Friday, 11 May 2012
A Simple Example Of Communal Decline in South Africa
A Letter From South Africa by Jim Peron (September 1998)
Die, the Beloved Country
When a country begins sliding into oblivion it really is the little things that get to you. You wake up in the morning and turn to see what time it is. The clock is off. The electricity is off again. Sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for a few hours, but it seems to happen more regularly than before.
You pick up the phone at work to make a call. Nothing. Your neighborhood is without telephone service again. You breathe a sigh of relief—at least if all the phones are out, they'll do something relatively soon to fix it. If it's just your own line, it can take days before they'll do anything.
After the power comes on, you turn on the television to watch a favorite program, and hope you get the right sound with the right picture. Sometimes you get the sound of one show with the picture of another. Sometimes it's just the one or the other. Or a radio station instead of the soundtrack. You've read the papers—a large number of the "old" employees have walked out of the broadcasting studios. They couldn't take it anymore. And since television is an arm of the government, their replacements are appointed politically, not because of their experience or ability.
You drive home after going out for dinner. Entire neighborhoods are without street lights. Well, to be more accurate they are without lights that work. And the lights have been out for months. The city has said it won't fix them.
These are the little things in South Africa today. These are the things that annoy. The big things are too frightening even to consider.
For two years I couldn't get a water/electricity/tax bill from the city of Johannesburg. Water and electricity are socialist enterprises here. I didn't have an account number, nor did I know how much to pay. I tried calling the bureaucrats, but no help there: they said they'd get back to me, but they didn't.
On September 25th, they showed up to turn off my electricity for failure to pay. The city workers refused to show identification, wouldn't say whose account they were turning off, and wouldn't show any legal authorization to do so. In fact, they told me they didn't have to speak a language I understood (English). I called the police. I have a videotape of these civil servants telling me they aren't obligated to identify themselves, and that if I refused to allow them on the property they had the right to tear down my gate. When I asked one of them for anything that would show them to be city workers, he replied, "This isn't America you know." I know! I know!
I told him, "It's not Nazi Germany, either." He later chastised me for running down "Nazi Germany." "I'm sorry," I said, "I didn't realize you were a Nazi."
I went to the city hall and waited hours for someone to see me. I was finally told to make a plan to pay the account. I was willing. I had R7,000 (7,000 rand) cash on me. But the bureaucrats wouldn't let me pay or make a plan. They had forgotten to transfer the account to my name, you see; it was still in the old owner's name and the bill was going to the wrong address. I was ordered to wait until they changed it over and sent me a statement.
I pay a R700 deposit and go. Two days later they turn on the electricity. Two months later, and still no statement has arrived. I call and call. "I'll call you back," they say. They don't. I keep calling. Finally I get a sour bureaucrat who tells me I'll have to pay R9,000 immediately and the rest over six months. I asked about the year payment plan. That was discontinued in November. "But I wanted to pay in October and you people wouldn't let me," I protest. "That's your problem," she says.
Back at city hall, I see another woman who spends the entire time screaming at everyone who comes near her. She screams in the phone. She screams at the switchboard for "bothering" her with phone calls. She informs me that it's my obligation to pay my account whether or not the city sends me a statement. It doesn't matter if I don't know the amount owed. It doesn't matter if I don't have an account number to which the money is to be credited. My obligation is to pay an unknown sum into an unknown account, and if I don't get it right they'll turn off my electricity.
I got off relatively easy, though. Today's newspaper told of one man who received an account for R500,000 in water use. The man owns a well and doesn't even use city water. When he went in to talk to the bureaucrats, they were very sympathetic. They told him to pay 50 percent now or have his electricity cut off.
The Rise of Violence
Recently, I went into a print shop to get some flyers printed. The woman there was quite pleasant and we talked about the short blackout that day. She asked what I was doing in South Africa and told me that she and her family want to flee. Her family originally immigrated from India; like some Indians she was quite dark. Clearly she was not a member of the class "privileged" by apartheid. But what she said surprised me.
