In the comment section of an article on the Gordhan matter yesterday, someone posted that the ANC took over a fully functioning country in 94 and have since been running it into the ground. This set me wondering whether my children, both born within a year of the handover, really grew up in a worse country than I did. Economically, socially and politically are we really worse off as a whole than we were in 1989?
Sure, many institutions we have taken for granted are in a state of collapse and for many communities and constituencies things must appear worse. The country is in a political mess and good people despair of there ever being an upturn in our country’s fortunes.
But, untainted by nostalgia, I tried to recall how functional the country I experienced actually was in 1990?
The Hawks are being used for malicious and underhand purposes, but is harassing Pravin Gordhan worse that what Dirk Coetzee and Eugene de Kock got up to at Vlakplaas with the Government’s approval?
When we fear what is becoming of our judicial system we should remember Judges like LC Steyn and the politicisation of the Bench and Attorneys General offices during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and how they used the law to further a extra-legal agenda.
When we rail against state capture and government corruption, we should recall the politicians who enriched themselves and their friends through white elephant projects like Mosgas or by disposing of our gold reserves in Switzerland. George airport was upgraded so that PW could travel conveniently to his home in Wilderness. Cabinet ministers would commander Air Force helicopters to take them, their families and their business connections hunting. Southern and Eastern Angola were stripped of hardwood timber and ivory with the spoils transported south by R-vehicles.
As a father and ex-SADF officer, I am pleased that my children do not have to spend two years after school doing military service. As an employer I am pleased that I don’t have to deal with every young man in my employ being away for 90 days every two years.
When I resent the racialisation of electoral politics by the president, I am grateful that the army and police are no longer being used by the state against its own citizens and polarising us on racial lines. And when they let loose as at Marikana, the press is allowed to report on it and it makes the headlines, unlike under the States of Emergency that gave security forces carte blanche and criminalised those that reported on the excesses.
Hlaudy does the president’s bidding at the SABC, but Piet Meyer was both head of the SABC and of the Broederbond. The Prime Minister did HIS bidding.
We are justifiably angry that a DA councilor got murdered in the Northern Cape, but should remember the thousands of political killings of the late Eighties that bordered on civil war.
When Malema campaigns on a nationalisation platform and we correctly worry about our security of title and make long term plans elsewhere, I wonder how people in District Six felt when government policy was to take their family homes from them, and the bulldozers arrived. Or when the Makuleke community was told in 1969 that their ancestral land was now part of Kruger and they will be “resettled” elsewhere. And the thousands of other communities and millions of people like them.
When we despair at the ineptitude and corruption of our sporting administrators and the impact it has on our national teams, we should remember the seven Olympic Games we missed and that Barry Richards only got to play four tests and Clive Rice none. Even if we had gone to the Olympics or played test cricket, Caster, Wayde van Niekerk and Kagiso Rabada would all have been unknown to us.
We are justifiably concerned about a ratings downgrade, but should remember that once we had NO access to global credit-lines. That in 1985 the government closed the Foreign Exchange markets and declared a debt standstill when we could not meet our commitments. Mortgage rates shot up to 25% with our home loan repayments virtually doubling in a year. No South African could invest off-shore and if you emigrated you could only take a portion of your assets out and you were locked in in the form of the “Financial Rand” which traded at a significant discount to the ZAR and reflected the true exchange rate.
We all got poorer during the 80s and at a far faster rate than we are now. We had no financial resources, the collapse of the Soviet bloc meant that we no longer could get the covert support of the US and UK. Economic sanctions were biting hard and our economy was entirely inward turned.
The ANC has taken credit for the armed struggle bringing down Apartheid but the reality is that a morally bankrupt system had financially bankrupted the country. It was this economic reality that brought about the change.
Yesterday and the recent elections gave momentum to people inside and outside the ANC who have turned against the corrupt government. We will all be optimistic until the next time. And then I hope to look at these random thoughts and console myself that we have been in a far worse place and got through it OK. So maybe we will again.
Perhaps the light at the end of the tunnel is not necessarily a train….
Thank you for helping me count my blessings