Thursday, March 28, 2013


I am in the midst of dealing with workmen at my home, as well as preparing for leaving South Africa for six months, so I will have to keep this blog short.
For the first time since I have been returning to South Africa for at least six months a year, I am seeing a great deal of impatience with what is happening here.  Particularly amongst Whites who were delighted by the change to a democratic government in 1994.
Jacob Zuma - president
From my perspective, what is happening is a confluence of different unpleasant and unacceptable events that have been grabbing the headlines recently.   
First, there is the ongoing disgust about the behaviour of our president, Jacob Zuma.  He has authorized the government to enhance his private residence in Zululand to the tune of several hundred million rands (over $20 million).  Of course he claims he claims that the security apparatus in South Africa required that he make the upgrades, which include a safe bunker!  Safe from what? I ask.  Perhaps he is worried that the millions of people who have not benefited from the transition from apartheid will come knocking on his doorstep for a handout – of food.
Jacon Zuma - traditional leader
Also, President Zuma, is constantly accused of corruption.  Whenever the accusations look as though they may stick, personnel in the appropriate agency dealing with the cases are changed, including the police and judiciary.  And the cases go away. 
Zuma’s track record has been painstakingly documented by investigative journalist, Adriaan Basson, in Zuma Exposed.  It makes sad reading to learn how Zuma has enriched himself and his family, often at government expense, often through ‘donations’ from business contacts.
Finally, although legal under certain circumstances in South Africa, Zuma is a polygamist, who has had 6 wives, of which 4 are current.  He has an estimated 20 children in and out of wedlock.  His sexual and marital circumstances make him an easy target for ridicule.
Second, the past year has seen a breakdown in confidence in the police force.  The horrendous massacre of about 40 miners at Marikana, plus a large number of incidents of police brutality has shocked South Africans, irrespective of colour.  The fact that most police do a reasonably good job doesn’t make a difference to these attitudes because it is only the bad press that one reads about in the media.  In a recent poll, a little under 40% of the popuation were actually afraid of the police.
Marikana massacre
Third, the education system is not good at all.  This is one area I am at odds with most of my white friends.  They are highly critical of the lack of quality.  Although we agree on the lack of quality, I am more forgiving because I just cannot see how it could be any better at the moment.  The Bantu Education Act of the apartheid government basically prevented by law Blacks from getting what most people in the West would call a normal education.  Blacks, with rare exceptions, were only allowed to learn menial skills – hewers of wood and drawers of water.  If my memory serves me well a rare event – at the time the current government took office in 1994, for the same class size to exist for all South Africans as then existed for Whites, the country would have had to build a school a day for ten years of more.  Of course this an impossible task and is one still being addressed.  However, more difficult, was finding people to be adequate teachers.  If few Blacks were well educated in 1994, and there were few schools available after 1994, it seems to me to be an impossible task to have all schools staffed by competent teachers less than 20 years later.
Nevertheless, the education system is in a sorry state, no matter whether one thinks that was inevitable or not.  To make things worse, the current minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr. Blade Nzimande, does not instill much confidence in those who understand education’s problems.
All of these forces are coming together at the moment, plus numerous others that I may address in another blog, such as poor health services.  So, for the first time, I am seeing educated Whites and Blacks becoming very pessimistic about the future of the country.  And this means more educated South Africans will seek their futures elsewhere, which would be tragic for a country that needs all the brainpower it can get.
I am still cautiously optimistic, however, because I see more and more erstwhile supporters of the ruling ANC becoming fed up with the lack of ethics at the top levels, as well as at the almost total lack of service provision.  I am also beginning to see very talented men and women beginning to stand up to Zuma and his cronies.  The majority of South Africans want the same thing: stability, hope, education, and decent living conditions.  With good leadership and management, this is attainable.  The question, of course, is whether we can elect politicians who share this dream.

Stan - Thursday


  1. If this is what you write when pressed for time, you'll get a Pulitzer for sure with the next post! Terrific insights, Stan, on issues few talk about in "the West."

  2. How sad that all the hope and joy of 1994 has come to this. I for one would not give a fig how many wives and children Zuma had, if he were providing the leadership the country needs. Let's hope this is a phase the country is going through, and that more patriotic leaders will emerge. I pray. As an aside, though, Stan, as you describe him here, Zuma sounds remarkably like Italy's Silvio Berlusconi!

  3. This is very sad, and a dishonoring of all those who gave their lives, families, everything to get rid of horrific apartheid rule.

    The wealth in that country has to be more equitably distributed so that the people get essential housing, medical care, education, teachers, and everything.

    Also, jobs are crucial. There must be a program to hire the unemployed, including the young people to build needed schools, housing and whatever is needed, which is a lot.

    I hate to criticize ANC leaders, given their historic role and sacrifices. But that some progress has been made but so much more needs to be done is absolutely true. The people of the country have to demand change -- and a lot of it.

    I don't care about numbers of children and spouses, etc. I do care about and object to the massacre at Marikana and the continuing horrific working conditions in the mines and about the police brutality.

    And I care about the wealth that's being created by mining the vast resources of the country being taken out by corporate owners, and not used for the people's needs.

    That's to me a necessity in all of this.

  4. Sad it is, but overall the country is far better off than it was 20 years ago, although most of my White friends would question that. Millions of houses have been built, hospitals erected, access to education improved. The problem is that moving from the state of the country 20 years ago to a normal one is going to take a couple of generations. That is longer than most people are willing to wait if little improves in the meantime.

    The problem with Zuma (and the upper echelons of the ANC) is that they have accepted corruption and shoddy service delivery as the norm. And the men and women in the street are beginning to realise that the ANC is not helping them. Unless there is a real change in governance, there is the potential for an African "Arab spring" here too.

    As I said in the blog, I am cautiously optimistic that this can be resolved, but the peace is fragile.

  5. Yes. I think that the country is better off than it was 20 years ago, and certainly the majority of people no longer live under horrific apartheid.

    However, the economic situation is still so unbalanced, unfair, with wealth concentrated in a few hands, not used equitably. It is called economic apartheid in some materials I've read.

    I realize the women and men in the street realize the politicians in office aren't helping them the way help is needed.

    However, is a South African spring such a bad thing? Risings, protests, demonstrations make people's voices heard. That would shake things up. The people in the street who are suffering need to be heard.