"My husband and I decided we were better off under apartheid. Sure now we can live next to white people and ride the same bus. But those things aren't important."
What is important? Not being afraid.
Today, the murder rate is ten times greater in South Africa than in the United States. One world atlas reports: "South Africa is the world's most dangerous country (beside war zones), with 40,000 murders a year." It wasn't this way four years ago, before the ANC took power. But the government says the murders are a "legacy of apartheid."
That's part of the problem. Everything that goes wrong is "a legacy of apartheid." The violence in the rest of Africa is a "legacy of colonialism." It's a legacy that has gone on for almost 40 years. Every time something goes wrong (and that happens constantly), the same litany of excuses are recited. "We inherited this problem from the corrupt apartheid regime."
I lived for thirty-some years in the U.S. and never met anyone who had been shot. I was never near a bank robbery. Never heard of a friend's car being hijacked. Only one person I knew suffered a burglary.
In the last two years many people I know have been burglarized. In fact, burglary is so common that people have stopped talking about it. One of my friends was hit six times in one year. The last time I saw him I asked what he had done that day. "I got a new TV," he said. "Oh, how generous of you," I replied. He has since left for England.
White farmers in particular are being targeted. Some, like Werner Weber, president of the Agricultural Employers Organization, believe there is an orchestrated campaign to force whites off the land so it can be redistributed. Farm attacks rise almost every year: 92 killed in 1994, 121 in 1995, 109 in 1996 and 140 last year. In some attacks people are murdered but nothing is stolen, indicating that robbery isn't the motive. Farmer Dudley Leitch told an AEO meeting that while the murder rate among South Africans in general is 13 per 100,000, it is 120 per 100,000 for farmers.
A major cellular phone company placed an anti-crime ad in a newspaper saying, "President Mandela—you were in prison. Now we all are." A top official of the bureaucracy that regulates telephones called the company and the ad was withdrawn. I guess it was too rude to state the obvious.
In America, you don't see what's happening. I know; I watch CNN. It doesn't even come close to telling the truth about the decline and death of South Africa. The American media can't tell the truth now—they have invested too much in telling everyone what a saint Mandela is.
Meanwhile, we live in prisons. My house has a set of bars on the outside of the windows and another set inside. I have a Rhodesian ridgeback dog patrolling the yard. I had a big, spiked, remote-controlled gate put in the drive. I can't afford the precautions that others are taking. You now see individual homes with security guards. Walls over eight feet tall are common, with barbed wire or spikes on top. Across the street, my neighbors put an electric fence on the wall—now a commonplace sight. People are armed and have hired private security companies. In the U.S. following all these precautions would be considered paranoid. Here it's average.
On the street where my bookstore is located, a grocery has been robbed a couple of times. So were the post office and bank.
In the last few months, four of my customers have been hijacked by armed gangs, one of them in my parking lot. One was shot through the leg, another was shot at but missed. Another was beaten and spent weeks in the hospital. Well over 3,000 hijackings are reported each year. A family driving to Durban for holiday pulled to the side of the road so the two little boys could get out and take care of business. Several hours later the police found the two children sitting against the bodies of their dead parents; murdered for a car.
The new president of the ANC, Terror Lekota, told the press that the hijackings are the fault of apartheid. He claims the "apartheid regime" gave immunity from prosecution to hijackers in exchange for "intelligence" gathering on the ANC. Last year, another top government official blamed the spate of hijackings on whites. He said there was no crime wave at all, and that whites were inventing crimes just to collect insurance.
The acting head of the Licensing Department for the Johannesburg area, Gerrie Gerneke, issued a report in July 1997 confirming that the department was in the control of criminal syndicates. He said that half of all cars stolen in the Johannesburg area are "legalized" with new official documents within 30 days of being stolen. He said that cooperation between criminal gangs and union members has made it impossible for senior staff members or security staff to take any action. After Gerneke's report to the government was made, two anonymous letters accused him of being a racist. As a result of these anonymous complaints, Gerneke was suspended for five months. A year later Gerneke says the government has not acted on any of his recommendations to deal with corruption. When a car theft ring was recently exposed, five of the 16 individuals arrested were policemen. The chief investigator said, "We found that policemen were receiving stolen cars and then selling them to their clients."
