Notes from underground

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Zuma Must Fall

No, I’m not going to add my own little rant to all the others explaining why Zuma’s presidency is bad for the country. My 2c worth is about the #ZumaMustFall movement, rather than about Zuma himself.

Zuma’s shortcomings have been explained far more eloquently by others than by anything I can say — by Barney Pityana here, and by Zwelinzima Vavi here. As Zwelinzima Vavi puts it,

We are on a rollercoaster without a driver, and we are about to come off the rails! The captains of the ship of state are about to run aground, and are completely discredited and enjoy no credibility or moral authority with those they are supposed to protect and represent

HumptyZumaOne interesting thing about the #ZumaMustFall movement is that it is not driven by opposition parties trying to make political capital out of Zuma’s latest blunder. Their voices have been drowned out by a clamour from all kinds of people, mainly on social media like Twitter and Facebook. Many of these voices have been from people who have hitherto supported the ANC, and who played a significant part in the freedom struggle. It is becoming clearer to many that the ANC today is not the old ANC of Mandela, Tambo and Sisulu. The credo of the old ANC was The People Shall Govern. The credo of the new ANC of the tenderpreneurs is The Guptas shall govern.

This may look like the beginning of a popular movement, but we need to remember that the Twitterati do not represent the broad masses of the people. The Twitterati are predominantly middle class, and it is middle-class people who are most sensitive to the immediate effects of Zuma’s blunder, such as the fall in the value of the Rand, which has been almost as spectacular as P.W. Botha’s Rubicon Rand of 30 years ago.

The middle class are aware of these things, because they know that it will increase the cost of their next overseas holiday, or the cost of imported goods that they were planning to buy — the new tablet computer or home theatre or whatever.

Because of this, some have said that the only people who will be affected by the economic fallout from this are white capitalists, and that the rest of the people need not worry. But over the next few months we will see how it could begin to affect others.

The intelligentsia are already aware of it because the victory they gained a few short months ago from the #FeesMustFall movement can be wiped out because milliards of Rand have vanished from the economy within the space of a day or two.

The working class may became aware of it when the price of petrol rises, and taxi fares increase, but that will be sufficiently long after Zuma’s blunder for the cause and effect link to be less obvious. Perhaps it will need some rousing populist rhetoric from Julius Malema and Co to make that connection clear.

Perhaps the last people to become aware of it will be the rural peasants. The benefits of democracy may have taken longest to trickle down to them, but on the positive side the disasters take longer to trickle down too.

I suspect that something similar will happen here to what happened in Zimbabwe 15-20 years ago. There the immediate trigger was the eagerness of their rulers to intervene in the Congo civil war. Foreign military adventures are expensive, and caused foreign exchange reserves to fall. That meant there was not enough money to buy fuel, and rationing was introduced. Businesses that depended on exports began to fold, and unemployment increased. The working class revolted and formed the MDC, and Zanu found its electoral support dwindling in a referendum which they lost. To prevent the losses spreading to the rural areas, they confiscated land from commercial farmers and redistributed it to peasants so they would continue to support them (and to party cronies, of course). The commercial farms produced mainly export crops, so foreign exchange reserves dwindled still further, and it became a vicious circle.

The same thing could happen here, if the value of the Rand drops further, the price of fuel will rise, and rationing may have to be introduced. Transport costs, for both goods and people, will rise, and a similar vicious circle could develop here. And the working class here could become aware of what had caused the problem, as they did in Zimbabwe. But bear in mind that millions of Zimbabweans voted with their feet and came to South Africa. Perhaps they can go back to Zimbabwe, but where can the South Africans go?

Dr Azar Jammine, one of the country’s top economists, explains more of the possible economic consequences of Zuma’s bluder in an article here. Dr Jammine also explains why he thinks that the populist economics proposed by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) will not be a solution either, but the ANC has never had a populist economic policy; it has been neoliberal, and indeed thoroughly Thatcherist for the last 15 years at least, as this article by Andile Mngxitama points out.[1]

I don’t think the ANC has been quite as bad as Andile Mngxitama suggests, though. It did not suddenly change overnight (even though the abandonment of the RDP may have given that impression). But people like Kader Asmal worked very hard to bring clean water to every community, and there are many people who have continued to support similar ideals. If there weren’t, our country would be in a much worse state. Such people have sometimes been sidelined and displaced by the new tenderpreneur class, but many of them are still around, and still working for the ideals that the ANC, at its best, was fighting for 25 years ago. So perhaps a few of them may take courage from recent events, as this article suggests — Zuma’s opponents have smelled blood | News24:

There is a possibility that we would look back at the Nene/Van Rooyen debacle in the not so distant future and conclude that although our economy had lost billions through Zuma’s bizarre decision, it represented a turning point. It broke the back of Zuma’s power in the ANC and gave the top brass in the Cabinet and Luthuli House their mojo back. It is hard to see how Zuma can ever again make damaging decisions or statements without being corrected by his party.

I’m not exactly enthralled by the thought of Cyril Ramaphosa being our next president — he has too much blood on his hands after Marikana — but I don’t think he would be quite as recklessly irresponsible.


[1] My own view of populist, neoliberal and socialist economics is not really relevant to this article, and in any case I’m not an economist, but if anyone was wondering, I’m against the privatisation mania of neoliberal economics, and I’m against the nationalisation mania of populist economics.

  • I believe that some things should never be nationalised: mining and manufacturing, for example.
  • I believe that some things should never be privatised: e.g. transport and communications infrastructure (roads, railways, posts and telecommunications). Privatised toll roads are an abomination. Deregulated heavy goods transport leads to potholes and disused railway lines etc.
  • Other things may be a mixture of one or the other — education, farming, wholesale and retail trade, service industries, health care, banking etc. My preference for many of those sectors is private enterprise socialism — building societies and credit unions for banking, for example, cooperatives for farming and retail trade, and so on.




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  1. Pingback: Racism and the #ZumaMustFall movement | Notes from underground

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