By Kole Omotoso
A FRIEND in Nigeria asked recently if the present spate of strikes and mayhem on the streets of the cities of South Africa and in the townships and the mining single hostel places would lead to a declaration of a state of emergency.
After all, the police had been shooting at striking miners at Marikana, and 44 people had lost their lives over a three-day period. The mines were losing money and the miners were not being paid since they were on unprotected strikes.
Not only these. In Kwa-Zulu-Natal, political assassinations were occurring virtually everyday.
In Limpopo Province, inquiries on-going by many state institutions, including the Public Protector, the Hawks (corruption and financial crime investigators) and the South African Revenue Services, were exposing the negative effects of tenderpreneurs. These are politically connected individuals who benefit from government tenders. In most cases, they take the money and do not deliver the services for which they tendered.
From the Constitutional Court it was decided that the appointment of the Director of National Prosecution was invalid because of the fact that the person appointed had been indicted for perjury.
In the midst of all these happenings, and perhaps as a result of them, the country’s rating was downgraded, causing national and international questioning of South Africa as a fit destination for direct investment.
No. There would be no state of emergency, thank you. Crisis? What crisis? Another five or so years, the African National Congress will continue to win elections and govern South Africa, never mind the quality of its leadership.
It is a matter of numbers. And as far as numbers are concerned the ANC has the numbers. Two pillars form the base of ANC election victories for now. The one is the Congress of South African Trade Unions, COSATU, which is a member of the tripartite alliance that rules the country.
The other partner is the South African Communist Party, SACP. Through these two organisations, especially COSATU, the government is sure of having the numbers every time the country goes to the polls.
The other pillar of support for the ANC is the social grant that has been extended for some 11 million people. On the basis of a five million tax paying public, many tax payers are beginning to groan and moan about the burden that they carry.
Be that as it may, unemployment is rife, especially among the young. Infrastructure is poor or non-existent in many areas especially in the townships and villages around the country.
Those who know the figures will tell you that there have been hundreds of goods and services delivery protests in the last few months alone. These protests take the form of township and shack dwellers blocking highways with burning tyres, wood and stones and pelting commuters with stones.
When they can be identified, houses of councillors have been torched and lives threatened. The police have had to be called to deal with these protesters through arrest, water bombing and sometimes the use of live bullets. Arrests have always been difficult because they simply lead to more protests demanding the release of those arrested.
The violence that accompanies protests inSouth Africa might be unacceptable but it is understandable. Protesters usually carry knobkerries, sticks, machetes and any handy instrument.
All these have been described as traditional weapons and are carried as of right by Africans. This was an issue during the apartheid years and carrying traditional weapons became acceptable. The ANC government has not been bold enough to ask protesters, members of COSATU to stop carrying these provocative weapons.
Demonstrators in cities such as Johannesburg and Cape Town routinely empty refuse bins on the streets to express their anger. A year or so ago, the City of Cape Town sued the organisers of a demonstration for damages to city property. With a President whose signature tune is entitled ‘Bring me my Machine Gun’ there is no end to the carrying of these traditional weapons.
It is not necessary to panic and lose sleep that South Africais going the ways of other so-called African or Third World countries. Far from it. In the first place,South Africa is working hard to ensure that corruption is punished.
A former Commissioner of Police is in prison. The one after him was sacked for dishonesty. The wife of a minister is in prison for recruiting drug mules. When she appealed against her 12-year sentence, the appeal court not only confirmed her sentence but added eight years to the sentence!
Infrastructure, at least in the cities, are not only maintained but updated continuously. In Joburg, motorists have been known to sue the City for damaged tyres caused by pot holes! Imagine if you could sue the City of Lagos for damages to your tyres caused by pot holes!!!
Perhaps the most hopefully and healthy evidence that South Africa is not going the way of other careless countries is the fact that not everybody belongs to the ANC, the ruling party and nobody is insisting that everybody and every province must belong to the ANC before goods and services can be delivered to the people.