Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Story Of Rank Incompetence

Martin Meredith goes beyond the subject of his book, devoting quite a lot of space to the people and politics around Nelson Mandela, and dwelling into the mistakes that plagued his political party during and after his time in office.

The leader of the rainbow nation wanted to set a new style of leadership, free from the greed and corruption for which the apartheid National Party rule was renown. But no sooner had his African National Congress (ANC) come into power, the cracks in the system begin to show.

The new dispensation offered opportunities for the black elites ensconced with power, which they seized with alacrity. One of the first acts of the new parliament was to vote for huge increases in the salaries and allowances of ministers, members of parliament and the president. Ministers' monthly salaries were raised to a level which was three times more than what the average worker earned in a year.

South Africa faced no international threat of any kind. Indeed, some ANC politicians argued that there was no need for a navy at all, only a national coast guard equipped to protect fisheries  from foreign trawlers; as for the air force, they suggested that its existing fleet of jet fighters was adequate to deal with any foreseeable circumstances. But key ministers embarked on a massive arms procurement programme - submarines, frigates and fighter jets. The $5 billion spending spree designed as such provided many opportunities for kickbacks to greedy officials.

ANC leaders treated the public sector, in effect, as a spoils system. They set up a secret network of four companies, called the Chancellor House Group, to acquire contracts in order to channel funds back to the party. The objective was to ensure that the ANC elite had the means to entrench themselves in power forever or, as party leader Jacob Zuma put it memorably, "until Jesus comes back".

The ANC administration was riddled not just with corruption but also with rank incompetence. Because of a failure by government ministers to plan ahead, South Africa was hit by an energy crisis in 2008 that caused widespread economic disruption.  Advances that the government made in providing housing, piped water and electricity to poor communities were soon over shadowed by failing education, health and other public services.

This is a book about South Africa, but the parallels to our daily headlines are frightening.


  1. Parallels? We led the way. Remember the guy who believed in the I appoint you and you appoint me system ? It is the system and not the persons that corrupt and not the other way round as the PM claimed. We have a system where conflicts of interest are inherent in every level of governance. Nothing short of pulling it up root and branch will save us from ruin.

  2. Reads like a direct rip off from a playbook written in From third world to first. Is done leegitimately except our actors/actresses do a better job in storytelling myths and superior cover up to the whole white world.

  3. Incompetency right from the top leeder. What do you think?

  4. Amassing great wealth secretly is called corruption. Doing it in broad daylight is termed "above the board". No wonder ETs don't want to visit us.

  5. Your have hit them right on the nail. There is really no reason for Singapore to procure arms the way they keep increasing the budget over the years as if there is no tomorrow.

    The sad thing is that there is really no way for us to find out whether PAP is pulling wool just like what they did do to our CPF savings over all these years. Has anyone ever realised that nowadays BTO HDB flats are now priced slightly cheaper than what we were forced to pay a few years back ? So has HDB been shortchanging us all these years ?

  6. One shud not be naive, unca sam and the west allowed the ANC to come to power only because they thought their lockheeds, BAe and their mining giants (BHP, Rio etc) were going to do much more businesses in SA with the ANC "elites" than De Klerk's bureaucrats. The more corrupt the new leaders, the more "support" unca Sam would lend them: Saddam Hussein and Iran weren't always Bush's axes of evil you know. Kickbacks in the industrial military complexes of america move things along just fine - the bankers are only too happy to lend you more to buy more F35s. Same in SA, same in red dot.

  7. 1st
    Create KPI with constituents that is entirely in your control

    Create constituents such as COE that will influence the cost of transport. Some other examples: Land bidding and Gov sales, which will influence the cost of property/housing

    To lend legitimacy, add all these as part of GDP which in itself forms part of the KPI.

    Link bonuses to these KPI ( which by now appears completely legitimate )

    Collect the rewards.

  8. i object to Nelson Mandela and PAPies being put on the same platform

  9. The only way to find out is for an Opposition Party government to set up a Committee of Inquiry.

    So if you want to know where is your tax dollars.
    Vote Opposition.

  10. We see parallels only because politics all over the world is intertwined with business. No country will come clean if we really have to delve into it. Not SA, not Singapore, and even more so, not China and US. Only difference is in most other country (other than China, North Korea and Cuba), they practice the multi-party or bipartisan perception game to create the illusion of checks and balances. The rest, mostly Communist countries and one autocratic small red dot, have yet to reach the point of revolts at the grassroot levels. But at least the Chinese are smart - they allow some anger to boil at the provincial levels while holding down those at the central level. Even punish the ex-power players like Zhou YK, like as if they really care about corruption. It's a deception ploy, but played nicely like a pro. Little red dot needs to up its game.

    1. "Little red dot needs to up its game."

      The daft Singaporeans (little red dot) are the one who need to up their game by voting Opposition.
      - or are you hoping the leopard-PAP will change its spots?