The Rex van Schalkwyk Files

This was sourced from South Africans in Sydney. There you can purchase the book by Rex van Schalkwyk.

One Miracle is Not Enough

Many of the constitutional principles adopted, and much of the political rhetoric, speak of a society truly committed to the democratic ideal. In New York to 'sell' South Africa to American investors, Cyril Ramaphosa pronounced South Africa one of the most politically stable countries in the world. 'We have one of the best and most stable democracies in the world, a government which cannot go wrong with its economic and political policies." Mr Ramaphosa's optimistic assessment was not shared by DRI/McGraw Hill, a US economic forecasting and consulting service, which ranked South Africa as the most precarious investment destination among the ten largest emerging markets in the world. Factors evaluated included government policies and political and economic risk.

One of the factors they might have considered was President Mandela's irrational outburst against what he called the conservative, white-controlled media. Repeating an accusation he had made earlier, he said again (in May 1997) that the media made use of black journalists to deflect accusations of racialism. 'The press is still controlled by white conservative proprietors who don't really share our aspirations. They find it very difficult, even when they are quite genuine, to articulate our aspirations. It is a great concern that an agency like the media should be controlled by a conservative white establishment. 12 Any foreigners who received this intelligence would be perplexed to learn that even white journalists who were 'quite genuine' had difficulty in articulating the aspirations of the ANC. What, they would wonder, had caused the 'difficulty'; and do the presidential sentiments not, in any case, amount to a veiled threat?

Three weeks later, when the SA National Editors' Forum met Mr Mandela, he repeated the same views. Black journalists, he said, wrote to please their 'old order' white editors and tended to highlight the shortcomings of the ANC and the government and said very little about their successes.' Various black journalists, aggrieved by these attacks, repudiated the charges, but this did not deter the president from repeating the same catalogue of mortification during his valedictory speech at the ANC congress at Mafeking in December 1997.He did, however, reserve special praise for the SABC. This type of political paranoia is a commonplace among authoritarian governments, which see only their own successes and are blind to their innumerable failures.

Criticism of this kind, coming from such a source, is an ominous straw in the wind and reflects an underlying contempt for die principle of a free press. In the world's truly stable democracies; those with which Ramaphosa had the audacity to compare South Africa, politicians are expected to tolerate strenuous and even virulent criticism without complaint. It is understood that a compliant or obsequious press is no friend of democracy.

The occasion selected by Mandela for his public criticism of the South African media could hardly have been less appropriate. It was at the end of a three-day state visit to Zimbabwe, whose president has mercilessly persecuted the free press and whose government has set up a state- controlled press to provide the nation with what President Mugabe and his government want them to hear. According to the journalist Dianna Gomes, Mandela's intemperate comments were well received by his Zimbabwean counterpart. 'The state-owned media took this as confirmation that newspapers that criticise presidents get what they deserve."

It is an unfortunate fact that Mandela is prone to political hyperbole and extravagant praise of undeserving African political figures. The occasion when, attempting to broker peace in Zaire, he described President Mobutu Sese Seko and the pretender to that sullied throne, Mr Laurent Kabila, as 'two of the greatest sons of Africa', will long be recalled for its grotesque, if unintended, parody.

The same lack of discrimination was evident during Mandela's state visit to Zimbabwe. Those who had expected him to lecture Harare's despotic rulers on the virtues of democracy were acutely disappointed. Instead, he was lavish in his praise for his hosts and blamed instead the 'embittered' South African ownership of the press for the bad publicity they received in South Africa. What were the facts? A few weeks before Mandela's arrival in Zimbabwe, the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace had released information which implicated Mr Mugabe and his associates in a 1980s campaign of mass murder and destruction in Matabeleland in an attempt to institute a one-party state. There was also the emerging scandal about presidential intervention in the award of a licence for a cellular phone service (see Chapter1), intended to benefit ministerial associates. In addition, it had recently been disclosed that much of the R200 million budgeted for those wounded during the Zimbabwean war had been looted by senior functionaries within the ruling Zanu-PF party. Was Mandela unaware of these things, and of the authoritarian rule of his host, as he showered praises upon Mugabe and his unworthy comrades?

Information Minister Jay Naidoo, who was part of the presidential entourage, used the occasion to promote the idea of an African news service: not, one would think, a bad idea, except that the motivation was bad. The African countries, he said, should wrest control of the media from services like the British Broadcasting Corporation, which did not see things Africa's way. That most enduring and celebrated of Africa's few democracies, Botswana, has recently proposed measures to bring its press to heel. Its draft Mass Media Bill would require all members of the media, including foreign journalists, to register with a state-appointed national press council, which would enforce regulations under threat of a fine or imprisonment. The bill would also require an 80% local shareholding of all media companies.' The immediate effect, if the bill were to become law, would be the forced sale or closure of the country's only two national newspapers, which are owned by a British businessman based in Botswana.` Is this yet another African attempt to temper an independent and sometimes 'hostile' press? Similar legislation has already been approved by the Swaziland cabinet.

