Mhambi has been redeployed.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Was I wrong about the Zunami?

Mhambi has gone on record a number of times that Jacob Zuma might be a better president than Mbeki. He would struggle to do worse. He is more approachable, direct and that he would be a better candidate for the South African poor, because he is left leaning.

Well, is the new ANC more left? Or are we due for some more talking left walking right?

Two recent pieces of commentary and the actions of the ANC themselves have made me have serious doubts.

John Kane-Berman said earlier this week that several commentators argued that the real opposition to the government now comes from within the ruling party, not from opposition parties.

"There is a grain of truth in this, but it is mainly nonsense.

...on matters of policy, the Mbeki government seldom faced much opposition from either his parliamentary caucus or his party at large. Former education minister Kader Asmal last year spoke out against President Robert Mugabe. This belated lone voice aside, Mbeki’s policy of appeasement towards Mugabe has all along had his party’s support. Steal elections, ruin the economy, destroy the rule of law, squash human rights and ruin lives — none of this stopped the ANC, taking its cue from Mbeki, from cheering Mugabe when he jetted into town.

Nor was there much dissent on AIDS. Mbeki flirted with dissident theories and employed an equally misguided health minister, but nobody in the ANC spoke out while they thus trifled with people’s lives.

No dissent either when the government stifled the probe into the 1999 arms deal by the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa). Scopa started off its probe in a non-partisan manner. Then Mbeki and the deputy president, Jacob Zuma, weighed in with the help of ANC chief whip Tony Yengeni and the acquiescence of the speaker, Frene Ginwala. Mbeki was not prepared to permit an independent investigation.

Nobody in the ANC was willing to stand up for the right — and duty — of Parliament to hold the executive branch of the government to account for its expenditure of the public’s money. Since holding the executive to account is a parliamentary function prescribed by the constitution, this means that the majority party’s willingness to stand up for the constitution is open to doubt.

Nor is there much prospect that anyone in the ANC will object to plans to destroy the independence of the Scorpions or to undermine that of the judiciary.

These are all matters of principle, not party-political issues. But there has been little dissent on key areas of policy either. This includes the pervasive policy of racial preferencing. If black empowerment policies have been criticised, it has been on the grounds that they benefit an elite rather than the poor.

In Beards only sign of a move to the left Aubrey Matshiqi agreed:

This shift to the left is supported neither by the resolutions of the ANC’s December conference nor by the content of the budget speech, unless an increase in social spending should be seen as the victory of Marxist-Leninist-Hugo Chavezist thought over Hugo Boss-inspired policy orientations.

In my view, any shift in the short term that may occur in the ANC’s economic policy trajectory will most likely fall within the 1996 macroeconomic paradigm. This flows from my belief that the clash between newly elected ANC president Jacob Zuma and former party head Thabo Mbeki was more about a rift within the establishment and less about tensions between the establishment and an anti-establishment impulse.

Further more, the forces that united behind Zuma’s presidential ambitions should not be given some mythical leftist agenda — the support for Zuma by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) had no ideological basis.

Zuma is much closer to Mbeki in ideological terms than he is to Zwelinzima Vavi of Cosatu and Blade Nzimande of the SACP. This is why he went to the World Economic Forum in Davos and told investors there would be no change in economic policy.

Aubrey is also concerned about the increase in the budget surplus because of unspent Government money.

"What I know is that I am less excited about the budget surplus than I was before. It seems a large chunk of the surplus comes from money that the government departments fail to spend.

...This is the same Parliament that has very little influence in determining budget priorities. The problem is that the budget continues to be the tail that wags the policy dog."

But the problem is of course that the government do not have the staff and the skills to implement their budget allocations. This will be a subject of another post of mine.

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