An uncomfortable Truth…

So, President Jacob Zuma has survived another attack on his presidency this past weekend. It appears that he still holds the majority within the NEC, and that the circle of patronage he has built around his relationship with the Guptas will continue unabated. Hence he has captured both the ANC and the State and the looting will continue….

But for how much longer?

There are 3 factors that influence the answer to that question. The first is the news that broke over this past weekend (Just before when the NEC was to debate the motion for the president to step down) of the extent of the influence that the Gupta family holds over cabinet ministers and SOE board appointments. The various email exchanges prove that the Guptas cast a gigantically ominous cloud over the president and his cabinet, a cloud which Zuma has allowed to envelope him. The fallout to this revelation has been swift, with the family issuing a blanket denial of wrongdoing, and the official opposition Democratic Alliance, quite rightly, laying criminal charges against the president and his cabinet. How the charges will be actioned by the National Prosecuting Authority remains to be seen, but this heaps even more pressure on the president, caused by the other 783 corruption charges that are still under review by the justice system. However, as the NPA has already been captured by the president, you can expect the investigation to be drawn out as far as possible.

The second factor is Zuma’s uncharacteristic threat to his detractors in the NEC not to ‘push him too far’. As reports indicate, the president sat quietly during the debate on Saturday as to whether the motion should be put on the agenda, and then again he was silent during the actual debate. This, of course, is classic Zuma behaviour when his leadership is called into question, both within the ANC and in parliament. However, after surviving the motion, he reportedly addressed the meeting very angrily, saying,

“I have been quiet because I don’t want to harm the ANC, so continue attacking me in the media and you will see.”

What’s more is that while addressing the meeting, he reportedly wagged his finger at his detractors. Now, those of us who are old enough to remember, that finger-wagging characterised PW Botha’s last days as president, before he was ousted as National Party Leader, which ultimately started the process of the dismantling of apartheid and the dawn of democracy. This angry outburst is very much unlike Zuma and shows that he is now feeling the pressure and is losing grip on his own plan to loot the state (which, we all hope, precipitates the beginning of the end of his disastrous tenure as president).

Finally, as reported very recently, he is hemorrhaging support within the ANC, with 62% of ANC voters disapproving of him. Quite naturally, this comes in the light of further evidence of ‘State Capture’ mounting against him, and the growing discontent with the lack of service delivery, rising unemployment and a dwindling economy. With the upcoming National Elective Conference this December, more senior members within the party are beginning to distance themselves from him. This also puts his plans of transferring power to his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma so as to continue the pattern of patronage and capture, while keeping him out of prison. While he, no doubt, will endeavour to fill the conference with sympathisers to his cause, it is clear that the party is growing more and more concerned with the national fallout coming from his incompetent presidency and his relationship with the Guptas.

The uncomfortable truth is that, while he continues to survive using his wily skills and extensive array of pawns within cabinet and the SOE’s, he is increasingly being painted into a corner, and eventually, something will have to give. Should he succeed in his succession plan at the conference, he faces the prospect of a complete desertion by ANC voters, and the ANC losing power in 2019. Should he not succeed, he faces the prospect of his party deserting him to the opposition and ending up in prison.

His only remaining trump card will be the secrets he holds on his fellow comrades. And if he plays that card next year, he will take his party down with him.

More and more, it appears that this might be his only hope…

Best view in the house at Newlands is from the President’s Pavilion

Newlands Cricket Ground

Gasant Abarder is right about many things in his article. For me, the unspoken truth about culinary delight in Cape Town is the Sunday morning warm koesister from the muslim tietie down the road (or from Bibi’s in Wynberg after church).

And John Maytham on a weekday afternoon is a definite (so far,  every time I’ve entered ‘Rapid Fire’, I’ve won. I’m next eligible in early February, and I hope to keep the streak alive!)

But I have a different take on the best view in the house at Newlands.

See, my dad introduced me to Newlands. It was a Wednesday evening, and it was a Benson and Hedges day/night game against Transvaal in 1989. We sat in the Snake Pit, which was on the Wynberg end of the chalets that Gasant talks about. I remember getting sprayed with beer that was thrown in the air when the wave came around (a Newlands idiosyncrasy that I miss, actually!). It was such an amazing night, I still have fond memories of it, 29 years later.

