The 2024 strategy: deceive, cheat and promise


The 2024 strategy: deceive, cheat and promise

South Africa is getting a taste of how the ANC will fight to stay in power next year: reckless promises, abuse of the state and cheap populism. MAX DU PREEZ says we can expect an unprecedented propaganda and disinformation campaign leading up to the election. And then there's the plan for national health insurance…


WITH every poll predicting the ANC may get less than half of the votes next year, the party's panic levels are rising.

But instead of a positive campaign to address the stumbling state and fix infrastructure problems, the ANC leadership is relying on wild promises and cheap populism.

(A Luthuli House insider told me yesterday that the ANC is suddenly very nervous because polls indicate  the EFF's support is growing and could even stand at around 17% — all votes that come directly from the ANC camp.)

The premier of Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, is promising voters that ANC municipalities will write off their debts to Eskom, so consumers don't have to worry about them. ANC-managed municipalities in Gauteng owe Eskom R13 billion. The national figure is R56 billion. Eskom's debt amounts to more than R400 billion. And finance minister Enoch Godongwana says he will have to make very deep cuts.

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Lesufi has not presented any plan on how this move will be financed and how consumers' debt to Eskom will be handled in future.

Lesufi, who surely realises his party stands a good chance of losing control of Gauteng in 2024, previously promised panic buttons for every household and a massive task force of crime fighters. No panic buttons have been installed and his “kitskonstabels" are still in limbo.

The minister in the presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, launched a fierce attack on the business sector, accusing it of conspiring to bring down the government — precisely at a time when senior business leaders are working with the government to address massive problems with energy, rail transport, ports and the criminal justice system.

Her attack was based on a manipulation of the currency more than a decade ago by a group of bank officials, even though the National Treasury and the Reserve Bank (and everyone who understands exchange rates) have already explained it properly. And when she faced strong opposition from banks and the business sector, she published a lengthy (and highly misleading) piece in Business Day, refusing to retract her comments.

As she probably planned, the “undermining of the rand" and “sabotage of the state" narratives quickly gained traction on social media and in certain newspapers, with absurd claims that the manipulation cost the economy trillions of rand and is responsible for the currency's weakness  — of course, total fiction.

Shortly before that, the ANC placed a social media advertisement showing the face of the deputy chief justice, Mandisa Maya, as “proof" that black empowerment is working. It was removed after widespread condemnation, including from Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

With daily reports of dilapidated schools, roads and hospitals and malnutrition among children in the background, the ANC government in Limpopo this week donated new bakkies worth R55 million to traditional leaders, with a promise of another R30 million to be spent on their offices.

The secretary-general of the ANC, Fikile Mbalula, against all evidence, including from Eskom, insists load-shedding will end in the coming weeks. Eskom and electricity minister Sputla Ramakgopa are also playing games with the facts to obscure the seriousness of the crisis, such as denying that many places had stage 8 load-shedding this week.

But it's not just a few loose cannons in the ANC who are guilty of this. There was a spectacle this week over the National Health Insurance (NHI) bill, proving that it's an official ANC strategy.

The ANC is desperate to promise voters who are daily let down by the pathetic state health institutions that they can soon expect the very best medical care, free of charge, from the ANC.

The totally unrealistic, in parts vague NHI bill was steamrolled through the National Assembly by the ANC and had to be rubber-stamped by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on Wednesday. This vote was cancelled at a few minutes' notice, without explanation.

Because, you see, a group of senior businesspeople had gone to see President Cyril Ramaphosa and seriously warned that the ANC was now playing with fire; that none of their proposals for the bill had been considered. He promised them the NCOP vote would be postponed until December 6, and his underlings in the NCOP were accordingly informed.

Now the NCOP can either approve the bill, after which Ramaphosa will delay it by not signing it, refer it back to the National Assembly, or even request that its constitutionality be tested first.

Ramaphosa, his cabinet and the ANC's top seven know very well that the bill will be taken to court by many institutions and is highly likely to be declared partly unconstitutional, but they pushed ahead, without proper consultation, because they wanted it on the statute book before the election.

What is certain is that the ANC will continue to promise that every citizen will soon have first-world-class health services.

As the current NHI proposal stands, medical funds will be terminated and all spending on health services will be deposited into an NHI fund controlled by the state. You won't be able to choose who will take care of your medical needs.

It is estimated to cost about R500 billion per year and will require significant tax increases.

There can't be many reasonable people who wouldn't agree that a better health system is essential for everyone.

But a two-tier system of state and private hospitals works well in the Western Cape, with excellent state hospitals and some of the best private hospitals in the world.

Groote Schuur Hospital and  Red Cross Children's Hospital are seen as role models outside South Africa, while hospitals in George, Worcester, Vredenburg, Somerset West and Riversdale are highly regarded. All are managed by the provincial government.

I have spent more than R4 million on a hospital plan in the last few decades to ensure that if I ever get seriously ill, I won't have to wait somewhere in a hospital corridor on dirty bedding for attention — the reality at most state hospitals (not all) outside the Western Cape. With the NHI, this R4 million will be flushed down the toilet.

Taxpayers can rightly ask whether the same state that drove Eskom, Transnet, the Post Office, Prasa and Denel into the ground can be trusted to manage and control such an immense amount.

We can also ask whether the state should not first properly renovate and operate existing state hospitals and clinics before grabbing private hospitals.

In anticipation of the NHI becoming a reality, South Africa may lose a large number of medical specialists. Surveys among doctors, anaesthetists, radiologists and other specialists indicate that more than 40% of them are seriously considering emigration.

Business Maverick's editor, Tim Cohen, wrote this week: “One doesn't like to be negative, but may I just say this is going to be an absolutely monumental stuff-up of gargantuan proportions. It is hard to describe how big a stuff-up it is going to be, but we are talking easily about an Eskom-level stuff-up. Bigger perhaps."

Perhaps the strongest reason we won't see the NHI in operation soon is the fact that all public officials of the ANC, the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions are members of medical funds and never go anywhere near a state hospital.

They will be reluctant to lose their private doctors and hospitals because they must know the current NHI proposal will indeed be a “monumental stuff-up".

♦ VWB ♦

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