What is it about Africa that makes it unwilling or unable to conform to the tenets of the democratic world? Why should Africa require a news service which 'sees things Africa's way'? And, in particular, what does it mean to see things Africa's way? Does it mean, as logic suggests, that there is a special or 'indigenous' way of seeing African affairs that is not susceptible to the analytical, critical and rational discourse that is the hallmark of the news service which Mr Naidoo would renounce? Is this merely another part of the phenomenon encountered in education and at the 'transformed' universities, where the maintenance of standards is repudiated as a Eurocentric device to undermine the process of transition?
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On Transformation

'In Africa', said a white industrialist, 'it is unwise to compete for political power. Just be there first to congratulate the winner.' 'And,' he might have added, 'be generous with your contributions.' This, one could say, represents the cynical or opportunistic view of the white man's role, although it is certainly one of the forces which enable the corrupt and inept governments of the continent to survive. The support of the government of President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire by successive American administrations is a striking example of how despots are helped to remain in power in exchange for economic and strategic benefits. 

There is, however, another force at work that contributes to the parlous state of public morality on this unfortunate continent. The 'sycophant's syndrome' determines that a barbarous act committed by a white is an abomination, the same conduct by a black, an excusable affliction. An authoritarian white government is fascist or Nazi, the same kind of government is a people's democracy when run by blacks. 

In his book The Wages of Guilt, Ian Buruma examines the nature of the guilt that afflicts individuals whose countrymen have committed atrocious deeds in warfare. He identifies the characteristic of intellectuals who have a tendency to wallow in remorse. A discussion between Gunter Grass and the Japanese novelist, Oe Kenzaburo, at the Frankfurt Book Fair of 1990 had these two intellectuals vying for the prize of the most depraved country. Each insisting that, on every topic discussed, his own was surely the worst! 

In 1990 that stalwart of the ANC, Dr Govan Mbeki, was invited to deliver the annual Richard Feetham Memorial Lecture on Academic Freedom at the University of the Witwatersrand. During his speech DR Mbeki referred to the need for mass education and training and said: 'It may therefore be that we need to re-open the discussion about the concepts of academic freedom and the autonomy of the university, so that no question should arise to suggest that we are pleading the cause of popular and democratic transformation as a means of limiting the legitimate democratic rights of the university.'
(Emphasis added). 

This obscure message was meant to convey that the universities were to be transformed to cater for the needs of 'mass education and training' and that, lest the 'legitimate democratic rights of the university' be violated in the process, it was necessary first to reopen the debate, on academic freedom and the autonomy of the university. In simple terms, therefore, if the university first abandons its uncompromising commitment to these two values and comes up with something less demanding, there will be no principle left to be offended by the demands of transformation. 
I was taught , by the same university, that academic freedom and university autonomy were the essence without which no institution

could legitimately claim to be a university. The Richard Feetham lecture ends with the reaffirmation of a dedication which is enshrined

on a plaque outside the university's Great Hall. The dedication contains a commitment 'faithfully to defend' the ideal of university autonomy 'against all who have sought by legislative enactment to curtail (it)'. With greater foresight, the authors of this pledge would have anticipated the future and they might, in addition, have amended the dedication to read: 'by legislative or other means'.

If the veiled threat delivered by Mbeki had been made, say, in 1966 by Prime Minister John Vorster, it would have initiated a howl of protest. As it is, the quite outrageous suggestion made on an occasion so utterly inappropriate, provoked only polite reproof from the Wits vice-chancellor, Professor Robert Charlton. In an article titled 'Don't force Wits to suffer Galileo's fate, DR Mbeki', the vice-chancellor made it clear that he agreed with much of what Mbeki had had to say but expressed the hope that, on coming to power, the ANC would resist the temptation 'felt by governments all over the world' to attempt to 'bend the university to its will'.' 

It is clear that if you have numbers on your side it is unnecessary to resort to 'legislative enactment' to bend the university to your will. The university's will can be bent if you take control of its instruments of authority. That is the process which we have witnessed during the past few years. First the ANC and its supporters took control (as activists are wont to do) of the Student's Representative Council and obtained, in this way, a radical voice on the University Council. Next the demand was pressed, and acceded to, that the workers on campus should have a voice on the governing body of the university. All the while the demand for the transformation of the university became ever more strident. On 25 August 1993, Sasco issued an ultimatum to the university administration to meet its demands or face 'further mass action'. The first demand was that the University Council was to be dissolved to make way for a 'representative transformation forum'. The other was that the university was to 'withdraw' an interdict which restrained the organisation from engaging in 'disruptive activities'. The purpose of this second demand, no doubt, was to enable Sasco to engage in such activities without restraint. When the ultimatum was issued, Sasco had already engaged in class boycotts and demonstrations as a result of which a lecture theatre in the central block had been set on fire, causing extensive damage .

