Visa disaster 'shows lack of genuine ANC leadership'
2015-10-27 08:16

by Max du Preez

Here’s something to chew on: if minister Malusi Gigaba had not issued the stricter visa regulations or if he had scrapped them as soon as he knew the damage they were doing, South Africa wouldn’t even wonder today whether we can afford the R2bn or so we now need for tertiary education.

These regulations severely damaged the one sector of our economy that could have grown phenomenally with our weakening currency. It will take months before we will be able to undo the damage.

The consulting firm Grant Thornton advised the Tourism Business Council recently that the regulations would result in a net loss to South Africa’s GDP of around R4.1bn.

Gigaba defended the regulations as recently as three weeks ago, saying the tourist industry shouldn’t blame him when they can’t market the country properly.

The handling of this issue is deeply depressing, also because Gigaba isn’t the worst minister in the Cabinet – in the ANC he’s talked about as a future president.

Too scared to stand up

The visa disaster was purely a result of the ANC’s instinct to want to control and regulate everything, of incompetent bureaucrats that are not managed properly by their political principals, of Gigaba’s massive ego that prevented him from admitting a mistake, and because different state departments don’t communicate with each other on critical decisions.

Most of all it was a reflection on the absence of genuine leadership in government. There was no president, deputy president or Cabinet that got up quickly and decisively and stopped the nonsense before too much damage was done.

All the politicians were too scared to stand up to a colleague, just in case it damaged their own careers and position in the faction-riddled ANC.

The question in the ANC seems to be not whether you are competent and doing your job properly. It is: In what camp are you? Are you for or against Jacob Zuma? Are you a Cyril Ramaphosa-supporter or are you campaigning for Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma? Does Gwede Mantashe like you or not?

I wish I could say that last week’s earth-moving events will change the thinking in the Union Buildings and Luthuli House; lead to a sharper focus and more deliberate action.

The student protests were perhaps not our own version of the Arab Spring that would lead to regime change. But we could call it a Campus Spring. It will have consequences for the ruling party.

No longer swallowing populist rhetoric

If Zuma and his colleagues didn’t have their heads buried in the sand, they would be seriously concerned about next year’s municipal elections and the general election of 2019.

They would also have realised that ordinary South Africans - certainly the youth - no longer simply swallow their populist rhetoric, double talk, tactics of diversion and cheap promises.

Alas, no.

On Sunday Zuma and Blade Nzimande declared on separate platforms that the ANC had supported the #FeesMustFall movement from the start and that free higher education had been ANC policy all along. Ha!

You don’t need to be a student to ask: but why then did you spend less and less on tertiary education the last number of years relative to the huge increase in the number of students?

Nzimande also said that there was enough money in the country to pay for free tertiary education, but this money was “in the private sector”. (Read: “white monopoly capital”.)

Hehehe. That’s Doctor Six Percent Nzimande for you, leader of the party that prides itself in being in the vanguard of the struggle of the working class and the poor.

Nzimande also gave an indication that he planned to abuse last week’s events to undermine the autonomy of universities. I sincerely hope the students won’t fall for this.

Steering the debate

Everything is always everybody else’s fault, never the ANC’s.

It is predictable that the ANC leadership will now attempt to steer the debates and anger towards a simplistic blaming of the white minority in the weeks and months ahead. Define a new enemy and turn the flak away from yourself.

In the meantime, more millions have been rolled out to prepare for the trillion rand nuclear power stations government has committed to.

There’s an Afrikaans saying: As dit pap reën, skep! (If porridge rains down, help yourself.)

And this just in: the ANC Woman’s League and the Youth League are planning marches to the Union Building in defence of Zuma, “the champion of our revolution”.

Which revolution would that be?