People walk in front of a representation of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin at Ploschad Ilyicha metro station in Moscow, Russia. Picture: REUTERS/SERGEI KARPUKHIN
People walk in front of a representation of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin at Ploschad Ilyicha metro station in Moscow, Russia. Picture: REUTERS/SERGEI KARPUKHIN

There was a telling moment in the TV series Chernobyl that suggested the Soviet system survived the fall of the Berlin wall and is alive and well in SA. When the smug government official told the professor that the fire at the plant posed no danger, she said: “I’m a nuclear physicist and you were in a shoe factory before you got here.” He sneered in reply: “Yes, I was in a shoe factory, but now I’m in charge!”

Therein lies one explanation as to why our state-owned enterprises are dysfunctional, why municipalities cannot maintain their sewage installations and why trains don’t run on time, or at all. We have a government that displays all the components of the Soviet system: constant and repeated celebrations marking historical events, elaborate funerals of deceased comrades now to be heroes of the revolution, blue lights and long cavalcades accompanying our leaders to remind us and them how important they are, ever-changing five-year plans that never end, and of course the bare-faced denials, lies and misrepresentations in the face of well-documented crimes and misdemeanors.

The Russians even had a special word for those lies: vranyo, which is a lie that nobody is even expected to believe but, not withstanding that it is an insult to the electorate’s intelligence, is told anyway. And finally the flights into fantasy: a bullet train that will be efficient and affordable, a new city to house the unhoused, both magically built on budget and without corruption, and education and employment for the unfortunate masses let down by perverse ideological policies, in any event never implemented.

Until recently, the president was criticised for using the term “our people” because it was understood to exclude racial minorities, but it is becoming more evident that even the majority is excluded and “our people” means only the lucky members of the ANC who benefit from the employment agency that poses as a government, enjoying their legal and not-so-legal rewards. 

Sydney Kaye
Cape Town