In 1997 corruption reached such a level that Mandela appointed a Special Investigating Unit to look into the matter. According to Judge Willem Heath, head of the unit, there are currently more than 90,000 cases under investigation. If Heath and his crew manage to resolve one case of corruption per day, including weekends and holidays, it will take about 247 years to clear the current backlog. This doesn't include any new cases that will arise. Heath thinks the cases involve a sum of around 6 billion rand.
In 1997 approximately 2,300 police officers were charged with corruption —just about one every three hours. Almost 500 police officers have appeared in court on charges of working with criminal gangs. In the Johannesburg area alone 700 police officers are facing trials for committing crimes ranging from murder to burglary. And everyone assumes this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Over the last two years, there have been dozens of major highway robberies. In broad daylight gangs of a dozen men armed with AK-47s and other "military" weapons attack security trucks carrying large amounts of cash. These robberies have netted millions for the gangs. Government officials blame security companies, banks, and anyone else they can think of. But some arrests have finally been made, the ringleaders have turned out to be ANC activists. The leaders who were arrested were officials in the so-called "armed wing" of the ANC, Umkhonto weSizwe. One gang leader had been Youth League secretary for the Johannesburg area. A close associate of his, also a gang leader, was arrested but "escaped" from jail. Both were recent guests at the birthday party of Peter Mokaba, Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism. There is evidence that Umkhonto weSizwe activists are not only behind some of the robberies, but that they are working with other armed cadres associated with so-called liberation movements from bordering countries.
In 1997 alone, there were 465 bank robberies. In all about $40 million was taken. Banks are raising their fees substantially to compensate for the losses.
Crime seems to be the only thing that works in South Africa—the risk of being arrested, tried and convicted is minuscule. In 1997, only 14.6 percent of murders led to arrest and conviction. Of 52,110 rapes there were only 2,532 convictions—about 6.7 percent. For the 330,093 burglaries there were 15,710 convictions, about 4.8 percent.
Experienced prosecutors have quit their jobs, replaced by novices who owe their positions to affirmative action.
During the 1997 Christmas season, the police and prisons "lost" almost 300 prisoners. In one instance a policeman took two prisoners to a bar for drinks. One of them borrowed his keys and returned to the jail to release 23 other prisoners. At another jail nine prisoners walked out, leaving behind a note: "We are out for Christmas and will be back on January 3." (They didn't come back.) Several prisoners left a police van when guards didn't bother locking it.
In 1995, Sylvester Mofokeng was taken out of his cell for a soccer game. When he was returning to prison, he simply jumped out of the truck and ran through gates that were left unlocked. He was rearrested three months later, but in August 1996 he escaped again. Somehow he obtained a gun from a visitor and used it to force guards to release him.
Josiah Rabotapi is believed to be the leader of an armed robbery syndicate involved in the theft of up to $14 million in 30 armed robberies. He is also wanted for 16 murders. So far he has been arrested three times and escaped every time. Jan van der Westhuizen, a convicted murderer, has escaped from prison or police custody seven times.
When the police aren't "losing" criminals, they are killing them. A recent government report showed that one person dies every twelve hours either while in police custody or as a result of police action. Two-thirds of these deaths take place during apprehension. According to one report, "an overview of 100 shooting incidents between police and civilians" showed a heavy "imbalance in casualties." David Bruce, a researcher for the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation said, "In only five of the cases was a policeman hurt, and in one case a policeman was killed."
In the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, citizens are fighting back. In some areas they have put security guards at the entrance to a subdivision. Entrances are closed off with gates to control who comes in and who goes out. Criminals can no longer simply load their cars with stolen goods and speed out when security guards stop them at the gate. These areas have seen dramatic reductions in crime. But the ANC has ordered the gates removed. It claims these efforts force crime away from white areas and are therefore racist.
This is life in South Africa today.