Later, my grandfather became a martial under the president’s pavilion on the new stand, and we got tickets very close to the sightscreen. And that spot became my favourite place. The judgement on lbw shouts (before DRS) from the Wynberg end made all of us who sat there more that armchair umpires, and the atmosphere was heightened in tight games, especially those with binoculars who eyed the old scoreboard (way before it was replaced for the 2003 World Cup).

These days, with the huge LED screen, the concession stands nearby, the popularity of T20 cricket and the growing knowledge of the public, my favourite place feels more like home with every game.

I can’t wait for the ODI on 7 February! It’s going to be EPIC!

 

Dear Helen…

Dear Helen

What a rollercoaster ride these past 3 months have been.  After holding you in the highest esteem of all political leaders, to vehemently disagree (and, in some way, agree) with you on such a contentious issue as colonialism has been painful, confusing, and, in many ways, a watershed moment in my personal political development.

See, I agree with you that the vestiges of colonialism can be used to develop the communities that it disadvantaged. But, even in the tiniest of inclinations, to assert that colonialism wasn’t all bad was a gigantic error of judgement.

As someone who was disadvantaged by colonialism, that hurt.

Badly.

You may not remember me, but I’ve had the privilege of having a few private conversations with you, the first being at our final dinner of the DA Young Leaders Program of 2008. In that brief chat, I was totally enthralled by what it took for you to get where you were at that time, and where you are today.

Back then, you were the mayor of Cape Town. The next year, you became the Premier of the Western Cape. What remained constant in these leadership positions was your untiring zeal to better the lives of everyone, through cogent policy positions and effective service delivery.

And it’s been wonderful to watch, as well as to be a benefactor of such leadership. Even today, after all the attention of yesterday, you chair a provincial executive meeting in Knysna and enact a strategy to help the people of the region recover from the devastating fires of last week. Your willingness to be on the ground as quickly as possible shows a level of compassionate, collaborative leadership that is sorely missing from the wider political discourse in our country (The fact that there hasn’t been any coverage of any senior national government officials visiting the area speaks volumes).

And we cannot lose that quality leadership, especially not now. This is why I fully agree that keeping you as Premier is the right thing to do. We need to show the electorate that even when we have vastly different views, we still put the needs of the people of South Africa first.

Moreover, there’s a generation of leaders after you that will do very well if we were half the leader you are. As written in your book, you leave a legacy of fighting for what’s right, speaking truth to power, and helping to better the lives of others. And it would be a travesty if that legacy were not to be continued through others that come after you.

In our most recent conversation on the occasion of a radio interview publicising your book, you mentioned that after your term as Premier ends, you’d like to spend the rest of your time in the party raising up and developing a new generation of activists. I sincerely hope that you will be afforded that opportunity, as our nation will benefit greatly from your expertise and experience.

I would be honoured if I could be one of those activists to sit at your feet and learn from you.

After all, the political transition in this country will happen ‘Not without a fight’. And who else to learn from than someone who’s been fighting, and winning, all her life.

Helen Zille and the Disorder of Things

So, the saga of the Helen Zille colonialism tweets will finally be brought before the DA’s Disciplinary Committee this week. Quite frankly, the fact that this saga has been drawn out over nearly 3 months, and the struggle between the current DA leader, Mmusi Maimane, and Zille, the former leader, has yielded nothing but damage to the party. Last weekend’s process faux pax, coupled with Zille’s continued legal delays did not sit well with those on social media, and everyone, either inside or outside the party, have taken sides. Unless a collaborative solution is found to this mess (which, I fear, will not be the case), one side will undoubtedly lose hard.

But, back to the tweets in question. Just about all the political commentators worth following in this country have slammed Helen for her tweets, calling them insensitive to the country’s ugly and horrific past. And I must agree with them. The book, Diamonds Gold and War by Martin Meredith, outlines in painstaking and heartbreaking detail just how colonialism from the British and the Boers decimated the African population, the effects of which we still very much experience today. And even though she repeatedly has said that it was not her intention to glorify colonialism in any way, that’s what unfortunately the perception turned out to be.

However, she does have a point. Like Nelson Mandela and many of our history textbook authors have said, some of the vestiges of colonialism left behind can be used to improve the lives of those who were disadvantaged by the system.

But here’s the point of departure. We, as South African society, are nowhere close to the point where we can debate this issue rationally and collaboratively to attain the outcomes that Helen wished that we attain. While Singapore might have successfully converted colonialism to its benefit, there are FAR too many differences between our situation and theirs. The first natural point that should come to mind is the widening gap between rich and poor. There can be absolutely no doubt that this a direct consequence of the cruel system set in place in the 19th century, and we cannot talk about reversing colonialism without first addressing our gini coefficient head on.

