WHEN I heard defence minister Thandi Modise saying in parliament on Tuesday about the Russian freighter Lady R, “We put fokol on that ship," I imagined a million voices all over the country shouting, “You put fokol anywhere!"
The cholera outbreak in two provinces that has already claimed 22 lives is a metaphor for the rapid collapse in the country. A collapse the government is apparently powerless to halt.
Cholera is associated with catastrophic natural disasters and failed states, not modern democracies.
“Failed state" was a phrase that came up repeatedly this week in the interviews with politicians that Stephen Sackur of the BBC did for his programme HARDtalk, which is broadcast worldwide.
The secretary-general of the ANC, Fikile Mbalula, himself raised the possibility that South Africa could become a failed state if the decline was not halted, then blamed “300 years" of colonialism and apartheid, saying the electricity crisis was due to the ANC government giving so many more people access to electricity over the past 29 years.
(Eskom generated almost double the amount of electricity in 1994 with 17,000 employees as it does today with 47,000 employees. I learnt this from a quick Google search.)
Mbalula blamed the Covid epidemic and the war in Ukraine for this country's growing poverty and unemployment.
The EFF's Julius Malema told Sackur the power grid would definitely soon collapse and that the nation would then revolt and respond with anarchy and looting. No political leader would be able to stop it, he said.
Meanwhile, the government spends far more energy discrediting André de Ruyter than solving the power crisis.
Three months after his appointment, the duties and powers of the ever-cheerful itinerant electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa have still not been disclosed.
Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is now waving his coal flag with even greater enthusiasm and has just dusted off plans for nuclear power to present to the country.
In the meantime, the ANC's flirtation with Russia's Vladimir Putin casts a long shadow over the future of our economy.
The only ANC leader who seems to understand the seriousness of South Africa's alienation from the US and the West is the one who has to balance the books, finance minister Enoch Godongwana.
In the debate about his budget in parliament last week, Godongwana expressed concern about the US's suspicion towards South Africa and the impact it could have on the value of the rand, trade, and foreign investment.
A self-inflicted wound. An own goal.
“At this stage, we are assessing the quantitative impacts on these channels. We must be alive to the fact that uncertainty increases the risk profile of SA, increasing the cost of borrowing and doing business,” Godongwana said.
“Further, the impact on any of our export sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing, will also have labour market consequences. Handling this matter poorly will impact the livelihoods of many people in the relevant companies and sectors."
But “we put fokol on that ship".
The plight of the community of Hammanskraal made the front pages this week because people died. Still, there are hundreds of other Hammanskraals in the country where people do not have proper access to clean water, where sewage systems have collapsed, and services are not provided.
Ratings Africa (RA) warns in its new Municipal Financial Sustainability Index against the “unabated destruction" of municipalities' financial affairs and their inability to provide services to residents.
Most municipalities “are on the brink of becoming dysfunctional", with joint operational shortages of more than R34 billion, up from R23 billion in 2021.
According to Ratings Afrika's Charl Kocks, “South Africa faces a calamity of major proportions if this lack of sustainability is not dealt with effectively and as a matter of urgency".
We put fokol.
More than 144 people have died due to the criminal Life Esidimeni scandal. The state has already paid R77 million in legal fees for the officials and politicians involved. This is increasing daily with the current inquest.
We put fokol.
The country's largest chicken meat producer, Astral Foods, pays R1.5 million a day to keep the lights on and must now fork out R100 million for a pipeline between the Vaal Dam and its factory in Standerton because the local water supply is inadequate. Chicken meat is the most important source of protein in South Africa.
We put fokol.
Since 2020 the state has paid R28 billion to save SAA and spends almost R2 billion annually to protect VIPs. Yet, there is not R1 billion available to catch up with the shocking education backlog after the Covid pandemic.
The University of Cape Town's Prof Ursula Hoadley says there has been no attempt to mitigate the severe impact of the pandemic. She says schools, particularly in poor black communities, have declined ever since.
Stellenbosch University's Prof Nic Spaull told the Financial Mail this week: “The most frustrating thing for me is that there is no budgeted plan to remediate these pupils. All around the world, you see large, budgeted programmes to catch up on Covid learning losses, but at basic education it's business as usual."
And so I can continue. School feeding schemes that fail. Impassable roads. Rail transport and ports operating well below capacity. The criminality that flourishes and policing that cannot make a dent in it. A woefully inadequate number of social workers to help traumatised communities. And so the list goes on.
We put fokol.
♦ VWB ♦
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