolves, the more it emphasizes the concept of "sustainability" and a shifting from a pre-occupation with purely economic barometers to the more subtle implications of cultural yardsticks, more subtle and less discussed because of the politically-loaded ramifications of multi-culturalism and the attendant "isms" that become rhetorical set-pieces for endless arguments about political correctness.
"Electoral politics tend to acerbate communal divisions [when] ambitious politicians appeal to communal identities and suspicion in order to garnish support," writes Sandbrook. "The principal danger arises when political parties mirror communal divisions, for the voters may interpret victories of a particular party or coalition as the victory of one ethnic, regional, or religious group over the others. This perception erodes the mutual trust (that is, if there was any mutual trust there to begin with) between the "ins" and the "outs" on which democratic politics depend." [ibid]
In South Africa, this tragedy unfolds in its most visible form in the struggle between the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the African National Congress (ANC), particularly in KwaZulu/Natal, which has been the scene of some 20,000 deaths as a result of political factionalism in the last ten years.
Chief Mangosothu Buthelezi, leader of the IFP and Minister for Home Affairs in the National Assembly, kindles the fires of Zulu nationalism; political killings are once again on the increase in the war for territory, resources and power.[ADD HERE OR TRANSFER]
Buthelezi is fixated on the notion that the ANC wants to destroy Inkatha him and Inkatha (he may not be far wrong on either count, but it is not fashionable to say so): his commitment to federalism with authentic powers being given to the provinces is something the ANC does not or refuses to understand, or if it does, it chooses to ignore its implications and put the whole "squabble" down to Buthelezi's brinkmanship or his eccentricity.
Winnie Mandela's appointment as Deputy Minister of Arts, Science and Technology in the GNU confounded the pure of heart and left a distasteful odor in the nostrils of the less pure. The subordination of principle to the lowest levels of expediency, it appeared, was an indication of the degree to which the ANC would go to maintain its cohesiveness, especially in the face of criticism.
In that sense, it has not yet been able to escape its past. There's always an enemy, and, therefore, always the need to portray the organization as a unified, monolithic structure. It maintains its cohesiveness in part because the membership is constantly reminded of the fact that fragmentation will only benefit its enemies, and in part because loyalty is the only virtue that unites disparate elements of a revolutionary movement. Hanging together is more appealing than hanging each other.
And one should not forget that despite the rapproachment of recent years, the glad-handshakes and the smiling photo-ops, there is an underlying watchfulness, a wariness that the other side is out to best you that will last for decades.
(In a discussion document, "One Year of Government of National Unity," the ANC write:
The areas of of the army, police, intelligence and the civil service in general were areas where the sunset clauses were most meaningful; from the beach-head there has been some headway.
However,signs of rear-guard resistance are starting to show. In ny case, if the NP and the IFP in particular, were to claim any clout beyond their numbers elected in bodies, it should be expected that they will seek to mobilise these institutions behind them.
In addition, there is the reality of the legacy of what we have inherited: that the NP concentrated its security forces on suppressing the liberation movement and neglected ordinary crime; that the security forces were scandalously exploited and lacked motivation - working long hours under dangerous conditions and poorly paid. Besides, deployment for crime prevention was skewed in favor of white areas.
Given all these factors, to what extent can we claim the loyalty of these forces? The SAPU strike; difficulties in obtaining required information from intelligence structures; mind-set problems in the SANDF -all these raise some doubts.
When the media reported what the document said, the Ministers of Defence, Joe Modice and Safety and Security, Sydney Mufamadi found themselves in the awkward position of having to call press conferences to counter the alleged suggestions in the document of possible security force disloyalty to the government.
ANC General Security Cyril Ramaphosa excoriated the media for the way in which it handled the story. "The ANC," he said, "is concerned about the manner in which the media has portrayed this issue.
"Claims in some reports that the ANC has misgivings about loyalty of the SAPS and SANDF are a wholly inaccurate portrayal of the ANC's stated position - and misrepresentation of the content and spirit of the discussion.")
The key to being "bested" is the enemy's ability to create or create the impression of schisms in your movement in the manner that the ANC's discussion document suggests, it behooves you to ensure that all debate about policy, strategy, and belief, for that matter, is resolved within the "family" structures of your organization.
Public disputes about policy or political strategy are seen as conscious acts of party disloyalty. There is room for disagreement, but only within the prescribed parameters the party lays down. Ultimately all disputes are family disputes; outsiders not only are irrelevant, they perform a disservice in their naive belief that they can clear things up.