I've lived in South Africa for six years and I've seen a lot of changes. Even a few for the good. But the standard of living has declined. And people's attitudes have changed: hope is gone, replaced by fear, anxiety, even horror. There is a joke going around: Americans have Bill Clinton, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope. South Africans have Nelson Mandela, no cash and no hope.
The Return of Apartheid
Another popular joke is that Mickey Mouse has a watch with the picture of our Ministers of Finance. In the six years that I have lived here the South African rand has depreciated by 50 percent. In just the last year it has dropped 30 percent.
The government has conducted a massive "jobs" program. But since the ANC has taken power the number of jobs has declined, despite sanctions being lifted and increased trade with the rest of the world. The only job increases are in government departments.
South African workers are not particularly productive. But the government has been pushing new labor legislation that continues to drive up the cost of South African labor. No wonder that fewer and fewer South Africans are employed.
The ANC is pushing a new "Equity Employment" bill through Parliament. This bill will force all employers to reserve a number of jobs for blacks. Businesses that don't comply with the mandatory racial quotas face heavy fines. And so apartheid is back—the old laws in new packaging.
Recently, ANC members of Parliament have announced that they intend to introduce legislation applying racial quotas to sports. Specifically, the government wants to control rugby, a sport played traditionally by whites (unlike soccer, which is dominated by blacks). Mandela ordered a commission to investigate racism in the South African Rugby Football Union. SARFU took the issue to court and the court ruled against the commission. ANC officials then proclaimed the judge an unpatriotic racist for requiring Mandela to testify on why the commission was created.
ANC MPs, unable to get control of rugby legally, resorted to intimidation. They announced on the floor of Parliament that unless the leadership of SARFU resigns, ANC members will forcibly close airports to prevent other rugby teams from entering South Africa. Major corporations, all fearful of the ANC, threatened to remove financial support from SARFU unless the ANC got its way. Rugby head Louis Luyt, who had defeated an ANC partisan for the job, was forced out by the threats. After Luyt resigned, SARFU apologized to Mandela for making him go to court.
Communists in Government
The government of South Africa is actually a coalition of three groups. The ruling triple alliance is made up of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the South African Communist Party (SACP), and the African National Congress (ANC), which leads the coalition. The SACP has a lot of influence in COSATU and together they exercise a great deal of control over the ANC. Thabo Mbeki, who just replaced Mandela as leader of the ANC, and is pegged to be president of South Africa when Mandela steps down, was trained in Moscow. His father, Govan, is an old line Marxist and SACP activist. At a recent ANC conference the hard left solidified its control over the ANC by capturing nine of its eleven top positions. Of the ANC's 240 MPs in Parliament, 80 were appointed by the SACP. The ANC and COSATU also used some of their quotas to appoint SACP members to Parliament.
When Chris Hani was assassinated by Janus Waluz, a Polish immigrant, CNN called Hani, "a top ANC official" or "anti-apartheid activist." But CNN didn't mention that Hani was the head of the Communist Party and that Waluz was a refugee from communism. Instead, the impression was given that Hani was another Martin Luther King.
In the same way, many facts about Mandela and the ANC are never reported by the media. For example, Mandela awarded South Africa's equivalent of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom to Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi. Mandela has publicly said that Cuba is a model for a free, democratic society that is, in fact, more democratic than the United States. Castro has been here for friendly visits. When U.S. officials complained about Mandela's cozy relationship with dictators, Mandela said that no other nation has the right to interfere in South African affairs—this from the man who supported sanctions against the old government. Curiously, Mandela dropped recognition of Taiwan at the demand of Communist China.
The ANC's Bill of Wrongs
Gay rights are now enshrined in South Africa's Bill of Rights. Gay publications around the world have praised the ANC for this. But in fact gay sex remains illegal. The government has taken no practical steps to legalize homosexuality. When a gay rights group took the sodomy laws to the Constitutional Court, the government opposed its effort. After a world-wide outcry, the government backed down. It appears the ANC is hoping the courts throw out the law, thereby taking credit for being pro-gay while not being responsible for the change. Yet the South African government continues to deny foreign gay partners of South Africans the right to stay in the country legally. The issue is in court, but the government is opposed to changes in the policy.
