Sometimes watching government is no different from watching a four year-old. Especially when you’ve just walked into your kitchen and the four year-old appears to be doing nothing of any consequence but has chocolate smears on his or her fingers and face.
You know they’ve had their hands in what our American cousins call ‘the cookie jar’.
But as children grow up, they become cleverer and more sophisticated in their acts of deceit. Sometimes it’s still as obvious as when they were tiny, but at others times, there’s nothing you can put your finger on. In fact, it’s the absence of evidence that points to the fact that they’re up to no good: the lack of a real, logical, coherent reason for an action that they’re proposing to take.
“Dad, Mum, I really, really want to stay over at John’s house tonight…please, please?”
It sounds very plausible except for the fact that John (or Jane) has never, ever been a friend until now. Parents with a couple of siblings themselves, one or two older children or just a healthy sense of distrust will see this from afar and know that there’s something odd about the request and that something untoward is afoot.
Governments are like that. Well, the government that has ruled South Africa for the last 21 years certainly is and I can think of quite a few others in different parts of the world, too.
The Arms Deal was a case in point. Several of the key purchase decisions had absolutely no logic to them at all, including the buying of the Gripen fighters. More expensive and less capable than others on offer, yet we still went ahead. The offset deals? Well, do you seriously believe your kids when they ask to stay over with a buddy and “we promise we’ll just do our homework…really!
It has not been proven – yet – but the absurdity of the Arms Deal overpayments leads to an inescapable conclusion.
Our soon-to-be commitment to acquire 9,600 MW of nuclear power is another.
South Africa is one country where renewable energy – solar power in particular – could yield big dividends. Yet it now seems certain that we will be buying this massively expensive nuclear kit in a “sweetheart” deal from Russia, a deal that is already done and dusted, despite ministerial protestations to the contrary.
The absurdity of this decision leads to another inescapable conclusion.
Similarly, our commitment to a particular form of e-tolling would appear to be yet another example. Deputy President Ramaphosa has just announced significant reductions in e-tolling tariffs, but e-tolling is not going to go away. It has been demonstrated again and again that the cost of the e-tolling infrastructure is way, way out of proportion to the revenues collected. And that’s to say nothing of the fact we that we already have a dedicated mechanism built into the price of a litre of petrol to pay for road upgrades.
Yes, it’s that inescapable conclusion again…
We don’t know how exactly, but we do know that the teenager is up to no good. Government – to whit, the ANC and its senior members – have their hands in the cookie jar. Apart from occasional chocolate smears like President Zuma’s extraordinary trip to Moscow, the only evidence is the extreme illogicality of what’s happening.
Nor am I even certain of motive.
Personal enrichment is the obvious one, but would Zuma be fighting the Nkandla battle if he had had a happy little slush fund, courtesy of his good friend Vlad Putin? Like the one he used to enjoy via his equally good friend Schabir Shaik? It seems unlikely. More plausible is that any ill-gotten gains, such as might have accrued or still might accrue via the ANC’s investment arm, Chancellor House, would pass straight to the party. We’ve known almost since the day it was unbanned in 1990 that the ANC is a) a poor organiser (which is why COSATU, which used to be very good at getting the vote out, is so powerful) and b) essentially broke.
It doesn’t really matter, though. Arms Deal. E-Tolls Deal. Nuclear Deal. All spectacularly illogical and, therefore, all the proof that any good parent – or voter – needs to confirm that someone is up to mischief.
Now – what are we going to do about it?