South Africa is heading towards the edge of a cliff

Around two years ago, I expressed my concern for the future of South Africa. The events of the last few months have left me even more worried. South Africa is in crisis and I don’t know how much longer it can survive.
This has been a long time coming. Bad and dishonest decisions taken over the past 21 years combined with haughty arrogance and a failure to plan have led us to a point where the fiscus has been drained and the economy weakened, and the decision-takers lack both the will and the ability to rectify matters.
The bad decisions that have brought us to this started very early. Soon after democracy, the artisanal training programmes were shut down. Every country needs artisans, and we have had to hire people with the necessary skills from overseas as the loss of the programmes meant a loss of vital skills. Also, Outcomes Based Education was introduced over strong warnings from educators who correctly warned that South Africa did not meet the preconditions to successfully implement it.
Another example of mishandling things was the manner in which affirmative action was initially done – it was treated as a numbers game. Instead of a period of handover, training, upskilling and skills transfer, white civil servants were offered retrenchment packages and replaced by previously disadvantaged individuals who didn’t receive the training and support they needed to succeed in their jobs. In many cases, smart civil servants took retrenchments, then became consultants and were hired back at lucrative salaries to train their replacements. It was a textbook failure to plan. The institutional knowledge (so vital to any organisation’s success) of South Africa’s Civil Service was eroded and took years to recover.
Even before 1994 the world economy was a modern one. By this, I mean one where skills and brains are paramount. The removal of a vital training programme and the introduction of OBE (now thankfully removed) damaged South Africa’s skillset.
One of the most damaging strategies in South Africa is Cadre Deployment: the action of making political appointments to non-political posts. In far too many cases, the appointee lacks the skills and qualifications to do his or her job. Furthermore, because the appointment is a political one, decisions are taken for political reasons, not business or practical ones. The consequences have been devastating. State-Owned Enterprises from ESKOM to SAA and the SABC have had to be bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of millions, and are still unable to fulfill their mandates. Hospitals and health care departments have been under-resourced, with patients dying.
There has also been a massive failure to plan ahead and prepare for future needs. In 1998, the government was told that ESKOM needed to build new power stations to meet future needs. The government failed to let ESKOM expand, and failed to do anything else like bring in private power producers to meet future needs. In 2006, we had our first round of load shedding. This year, we had another round, although thankfully not as severe.
Instead of facing up and acknowledging that there are problems, the preferred manner of dealing with issues is to pretend they don’t exist and hope they go away, and to attack those who try to point them out. In the late 1990’s the city of Johannesburg faced a billing crisis. Ratepayers were being incorrectly billed, double billed, overcharged and charged for properties they didn’t own. The municipality first denied for months that there was a problem, then cast all sorts of aspersions on the complainers, then finally admitted that yes, there was a problem, and yes, it would be fixed. That is not the only example, just the most memorable.
A haughty arrogance and refusal to admit to gaffes is also prevalent. The aforementioned introduction of OBE against valid concerns is one such instance. More recently, new visa rules for travelling to South Africa (including biometric readings) were introduced. The tourism industry warned Home Affairs Minister Mmalusi Gigaba that South Africa didn’t have the scanners set up in missions and embassies across the world, and that the regulations were impracticable. Gigaba ignored the protests, and when the inevitable drop in tourist numbers occurred, blamed the tourism industry for failing to properly market South Africa overseas instead of owning up to his blunder. The new regulations are being reviewed, but South Africa has lost millions from tourists who went elsewhere instead of coming here. The damage has been done.
A big problem is our government’s attitude towards business. The unions played a big role in the fight against apartheid, and there is an open hostility towards business. The Council for Concilliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) is loaded with commissioners who frequently rule against businesses regardless of the merits of the case. Many large companies have had CCMA ruling overturned by the Labour Court, but smaller businesses often lack the money to appeal. Founding a business is also a nightmare, with red tape and legislation making it very difficult to register a company. Because businesses are the cornerstne of the economy, the result is a loss of job opportunities and taxes.
Most damaging of all is the massive corruption and the complete and utter failure to deal with it. Starting with the 1998 Arms Deal, billions have been lost. Our own president had a fortune spent on his private residence at Nkandla, and refuses to repay any of it, despite the Public Protector ruling that he should pay back a fair portion of the money spent. A secretive deal with Russia to build nuclear reactors was signed. The secrecy has aroused suspicions that there will be massive bribes and kickbacks paid.
The reality is, because the president is corrupt, everyone else now has no incentive to be honest.
All of the above has now led South Africa to a crisis point. The signs are clear. South Africa’s economy is growing at a slower rate than most other economies, even developing ones. While other countries are slowly recovering from the global downturn, our economy isn’t even outperforming inflation. As a result, South African Investment companies are looking outside of South Africa for opportunities. South Africa’s membership of AGOA is also at risk.
Last month, workers at the Post Office received 70% of their salaries because the Post Office was out of money. After a threatened strike, the workers got the remaining 30%. Students protesting university fee increases managed to get no increase for next year, but the universities will need funding from government to cover their shortfall. It is money South Africa does not have, as Minister of Finance Nhlanhla Nene revealed in his mid term budget speech.
South Africa is about to run out of money. This has been a long time coming, but come it has.

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About autismjungle

I am a Software Test Analyst. Shortly before I turned 21 I was officially diagnosed, although I had long suspected I was autistic. Welcome to my blog
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