One of the components of the campaign for transformation has been the demand that the university should abandon its Eurocentric pretensions and become more relevant to its African environment. The exact nature of this demand has never been defined. It is obvious that no society, let alone a university, can function without Eurocentric mathematics, science, medicine, engineering and their related disciplines. A Eurocentric system of law, while not entirely indispensable, is an important component of any ordered, modern society. And what of commercial skills like accountancy and economics, for which there is no African equivalent? We arc left then with the humanities: art, literature, music, history and philosophy. There is no doubt that African culture can play a very significant role in enriching the lives of all who live on this continent and beyond, but it seems xenophobic and excessive to abandon Shakespeare, Yeats, Mozart and Handel for Credo Mutwa, Ben Okri and Shiva Naipaul. Why it should be felt that one discipline should be abandoned while another is embraced is hard to understand. The ,universal' concept of a university has within it more than enough room to accommodate every legitimate pursuit. The unfortunate impression is that some black students are unable to meet the traditional criteria of a university and so the criteria must be changed to suit the perceived skills of the students.

The search for simplicity

The government and the ANC are on the horns of a dilemma. They represent a constituency of the victims of appalling systematic discrimination, who now look to the government to make things better. The people are impatient because they have already borne more than anyone can be expected to endure. They require a deliverance which none except the government can be expected to provide. How will these people respond to the further deprivation which a meaningful reduction of taxes could be expected to cause? To fulfill its social promises, the government needs more money, not less, and it needs it now.

There is a tragic inevitability about the course we are bound to pursue. When the government is compelled to make hard choices between the values of Adam Smith and the demands of an impatient and deprived constituency; it is certain to chose the latter. The problem, for the government, is that it can no longer treat its most productive citizens as tax- paying slaves. Hundreds of thousands of South Africans have already left this country and a great many of them have taken all their wealth with them, exchange control regulations notwithstanding. The cost to the state in lost skills and money is beyond reckoning. This process will accelerate as the problems that will arise from wrong policy decisions become ever more intractable. Simultaneously, computer technology and the anonymity of electronic money will facilitate the movement of wealth across international borders.

In their book The Sovereign Individual, James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg suggest that money is becoming 'tax free'. Individuals who generate wealth are able to 'privatise' themselves as they become citizens of the world. The result of this is that many of the costly activities now undertaken by the state will, in time, become impossible to finance. The social welfare state will become, whatever the intention of politicians, an unattainable indulgence.

Without money, political activity will become an anachronism. Events will eventually force the change to small and unobtrusive government. The free individual will begin to assert himself and in this way circumstances will contrive to deliver society of that scourge of the twentieth century, the professional politician. According to Davidson and Rees-Mogg, the instrument of social cohesion in the new millennium may be nothing more than the commercially driven &city state', each of them catering in its own way to the diverse needs of human nature.

What are the chances that the ANC will voluntarily relinquish the excessive, centralised control which it now commands? The answer, one fears, is none at all. For the ANC and its supporters, accession to power represented much more than just a change of government. It was a release from bondage and a redemption from centuries of oppression. It was also the first opportunity for the black man to assert himself in the land of his birth. Such emotional responses are unlikely to capitulate before the forces of reason. The centrist tendencies of the ANC are so strong that it has even been suggested that Parliament itself is in danger of becoming nothing more than a rubber stamp, with all significant executive and legislative programmes decided by the Cabinet.


One almost longs for the self-denial of an authentic old communist like Joe Slovo. With all the rigours of his Marxist-Leninist pedigree, albeit latterly corrupted by a free-market expediency, it was he who first warned against the temptation of what has long since become a tiresome South African cliché: the gravy-train. It is certain, however, that even he would not have commanded the moral authority to stem the tide. After all, Mandela is himself a paragon of virtue and frequently leads by example. The trouble is, his disciples do not always care to follow.

Now for the rub: amid the most pernicious epidemic of lawlessness, the most fearful spectre of a society destined for anarchy, South African Police Services (SAPS) announces a moratorium on the employment of new recruits. This is a service already short of personnel and about to be overwhelmed by the forces of chaos. The reason for this extraordinary decision is that there is no money.

Is this a government that serves the interests of people of South Africa? Can a government so at odds with what the population requires be called democratic? What we have in fact is a self-serving oligarchy. We have had democratic elections (which if Judge Johann Kriegler's assessment is accepted, were more or less free and fair); we have a majority government that will probably be re-elected time and again. But we do not have democracy. One of the principles of every mature democracy is accountability. This is certainly not confined to the sometimes fictional accountability of the periodic general election.

Accountable government means that those who presume to govern must be seen to be responsible and honourable. If not, the chief executive is bound,on behalf of the electorate, to exercise his prerogative of dismissal. Does anyone suppose that the health minister's profligacy with public money or the deputy speaker of Parliament's fake driver's licence or the wayward conduct of the minister of justice would have survived the principle of accountability within, say, the Westminster system? Failure to take action against them is evidence that they are in office not to do an honourable job, but as a reward for past party loyalty.