Thus, when Mrs. Mandela was handed her head on a plate, the fire-brands, the radicals, the populists, the whatever-they-call-themselves or are called by the mainstream political pragmatists did not rally to her side. The left in the ANC - the Holomisas, Yengenis, Mokobas - was conspicuous by its silence, especially since it was vocal, to one degree or another, in her support, before Mandela lowered the boom. Not breaking ranks was more important than whetting one's support for a like-minded comrade, no matter how connected or popular he or she might be.
In the end, the consideration that matters for MPs is the consideration of their own future. In the list PR system, the party is the arbiter of where you will be placed on the list; hence loyalty to the party takes precedence over loyalty to the government or the people, unless the government and the party are one and the same.
In this sense the list-system is a hindrance to the inculcation of democratic values, especially in rural areas, where the absence of any relationship between somebody who lives in a particular area and a member of either the Provincial Parliament or the National Assembly leads to political estrangement and a reliance on the traditional way of doing things - not that the traditional way of doing things is in any way less effective except for the fact that it discourages individual and community empowerment, and, therefore, dilutes the process of democratization.
One hopes that this vacuum will be recognized for what it is: a fundamental impediment to the development of the democratic process, and that the Constituent Assembly will address the question.
An issue of possible more consequence is the relationship of the party - and here we are really talking about the ANC - to government. When Popo Molefe, Premier of the North West province, fired Rocky Malebane-Metsing, his Minister for Agriculture, on grounds that Malebane-Metsing was trying to undermine his government, the ANC stepped in to mediate the dispute and insisted that Molefe find another position in his administration for "Rocky."
Since the interim constitution gives the right to a Premier to choose his own cabinet, and the concurrent right to reshuffle his cabinet as he sees fits, to fire whom he wishes and to hire whom he pleases, the ANC's intervention indicates its belief that the party has the right to interfere in provincial disputes, when it deems it in the interests of party unity to do so, in what might be regarded as a serious derogation of the provinces' constitutional rights, and an unsettling disposition to act in the manner of one-party states, where the state and the party are for all practical purposes synonymous. (Similarly, when Tokyo Sexwale addressed Gauteng's newly-elected local government councillors, he told them, "without mincing words," according to a rport in Business D, " that as ANC councillors they were politically accountable to the leadership and the structures of the ANC under whose banner theyhad been elected....") [Business Day 6/11/'95]
The fledgling democracy in South Africa will not survive, if an ANC activist, or an IFP activist, believes that his/her loyalty belongs to the party, and not to the constitution.
Indeed, the more the country adheres to a PR- list system, the more deadening and less participatory the democracy that will emerge, leaving the system to percolate in its own possibly injudicious juices, without regard to the millions who will participate in the jaundiced results that democratic elections of this ilk produce.
But a constitution is at best a piece of paper, a document celestial to the winds, and if the winds blow it away, you may be able to put it together in bits and pieces, but never with the coherency and the power of the original.
A constitution, if it can be amended at will by any party commanding two- thirds of the vote, is only a democratic constitution in the most superficial sense of the term. Indeed, our penchant for judging democracy in terms of numbers, our fascination with the data that gives the raw score of who's up and who's down appeals to our arterial glands. But on all counts, one thing can be said with confidence: majority rule is not democratic rule, except under very circumscribed conditions.
The first step in democratization is just that: baby-steps, tentatively taken, with stumbling and falling-down and recovering, with charting an uneven path to an uneven goal, with no glitter and problems that are beyond the mandarins' abilities to deal with.
Unfortunately, as we enter 1996, the old order is still well placed to ensure that there is never a final step that guarantees the implementation of democratic restructuring. The task of reshaping the orientation of the old order is largely in the hands of the old order itself who, for all its tunnel visions regarding the future, are not about to commit the political equivalent of hari-kari.
As long as implementation of the new order lies in the hands of the old, democratic transformation will be slow, and the change in old habits moot - rhetorical flourishes rather than attitudinal rebirths.