And herein, I believe, lies the crux of the differences between Maimane and Zille. Mmusi has directed the focus on the party squarely on, among others, building an inclusive economy by job creation. This future-orientated strategy is in direct contrast to Zille, who wants to look to the past to find solutions to the future.

The unfortunate reality of this situation is that these 2 views are so divergent that there is little hope of attaining a common ground that transcends the foundation of each view. And since, Helen still has a significant following in the party, coupled with her stubborn defense of her views and Mmusi’s duty to stamp his authority on the matter, the disciplinary hearing can only be seen as a dogfight between these 2 leaders.

This, of course, could not have come at a worse time for the party. The news leaks of the Gupta family influencing a plethora of government ministers and officials through email communication (commonly known as the #GuptaEmails) should have been cannon fodder for the DA to twist the knife into the chest of the ANC parliamentary caucus, ahead of the motion of no confidence to be heard once the legal challenges to whether it should be a secret ballot or not is concluded. But, alas, we focus on a leadership struggle of our own, thereby letting the ANC off the hook and compromising our position, momentarily, on corruption.

One thing is for sure, though. Helen Zille is no racist. In her book, Not without a Fight, she magnificently outlines her life, from a trace of her family roots in Nazi Germany, to her struggle with anorexia, her journalism career, her vital role in the struggle against apartheid and her subsequent career in the Democratic Alliance. It’s clear that her legacy is one of struggle, and victory, for freedom and opportunity for all.

But, because of this current matter, I fear her legacy is under serious threat. Max du Preez, in his latest column, calls on Helen to graciously step away from this last fight in order to preserve her legacy and retire. While I agree with his first point, I think she should be allowed to complete her term as Premier of the Western Cape, and then do what she has said she wanted to do; raise up a new crop of leaders and activists for the party.

It’s in the interest of all involved, as well as the nation. And this, essentially, is what Helen Zille is all about.

Book Review ; Fight The Fear – Mandie Holgate


As personal development books go, there are few that really stand out amongst the pack and, in a very tangible way, change your life.

‘Fight the Fear’, by Mandie Holgate, is one such book.

The subtitle of this book is ‘How to beat your negative mindset and win in life’. I cannot agree more with that statement.

Mandie addresses 12 fears in this book, starting with the most important one; ‘What if someone finds out who I really am?’. It’s most important one because it sets the base from which to address all the other fears by asking the question, ‘Who am I?’. In this chapter, you will come to know the areas in your life that are most important to you, and hence will know where and how to direct your energy and goals.

So, how will you come to know those areas? Well, here’s what sets this book apart from other personal development books. Each chapter is broken down into 4 parts, namely

1. What the Fear is
2. Examples of the fear and what Exercises can be done
3. What Actions you can take
4. What Results you can expect from positive actions

In this way, Mandie allows for either thorough reading through all four sections of each chapter, or just skimming through what the fear is, and concentrating on the exercises, while jumping to the expected results. While that can be a method of reading this book, what worked for me was to read through each chapter twice, and taking notes during the second time.

If you do the exercises in this book, I can just about guarantee that you will be a better person for it! One of the best exercises, which is often repeated in the book, is the ‘What if?’ exercise. If you want to know more, read the book. But you’ll soon understand how beneficial this exercise is.

The other notable fears she addresses are ‘I’m scared of setting goals’, ‘I don’t believe I can succeed’, ‘I don’t ask for help’ and ‘I hate phoning people’. These were core fears for me and I gained an invaluable perspective in how to positively address these aspects of my life, and I find myself already conquering these long-held negative beliefs.

Throughout the book, Mandie uses small business owners as her base clientèle, and transfers most of her expected ‘Results’ sections in winning in the workplace. However, I found that her exercises helped me more in other aspects of my life, and it was a holistic healing and motivational process, rather than just winning at work.

It doesn’t matter at what stage you are in your life. Reading this book, and doing the exercises in it, will catapult you to the success that you (and, indeed, all of us) want. This book will permanently change your mindset which will allow you to deal with your fears once and for all.

The book can be found here, while I found my copy at a local bookstore.

I HIGHLY recommend you get your copy as soon as possible.