Mr Justice Richard Goldstone once expressed the view that South Africa had the most advanced constitution in the whole world. That may well be. In theory we may be the freest, the most equal, the most cared for and the least threatened of all our species upon this planet. In reality we. are probably the most unequal (and becoming more so), the most endangered, the most stressed (living as we do in a form of self-imposed imprisonment), the most abused and the least well governed of all the countries that presume to call themselves democratic. Like our politicians, our constitution is not in touch with the lives of ordinary people. This is the reason why civilians complain, with justification, that criminals have greater rights than themselves. If a rapist should infect his victim with the AIDS virus he, while in prison, has a constitutional right to receive an expensive (R2 000 a month) treatment, but his victim has no such right. If a bank robber and his victims should be injured during the commission of the robbery, the arrested robber will receive first-class medical treatment at the taxpayers' expense at, for example, Johannesburg's Garden City Clinic (a private institution); his victims will have to fend for themselves.

Our people are cosseted by the unrealistic aspirations of the 'world's best constitution', which includes as one of its curious provisions, at odds with its generally libertarian philosophy, a clause which proscribes 'hate speech'. Although it is formulated as a prohibition it actually creates a most unusual right: the right to be not offended. An example of the absurd lengths to which this right might be taken occurred in the US in 1995 when Thomas Wallace of Omaha initiated a $40 million lawsuit against the publisher of a computer disc encyclopaedia because it contained a reference to the word 'nigger' .

In his book Dictatorship of Virtue, Richard Bernstcin postulates an extraordinary tyranny: the tyranny of virtue. Those who impose upon society rules for politically correct behavior or speech or prohibit, according to their definition, 'hate speech , are engaging in a form of tyranny, no less than all the tyrants of old. Of course, the modern tyrant would justify his tyranny upon the basis that 'this time we are right'. But isn't that what tyrants have always believed?

At the heart of Bernstein's analysis of academic intolerance in the US one finds the perceived villain of all that is wrong with that society; culturally, socially and historically: the white male. The cause which is promoted by the new breed of academic tyrant is that of 'cultural relativism': the tendency to diminish and even to demean the cultural and literary role of 'Eurocentric' writers and thinkers such as Goethe and Shakespeare and promote instead the process of 'indigenous' culture. In the process history is rewritten and at times perverted. All of this is done to create an environment which is more 'culturally sensitive' to the requirements of the disadvantaged community.

Like the Harvard professor who said 'the pain that racial insensitivity can create is more important than a professor's academic freedom', they know that they are engaging in tyranny. The difference is that this time they know that they are right.

The economy

When President Mandela insulted his US benefactors with the comment that their aid package to South Africa was 'peanuts' he did more than betray gross insensitivity and ingratitude. He articulated the expectation of entitlement which now permeates the black community.

The origin of this mentality is perhaps to be found in the perception that the West, or at least the colonial powers of the West (and the US on account of the slave trade) had built their present wealth at the expense of colonised Africa and that the aid which now cast them as benefactors is nothing more than the belated and insignificant repayment of a long- overdue debt. Mr Mandela said as much when he addressed the Southern Africa Economic Summit Meeting in Harare on 21 May 1997. The West, he said, was 'obliged' to invest in southern Africa because of the 'brutal exploitation' of the region by the colonial powers, which had 'robbed' it of its resources. The support of international companies, he said, was 'not a question of charity, but because we are entitled to it. It is absolutely necessary for industrial countries to act on that basis." (Emphasis added).

There is, of course, no doubt that colonial exploitation took place, just as there is no doubt that the colonists brought with them formal education, literacy, numeracy, clinical medicine, formal legal structures, water-borne sewerage, water reticulation, communications, electricity, motorised transport and the homes and cities which the anti-colonists inhabit to-day. Great wrongs have been committed throughout history and time has taught that some of the most beneficent results have flowed from the most unexpected sources. Where and how to attribute right and wrong in the debate on colonialism is a matter which will require great forbearance and even greater wisdom. The industrialists listening to Mandela's speech might cynically have reflected that all the discernible material progress ever made in southern Africa is attributable to the cause which the sub-continent so reviles.

From a purely practical point of view it makes no sense to harangue those from whom favours are sought. The better option is not to seek reward by way of favour but out of respect. The business of investment is money and money understands only one reward: profit. Show an international investor the prospect of a good profit in a secure environment and the investment is assured. It is the failure to grasp this simple principle, and to act accordingly, that is responsible for much of the economic and other hardship which continues to be experienced by millions of South Africans after nearly four years of democratic government. Mandela's appeal to sentiment and guilt is far more likely to have a counter-productive effect upon those with billions to invest. It is impossible to recall a single case in which private institutions have invested billions out of a sense of guilt. Even the Marshall Plan, which was initiated by the US government, had at its core the principle of enlightened self-interest.

Consider the hard-nosed industrialist from, say, Alabama, who listens to Mandela's speech and then says to himself. 'If this is the best he can tell me about investment in South Africa, he cannot have very much to sell'. That would seem the most likely response to the president's oration.


