Five articles by top writers that explain South Africa today
Tim Cohen, Justice Malala, Gareth van Onselen, Stuart Theobald and Ron Derby tackle the forces shaping our fraught political and economic environment
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First up, an article by Business Day editor Tim Cohen, which attempts to get to the bottom of the latest court judgment against President Jacob Zuma.
Under the headline Zuma’s trials are like a never-ending dirge, Tim writes:
In his judgment in what has become known as the spy tapes case, Acting Deputy Judge President Mahomed Navsa opens with an extract from a poem. But this is an entirely different kettle of fish. He quotes a line from the TS Eliot poem Little Gidding, saying the poet spoke of "the recurrent end of the unending".
It’s a great line and very appropriate. The poem is typical of Eliot: a depressing, convoluted, impenetrable dirge with flashes of redemption and brilliance. Eliot wrote it while London was being blitzed by the Nazis. He concludes by suggesting things will be well "when fire and the rose are one".
Tim goes on to analyse one of the longest-running and most important cases in recent times.
Next up is Justice Malala's regular Monday column, in which he writes that Zuma's captured state will not charge Zuma, simple as that.
Justice takes the view that South Africans ought to have realised by now that the prosecution service is "captured" by Zuma and there is simply no way it will act against him. This from the article:
We know that Zuma will not resign because he has captured the National Prosecuting Authority, and that institution will continue to stand by his side as he tries to wriggle out of getting what he has repeatedly called for: his "day in court".
Having asked for that day in court, Zuma finally has a chance to clear his name. Yet he won't take the chance because it is now clear, with Schabir Shaik prepared to testify in such a case, that he will leave the dock and walk straight to the cells.
The guilty are afraid and that's why Zuma has abused the legal system so abominably in the past 12 years.
Nothing gets past Gareth van Onselen. When MPs began to breathlessly campaign for the right of school children to freely express themselves, he asked why they did not implement this laudable policy in their own chamber.
Under the headline, The great MP free-speech hypocrisy, Gareth writes:
They are like vegans who work in an abattoir but proselytise about a meat-free diet. Enough. Really. Put up or shut up.
The number of words that have now been banned from use in the chamber is ridiculous, as are the words themselves. Every party plays its part in the destruction.
"Fat cat", "meow" (the noise), "hungry puppies", "chihuahua" and "donkeys", "rat", "to sit his flea-infested body down", "rubbish", "faction", "juvenile delinquent", "clown", "political dwarf": All of these and many others besides have been banished. The banality of each remark is a testament to the infantile character of Parliament today.
In his Business Day column titled We must ensure Stats SA has independent, credible captain after Lehohla bows out, Stuart Theobald warns that SA's statistics service may lose its independence. Stuart writes:
Reliable statistics are crucial not just for a democratic citizenry to be able to assess the performance of their government, but also for every person and business that needs to plan for the environment they operate in. However, for politicians eager for support, these debates create space to push for methodologies that give the answers they want. Such efforts can undermine public confidence in statistics.
The worst recent case was Argentina, where for a decade the official statistics agency there produced — or deliberately suppressed — inflation and poverty statistics to suit populist president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. When centre-right president Mauricio Macri took power in 2015, he declared a "statistical emergency" and rebuilt the agency’s collections.
Finally, writing in Business Times, Ron Derby argues that it is time empowerment shakes off its crony history, in a column headed For SA's sake, empowerment must shake off its crony history.
Up until the headlines started appearing on the capture of the Treasury about two years ago, markets, investors and most of us had all but ignored the deterioration of the country's business environment.
As we digest the weekly drip of scandal around our main parastatals - Eskom, Transnet and SAA - we should remember just how deep the rot has become, and that it's not reserved for the public sector.
US consultancy firm McKinsey played the game according to the new rules. Please the political principal and all else falls in to place. Auditing firm KPMG followed suit by doing business with the Guptas, against its own reservations, perhaps. Just how these firms did it will one day make for an intriguing piece of literature.
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