In the final analysis, a Black-majority government in South Africa will have to rule on the basis of one immutable principle: you cannot reform what must be abolished.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission aggressively advocated by human rights'proponents and vigorously opposed by the rear-guard of the old order staggers through the parliamentary process, survives the innumerable obstacles put in its path, and is enacted into law amid rancid recriminations that have little to do with coming to terms with the sordid past.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of the commission, promises that the commission will promote healing, and hold all sides equally accountable for the human rights'violations they committed during the years of apartheid. The commission, he says, "will open wounds so they can be cleansed and prevented from festering." [Sowetan 1/12/'95]
Evenhandedness is elevated to a position of the theological centerpiece of the new orthodoxy. The process seems almostly benignly simple: anyone who committed an offence that was an infringement of the human rights of an individual has to come before the commission and confess. If the commissioners are sufficiently convinced that the offence was carried out in keeping with the political mores of the organization to which the confessee belonged, he will be given indemnity from prosecution.
"So that it does not deepen the rifts it has been set up to heal," a leader in Business Day solemnly intones, "[the commission's] proceedings and final report must reflect an understanding of theperspectives and motives of all sides of the dirty war. The legislationgives it power to investigate, in addition to hearing evidence on application,and it must use them evenhandedly to shed light on the crimes on the crimes of the ANC and its alliesas well as those of the forces of apartheid."
"The distasteful reality," it concluded, "is that the committee will have the the job of letting assassins and torturers off the hook, as long as their crimes were politically inspired and proportional to the political aim." Thus, "[while one can understand the desire of apartheid victims for revenge, the larger issue is how to avert future violence." [Business Day 1/12/'95]
One problem the commission has to deal with is how to treat members of the ANC who were given a blanket temporary immunity from prosecution when they returned to South Africa in the early 1990s to take part in negotiations, and who continue to be beneficiaries of that immunity, and members of the security forces or even the former NP government who received no such immunity. ( According Dept. of Justice spokesperson Sue de Villiers, the temporary immunity granted to 77 senior members of the ANC has been extended on an annual basis, and will expire one year after the Truth Commission begins its deliberations. At that point, she says that those covered by the immunity legislation will have to apply to the commission for indemnity [Business Day 28/11/'95]. The matter remains one of extreme contention with President Mandela blunt reminder to all sides that "I am President of this country, I will decide who gets indemnity..." [The Citizen 27/11/'95]
The National Party, in particular, are voracious in drawing a distinction between immunity from prosecution, which does not require disclosure of offences committed, and indemnity from prosecution, which does require disclosure [ibid]
Whites have become obsessed with the case of Robert McBride, a former member of Umhonto, who left a bomb in a pub in Durban in 1986 - the Magoo Bar - that exploded, killing three women and injuring dozens - none of whom were remotely connected with the security forces. McBride was arrested, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death. In 1993, McBride was released in accordance with the criteria defining political offences agreed to by the government and the ANC. Today, McBride holds a high position in the Department of Foreign Affairs, is indemnified from other "terrorist-type" activities he may have been engaged in, and has no cause for appearing before the Truth Commission.
Compare McBride's position with that of General Magnus Malan, former Minister of Defence in both PW Botha's government and FW de Klerk's government (until he was reassigned), who together with ten former senior members of the SADF was recently arrested on charges of murder in conneection with a massacre that occurred in KwaZulu/Natal in 1987. Where, whites ask, is the evenhandedness in this?
( Malan and his co-defendents, it should be pointed out, want to go to trial so that they can prove their innocence. Putting their case before the truth commission would suggest, they say, that they are guilty of a heinious crime and hold up to derision their repeated avowals of innocence. "In our court case," says General Malan, "my conscience is clear as far as this desplicable act is concerned. We are accused oand charged with committing a crime, namely that of murder. If there is sufficient evidence, carry on with prosecuting us. No person in this democratic country should be above the law." But, he added, "Where you prosecute the one side for alleged crimes, you are democratically forced to prosecute the other side for alleged crimes." [The Citizen 30/11/'95]
His plea for evenhandedness came, neverthetheless, with a caveat that carried with it a warning: "However, should anyy member of the previous State Securiity Council be charged with these or similar deeds, such action might cause turmoil in South Africa...
If you take actions similar to those taken against me,I say: Watch it...." [The Citizen 29/11/'95]
In the course of the uproar among whites following Malan's arrest and angry declamations by the families of the victims of the Mc Bride bombing, Mc Bride struck back at his detractors.
