Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cutting off one's nose...

Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face, was exactly what the leadership of the Democratic Alliance (DA) leadership has been doing all along.

The DA's active lobbying AGAINST the granting of the 3.7B dollar World Bank loan to SA has cleared ALL doubts as to whose interests the DA really serves - certainly NOT the majority of South Africans! The granting of a World Bank loan of this magnitude to SA was historic and has the potential to create thousands of jobs by alleviating our critical energy needs. Furthermore, this loan comes in the midst of the worst worldwide recession in almost a century!

Government corruption?
So the DA claimed government corruption as a reason not to grant the loan. This is most puzzling, since the ONLY reasons cited by the US and UK for abstaining from the vote, were environmental concerns. Abstentions were understandably, since the issue of carbon emissions is a highly visible political hot potato in most developed countries. So the US and UK's refusal to buy into the BS claims made by the DA, shows just how little credibility the DA has internationally.

If corruption was truly their concern, surely they could have worked with the ANC in installing checks and balances to ensure transparency and accountability of the funds, instead of unilaterally opposing the loan?

A new power plant means more jobs!
Even Obama administration, in their grudging abstention did not oppose the loan since they clearly understood its significance to SA’s acute energy needs. So why doesn't the DA understand this? So on one hand the DA castigates the government for being incompetent in addressing SA energy needs during Eskom's blackouts but now suddenly works AGAINST addressing our critical energy needs. Just like the old National Party that tried to justify apartheid, the DA exemplifies hypocrisy!

Why does the DA act in this manner?
In trying to make sense of the reasoning behind the DA's actions, I can only concede that the DA leadership itself lacks certain core human values since I cannot believe that they can be so dumb. The German phrase schadenfreude, pleasure derived from the misfortune of others, succinctly captures the DA's attitude. This strange form of schadenfreude seems to arises in societies where the false belief of racial superiority clouds good judgement. The Roman Empire, Germany during WW2 and South Africa during apartheid etc.

Its all about clinging to power.
The upper echelons of the DA leadership is is still dominated by whites, almost two decades since liberation, who came from generations of indoctrination across all levels of society that preached racial superiority. We see evidence of this across the spectrum in the Western Cape (WC) where they skillfully used fear based politics to gain power with the help of the large Colored voting bloc. This apartheid mindset has created and illusion of order and efficiency in the WC while blacks (Africans, Coloreds and Indians) are slowly marginalized and the silent process of gentrification of the prime residential and commercial areas of the WC is currently underway. Ironically, Cape Town used to be one of the most cosmopolitan cities in SA even during apartheid!

To retain control of the WC, the DA, together with their cohorts in the media are desperate to paint the ANC as utterly corrupt, amoral and inefficient. The danger of SA becoming like another Zimbabwe is the fear they constantly play on. Fear based politics worked wonders for the Republicans in US, but look where George W Bush took their country - right to the brink of financial collapse! Fortunately, the masses in SA are cannot be fooled all the time. The Colored vote in the WC will be instrumental in whether the DA continues to retain its tenuous grip on the WC.

For an opposition party like the DA to ACTIVELY lobby AGAINST the loan at this crucial time given our economic and energy needs, was a colossal blunder which will surely come back to haunt them.


  1. This is interesting. Most of my friends in Cape Town are frustrated--they're fed up with the ANC, they can't quite bring themselves to go DA, and COPE fizzled out so quickly. Who do you see emerging as a real opposition party? I think it's critical to the health of a democracy to have more than one party.

    And THANK YOU for acknowledging the weirdness of the Labia Theatre! When I've brought it up in Cape Town, people look at me like I'm a crazy pervert for even asking about it. I'm like, I'm not the one who named a movie theatre after girl parts, but whatever.

  2. Also, I just noticed you use American spelling! (ie Colored/Coloured, marginalized/marginalised). Excellent choice.

  3. Now ain't that somethin! I can also speak Texan ;-)
    I've spent time on both continents so some it has rubbed off. I actually like the brevity and economy of American English compared to the language of the British imperialist scum! LOL
    I still can't understand the sheer terror of the American public of our most logical metric system, which btw the whole world has moved to even the US military!