The non-existent Democracy in rural South Africa

One of the headline-grabbing stories in South Africa right now is the murder trial of Pieter Doorewaard and Philip Schutte in the town of Coligny, in the North West Province. They are accused of killing 16 year-old Motlhomola Mosweu. The men, in their bail application, say that the boy accidentally fell off the back of their bakkie while they were taking him to the police station to reported his alleged theft.

Shenaaz Jamal gives us a brief, yet poignant, insight into the racism and discrimination that still is prevalent in the town, as well as a background to the case. You can read it here

Now, just last weekend, I went to the town of Piketberg for an overnight stay. Now, granted, staying in a town for 1 night barely gives one an insight as to the state of affairs there, and I plan to go back and spend a weekend there. But, driving along the main road and going into the coloured part of town, one cannot help but wonder if towns like these will ever transform into the inclusive society that Mandela and the rest of the authors of our democracy envisioned. And while the discrimination might not be as raw in Piketberg as that in Coligny (although the people I stayed with complained about racism in the customer service at one of the local banks), racism and racial prejudice is unfortunately all too common in small town South Africa.

Couple that with the high unemployment rate, and the shocking levels of abuse (abuse against women, alcohol and drugs being the main sources), and we have a ticking time bomb just about all over the country.

The over-arching question is this; what is the government going to do in order to reverse the legacy of Apartheid in rural South Africa?

My contestation is, that after 23 years of freedom, this government doesn’t have a clue, and quite frankly, couldn’t be bothered with it.

The reason for me saying so is that, in my experience of working for a company with a base in a town, as well as the examples above, there are too many instances around the country to highlight the fact that relations between different races have degenerated the further we have gone into democracy. And while there are shining examples of reconciliation and trust-building between farmers and their workers, these are unfortunately overshadowed by the rising rate of farm murders, as well as instances such as the current Coligny murder case. Last year’s Coffin case in Middelburg is another such incident.

Race relations in towns are making the instances of racial discrimination in the urban areas look like a Sunday School picnic, and that is a very worrying trend. Given that the latest buzzword in the halls of power is Radical Economic Transformation, has the government, and especially the president, clearly articulated what it will mean for the inhabitants of towns such as Graaf-Reinet, Ashton, Piketberg and Coligny? Because, if not, they might just be adding fuel to the fire, and cause even greater divides where it is not needed.

Any attempt at nation-building will have to focus on the glaring racial divides in the rural areas, which is a monumental task. However, if we are to be a united nation, then we all must be allowed to air our grievances, and work toward the unity envisaged 23 years ago.

The road is still long…

Theatre Review : #Lottering

#Lottering
Marc Lottering’s latest show, #Lottering, has returned to the Baxter for a second run.

I went to see the show, and it was brilliant. Marc brings his signature humour and theatrics to the stage, and keeps you enthralled for just about 90 minutes.

His show includes 2 VERY funny skits about shopping on Christmas Eve and the TV show, ‘The Voice’, with the latter showing off his fabulous singing skills.

Another place where he displays his musical talent is at the beginning of the show. As is now his signature, he opens the show with a few lines, then sits at the piano and sings a song. It’s a wonderful beginning to his show, and this time he added a few very funny vignettes into the piece which made it that much more amusing!

He covers a multitude of hashtags, which you must go see for yourself, but being the end of JanuWorry, the part about the pepper steak pie and the good angel literally had me crying with laughter.

For more on the show, and to buy tickets, go here, but you must be quick, as its running until 4 February 2017.

All in all, it’s a very funny night out with that special someone, or as I did, a group of friends.

So go watch the show, before the EFT goes through! *wink wink*

Book Review : Born a Crime – Trevor Noah

Over the holidays, I read the book, “Born a Crime” by South African comedian, Trevor Noah. And what a wonderful read it is!

Trevor weaves stories from his childhood into the greater debate on social challenges and nation building so wonderfully that I found myself nodding as I turn every page, not to mention the fact that I was laughing after virtually every chapter.

Trevor shares various stories from his childhood, most of which are brutally honest about his upbringing. He chronicles life in the township from an early age with some harrowing stories, one of which where his mother threw him out of a moving taxi in order to save him from a dangerous situation. But there are also funny vignettes from his many debates – and hidings – with his mother. In truth, his childhood was just like those who grew up in sub-economic, pre-democracy South Africa.