I threw away half of what they call the gravy train [he said] because of my love for this job [in the diplomatic corp]. I would like to serve my country and I will not allow some hypocrites to distract me. They can do whateve they like; they can stand on their heads. But remember they are the same people who supported the state of emergency,cross-border raids and everything that went with apartheid. They cannot speak with any moral authority on any issue. [The Sunday Independent 26/11/'95]
Moral battle-lines were being drawn. The ANC weighed in with a blistering statement:
The campaign against McBride is insensitive to the lengths that the ANC, in particular, has gone to make reconciliation possible. These actions ignore the very sincere efforts by McBride at personal reconciliation. McBride, at his own initiative, personally contacted victims of the bombing to extend a hand of reconciliation. [The Citizen 26/11/'95]
Meanwhile the families of the victims are getting ready to sue McBride, apologies or not merely a partial differential in the calculus of retribution.
So we must ask: Should murder committed by the state in the name of protecting state security, be held to a different standard of justice than murder committed by young comrades fighting in the name of liberation. Morally, is there any difference between the shooting dead on the orders of the state of a named individual whose activities are perceived to be inimical to the survival of the state, no matter how oppressive, and the township necklacings (tyre saturated with petrol, hung around a beaten, defeated and more often than not resigned body, arms pinioned, tyre set ablaze, flames consuming the writhing, disappearing figure, voice howling with the despair of the damned, eyes popping like Corn Flake's Special Seven, fire feeding on cooked flesh and bones that burn you to ashes, to nothingness with a rather incurious gathering of bystanders watching, a diversion in an otherwise pointless day, and the hanging stench a reminder to the community that life is a matter of a box of matches) carried out by youngsters and the so-called "people's courts" they administered with a ruthlessness that matched at times the worst excesses of the state, with the implicit and often explicit sanction of their elders, in the perceived furtherance of the struggle?
Or should we cite the case of the colonel, always sufficiently but not inordinately drunk ( nothing but the finest Hennessey) who forces his captive to drink petrol until the doomed man is bloated as a sow in farrow, then orders his subordinates to shoot the crazed victim in the stomach until he explodes into an ephemeral bulwark of flames, until his guts explode and body pieces scatter in fragments, who then proceeds to have his underlings carefully collect, package and dynamite, over and over again, these scattered fragments of bone and flesh, the bits of hair, whatever odd pieces of what was once you that are still lying about, until not even a seamless trail of dust could even give witness to your ever having been?
One day killing in the name of liberation, tomorrow in the name of fascism, yet another in the name of nationalism, one more for socialism. We can change the titles of the causes but cannot undo the deaths committed in the names of different ideologies. Dead men can never breathe air.
And so to the disquieting questions that the truth commission must address. How to create parameters for its legal frame of reference? (as stated in the first sentence of the preamble to the legislation, the purpose of the commission is to "provide for the investigation and establishment of as complete a picture as possible of the nature and extent of gross violations of human rights committed between March 1960 and December 1993.") [The Sunday Independent 26/11/'95]
How to balance the right of the families of victims of apartheid rule who disappeared to know what happened to their kin with the rights of the families of victims of savagely dispensed township-justice and "people's courts" to know what happened to theirs? How to avoid setting in motion endless cycles of retributive violence?
Should individuals be publicly named for murders they committed or were complicit in, even if disclosure means the certain death of the named individuals as a result of revenge killing? What if current Ministers, in all parties, are implicated in serious crimes? Should they be required to resign? (Which raises the question that goes to the core of the need to ensure transparency so as to assuage the national conscience and the need to maintain national cohesiveness and stability: If the commission uncovers information that could lead to a coup, a right-wing rebellion or the collapse of the government, should it release it? ( Archbishop Tutu would appear to come down on the side of non-transparency in such cases. "The commission," he says, "has the right to determine when it sees fit that some or all of a particular piece of disclosure should not be made generally known
the public.") [Business Day 1/12/'95]
However, his response raises another troubling question: If the purpose of the commission is to lay to rest the ghosts of the past, how can it succeed if some of the ghosts remain esconced in the attic. And who gets to decide which ghosts have the right to a permanent residence? On this question, Tutu, in the light of his previous statement, appears to contradict himself: "We cannot be facile," he says, "and let bygones be bygones, because they will not be bygones, and will come back to haunt us."
True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgivenness, which is costly.
Forgivenness, in turn, depends on repentence, which has to be based on an acknowledgement of what was done wrong. [The Citizen 1/12/95]
Should people who killed randomly i.e who planted a bomb in a crowed market place where it was sure to kill on explosion be treated differently than members of "hit squads" who killed specifically targeted individuals? Should state officials who helped to organize "hit squads" or who ordered underlings to "permanently remove" someone from society be held to a higher level of accountability, since they were suborning laws that they had sworn to uphold, than members of the MK who did not acknowledge the legitimacy of the state and who resorted to violence as a remedy of last resort?