    Back to SA politics, I don't know how a viable opposition can be established without the destruction of the DA. That breech baby called Cope may possibly be an option for now, but their choice of a religious leader was a huge blunder. He need to be replaced. Having a religious leader is, I suppose. like electing Mitt Romney, the Mormon, as the US president - a lot of Americans would be extremely nervous about this, no? Anyway, a coalition of minority parties might be possible, but our opposition parties split across racial lines, are too much of a motley crew to be viable and effective. Cope or something similar, may still offer the best path to creating a strong, inclusive opposition who can work with the ANC to effect the changes we desperately need in this country.

  4. Dave, what is your position on the ANC's shareholding in Hitachi Africa? In essence, they (because they control the government, which controls eskom) paid themselves at least a billion rand. Surely that sort of conflict of interest is not in the best interests of the country? Even if they should divest now, their stake is worth an absolute fortune, and it looks for all money like the only thing they did to earn it - to "buy their 25% - was to guarantee the contract by dint of their position as government. This money will contribute enormously to their continued reign as the "ruling" party (I hate that term so much)... let's be fair - everyone knows, and it has been proven over and over again, just how vital campaign funding is to election results.

    To my mind, the DA's opposition to the loan is a desperate last-gasp effort to stop a big threat to democracy that should have been prevented in its early stages - it's only because of the ANC's policy of deploying loyal cadres to all seats of power, either through appointment or patronage, who will place the party over the state, that allows them to get away with this. I agree that the loan shouldn't be opposed, but I strongly protest at the ANC's profiteering from their dominance of government - not only on principle, but also on the grounds of the advantage this funding provides them with in election campaigning.

  5. Listen Matt, lets at least be be honest about how democracy works OK? Since previously privileged whites still control our economy, almost 2 decades after liberation, guess who bankrolls the DA and their rabid cohorts in the media? Remember, unlike the Nazi's the SA apartheid regime has YEARS to prepare their exit strategy.

    Our democracy is a unique beast, so I don't begrudge the ANC for assembling their election war chest with savvy investments. It beats asking the Chinese government for funds to help finance elections doesn't it?

  6. American English does have a certain efficacious charm, no? Additionally, I think it sets a good example: when ripping one's smacking lips from the great English teat, go balls to the wall on it. Shake off the colonial shackles for good and all. ;)

    Metric would be easier but frankly we're bitter that the Brits abandoned us on that one (it's called the English system for Chrissakes!) so now in sheer obstinacy we are holding down the fort alone. Plus the language is more lyrical. Would Frost's line "and miles to go before I sleep" be as moving if it were "and kilometers to go before I sleep?" No it wouldn't.

    On to substantial matters...

    I gotta say I'm not impressed with the ANC. I think it's a classic case of "revolutionary movements do not always good governments make." And it seems to be steadily degenerating. Malema is an embarrassment. Zuma I think is not actually that bad, I'm just not sure how strong a leader he is. He's incredibly likeable though. I guess the conspicuous consumption and placement of cadres (I'm really, really ready for the day when "struggle credentials" are not so important in job placement) in positions gets to me, I don't think it's healthy for a fledgling democracy. And...Malema. I know, it's one guy, maybe he doesn't have as much clout as media coverage suggests, I don't know. But he's just a straight tool. No nicer way to say it.

    I hope COPE can get its act together. This last election was interesting for me to watch through friends' eyes. Because of the nature of the internships I've had there, my friends in CPT are almost entirely Coloured struggle vets who hail from Grassy Park, Athlone, Constantia (before being displaced by Group Areas Act), and Elsies River. They're mostly ex-UDF, a couple MK, all very loyal ANC until this election. There was much hand-wringing over leaving the ANC--they had intense emotional loyalty to it--but a sense that it was not what it once was or what it should be. It was really very sad to watch--a spin on the old "I didn't leave the church, the church left me" sort of thing. I think most of them went COPE but knowing COPE was sort of a stillborn. I hope it can get its act together. (And can Boesak just stay out of politics? I love the guy as a theologian but seriously, he needs to sit out the next few rounds.)

    I wonder through if direct election of some positions like in the US might not benefit the system rather than the British-style parliamentary system you have now. Both systems have their relative strengths and weaknesses but it seems some direct accountability is needed. There's some deadwood that the party is dragging in its wake and people don't have the opportunity to vote them out without voting out the party. So your MP might suck but if you like the party you get stuck voting for your crap MP (if I'm understanding it right)--seems there should be a better way.