But in his stories, he eloquently elaborates on the social challenges facing those who lived in the townships. Many of us came from single parent households, or were reared by our grandparents. Trevor’s biological father was Swiss-German, and because of the apartheid laws, he wasn’t allowed to be seen with him in public. Hence, apart from the weekly visits to him, he didn’t know his father very well, which is all too common in this situation. Later on, he outlines how abusive his stepfather was, to the point of shooting his mother in a rage-filled attack. Again, domestic violence is a blight on the South African psyche, and a phenomenon all too common in the townships.

Which leads to the 3rd area where Trevor’s book strikes a nerve. He very rightly notes that resources for underprivileged people are essential for poverty alleviation. In the book, he takes the analogy of ‘Teach a man to fish’ one step further, by noting that, without a fishing rod, the man won’t be able to fish anyway. And he’s 100% correct. Previously disadvantaged people need resources AS WELL AS education in order to break the cycle of poverty. This will be the best way to achieve sustainable growth and a prosperous South Africa for all. Of course, that would mean that the ‘Haves’ will have to give to the ‘Have nots’ like never before, but that’s another story for another post.

All in all, it is a wonderful book that is an easy read, and gives you a fantastic insight into his life.

Read this book.

#NeneGate 1 year on…

It’s been a year since #NeneGate happened.

President Jacob Zuma. in a stunning attempt to capture the treasury, dismissed the Finance Minister, Nhlanhla Nene, and replaced him with the relatively unknown Des Van Rooyen. It is now known that the latter had visited the Gupta family for 7 consecutive days before his appointment, and the president – his ties to the Gupta family being undeniable – knew this. On that fateful Thursday, the economy took its biggest 1 day hit since the dawn of democracy, even eclipsing the fallout of the September 11 attacks and the 2008 Credit Crisis.

Thankfully, the heavy pressure, from all players, that followed this turn of events caused the president to reverse his decision, and reinstate Pravin Gordhan as Finance Minister just 4 days later. The economy has since held its own, and we have managed to evade a sovereign downgrade in the last 12 months under the Finance Minister’s leadership. This, of course, over and above the constant attempts to remove him through spurious means.

But, 1 year on, #NeneGate gave us an insight into how desperately the President wants to capture the state, and it gives us an indication of what is to come.

For one, his audacious move showed his hand in attempting to capture every part of the state in order to satisfy his every whim. He must have known that replacing the competent minister with someone who has had a poor track record in local government would have badly affected the markets. Yet, he acted as if this was a perfectly justifiable appointment, given the replacement’s academic credentials.

But the severe backlash in the days that followed demonstrated to the president that his power is not unfettered, and that the citizens are slowly taking an active role in holding him and his party to account. This was further evident in the poor showing of the ANC in August’s local government elections, and the losing of 3 key metros to the Democratic Alliance.

However, it doesn’t appear to look like the president has learnt from this lesson. Just over 3 months after #NeneGate, the Constitutional Court ruled against him in the matter of the usage of public funds for non-security upgrades to his Nkandla homestead. Given the fact that he knew of these upgrades, any leader worth his or her salt would admit to this grave error and resign.

But not our Jacob. On April 1, he stood up in front of the nation and gave what at best can be described as a crass apology. He managed to find the nearly R8 million he has to pay back, but even how he managed to secure a loan that big is shrouded in secrecy.

And it is these events that give us an indication of what might come. Very recently, the president survived a motion of no confidence from the National Executive Committee of the ANC (which I wrote about here), and this will surely empower him to act mercilessly against his detractors within the ANC and embolden his attempts to capture the last remaining vestagess of the state, thereby ensuring his political survival.

He is sure to use the ANC annual anniversary celebration, the January 8 statement, to outline just how he plans to enrich himself using the ANC, and then use the remaining part of January to position his pawns in the executive to key positions, as well as ejecting his naysayers from the cabinet. Finally, in the run up to the State of the Nation address in February, he will ensure that state institution heads will toe his line, thereby confirming his supposedly iron-clad grip on the state, to the detriment of the poor.

The chorus of opposition, in civil society, in the opposition benches in the National Assembly, and the veterans within the ANC, will continue to rise, and bring the nation to a watershed moment. And over the next 12 months, these 2 forces will heighten the battle royal for the soul of the nation.

There is an apt saying from the Cape Flats, “When 2 killers meet, one must die”. Let’s hope that democracy prevails, so that the struggle ensuring a better life for all South Africans can continue.