The vision and courage required to reform our economy are absent, as the nearly-inert machinery of state attempts to tinker with various systems and institutions in a way which will give least offence to its socialist and communist partners and its own egalitarian inclinations. What the government is attempting is an economic compromise; what is required is an economic revolution. One is driven to the melancholy conclusion that the history of this country has conspired to ensure an unfavourable result. The ANC is, at its core, a left-wing, socialist organisation and it is easy to see why. A history of deprivation, struggle and ultimate liberation was bound to produce that result. Even those who have begun to experience the benefits of free enterprise have a profound appreciation of the danger of moving too far away from their constituency and will, so long as they participate actively in politics, retain their socialist affinities. On economic issues, when the government is forced to make hard choices as it will be compelled to do, it is bound to make the wrong ones.

International finance is well enough aware of this fact. The socialist exploitation of the ratepayers of Sandton referred to in Chapter 2 (and soon to spread to many other ANC-dominated municipalities as well) represents the ANC in action. The rest is, in reality, windowdressing. The reluctance with which adjustments have been made is illustrated by former Gauteng premier Tokyo Sexwale: 'We had to do something which, in the history of our struggle, was almost anathema to us: privatisation. We realised that, sooner or later, if we were not going to drink this stringent medicine ourselves someone would compel us to do it.

When the ANC speaks not of 'stringent medicine' but from the heart, its true purpose becomes clear. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which reduces to 45 the number of hours an employee "be required to work each week while simultaneously increasing the cost of overtime, was justified by Labour Minister Tito Mboweni on the principle of social justice: 'Certainly, the Bill will shorten the working day. Those companies that require longer hours must make arrangements to hire more workers. The Bill will also increase the cost of overtime pay. The reason? So firms will make arrangements to hire more workers."

Of such economic wisdom are the policy decisions of the government made. Mr Mboweni does, however, understand social morality. He insists that legislation such as the Employment Bill will keep the ANC true to its election promises, an issue upon which one would not enter into dispute with the minister.


On 3 June 1997 it was reported that the South African engineering company Dorbyl had taken the extraordinary decision to dose its bus building plant and relocate the operation to India because the escalation of its labour costs had made the project unprofitable. 12 There are many other examples of lost opportunities, or opportunities never taken, because of the belligerence and intransigence of organised labour in South Africa. The cost to the country, in money and lost employment, is incalculable.

That view is, however, not shared by Glenn Adler, a senior lecturer in sociology at Wits and a part-time senior researcher at Naledi, a research unit linked to Cosatu. Using the 1994 household survey of the Central Statistical Survey he demonstrates that, as a determinant of income, unionisation has less effect than education and far less effect than race, 'which continues to remain the most powerful' factor in the determination of income. As an example he shows that 'less educated' whites who are not members of unions have monthly incomes of R1 838, while black unionists with secondary education or more earn a monthly income of only R1 305, a difference in favour of the less educated whites of 29%. He also points out that while all white workers live in formal housing, nearly 25% of black workers live. in shacks or hostels. 'All white workers live in homes with two more rooms and two fewer people than their black counterparts'.

With these facts and statistics, Mr Adler seeks to undo the 'neoliberal' thesis of a 'labour aristocracy'. Without doing violence to his arguments his basic contention can be stated in this way: How can it be suggested that there is a labour aristocracy in South Africa if the statistics prove that the non-unionised and under-educated white earns more than the unionised and educated black? Well, of course, compared to his white counterpart the unionised black worker is not an aristocrat, but compared to the five million unemployed blacks, he is. The ideal must surely be the creation of equal opportunities in the work place. It is easy to understand the resentment of an educated black worker who earns less and lives in squalor, compared to his less-educated white counterpart, but the practical question is how the objective of sustainable equal opportunities is to be achieved. Any solution which seeks an 'instant' answer and which addresses only the powerful emotional issues raised by Adler will, in the long term, turn out to be only a palliative. No permanent solutions can be based upon the inclination to make people 'feel good'.

The solution proposed by Adler is to tax the rich. According to the South Africa Foundation, the richest 10% of the South African population have average incomes 67 times as high as the poorest 20%. The suggested de-regulation of labour would, according to Adler, 'merely re-arrange limited resources among the underprivileged'. To address 'the real causes of people's distress', there is '[a] need for other adjustments, such as redressing the racial division of labour and redistribution from the richest 10% of the population' .

What Adler overlooks is that people have become less and less the 'prisoners' of their country of domicile. The most mobile of all are precisely the 10% whom he seeks to target. It has been calculated that there are billions of rands held illegally by this group, in accounts abroad. They are wealthy because, despite the strictures of Pallo Jordan (see Chapter 11), they have made it their business to be wealthy. Meddlers with socialist inclinations can be sure that they want to keep it that way, as the flight, of money and skills from this country attests. Adler's solution will impoverish the country and ensure minimal investment in the future. However unpalatable it may be, the rich have to be courted. One wonders whether Adler has even considered the reason for the paradox that South Africa, a country strapped for cash, is currently devising means whereby its citizens can freely transfer their money abroad. It all has to do with the confidence of investment. Money does not come in readily if it is perceived that there are individuals who would take their money out, if only they could.

