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Insurrection, Blame, Damage Control

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on August 6, 2021 09:48

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South Africa seeks a way out of a political quagmire. Politicians in government and in opposition seek desperately to latch on to a citizen’s movement that united the nation in the face of wide-spread disorder, despite years of rent seeking and divisive ideologies.

A long awaited Cabinet Reshuffle by the South African President was widely seen as necessary, but in a sense it is as effective as re-arranging the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. While it was overdue to replace Ministers responsible for spectacular failure of intelligence akin to the inability to foresee the January 6 insurrection in Washington, much remains unchanged.

http://thelatest.com/uploads/tlt/2c5c163e52b60c46da21285be9b7ef27.jpg
President Ramaphosa announcing his new cabinet. Photo S A Government

A flashback: Over the past weeks sporadic unrest followed a series of insurrections, riots, attacks on transport and plundering of shopping malls that left the country bleeding, communities destitute and business in ruin. In the absence of police and military action citizens banded together, uniting ethnic and racial groups, to confront rioters and looters, sometimes with tragic results. Only days later did the police react, and the military was deployed as much as a week after the event.

The unrest broke out ostensibly due to the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma on charges of contempt of court, emanating from his 20-year old Stalingrad strategy to avoid charges of corruption, allowing cronies to embezzle and loot enormous amounts, and of emasculating the structures of law and order.

Critics point out that the plunder of shopping malls are amateurish attempts to copy looting of the public goods by Government officials. The governing party has engaged, over the past 25 years, in a systematic policy of developing rent-seeking by ‘cadre deployment’, that is appointment of friends and family to positions of power. Fuel levies that now amount to half the cost at the pump was copied by insurrectionists who, it is now learnt, planned to paralyze the transport infrastructure. The struggle between the insurrectionists and the State is a struggle between factions of the ruling party: Those who support the ex-President, who hope to continue and accelerate looting of public funds, on one hand, and a more rational group that wants to limit the damage rent-seeking inevitably causes any economy.

Public reaction was sharp, an Open Letter circulated widely blaming government iunefficiency, divisive policies and ideologies of several parties, and general mismanagement by those who are supposed to lead. Near 200 000 people viewed this on YouTube.

  

A note: Rent-seeking is the economic phenomenon where someone levies a price for, for instance, transit, the delivery of an essential service, exploiting a monopoly position without adding value to the economy. Government policy of tolling motorways is an example: most of the income is cycled into salaries of the people who collect the money, and of course priority is given to ‘our people’ who are then subservient to the party.

Public impatience with the selective access to wealth, and the poverty created by the inefficient economy played a major role in the violence and looting.

A number of party luminaries engaged in self-criticism, trying to pre-empt the government becoming irrelevant.

The deckchairs are reshuffled, the band plays on.

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on August 6, 2021 09:48

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Source: Al Jazeera

President announces appointment of 10 new ministers, including in the key health, finance and defence portfolios.

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