I can remember the moment exactly, the moment when my suspicion of Nelson Mandela, the former terrorist who became South Africa’s living saint, spilled over into outright dislike. It was 2005, at the end of a Make Poverty History rally in London’s Trafalgar Square, where Bob Geldof, the boom town rat and abject acolyte, declared him to be president of the world. Seemingly the world agrees, at least in the shape of the United Nations, which designated 18 July, Saint Nelson’s birthday, to be an international day in his honour.
If only Mandela could have done for the world what he and his cohorts in the African National Congress (ANC), a party seemingly set to rule in perpetuity, have done for South Africa. What did they do, what have they done? Why, drawing on the observation of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, they stopped the gravy train of corruption only long enough for them to get on.
If anything the situation for a great many in the black community is even worse than it was in the days of the old apartheid state. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but that’s OK because a lot of the rich now have black faces, so it must be better, this inequality of opportunity, this rainbow kleptocracy.
Yes, just as life gets better for President Jacob Zuma and his ANC cronies it gets worse for the majority of ordinary South Africans, black and white alike. Under the old regime infrastructural services for the black majority were bad, that’s true, but that has to be better than virtually no services at all; for no service is what they are getting.
Amazingly some 80% of South African municipalities are now bankrupt due to misspending spurred on by the demon of corruption. Power shortages and the abysmal state of repair of many of the public roads have made the problem even worse, all this in a country with crippling rates of personal taxation.
Somebody has to be blamed for this; some scapegoat has to be found. Not the corrupt, inefficient and venal ANC, absolutely not; rather there is an easier target, the target favoured by Julius Malema, head of the ANC’s Youth Wing. It is they who are to blame. Who are they, you may wonder? They are the whites, the people, according to Malema, who “stole our land”, who are “criminals and should be treated that way.”
Malema, widely known as Juju, was not so long ago the butt of national humour, after the school results of the ANC’s leadership were leaked on the internet, showing him to be particularly dim. Bad Juju may be an academic dud but he is not stupid. He’s managed to carve a nice little niche for himself as the ANC’s number one demagogue and rabble-rouser. He is the new voice of the townships, the voice of the dispossessed, labouring under the burden of frustrated hopes, labouring under the disappointments of a rainbow nation that has made them even poorer than they were under apartheid.
It’s no longer possible to blame past injustices for present wrongs; no, present wrongs are all the fault of white people, or those white people who still own businesses and farms. Malema, looking to the example of Zimbabwe, where his hero Robert Mugabe has all but destroyed a once flourishing economy, is calling for the expropriation of white-owned mines and land without compensation.
Some may consider this as all so much verbiage, but Malema, a power to be reckoned with, has been suggested as a future president of South Africa, even by the present incumbent. So, if you want to know South Africa’s future look to Zimbabwe’s present, look to the viscera of a goose, plundered in a futile search for a horde of golden eggs.
This radical, this darling of the masses, recently took to sporting a Che Guevara-style beret, declaring that “Cuban revolutionaries should be saluted. Because of their ideological clarity and willingness to fight, millions were released from colonial subjugation”. The huddled masses yearning for more of the good life, any of the good life, lap up this kind of stuff. But, as Rian Malan wrote recently in the Spectator, they are poorly educated and unlikely to know that an illiterate Johannesburg gardener earns more in a day than the average Cuban does in a month
Let’s look a little more closely at Che Juju, racist and revolutionary. Beret or not he is no aesthete, no paragon of virtue, no sea-green incorruptible. “He poses as such a figure”, Malan writes, “but in person he resembles nothing so much as a capitalist porker grown fat on shady dealings” Pretty much in keeping, then, with the tone being set by the rest of the ANC, South Africa’s oligarchy in perpetuity.
Apparently he earns around $5000 a month as president of the Youth League, a decent income, beyond the dreams of his rag-tag army, but nowhere near enough to explain his lavish life-style. Fiona Forde, an Irish journalist, recently published An Inconvenient Youth: Julius Malema and the ‘New’ ANC, in which she details his considerable assets. He has more than eight known properties, including a farm and a $2million mansion in Johannesburg. He recently demolished one house valued at $700,000, to be replaced with one at an estimated cost of $2.8million, complete with a bunker (Hitler style?)
His expensive tastes run to designer suits, several Breitling wristwatches at $17,000 each and Luis Vuitton manbags. All gifts from friends, who also offer him the use of several luxury cars, he told Forde. Not friends and comrades from the townships, one assumes. This self-styled “economic freedom fighter” is now being investigated by the revenue services, the office of the public protector and the elite crime-fighting unit known as the Hawks.
On this evidence, and other examples like it, South Africa is a predatory state on its way to becoming a banana republic. That’s not my view, well it is, but they are not my words. They are the words of the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
Ironically, while he makes life better for himself, Malema’s power-hungry demagogy is making life even worse for his benighted supporters. His rhetoric about nationalisation and property seizures is frightening off foreign investment. According to a recent UN report, South Africa’s share of foreign direct investment fell 70% last year from 2009. That same year it overtook Brazil as the country with the widest gap between rich and poor. Unemployment increases still further, particularly among the young; resentment increases, hatred increases; Juju, the ‘saviour’ of the poor, waxes fat and wealthy on the results
Meanwhile, at rallies, Malema and his supporters like a rousing chorus or two of ‘Shoot the Boer’, a song from former days which incites ‘hate speech’, so South Africa’s Equality Court ruled recently. But the singing goes on as, sadly, does the practice. In one of the most horrific examples, Attie Potgieter, a white farm manager, was stabbed and slashed more than 150 times, with implements as varied as a machete and a garden fork. The pathologist concluded that he had been “tortured to death.” His wife and three-year-old daughter were killed with a single bullet in the backs of their heads.
Potgieter and his family now join more than a 1000 others from white farming families who have been killed since the end of the apartheid regime in 1994, on average 70 a year. These are the official figures. The true number is calculated to be closer to 3000. But that’s just part of the picture in a country that now has one of the worst crime rates in the world, a country were 21,000 people are murdered and 52,000 women raped every year.
That’s the world Nelson Mandela was president of in time past; that’s the world that Julius Malema may be president of in time future. You may care to think of that next July when you celebrate, at the behest of the UN, the achievements of Geldof’s secular saint.
This is no time to talk of hedges and fields, or the beauties of any country. . . . Cry for the broken tribe, for the law and the custom that is gone. Aye, and cry aloud for the man who is dead, for the woman and children bereaved. Cry, the beloved country, these things are not yet at an end.