The facts of economic life are uncompromising, unsentimental and remorseless. There is no surer way of further impoverishing the poor than by making the rich feel unwelcome. This principle has been demonstrated in practice so often and so convincingly that it would not bear repetition in any rational discourse.


Perhaps the most sinister form of entitlement arises from the moral inflexibility of those who were previously disadvantaged and the monopoly on right, asserted by them. In an outrageous example of corruption and cronyism a Liberian with dubious credentials was awarded a R3 million a year consultant's contract by the Central Energy Fund. This largesse was dispensed upon the recommendation of the chairman of the CEF, Don Mkhwanazi, without tender and with no reference to the responsible minister .21 In his response to the predictable public outrage, Mr Mkhwanazi retorted that the award of the contract had been questioned because it had been awarded by a black chairman of a black board of directors to a black company. A similar charge of racialism was elicited from President Mandela when he was criticised by opposition parties for having bestowed South Africa's highest civilian award, the Order of Good Hope, on Libya's Colonel Mu'ammar AI-Gaddafi and Indonesia's President Suharto.

 The entitlement of right is encountered in various forms and its most enduring characteristic is that it cannot be engaged in rational debate. Those who assert this right are deaf to the voice of reason.

... on the judiciary

In the pre-affirmative action era judges were (mostly) experienced and (sometimes) competent jurists. Whatever the public, or the judges themselves, may think, a judge is not a font of wisdom or an infallible repository of virtue. Fallible, frail, conceited and bombastic would be a more accurate description of the characteristics of many of those who presume to sit in judgement of others. The ambivalence of personal morality was aptly described by Albert Camus in his epic monologue The Fall. 'It's not at all surprising that minds are confused and that one of my friends, an atheist when he was a model husband, was converted when he became an adulterer? Camus also issues this warning about those who are consumed by social conscience: 'Too many people have decided to do without generosity in order to practise charity.

Any system which entrusts its outcomes to the virtue of individuals will inevitably experience betrayal. A judiciary is a system of rules and ethics, devised through the ages to restrain and accommodate the baser human instincts. For all its authority and also because of that authority, it is a fragile institution, easily corrupted and once corrupted not easily redeemed. For this reason it is critical to' 'nurture the ethos of the judiciary, to recognise that the principles of the common law are rooted in centuries of experience and that human nature essentially has not changed in all that time. If the rules are obeyed and the institution respected the judges, whatever their individual qualities, will perform their duties tolerably and sometimes even brilliantly. If, however, the institution is reviled and its rules subverted, it will not be saved by the creation of a cult of personality, which will more likely hasten its undoing.


In 1995 the Department of Education undertook a programme known as 'right-sizing'. It was perceived that the education departments in the Western Cape and Gauteng had a pupil/teacher ratio more favourable than that of the other provinces. The result was a rationalisation programme. Teachers in those two provinces were given a choice: they could relocate to an area where their skills were needed or they could accept a severance package. In fact there was a shortage of teachers throughout the country. Even in the Western Cape and Gauteng the pupil/teacher ratio was unacceptably high and certainly much too high for the demands of an inter- active curriculum; the difference was that these two provinces were less badly off than the others. The solution, in the wisdom of the government, was to make them as badly off and to spend hundreds of millions to achieve this perverse result.

Alister Sparks, normally sympathetic to the ANC, was moved to express his dismay: 'The Education Department's policy of encouraging the retrenchment of schoolteachers is one of the most bizarre acts of self- immolation that it is possible to imagine. Here is a country which desparately needs teachers, perhaps more urgently than anything else, yet it has just retrenched 12 000 of the best of them - and is set to lay off thousands more in the course of this year. This is sheer madness. It is rather like a man in the desert dumping his water bottles to lighten his load."

Because the size of the severance packages was determined according to the number of years the teachers had been employed by, the department, the option to go was made most attractive to those with the greatest experience. Many school principals and their deputies opted to leave. The 'right-sizing' also did not take account of possible future demographic trends. In Gauteng, 80 000 new pupils moved into the province's schools just as the teachers were moving out. The result was that at some schools education practically ground to a halt.' In the Western Cape, provincial education MEC Martha Olckers announced that the province would be required to re-hire 3 000 teachers, after 6 000 had been retrenched during 1996.


Black children, who have been subjected to generations of inferior teaching, start with a huge disadvantage. Collectively their performance will be significantly eclipsed by that of their white counterparts. These, unpalatable as they may be, are the facts. The issue is how best to remedy the discrepancy. It is a problem of such magnitude that it requires a special national effort to address the imbalance in the shortest possible time. The employment of more, highly qualified teachers, extra and remedial classes to which there should be no stigma attached, weekend and vacation schools and every other device known to the education authorities should be employed to redress this academic inferiority. To call it by a different name would be deceitful and yet, that is what the education authorities propose. The problem is a refusal to face facts. If the facts are not confronted it becomes impossible to devise an appropriate remedy; let alone to implement one. Curriculum 2005, which proposes to treat excellence and failure alike, is really an elaborate smoke-screen behind which the tragedy of academic inferiority is to be hidden. As in the case of the department's misconceived 'right-sizing' programme, the education of all will be sacrificed to the ideology of the few.

