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Sep 10 2008

The devil’s in the tail…not the detail

Published by at 4:49 pm under Companies,South Africa

First published on my old blog on 17/12/2007. 

Just a short observation, as I read the reports from South Africa on the ANC conference in Polokwane: It concerns me to see how little the media have to say about the economic consequences of a Zuma election. 

It reminds me of the (silly) book I read (partly) two weeks ago called “The shock doctrine” and written by Naomi Klein of “No Logo” fame. In it she quotes (with unbridled naivite) a black SA journalist telling how the ANC electorate focussed on gaining the “political kingdom” in the years before 1994, completely unaware that the real fight was about something else, namely the economy and more specifically economic policy. And completely unaware that this war was being fought behind closed doors and without the “new electorate” understanding that this was THE big war. 

Well, then the electorate was caught unaware. This time the media might be caught unaware. (Big business not….they’ve made a beeline to London long ago – probably even in anticipation of a Zuma happening to SA!) 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no Mbeki fan and never was. Neither of the helpers he had collected around him. They were individually and as a team miles behind the team Mandela had collected arround him back then (I’m talking of the period 1994 – 1998). And the varying amount of work that came out of the two offices reflected this. In a dark moment I’ll go so far as to say nothing of value actually happened in the time 1994 to 1998 in the Mbeki office, while he was deputy president. 

When he took over in 1999 I suspected nothing would happen in the next 5 years. And then it became 10 (that was the big mistake of the ANC). But, to simply report on the coming election of “the popular man Zuma” as if it’s something happening on another planet – while it could affect everyone’s pocket from the second day after he took the seat – is a bit disappointing to me. If not scary. 

Ja, ja, in the meantime we have a Constitution and we have all these checks and balances to protect the economy from “communists”, but only on paper. Not in the hearts of the majority. And we’ve had them only for a short while. The democracy is young. 

For example, the “democrats” can still easily decide that SA needs much lower interest rates (in the interest of the poor), although inflationary pressures actually dictate that SA should have higher rates. 

In short, no-one who reports on Zuma in these times can and should ignore the economic story behind the leadership tussle, more specifically the potential economic consequences of Zuma’s rise to the top.

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