("There is no moral equivalence between the actions of the apartheid security forces and those of the ANC guerrillas," said Minister of Justice Dullah Omar.
Apartheid [he said] has been a crime against humanity in the same way Nazi crimes were crimes against humanity. People who fought for freedom in our country, who fought form democracy, were participating in a noble struggle.
Indeed, General Malan immediately responded, "[The Minister of Justice'sstatement] that there was no moral equivalence between the actions of the security forces and those of the ANC terrorists is absolutely correct, as the security forces had never necklaced people in the streets, before international TV cameras, and the victims' families." [The Citizen 30/11/'95]).
( In their war to make the country ungovernable, the ANC committed, according to police reports, 1,548 "terrorist" acts in 14 years, in which 158 people of all races died, and 1,564 were injured. Citing these figures, Die Burger, felt compelled to report that "those who were lucky enough to survive give accounts that would bring tears to the eyes of anyone with any humanity." [Cape Times 31 March '95]. In reality, if these are in fact the official police statistics for the period, they indicate how putative te so-called armed struggle was; the meagre dividends ridicule the myth of a national uprising. Was this it, the whole armed struggle? The razzmatazz of revolution? Was this the great and widely-promulgated response of the people to decades, centuries of oppression and the denial of their humanity at every level of social interaction? Whither the comrades and cadres? In what great enterprise were they enjoined in? And against whom?
In response to the ANC charge that the security forces had acted in criminal ways in the carrying out of their duties, General Malan responded haughtily that "the South African Defence Forces cannot be held responsible should any other individual or group trained by them decide to commit a crime." [The Citizen 29/11/'95]
Mandela, true to whom he is, added the closing injunctive. "I am not" he said," prepared to defend anybody."
We are a government that has established a culture of transparency in this country, and anybody, no matter what position you hold, who is found to have committed a crimewhich is not covered by the parameters we set to define what a political offender is, must be brought to the courts and prosecuted. He must be accountable for what he did.
Without disclosure, how do you create an environment conducive to and encourage reconciliation? Blacks are called on to forgive whites for the sins of apartheid. But how can you forgive, if you do not know what it is that you are forgiving? Should the families of people who simply disappeared have the right to know who was responsible for their disappearance, who ordered the necessary action, who approved it and why, who carried out the order, and what happened to the body?. And why should whites be allowed to erase the past, unaware, or with the pretense of being unaware of what was going on around them in their racist claim that all men are not created equal?
Heads will certainly roll, and not just National Party heads; the ANC will come in for its fair share of decapitations.
The ANC has to answer for the torture of their own people in the Quatro camps in Angola. The ANC's own investigations recommended that the perpetrators of these actions should never again hold public office.
Perhaps as a precursor of things to come, General Johan van der Merwe, the former Commissioner of the South African Police (SAP) warned Parliament's Justice Committee that members of the security forces would protect themselves using "documentary and other evidence collected during their period of service, if their political leaders did not accept responsibility for the system that led to the conflict."
Questioned on this statement, he further elaborated: "Every person should realize that if the leaders and commanders are not prepared to accept collective responsibility for a system within which the individual operated, obviously the individual will have to protect himself in whatever way is available to him." [The Citizen 8 February '95]
But the proliferation of words obscures meaning. Repentence is hard to find, admissions of wrongdoing wanting, and reconciliation, much praised in the abstract, and much tempered in practice.. 33
On November 1st, 1995, the first non-racial local elections were held in South Africa, without any catastrophic administrative foul-up, and without any serious outbreak of violence. Indeed, given the dire predictions prior to the elections of impending chaos at the polls, polling day itself was almost a model of electoral decorum.
Elections took place in 687 transitional authorities, and were, according to the Local Government Elections Task Group (LGETG) "...by and large, free, fair and efficiently managed," an outcome the LGETG called "a remarkable success achieved in spite of the major constraints on the whole process." It did acknowledge, however, "that many people who had not registered to vote turned out to vote at wrong stations throughout the country [and that] there were undeniably many people, especially in Greater Johannesburg and the Eastern Cape [and] also in other areas who had registered, but whose names either did not appear on the voters' roll at all or were reflected in the wrong ward."
"Notwithstanding this" [the Task Force concluded] "we are satisfied that the overwhelming majority of registered voters were able to vote, and that the results are a reasonable reflection of the political profiles of the areas where elections took place."
