South Africa: apocalypse now-now
SA faces a truly bleak future, with little light – literally and figuratively – on the horizon. Still, the fight must go on. The alternative is, to recall a phrase from our past, too ghastly to contemplate
I don’t want to alarm you unduly, but it seems our country is dooomed. Yes, that’s doomed with extra vowels, just like the crazy men, wearing sandwich boards with "The End Is Nigh" scrawled on them, say it.
It seems especially cruel to flag our imminent apocalypse just before we all go off on holiday for our annual enforced celebration of Christian beliefs and capitalist entropy. This should be the time to relax and unwind, not to contemplate the dizzying downward spiral towards social decay and economic irrelevance that our government has decided is what we deserve.
And yet, here we are.
Eskom is apparently determined to irreversibly destroy the hopes and dreams of small business owners everywhere and irretrievably break our economy, not to mention crush our souls with darkness.
In the spirit of forgiveness, the public protector — "I was placed in this position by the God that I serve, and I believe only He can remove me if He is of the view that I have failed [so screw you, democracy]" — chose just before Christmas to pardon some ANC turkeys.
These included Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who sold off our strategic fuel reserves for a song. And Baleka Mbete, who wittily riffed on Rene Magritte’s artwork This is not a pipe when called upon to condemn Jacob Zuma’s theft of millions of rands to glam up Nkandla, and said: "That was not a swimming pool." When she was asked to comment in an interview recently about World Bank findings that SA was the most unequal nation on Earth, Mbete said: "I wonder if that isn’t an exaggeration. It can be said by the World Bank, but the World Bank is not God."
Alas, yet another in a long line of God-fearing SA politicians outsourcing responsibility to a faith-based system with no constitutionally mandated real-world accountability.
It almost makes me wish I did believe in a Christian God, so that I could meet them all in hell one day and see justice finally served.
We aren’t going to see it served on Earth: for the 21 major corruption scandals that the ANC has been profiting off in the past 25 years, "there has been almost zero legal or ethical accountability". (See Ferial Haffajee in the Daily Maverick)
Those politicians who believe they are doing God’s work will be encouraged to know Eskom is not their fault. Stage 6 load-shedding was predicted in the Book of Revelation (6: 12-14).
"And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo … the sun became black as a sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood" is a pretty good metaphor for the effect Eskom’s corruption-fuelled incompetence has on our country.
And "the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places" is of course a description of what it looks like when the power goes out and the work on your computer screen collapses into a dot, lost forever.
So Mr Zuma, the next time someone brings up your awkward loss of R1.5-trillion to state capture — a third of our GDP, according to the Daily Maverick — just point them to the Bible. It’s a CaptureRapture, when all those who have stolen from the poor are whisked up to heaven to sit at the righthand of the Guptas.
The list of ANC officials accused of corruption who are still in public "service" is long, the most recent being the new Johannesburg mayor, Geoff Makhubo, who is implicated in city capture. Yes, you read that right. We now have an entire bouquet of captures that government officials can choose from, like some evil alternative-universe version of a DStv menu.
My current favourite is "elite capture", which is also the title of a recent report by Plaas, the Institute For Poverty, Land & Agrarian Studies.
Elite land capture, you will be "Cyrilshocked" to learn, is where government land redistribution is captured by corrupt officials, state bureaucrats and politically connected people. "Cyrilshocked", of course, is one of the new words that SA has given to the English language.
It means: "The ability to feign concern and surprise over something that has been in front of your face for the past 25 years." It joins the list of other words coined in SA, including "apartheid" and "corrective rape".
The findings of the Plaas report can be summed up as "we’re doomed". I mean, there’s more to it than that, but that’s my main takeaway.
Land redistribution, as a method of redressing the inequality that Mbete is convinced isn’t real, appears to be largely benefiting the already privileged, and not those who need it.
A cynic (which at this point is basically a synonym for "any South African") would say our politicians are taking us for fools.
Julius Malema, who has said he acquired his expensive tastes from SA’s leaders and we need to stop picking on him, seems to have forgotten that the EFF schtick is basically that they’re different to the corrupt politicians currently in power.
Cyril Ramaphosa would like us to believe that the recent Eskom stage 6 issues were caused by sabotage, despite not being able to show any evidence of that.
Ex-president and current criminal suspect Zuma tells us he’s being poisoned (again — he must be pretty much immune by now), so he has to pop off to Cuba instead of dealing with issues back home.
Ex-DA leader and current man-looking-for-a-movement Mmusi Maimane recently tweeted: "Post reading many of the newspapers re the true state of our nation and our politics. It is clear our politics can not resolve our challenges or position us for a shared future."
He genuinely wants us to believe that he’s only just realised that he was really crap at his job? And so now voters should throw more hope and money at him?
What it means:
Very little light at the end of the tunnel for crisis-weary south Africans
So yes, it’s not a great time to head off for a bout of festive cheer.
I wish this column could conclude with a cheery message of hope, but I don’t think South Africans really need to be inspired to carry on grappling with the grim reality of our corrupt government (and I’m including all the parties here).
The fact that I could list all these examples, and leave out thousands more, is testament to the fact that this is an ongoing struggle that can be won.
Civil society organisations and media are constantly exposing the corruption. Our task is to not buy into the convenient amnesia of a Maimane or an Mbete, and to actually remember the litany of evil deeds our overlords are responsible for.
And to come back next year, ready to keep on fighting.