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A Tale of Two Countries

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on November 20, 2021 15:25

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History, it is said, repeats itself. And, it seems, duplicates itself too. I will not lean too heavily on Charles Dickens' tale of "the best of times and the worst of times," but I find the parallels between South Africa's political battles and that I read about in America interesting, to say the least.

The South African Human Rights Commission's enquiry into the unrest that wracked the country last July recounted a well-orchestrated campaign of civil disorder, looting and violence aimed not at righting economic grievances, but at undermining the President and extracting political concessions for vested interests.

The death toll, set at 300, caused massive economic damage. So far very little has been heard of perpetrators being brought before the courts. The string of convictions of participants in the January 6 insurrection in America, aimed at upsetting the constitutional process of certifying election results is therefore interesting to note. 

There seems to be an orchestrated political movement behind the South African phenomenon, with several of the participants in the July violence also implicated in a hostage-taking of two Cabinet Ministers to demand political concessions. Once again there were, as far as I can tell, no consequences although a number of the hostage-takers were arrested, then released.

A number of them claimed to be veterans of the armed struggle against apartheid, though this was disputed as most would have been in their early teens at the time. Commentators point to the so-called Radical Economic Transformation faction of the ruling party, a group who supports ex-President, Jacob Zuma, who this group believes should not be charged with numerous counts of corruption, and who demand economic revenge against those they see as beneficiaries of the apartheid regime. 

The once-vaunted national power utility, Eskom (Electricity Supply Commission) has been in the news lately, mostly because the country has been suffering and the economy hamstrung by insufficient power availability. The incoming government, back in the early days of a democratic South Africa, did not see the need to continue with heavy investment demanded by a fifty-year power plan.

As a result, the power generating fleet is old, nearing its end of life, and heavily dependent on coal, which has detrimental health effects on many living near power plants. And now the situation has dramatically worsened, with senior officials of the utility being caught stealing fuel oil needed for emergency generators, and of claims of sabotage.

The latter is very worrying. Power generation is regarded as a critical function in the economy, and power stations and ancillary equipment should conform to security standards. All power stations should be provided by police, and when necessary, military protection - in my early days of compulsory military service one of my tasks was to plan deployment to just such National Key Points in case of need.

To hear that the security services have no idea who might be responsible does not sound encouraging. One hopes that the United States does not suffer from similar sabotage of its essential infrastructure. 

What is at stake, in South Africa as well as in the United States, is the supremacy of the Constitution, the Rule of Law, and, above all, respect for a social contract which binds people together for the common good. 

 

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on November 20, 2021 15:25

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Source: The Guardian

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