Few could argue with the LGETG's assessment in view of the catastrophe many political commentators had predicted. But whether they aurgured well for the future of democracy in South Africa, as most organs of opinion were quick to conclude, is a matter for sombre reflection rather than unbecoming self-congratulation.
The results confirmed the dominance of the ANC which won 67.94% of the votes cast in the PR elections and 61.86% of the total seats (ward and PR). The NP won 15.26% of the votes and 15.70% of the seats. All other parties trailed far behind. The Freedom Front(FF) came in a distant third with 1.84% of the seats; the DP fourth with 0.75%, the PAC fifth with 0.35% , the IFP sixth with an infintismel 0.15% (14 seats out of the 7,290 being contested). Ratepayers did surprisingly well, securing 313 seats; other parties won 414 seats, and independents closed out the tableau with 588 seats (8.07%).
The ANC won outright majorities in 387 councils and the NP in 45. The IFP, DP, PAC,and CP did not manage to take control of a single council. The FF won one. Ratepayers took control of 15 councils and independents 23. Other parties secured majorities in 29 councils.
In the Western Cape (outside of the Cape Metropole) the ANC made inroads into the Coloured vote at the expense of the NP, setting the stage for a historic showdown between the two parties when the metropolitan elections are held in April 1996.
The Conservative Party (CP) has for all intents and purposes ceased to be a force of any reckoning in South African politics. Its dismal showing - a meagre 45 seats nation-wide - is apointed indicator of how effectively it marginalized itself when it boycotted the Kempton Park negotiations and the April '94 elections. In Pretoria, once the epitome of CP strength in the platterland and the avowed capitol of its putative Afrikaner state, it was humiliated, winning a single seat on the Pretoria Metropolitan Substructure after having held about 45 per cent of the seats in the old Pretoria City Council. [Saturday Star 4/11/'95] The AWB, which had boycotted the elections attributed the CP's calamitous performance to "the party's leadership [trying] to be extra-parliamentary anas wellas intra-parliamentary, and [not being able to be either." [ibid]
And, in what presumably was supposed to pass for enlightened political comment, it added that South africa "is the only democracy where the voters outnumber the taxpayers by more than 12 to one - another world first for the country."[ibid]
But the acerbicism had a hollow ring to it with the fall of Ventersdorp, long synonomous with AWB racialism, headquarters of the movement, home of its leader Eugene Terre'Blanche, site of its numerous carefully managed commando manouvers fell to the ANC.
( Of most surprise is not the predictable tenor of the AWB's comments, but how the word "democracy" found its way into the AWB vocabulary.
The FF claim the mantle of Afrikanerdom, winning more than 50% of the Afrikaner vote (4.3 per cent of the 7 per cent vote Afrikaners represent nationally and has duly annointed itself the authentic voice of the Afrikaner people and the legitimate instrument of their political aspirations. The results, says General Constand Viljoen, leader of the party, means that "under principle 34 of the constitution, we [Afrikaners] can claim self-determination." [The Sunday Independent 12/11/'95]
The IFP finds its profession to being a national party in shambles. Nevertheless, its forlorn performance did not inhibit Buthelezi from confidently predicting that the IFP would emerge as the next government of South Africa. The forthcoming local government elections in KwaZulu/Natal, he told his supporters, are "of paramount importance," and he could see no reason why the IFP should not secure 65 per cent of the vote. [Business Day 6/11/'95]
The PAC, the ANC's competition for the African vote, can find no excuse for the pathetic turnout on its behalf. Urging voters to register, PAC President Clarence Makwetu adopted a holier-than thou, we-told-you-so attitude, imploring people not to be misled again. "Before April 27 1994," he said, "we warned you against wolves in sheep skins. We warned you against taking the wrong decision. That warning we repeat even today, because if you make another wrong decision, it is a decision that will haunt not only you but also posterity." [IMVO, 1 April 1995]
In the heat of its self-righteousness, the PAC seemed to be oblivious to the waning appeal of the party. Nothing had been learned from its debacle in the April '94 elections, and the voices of foreboding were left to whistle in the wind. On the occasion of the 36th anniversary of the party's founding, there was a remarkably poor turnout. Speaking at the only publicized rally at Ethando Kukhaya community hall in the Eastern Transvaal, Secretary-General Maxwell Nemadzivhanani told the small gathering of the faithful that the party would fast become irrelevant if it did not mount meaningful opposition to the ANC government - which would require something more than "I told you so" attitudes.[Sowetan 7 April '95].