    And of course if you adopt our system you get loads of political fun with the Virginia governor declaring Confederate History know, I'm writing so much on your blog I might have to revive my own, Dave. ;)

  7. On the other hand Shannon, all that brainpower power performing mental computations using random numbers like 12, 16, 8 etc. keeps you guys fit and trim compared to our lazy ass mantra of "must make everything simple" by resorting to the intuitive powers of 10 concept. Oh well, blame those Indians for discovering zero which gave rise to this laziness :-) Hey, I just realized that this is one instance where "thanks for nothing" really means "thanks for nothing" LOL

    Anyways, I do agree that that absolute power corrupts absolutely and the best antidote is a strong opposition. That makes something like Cope, or possibly some coalition of minority parties essential to moving us more towards the "vibrant democracy" model that has the nimbleness to self correct and change when necessary rather than the flat-footed single party state that edges us closer to totalitarianism.

    The problem we are currently faced with is that the one of our self-declared "official"opposition parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has lost all credibility among the masses. Almost two decades after liberation their leadership is still shackled by their old apartheid mindset and want to retain "control" over the WC where they have chosen to take their last stand.

    Believe me, I was ambivalent about Zuma as the best man for the job as well, but over the months, his approachability, accessibility and ability to connect with the masses across the spectrum is indeed commendable. The humility and tolerance he has shown by not reacting to the outrageous unrelenting personal attacks by the DA and their rabid cohorts in the media is commendable. Then little things caught my attention like after Zuma won the presidency, the black opposition leaders offered their congratulations and handshakes to Zuma but Zille never did. There was even a picture of Sonia Gandhi shaking Zuma's hand before the elections and it just struck me that Zille could NEVER bring herself to do that. I know its a odd to fixate on these little issues but the there is a lot in the old adage, actions speak louder than words. I strongly feel deep down, Zille like most white South Africans, do not accept Zuma as an equal. This is one of the CORE problems of our democracy - that lingering legacy of apartheid.

    Another incident that left a lasting impression on me happened a few years ago, while I sat in the gallery while parliament was in session in CT. I witnessed first hand the demeaning manner in which the DA, especially white members, addressed the ANC and the understandable knee-jerk responses from the ANC. I saw this play out in the recent elections as well. Its terribly disheartening, and I think we're in for an uphill battle for many years to come. There are no quick fixes to the attitudes that most whites harbor towards blacks in this country. This in-grained racism from many generations of indoctrination have now become blindspots to most whites.

    Shannon, imagine as a redhead, you have to put up with continued discrimination and demeaning of redheads in a country where the majority are redheads!!! One can only admire the graciousness, humility and patience of most blacks in our country for continuing to put up with this BS. I've gone off on a tangent now, haven't I? OK, maybe I'll write a blog about your idea of conducting local elections when I have more time. I'm not so sure one can map the American experience so readily to the South African context, but I'm open to other ideas.
    btw. This blog is just a way to express my perspective more completely since the comment restrictions, censorship and racist trolls on M&G makes it difficult to carry out a decent conversation. Please feel free to write as much as you want. I looking forward to reading about your Harvard escapades again.

  8. The comment section of M&G is disheartening. On the one hand, I sometimes dismiss comment section because it's a self-selecting group that posts, and not necessarily representative of how the majority is thinking. On the other hand, the anonymity afforded gives people the freedom to say what they really think, and what they really think is often very ugly. I've been really shocked by how many whites on the boards want to defend colonialism as "we brought you infrastructure and telephones and you couldn't even manage to invent the wheel on your own"--I mean, it's just naked racism. And with no sense of why societies develop in the ways that they do (Jared Diamond has done some really good work on this in his books "Guns, Germs and Steel" and "Collapse").

    Of course, saying that I will confess that I have fallen into the same trap of saying "If you don't like the US, feel free to give us back your blue jeans, cell phones, laptops and most of the pop music and movies you consume." I think sometimes it gets hard for us to hear criticism of our country or our race group and not hear it as a personal attack. It's much easier and more nuanced (and courteous) in person or in one-on-one exchanges. I am very critical of US policy when among Americans but somehow feel defensive when other people criticize it, as if they're attacking my mother or something; it's stupid but visceral.

    Why has the WC become the last stand do you think--because of the coalition of whites/Coloured? I guess places like Orania are too small a demographic blip to matter. I love Cape Town, both city center and the townships. I got to go to a Xhosa back-from-the-bush circumcision celebration last July because a coworker's son was one of those who had undergone the rite, and it was really cool to be invited.