The ruling ideology is that "there are no absolute rights," so the ANC put "weasel" clauses into the Bill of Rights. Any right guaranteed by the Constitution can be ignored. For instance, the right to engage in enterprise is absolute—unless infringed "by law." Thus the government can do what it wants since it passes the laws. Other constitutional clauses say rights can be limited by government consistent with the operation of an "open" and "democratic" society. And remember, Mandela considers Cuba democratic.
The bill of rights negotiated by various political parties guaranteed freedom of speech. Repressive censorship laws were relegated to the dustbin. But the ANC has been pulling them back out and wiping them off.
A bill to repeal censorship was introduced in Parliament. I even testified in favor of it. The bill was mediocre but livable. Later, the ANC rewrote it in secret and passed it without making a written version available. The new bill actually creates a censorship body. All videos and films must be approved by the censorship board before they can be distributed. So-called "x-rated" material can be sold only in licensed adult shops. Anything deemed "hate speech" is illegal. The new "obscenity" standard is that anything "degrading" is illegal. Another victory for clear, concise legal concepts.
Lindiwe Sisulu, deputy minister of home affairs, said the government "tries" to balance free speech with the rights of "society, in reality, however, there can never be an absolute balance." This means "not all speech can be equally protected." Sisulu interprets the new censorship legislation much more strictly than in the past. She claims that "anyone who downloads pornography from the Internet will commit an offense." Note that she has broadened this beyond the act which banned "degrading" pornography, bestiality, child porn, and hate speech. Now she says that any downloaded porn is illegal. Expanding the prior censorship of films and videos, Sisulu says all photos must be classified by the government before distribution. "No person may screen a film or photograph, including on a computer screen, which has not been classified by the Publications Board. This means that anyone placing material on the Internet must have a classification certificate for that material." In other words the government now claims the right to classify—and ban—all photographs before they are distributed to anyone.
Yet the ANC stills finds the bill of rights too restrictive of government. Peter Mokaba recently gave a speech in a black area demanding that all blacks vote for the ANC so it can get two-thirds control of Parliament. He said this would allow it to rewrite the constitution and end all restrictions on government power. ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe said that if the ANC won two-thirds control in the next election, it could govern "unfettered by constraints."
Supine and Pusillanimous
In the last four years, the nation's largest string of newspapers has lost its independence from the government after being taken over by Irish press baron Tony O'Reilly. O'Reilly's Independent group is cozy with the ANC. An article in The Times of London says O'Reilly has been criticized for "his unhealthily close relationship with the ANC government. He began by appointing an advisory board stacked with ANC supporters and has been vocal in his support for all manner of ANC causes and watchwords." Journalists have been unhappy that O'Reilly brought in his biographer, Ivan Fallon, to run the newspapers because Fallon "is disliked for his refusal to stand up to Government attempts to bully the press into uncritical support."
According to The Times O'Reilly's newspapers have downplayed scandals within the ANC government. In the Virodene scandal, ANC politicians promoted—and still promote—the so-called AIDS drug. Documents show that the company producing the drug was planning to offer a six percent share of the profits to the ANC. O'Reilly's papers "have played down the whole matter, neglecting to cover key press conferences."
Other newspapers, however, still manage to criticize the government, and the ANC and Mandela don't like it. Mandela constantly attacks the press for being "opposed" to the "transformation." In fact the press, on the whole, was staunchly critical of apartheid. Still, Mandela says the media, with the exception of television, are racist. In the next few years, legislation directed against the newspapers is almost certain. Mandela's hero, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, wiped out recalcitrant newspapers by simply turning them over to the government.
Television is exempt from Mandela's criticisms because the three main television stations are already controlled by the government. ANC officials run the stations and they are often deathly silent about the problems in South Africa. But they do have time for endless documentaries on Mandela and the ANC, with titles like "Our Heroes." One new news director is a long-time ANC supporter with no broadcasting experience.