His warning went unheeded; the PAC continued to dance to the tune of its own hubris. The point of irrelevance may be at hand, and unless the party undergoes a fundamental reorganization, an in-depth attempt to carve-out a singular and uniquely distinguishable identity, and an bottoms-up overhaul of the leadership, the point of irrelevance has already arrived.
The DP takes pride in the fact that it survived. And while it lost ground to the ANC in the Eastern Metropolitan Substructure in Johannesburg, it "clawed itself back from the brink of extinction," according to the Sunday Times, "by winning back its English-speaking middle-class voters in Johannesburg who deserted it last year for the National Party." [Sunday Times 5/11/'95] Yet, the party remains marginal, and if it regards winning back its traditional heartland as a smashing victory, its goals are modest and its future peripheral. It made no impact whatsoever in township areas with a best showing of 500 votes in Alexandra's East Bank ward.
The NP, as it has had to do since it ceased to be the governing party, put the best face on things, proclaiming its satisfaction with the elections' outcome. It scoffs at the reports that it has lost ground to the ANC in the Western Cape. (The ANC won 306 seats, the NP 292, independent candidates and non-party political groups 271, the DP six,, the PAC four, and the FF two. The NP won 44 per cent ofthe proportional vote compared to the ANC's 36 per cent - comparable figures in the April '94 elections were 53 per cent and 33 per cent) [Financial Mail 10/11/'95]
NP Western Cape leader Dawie de Villiers said it was "absolutely mad" to say there had been a swing towards the ANC. The NP had not participated in the elections in 23 of the 95 towns which held elections because of agreements with ratepayers' associations. If the results in these towns were taken into account he said, "we [NP] [would] have well over 50 per cent of the vote... which is better than we did last year." [Business Day 6/11/'95]
In addition, the NP argued that since the coloured vote was counted with the non-Black vote, the 50/50 ward arrangement gave the ANC an "artificial leg-up" in areas where white and coloured voters vastly outnumbered Black voters.
(Interestingly, the NP did not invoke this electoral formula to explain why it was more successful in other parts of the country than the numbers would warrant where Black voters vastly outnumbered white but were also subject to the 50/50 agreement.)
The ANC wasted no time in claiming a massive victory, which it interpreted as a vindication of its policies, a vanquishing of its political opponents and the begrudgers of its accomplishments.
The ANC's Mayibuye triumphantly announced that "PARTIES MISREAD VOTER MOOD", with the sub-legend that "All parties in the local government elections, but one, were hopelessly out of touch with the voters." [Mayibuye November'95]
In a somewhat less benevolently self-congratulatory benediction on the process, Party Secretary-General Cyril Ramaphosa said the alliance "felt humbled by the confidence and support that the public have again shown in us." [Financial Times 3/11/'95 ]
However, he coupled his praise for the people with a harsh condemnation of the media, particularly the print media:
In the weeks before the election [he said] the media predicted widespread voter apathy. A widespread protest vote was also predicted, intimating that most South Africans were disenchanted with the government of national unity under the leadership of the ANC. South Africans,we were told would register their displeasure, we were told, by voting against the ANC, or by not voting at all...
The results of the election and the atmosphere of election day itself indicated that most of these predictions were hopelessly incorrect. I am among the many who, following the elections, were wondering how the media could have misread so dramatically the mood ofthe country...
At the risk of sounding conceited, the elections held very little surprises for the ANC. From day one of the campaign, the ANC questioned both the approach taken by the media, and the conclusions at which they arrived...
[The] inadequate coverage should prompt a review of how news is determined and who determines it. Do the life experiences of most journalists and editors enable them to understand the importance of delivering waterto people who have never had access to it before? Is rural development newsworthy for them? These are questions media and society need to address... [Business Day 8/11/'95]
The people did speak, but not in any manner approaching the numbers they did in April'94. This is not to diminish the import of what was accomplished or the extent of the ANC's victory. On April 23rd, the official closing date for registration, only 18% of eligible voters had registered. Extentions of the registration cut-off date until July 7th, resulted in a final registration tally of 78%. Of those registered to vote 51% ( 38% of the estimated voting-age population ) in the areas where elections took place (the major exceptions were KwaZulu/Natal and the Cape Metropole) went to the polls.