    I do actually have an enormous amount of respect and admiration for the patience of SA blacks, as I do for American blacks. At the risk of sounding weirdly...weird (I can't think of another way to say it), I am well aware of my indebtedness to the black community in the US. It saved my faith when I was a teenager and looking desperately for another way of being faithful besides the megachurch model I had grown up in, and the civil rights movement saved me (and led me to the anti-apartheid movement, and Gandhi, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the interconnectedness of them all). Then when I moved into a black community because it's where I was working and worshipping, people were incredibly gracious toward the white kid who was trying to figure things out and it was really my first experience of authentic community, where instead of a suburban model of rushing around to lessons and classes and never talking to your neighbors, people sat out on their porches and gossiped with their neighbors while they braided their daughters' hair and kids played in the streets. All this in an "unsafe," urban neighborhood. I was in love. That community grew me up spiritually and people were far more patient and gracious than I deserved. My experience in SA has been the same--if you show a willingness to make even half a step, people will walk 12 miles to meet you.

  9. Actually Shannon, comment section of M&G is emblematic of the vast digital divide that continues to exist in SA. Communication costs have remained artificially high in SA while these costs have plummeted in other developing countries like India, China etc. I cannot explain why the SA government doesn't address this but that a topic for another discussion. But you're right in that anonymity is critical to the functioning of any free democracy. Its a pity we can't hear more voices from the disenfranchised. I'll certainly checkout Jared Diamond's book - seems like an interesting perspective.

    I can completely identify with that protective shield magically appears in the face of criticism of one's country. Seems like we naturally automatically assume the diplomat/protector role. To me its a sign of loyalty - a noble quality.

    The unholy coalition of whites and Coloreds is temporary, since the DA has made effective use of fear based politics to sway a significant portion of the Colored vote. Remember the DA has the tremendous resources, backed by the previously privileged, and know how, much of it straight from the playbook of the US Republican neocons, to effectively use the politics of personal attacks and fear to generate short-term election victories. However, as history has proven repeatedly, this too will not last. I'm hoping that the Colored community will remember their past under apartheid and act without fear in the next election so that CT can become home to all once again and not just an enclave for the rich.

    Shannon, speak to your Colored friends in CT about District 6, one example of a diverse community that organically grew over many generations only to be uprooted and destroyed by the draconian Group Areas Act. The apartheid regime purged many of these established communities from prime real estate near the city and expropriated their property for a pittance. This happened all across SA, e.g. Cato Manor in KZN, Sophiatown in Johannesburg etc. The majority of these communities were relocated en-masse to these townships, equivalent to the "projects" in the US, causing instability, poverty and indignity that can still reverberates through these communities. That play, District 6, may give you a teeny glimpse into the world of "non-whites" under apartheid. Where does one even begin to repair this damage?

    The reason why CT is such an amazing city only because of the kind-hearted people that live there. Ironically, even during apartheid CT was one of the most cosmopolitan cities in SA and the Cape Colored communities reflected much of the diversity that was possible in SA - that ever elusive Rainbow Nation. Anyway, I'm glad you're taking the time to absorb the culture and hang out with people contributed to our liberation. I recently saw a move called Skin, which I highly recommend, which depicted apartheid pretty accurately and showed just one instance of how a family was destroyed by draconian apartheid laws. All you need to do is extrapolate this and you can see the destruction unleashed on entire communities for generations.

    Yes, the presence of grace in impoverished communities really builds ones spiritual core and enlivens ones humanness. I'm so glad you discovered that interconnectedness. Whats more amazing to me, is how its the same everywhere in the world! A wonderful world indeed.

  10. Dave you can't make a comment without taking a swipe at the DA. They are the ONLY opposition that is noteworthy at the moment. There are only a few others that bleat when another ANC corruption scandal hits. Lets not beat around the bush, the ANC is corrupt to the hilt, and it needs a strong opposition to keep it in check. Your argument therefore makes not sense regarding the Hitachi deal.. it stands to reason that this helps bankroll the ANC in a big (corrupt) way, and keep SA a one party state. The DA has definitely not lost credibility with the masses, in fact just the opposite is true. The DA are winning by-election after by-election - its the ANC who are losing credibility with the masses. The masses are starting to see through the façade and the blame game. Blaming apartheid for current failures and current multi-million rand corrupt deals will only dupe people for so long. We need a new revolution in our country - the masses are ensnared by the new corrupt elite.