Two new mini-series have been produced for the coming season: one is a glowing film about the life of communist Helen Joseph and her fight for the ANC, and the other is about ANC partisan Bishop Tutu. A new television series, funded by the Labour Ministry, is called "Let's Talk." A recent episode showed the workers, all of whom are called "comrades," on strike. The owner of the factory, who for some reason had an American accent, locked out the strikers. But the company management didn't know how to build their own product, houses, and built them upside down! The government and the trade unions seem to believe that entrepreneurs and management are useless, and that all productivity comes from labor.
The South African Broadcasting System's political allegiances are no secret: one station's promotional commercial shows its on-air talent in "rainbow" clothing and marching with colorful flags to triumphant music. Several flags feature the face of Mandela. In another Stalinoid presentation, the television producers' award show included a musical number with the chorus, "Oh, Mandela, we sing praise to you." Not long ago, the son of the former president of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, who hosts an SABC talk show, ran an hour-long special praising media mogul Tony O'Reilly. No doubt the fact that O'Reilly has cuddled up to the ANC had nothing to do with the praise heaped upon him.
Fascism, South African Style
Civil society is being politicized. Everything must be solidified in the hands of the State and the State must be in the hands of the ANC.
Last year the government nationalized all water resources in South Africa. Under new legislation it will be illegal to dig a well without prior approval from the central government. The ANC attacked critics of the legislation as "racist whites" who want to protect their luxury swimming pools. Meanwhile the new rulers admit they can't find 45 percent of all the water shipped to Johannesburg. Only 55 percent of the water is metered out—the rest simply disappears. But considering that meters are found almost exclusively in white areas, while black areas have unmetered taps, this should be no surprise.
But water is only the camel's nose in the tent. The ANC Minister of Mineral Affairs, Penuell Maduna, called for the nationalization of all minerals, saying that "private ownership of mineral rights is unacceptable to the government." Government spokesmen call private ownership "racist" because not everyone owns mineral rights in a private system. Maduna previously floated the idea that the government should also control all oil companies. Under the current system, price competition in petrol is forbidden and all prices are set by the government.
The hospitals in South Africa have become nightmares. Two years ago Mandela announced free medical care for children. The hospitals are now filled with unemployed women and their children. They sit there for hours to have a cough or a runny nose checked.
Dr. Zuma, Minister of Health, seems determined to make health care in South Africa equally bad everywhere. She has conscripted all medical students to be servants. They are to give two years of their lives to the State, to do what the State orders, anywhere the State orders. The legislation doesn't even specify that the service has to be in South Africa. Speculation is that at least some will be assigned to Cuba.
When it was pointed out to Zuma that huge numbers of doctors and medical students are now emigrating, she called them "traitors," and attributed their fleeing to "racism." Wits School of Medicine reported that 45 percent of all students who graduated in the last 35 years have already left the country. A recent survey of the top doctors in South Africa revealed the almost unanimous opinion that Zuma is destroying the nation's health-care system. The Independent wrote, "Many doctors said that Zuma's apparent intention to introduce a communist or socialist national health system was stifling private practice and initiative. This, coupled with excessive control and interference, has left doctors despondent." A spokesman for Zuma responded by saying that if the proposals are "seen as socialist, then we will continue to do so and offer no apologies."
The destruction of health care has even affected the food supply. Vaccines that are urgently needed to protect livestock have run out. The only legal source for purchasing the vaccines in South Africa is through the government, and the government labs are empty. Farmers who send in their checks to buy the vaccines have the money returned. The top veterinary scientists are also leaving the country. At the Onderstepoort Research Centre only one of the original six specialists is still there. Onderstepoort, once considered one of the best research centers in the world, is now limping along. Scientists say there is a good chance that mutated viruses will decimate the beef, pork, and lamb industries before new vaccines can be developed. They warn that the public should expect a shortage of meat and milk as a result.