In an article on outcomes-based education, journalist Stephen Mulholland focused upon its repudiation of the concept of failure. One is not tested but 'assessed' and no-one fails. Progress is made according to the skills and maturity of the pupil assessed. There are, it seems, many fine and innovative principles involved in this new approach to teaching. The abolition of rote learning in respect of certain topics would be a progressive step, although the important educative function of self-discipline and memory-training should not be overlooked. One thing, however, is clear: an education system designed to shield schoolchildren from the harsh effects of unequal competition and which seeks an 'equality of outcome' is a poor form of preparation for the hardships of life. Mr Mulholland says: 'Failing is part of life. Overcoming failure helps us to grow and achieve. We need to be exposed to the realities of life, not insulated from them.'

The scourge of the motorcade

Minister of Health Nkosazana Zuma was unrepentant when summoned before a parliamentary committee to explain unauthorised expenditure of R14 million on an abortive 'AIDS awareness' play entitled Sarafina II. She lectured the committee about the scourge of AIDS but treated with contempt the real purpose of the meeting, which centred on the accountability of officials for the way in which they spend public funds.
The ANC members of the committee had, according to The Star correspondent Patrick Bulger, 'been primed to refrain from asking anything that resembled a probing question'. Less generous were the European Union donors of the misappropriated funds. They wanted their money back. Not to be, outdone, Ms Zuma soon announced that an anonymous donor, an extraordinary private benefactor, had volunteered to pick up the tab for this thespian flop. It was an act of such exceptional benevolence that a public enquiry was promptly called for. Enter the public protector, Selby Baqwa. He conducted an independent enquiry, in private out of respect for the preferred anonymity of the donor who, he concluded had good reason for his coyness but no ulterior motive in having made his generous offer. Such donations, Mr Baqwa added as an afterthought, should in future not be made or accepted secretly,
The history of Africa is replete with examples of corruption avid abuse of power. When Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe married his secretary he gave a R3 million wedding party. Where did this politician get that kind of money? A cell-phone contract was awarded by the Zimbabwean government to a company of which Mr Mugabe's nephew is a director and the unsuccessful tender was ordered to dispose of R100 million worth of equipment in a fire sale, for which there was apparently only one buyer.

In May 1996, Mugabe's armed escorts were reported to have terrorised rush- hour motorists in Harare when a guard shot out the tyres of a private motorist who had not pulled off the road quickly enough. The incident happened in Chancellor Avenue. According to eye-witnesses the motorist appeared to think that the motorcade speeding behind him would pass through the traffic lights in the direction of State House, Mugabe's residence. Instead, the motorcade followed the luckless motorist into Chancellor Avenue and one of the presidential guards leaned out of a vehicle and fired at least two shots at the tyres of his car. Chancellor Avenue, which is closed to private vehicles from dusk to dawn, has been the scene of a number of presidential slaughters: since independence, five people have been killed or wounded by Mugabe's guards in that street.
In 1995 Madikizela-Mandela, who once accepted an invitation from the New York-based New Future Foundation to be installed as the First Lady of South Africa and queen of all the people of African ancestry, was summonsed to pay a debt of R53 000 owed to an air charter company for the hire of a Lear Jet. The debt, she protested, was not hers; the company should look instead to the Co-ordinated Anti-Poverty Programme to recover the cost of her executive flight to Luanda.

Politicians have an insatiable appetite for self-aggrandisement, demonstrated once again in the grotesque self-importance of US President Bill Clinton on his recent visit to Africa, with an entourage of 1100. There is serious doubt whether this junket will have achieved any tangible results, except, perhaps, for diverting attention from Mr Clinton's apparent sexual proclivities. As a media event, however, it succeeded grandly. Few people around the informed world will remain unaware of his safari. The question is: So what? There is nothing that may have been achieved by this publicity that could not have been achieved more effectively and very much more economically by other means. One infallible rule about politics and politicians was demonstrated, however: they are hugely inefficient and vastly over-priced. But these self-indulgent adventurers art seldom, if ever, subjected to the critical cost-benefit analysis is that their conduct should provoke. The modern politician rules by a form of unquestioned authority that is today's equivalent of the Divine Right of Kings.

Affirmative action

In September 1996, Defence Minister Joe Modise's wife was given the rank of general and appointed South African Defence Force (SADF) communications chief. For several months after her appointment she did not actually fill her post because she was undergoing a junior staff training course. Should not the minister's wife at least have been required to complete her junior staff training course before being made a general? Military nepotism as a form of affirmative action reached its nadir in the Transkei, Ciskei and Venda shortly before re-incorporation into South Africa. Not one of their armies could boast a single private soldier. They had, however, respectively 3 333, 1645 and 1187 officers.'