In Johannesburg's four substructures only 30 per cent of registered voters turned out. Comparisons with the 1994 turnout indicate that wheareas 88 per cent of voting-age voters went to the polls in 1994, 38 per cent went in 1996. In terms of raw numbers, 13.5 million voters cast ballots in 1994 compared to 5.8 million in 1995, a drop-off of 7.7 million voters indicating a 57 per cent decline in voter-turnout.
For the ANC's Valli Moosa, Deputy Minister of Constitutional Affairs, to declare that "[the elections were] a phenomenal success," that "everything indicate[d] a massive voter turn out throughout the country, constituting an overwhelming interest in local government," [ The Star 2 Nov. '95] is either blatant propaganda of the worst kind, the kind of naivete one does not associate with a politician of his sophistication, a lack of acquaintence with elementary arithmetic, a total and cynical disregard for what was palpably not true, or a deliberate attempt to put the media on the spot for what one ANC MP called its "inexplicable pessimism and nihilism," [The Citizen 3 Nov. '95] Indeed, most conspicuous in the aftermath of the elections was the media's unabashed reporting of a masive ANC victory at the polls, an ANC love-in, and the absence of any substantive analysis of the election results and what they said about the state of democracy in South Africa eighten months after the country's first elections Once again there appeared to be a collective sigh of relief that the elections had taken place without any damning administrative hitch, were for the most part violence-free, and that the results were sccepted by the political elites as being sufficiently free and fair.
No one looked at what lay behind the numbers - or lack of numbers. The few feeble attempts at post-election analysis put their main emphasis on the fact that voter turnout was no worse than for local government elections in western democracies, and hence that South Africa could be well-pleased with itself - the electoral statistics were well within the performance-guidelines of the major players; after a mere 18 months South Africa had catapulted itself into the major leagues of democracy; it was playing with the big boys.
No distinctions were drawn between how democracy is practiced in mature democracies in which agreed-to democratic values are long-entrenched and democratic institutions are strong enough and free enough to provide the checks and balances on government that are the hallmark of the maturation of democracy in a free society and how it must develop in countries undergoing first elections (the local elections were the first in South Africa in which people had the opportunity to choose among the candidates of particular parties as distinct from having to choose only among parties.)
When the echoes of the chest-thumping triumphalism faded into the Christmas recess, and the hollow beat of indulgent self-praise ceased to reverberate, it was clear that there was widespread voter apathy, especially among African voters, and that a majority of African voters choose not to exercise their right to vote - a rather peculiar commentary on people's sense of obligation to the the tens of thousands, many of whom willingly gave-up their lives, to secure the right to vote for their people. No amount of bluster can obviate the fact that on the first occasion Africans had the right to vote for Africans who were their neigbors or friends or community activists, people who had gone to jail or were tortured on their behalf, they stayed away in their millions. ANC voters had two choices in the absence of their being an alternative to the ANC: vote ANC or stay at home to register their displeasure with the party's performance in government. This index of the people's state of mind, should, perhaps, give the ANC cause for some somber soul-searching self-examination rather than for besotting themselves with smug self-satisfaction.
The 686 new local government councils, most of them ANC controlled, became functional in December 1995. In many cases the new councils, more often than not under the control of people who know next to nothing about local government or inherited bankrupt or near-bankrupt administrations; and in many cases, the new councillors are themselves to be held to account for the chaotic conditions they face. (In the apartheid era, of course, which is the appropriate moral backdrop, the exhortations not to pay for services were a politically-inspired masterstroke.)
If the new councils are to work, they will have to generate their own income; that is, they will have to collect rates and charges for services, they will have to break the culture of non-payment. That task now becomes, for the most part, the responsibility of the ANC, a responsibility they are being called on to discharge in the face of increasing demands from their constituents for more and better services. "In the meanwhile," Martin Williams writes in The Citizen, "suburbanites will continue paying: The consequences of not doing so still out weighs the irritation of knowing that others do not pay." [The Citizen 11/11/'95]
But the resentment runs deep, the thought of redressing past and present inequalities entirely absent. "The ANC might have 80 per cent of the vote," a National Party spokesperson observed with some bitterness, "but 99 per cent of the minority voting for the NP contributes 90 per cent of the country's financial strength." [ibid] . Representation with taxation and representation without taxation are on a collision course.
So, as we approach the second anniversary of the new South Africa, one has the feeling that it will make it, if it can overcome some truly awesome obstacles lying in its path.
But the poetry is gone.