Under the old apartheid regime, government schools in black areas were woefully deficient. When the ANC took over the education system things changed. Now all the schools are woefully deficient.—equality has been achieved. But the number of students graduating from high school has declined under the ANC. Those who do well in school prosper only if they are the right color. The student who passed more courses with distinction than any other student in South Africa can't even get a scholarship. Each application he has made has been rejected because he's the wrong color. He has the best scholastic record in the country but no one cares. It isn't wise to give money to anyone not approved by the ANC.
In the Eastern Cape, near Port Elizabeth, is the impoverished Khwezi Lomso Comprehensive School. The principal is Cecilia Behrent. During her tenure the school has achieved a pass rate of 84 percent, well above the national rate of 47 percent and double that of the provincial pass rate of 42 percent. The teachers' union, in cooperation with the government, has been trying to have a union official replace Behrent, who is white. Her ouster is opposed by almost every one of her 1,100 students, almost all the teachers, and over 700 parents who have signed a petition on her behalf. The government refused to accept the petition.
Johannesburg was a relatively safe and clean city when I moved here. I moved into a racially mixed area in the city center. I left a year later. Today, I won't drive there in broad daylight. The streets are controlled by criminals. Some gangs sit at street corners and rob passing motorists. They break the car window, take what they want, pile it on the curb, and then wait for another car. They don't even run with the stolen goods. They don't need to; no one will arrest them.
Residents of my old neighborhood, Hillbrow, have discovered a new game: take cans of trash and throw them from 15th floor windows at pedestrians. The streets are filthy and reek of urine. Businesses are moving out. The luxury Carleton Hotel held on for awhile but finally gave up the ghost. No one would stay there, so the hotel closed its 200-plus rooms, and now sits empty.
Mayhem reigned on New Year's Eve. In the Hillbrow section of the city, nearly 200 police officers patrolled an area of just a few square blocks —to no apparent effect. Three people were murdered on the streets that evening. Police who tried to stop looters were pelted from the high-rise apartment buildings. Paramedics were attacked when they tried to aid the injured.
So the ANC took action. Johannesburg is a massive city, and the ANC promised to break its management into several regions. "Local control" would then be achieved with four gerrymandered districts. Each district was drawn in the most convoluted way possible, ensuring that each had enough blacks. The ANC knows where its voters live.
The city hired thousands and thousands of new bureaucrats. In many cases two people did the same job—one black worker with the title and one white worker to do the work. Money was redistributed to the "previously disadvantaged." While black townships haven't improved, white areas have declined. Now Johannesburg, once the wealthiest city in Africa, can't pay its bills, and can't get bank loans. It went from budget surplus to bankruptcy in just two years. More ANC magic.
This black magic is being worked throughout South Africa. The British-based Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy recently said that 281 municipalities in South Africa are now technically bankrupt. That's one out of every three cities in the country.
Public parks are now squatter camps. Broken water mains gush for days before they're fixed. Pot holes remain unrepaired. The city budget allocates less than $100,000 for street repairs for the entire city! Inefficiency reigns. Under questioning in Parliament, ANC officials admitted that roads in Gauteng have deteriorated under their management. Transport Minister Mac Maharaj admitted that only 37 percent of the roads were in good or very good condition in 1997 where this was true of 80 percent of the roads in 1985.
The Political Struggle
In Johannesburg the opposition party to the ANC is the Democratic Party DP). Once a leading anti-apartheid party, it is now the only real opposition to the ANC left, and it has become increasingly libertarian. It supports the rights of gay people and free enterprise. It opposes affirmative action and censorship.
The northern suburbs are now staunch DP territory. And they are in a tax revolt. The government responds by sending in armed goons to terrorize elderly couples. The ANC isn't happy. My area is the one area where the ANC doesn't have a clear majority. It can't institute one party rule here, so it intimidates, punishes, and withdraws basic city services.
To counter the opposition, the ANC now plans to make the entire Johannesburg area a "mega city." No more regions. The DP areas will be swamped "democratically" by ANC supporters, allowing the ANC to continue to steal from DP voters and give to ANC bureaucrats.
Critics of the mega city were, of course, branded "racists". (Today, that term has lost all meaning in South Africa. In fact, if you're not labeled a "racist" one time or another, you're simply not a decent human being.) Various community groups asked for a referendum. The ANC said that was undemocratic, and wouldn't have it.