  11. Dave, I just heard I won a fellowship to spend a year in SA. I'll be there around September (I'm trying to avoid the worst of winter) and will be bouncing around the country for a year. I'm expecting to meet you in person.

  12. Well Ja! We absolutely should meet.

    Firstly, congratulations on obtaining that fellowship! I'm glad you've taken an interest in SA. There is something very special here to have given rise to two great figures, Gandhi and Mandela ...I almost mistyped Malema ;-)

    Secondly, you've put me in a quite a quandry. How do I protect my anonymity AND still meet with you? Eish, this is becoming all quite cloak and daggerish...;-)

  13. @gumrol
    The reason why we're still in this mess decades after liberation is precisely because of the failure of the DA to become a credible opposition party.

    How can you not attribute blame to CENTURIES of white supremacy and apartheid for the situation we're in now? Did you expect after liberation we can simply move on by forgetting the apartheid ever happened and turn a blind eye to festering racism and current inequities? Apartheid was build on greed and corruption, and like the Nazis, they justified opression and brutality through the false belief system of racial superiority.

  14. Dear Dave - there you go on about apartheid again. I'm talking about here and now Dave. The ANC has squandered in the region of 1 Billion Rands in the form of Bling cars, Parties, Hotel bills for parliamentarians (that have government houses bought especially for them). The reason we're in this mess is because the liberation party has lost its morals. It fought the struggle well and won, but now its turned against the people. South Africa was on a really good footing when Mr Nelson Mandela was in charge, and I have the utmost respect for him and for the ANC that was. Now that respect is lost, direction is lost and blame is being thrown back 16 years, when the corruption is happening right now.

  15. @Dave: worried about your anonymity? Who is hiding behind the curtain? I'm beginning to think you are Thabo Mbeki--I was wondering what he was doing with all his free time...

    At any rate we can remain cyberpals if you want to maintain your anonymity, but you'll have to at least give me your email address. I'm drafting you as one of my cultural/political translators while I am in-country, and I can't carry on all these conversations in a comment section!

    Thanks for the congratulations on the fellowship, I am elated.

    @gumrol: I think it's somewhat disingenuous to say "apartheid has been over 15 years, the past is past." 15 years is nothing, and the slate was not magically wiped clean in 1994. It takes much longer to build something up than it does to tear something down. A house can burn down in 10 minutes but will take weeks or even months to rebuild. A psyche can be torn down in a few years and may not be rebuilt in a lifetime. Now imagine the destruction of the psyche of an entire people. It won't be fixed in 15 years, maybe not in 50. And of course it has generational effects, even for those children born in the post-apartheid era. You have a lot of rebuilding to do. That's not said with any condemnation, by the way--I'm American, our race problems continue to haunt us 150 years after the end of slavery. I'm just telling you what I know: you have a long road ahead of you and saying "it's the past, get over it" won't get you on that path.

  16. Oh, and Dave: I was lucky enough to see the District Six musical when I was in CPT in January 2008, and to be taken to the site by friends whose families had lived there. And of course I've been to the museum a few times. My closest friend in CPT was relocated from Constantia to Grassy Park under the Group Areas Act when he was a little boy; his baby brother came down with meningitis two days after they'd been forced to move and the doctor didn't know how to locate them; the baby survived but with severe mental retardation. It is a continuing source of pain for that family.

    I am lucky enough to know a lot of people who have been very generous with their stories.

  17. Shannon, I've in no way said "it's the past, get over it" - I think you're reading something into my post that I've not said. What I'm saying is that the current ANC government is squandering money at a rate of knots and adding to the problem, not helping it. Do you disagree with that statement?

  18. @gumrol - harris never replies to logic. He (she/it??) is totally brainwashed by the ANC and even if the DA became the governing party through popular vote, harris would still find some vestige of the apartheid past to lambast it with...

  19. Oh, and about the loan.... The ANC want some more bling, which the taxpayer will eventually pay for in increased taxation, increased electricity costs, etc. The DA has the intelligence to realise that loans need to be paid back, which is not a problem to the ANC, as they will be enjoying themselves on some (non-extradition) beach when they eventually (the sooner, the better) lose their dominance to the DA.
    And the dividends from their "alliance" with Hitachi will keep them in the manner to which they will have become accustomed.
    I think I want to puke!!