The Saturday Star reported on 5 April 1997 that there was 'chaos' at the Johannesburg planning department. 'Bureaucratic bungling' and 'staffin incompetence' had delayed projects by up to seven months. One developer had been compelled to retrench 28 employees whom she could no longer afford to keep on her payroll. A builder from Boksburg had said that many staff in the planning department were ,out of their depth'. They were only able to perform specific tasks. 'As soon as there is a problem and they are required to do something out of their normal sphere, things go wrong.' The article did not say so, but these problems were attributable to the inexperience of affirmative action appointees. An architect (also unnamed) said that while he accepted the need for restructuring of the departments, ,not even the basics' were covered. 'Even a simple task., like retrieving a plan, was turned into a nightmare.

An employee unequal to his task can easily become demoralised; either that or resort to dishonesty and vandalism. This is what happened in the cases of the undelivered mail. In September 1997 an attempt was made in Krugersdorp to sell two tons of unopened mail as scrap paper. The prospective purchaser reported the matter to the authorities and the culprits were exposed. There have been innumerable instances of unopened and opened mail found in dustbins, drains and rubbish dumps. Reports of theft of postal items are legion and few in South Africa will not have experienced the frustration of mail which is either undelivered, or delivered several weeks or months late. In November 1996 it was reported that post office employees had sold two tons of unopened mail as scrap paper and that 'thousands' of other postal items had been burned or destroyed by disgruntled workers who were engaged in 'protest action'. It was reported from Bryanston that employees had smashed doors, trashed offices, and emptied 'hundreds of letters' from sorting trays on to fires which they had started .

This behaviour is symptomatic of people without a sense of duty and with no understanding of the reciprocal nature of the employment contract; of people, in short, who regard employment as an unqualified right. It is a mentality that is fostered when employment does not have to be earned but comes instead as a form of protected bounty, provided by an accommodating government and an assertive trade union. This behaviour is all the more aberrant in view of the millions of unemployed people who would be very grateful for a postman's job, if only they could get one.

A US expert and head of Project Research has a captivating definition of affirmative action. It is, he says, 'as simple as doing business the right way'.

It is doubtful whether state attorney Fanie Swanepoel and his 15 colleagues, all victims of the affirmative action program of the ministry of justice, would agree. Mr Swanepoel and his colleagues (all white males) had accumulated experience with the state attorney's office of between four and 21 years each. They had previously been identified as candidates for promotion because of the quality of their work. Thirty senior posts were advertised for which they all applied. They were not even called before the selection panel. Instead, one woman, Gadija Behardien who had only one year's experience with the state attorney and a total of only four years' experience in the practice of law, was appointed to the senior position of deputy state attorney; an appointment for which her two male counterparts had a total of 39 years' experience between them. The only two others considered for this position were female. Other positions advertised were allocated to blacks, women and disabled people.

The aggrieved white males brought an application before the Supreme Court in Pretoria and, in what amounted to a Pyrrhic victory, they were vindicated. Mr Justice Swart held that the applicants had been the victims of an unfair discrimination. The justice department had applied affirmative action without any discernible rationale and had acted unconstitutionally. Because of the pending court application only four appointments had been made; the remaining posts had been frozen pending the outcome of the application. The justice department was ordered to consider applicants for the 30 posts irrespective of race, religion or gender. The decision of the minister of justice to make appointments without regard to the provisions of the Public Service Act was set aside. Despite the judgement, a policy document from the department was circulated which set out an 'action plan' for the appointment of personnel. The document, released on 26 February 1997, revealed that there were various vacant posts in the office of the state attorney. The document set out the objective that by 1999 'the nine approved posts of state attorney should be occupied by four blacks, three women and two whites'. The plan also revealed that of the 265 state advocate posts in existence nationally, only 65 could remain in the hands of whites. At that time 174 of those posts were held by whites.

Spokesman for die minister of justice Paul Setsetse said that the department's affirmative action policy was not aimed at jeopardising the careers of individuals and conveyed the minister's assurance that 'there was a future for whites in the department'.

For white male employees of the department it took no genius to sec that there was in fact no future. This disadvantaged group then did the sensible thing and asked to be released; 173 white justice department officials requested voluntary severance of their employment. Only one of these applicants was successful. Those whose requests had been refused were given no specific reasons except that there 'was no benefit to the state' in their release. One of the frustrated applicants commented, 'they will not give us! deserved promotions but they will not let us leave the employ of the state'. Of course the department cannot afford to lose the skills of so many well-trained lawyers. They must be there to do their work and the work of the unskilled new appointees and also to provide on the job training for those who are, or will shortly be, their bosses. In this way the minister has contrived to create a new underclass: the slaves of the new democracy.

The above was sourced from South Africans in Sydney. There you can purchase the book by Rex van Schalkwyk.