Local DP politician Frances Kendall called for a private referendum. Hundreds of voting booths were established throughout the city. The ANC ordered its supporters not to vote. In black areas voting booths were harassed and intimidated into closing. Then the ANC said the vote didn't count because there weren't enough voting booths in black areas. Just under 100,000 people voted. The vote was overwhelmingly against the "mega city". The ANC said it didn't care and would ignore it. After all the poll only expressed the views of racists.
When the ANC won power, the election was declared "free and fair" by European Community observers. One observer admitted to a Federal Party official that the election would be declared corrupt if judged by European standards, "but this is Africa." For instance, more voters voted than existed. A recent census showed the population at under 39 million, not 44 million as previously claimed. Since more than half the population consists of children, there can't be more than 19 million voters in the country. Yet more than 19 million cast ballots. No one seems to care that the ANC was elected with millions of fraudulent votes.
I was receiving hourly vote tallies by fax from the Independent Electoral Commission. I remember my amazement when I noticed that the vote total for the Federal Party was higher at 6 p.m. than at 7 p.m. Votes were disappearing. Vote counting went on for days when suddenly it stopped. For two days no results were released. IEC officials met with political party officials behind closed doors before the final results were negotiated and announced.
For the last several years the ANC has done everything possible to manipulate the voting system to increase its totals. First, it proposed that the voting age be reduced to 14 years since the overwhelming majority of youths are black. Public ridicule has quashed this proposal for the time being. Next, the ANC tried to change the laws so that non-citizens could vote provided they were from "neighboring," i.e. black, countries. Because most white non-citizens are from England, Canada, the United States, etc. the white vote wouldn't have increased. Opposition parties managed to kill this proposal as well.
Instead, the ANC achieved the same goal through the back door. The vast majority of "illegal" immigrants in South Africa are blacks from neighboring countries. The ANC granted them immediate citizenship. Meanwhile, "legal" immigrants, who are mainly whites from Western countries, find it increasingly difficult to stay in South Africa. Permanent residency for "legal" immigrants has become more difficult to receive, and the cost of simply applying has increased from less than $100 to over $1,400.
The National Party (NP), once South Africa's dominant party, is fast losing support. It has never really opposed the ANC on anything, and it has made numerous backroom deals with the ANC to retain privileges for its leaders. The job of standing up to the ANC is filled by the "liberal" Democratic Party.
The DP has contested by-elections recently in several NP strongholds. In each case the DP handily beat the NP candidate. White voters no longer trust the NP, and with good reason. In the most recent local election the DP garnered 90 percent of the votes. Just before the election a top NP official said this seat was the NP's "safest" in the country. But the ANC is launching a counter-offensive.
DP activists, many of whom were arrested for denouncing apartheid, are now branded racists by the ANC. ANC media mouthpieces refer to the "liberal racists" of the DP. ANC officials call liberals "bigots" and use the term "conservative liberals" to denegrate ANC critics. Party officials regularly give speeches denouncing critics as being "unpatriotic." And recently they have started claiming that whites are preventing its programs from succeeding.
Mandela openly denounces the DP as racist. His objective is to sideline the DP. Of all the opposition parties—outside the Inkatha Freedom Party, which is strictly Zulu-based—only the DP has a hope of attracting black support. It must be destroyed if a one-party ANC state is to be constructed.
What happens depends largely on how the rest of the world views South Africa. If there is sufficient criticism and publicity, the would-be ANC dictators will back down. They have before and will again. But the ANC is whittling away at the rule of law and the world isn't saying very much. The ANC won't ban its opposition outright—at least not in the immediate future. Total government control of all the media isn't in the cards yet either—but the newspapers will be attacked in the guise of promoting "diversity." But there is a hope. International pressure and continued support for the DP may at least hold things off.
But the odds are against it. South Africa will most likely walk the road to misery, corruption, despair and destruction. Give it time. It won't be any different here than in the rest of Africa.