Charlene Smith
Charlene Smith

Polokwane’s revenge: ‘no crisis Mbeki’ pulls the walls down

Thabo Mbeki must go. The president who has failed to see any crisis with the world’s highest rates of Aids, worst crime statistics, exploding power stations, the stolen election of a neighbouring country and scenes of unmitigated barbarism against foreigners is destroying our nation.

African National Congress treasurer general Matthew Phosa is right, we need an early election, never has our country been in such crisis for so little reason.

The attacks on foreigners have brought shame to our nation. And again, it is the result of not acknowledging a problem, as well as one of xenophobia within the cabinet. A senior member of cabinet told me shortly after returning from exile, “we must never allow Nigerians into our country, they are criminals.” Another privately referred to the dignified wife of one of our most revered statesmen as a “kwerekwere” — disparaging slang for a foreigner.

Further, by ignoring the provisions of our own refugee legislation we have created endless nightmares. First, by refusing to register migrants we have no way of tracking them, they then become the ideal employees of South African–led drug–, vehicle hijacking, house robbing and other syndicates. If you used South Africans in all these criminal activities they could be traced, but it means nothing if a CCTV picks up the face of a foreigner, or their fingerprints or DNA are found at a crime scene because according to our population files, they don’t exist.

South Africa also makes it almost impossible for the spouse of a foreigner who legally enters to work. This means better quality skilled migrants don’t want to come to this country and so we lose on two levels — being able to recruit the best and often have an added benefit in terms of their professional partner. We retain too few of those who could add value to our economy.

Not providing health care, regulated accommodation or schooling for the children of migrants, political refugees drawn from places of terrible injustices or conflict, all places where we refuse to censure their governments, whether Sudan or Zimbabwe, ensures we develop wells of bitterness against South Africans from those who flee here hoping for safety from a country that boasts it has one of the finest Bill of Rights in the world.

Do we really believe that migrants will not retaliate from what they are experiencing now? The loss of all they have, being raped, murdered, beaten and necklaced?

Do we really believe that all of the mayhem is angry South Africans without work and not criminal elements extracting revenge against rival gangs?

President Mbeki says he has confidence in the police to settle the situation. Really? They appear powerless against criminals and instead of containing the situation, it is spreading. Across the world investors are turning on television sets and opening newspapers to see machete and stick wielding gangsters parading down Johannesburg streets, looting and burning while police, in most instances, stand by.

How many World Cup tickets would we sell if they went on the market right now?

Mbeki’s failures have become so many that it is discouraging to even contemplate the list. A refusal to act in meaningful ways to stop the Aids pandemic sees infection rates of close to half of all women at ante–natal clinics and around a third of men. We have more than seven million infected, around 3,5million orphans, and 400 000 deaths a year — and less than a quarter million on anti–retrovirals.

The electricity crisis: The less said about that the better. SA stopped refurbishing or building new power stations to build power stations in other parts of Africa as part of Mbeki’s grandiose and failed African renaissance policy.

The crime situation: The Medical Research Council in 2004 reported that one was 12 times more likely to be murdered in SA than any other country of the world but for Colombia. Rape statistics here are the worst in the world.

There is 26% or 40% unemployment according to StatsSA, a figure they have dithered at for well over a decade, either way, there are way too many people hanging around the streets. Even the deputy president Phumzile Mlambo–Ngcuka despairingly said recently that there are some in this country who reach their 40s without ever having been employed.

We have grand infrastructural projects like the Gautrain which will probably be out of the affordability range of most South Africans, and if we continue with anarchy and crime there won’t be tourists.

Our roads are collapsing, it takes double the time now to travel by road to Kimberley as an example, than it did four years ago because the roads are in such bad shape.

When last where you in Hillbrow? I was, last week. There are buildings that look fit to collapse, they have no electricity, often no water but for foul pools in basements from leaking pipes, they are seriously overcrowded and filthy. There are roads that no longer have tar — what happened to the tar? I have no idea — but they are red, severely rutted, sand gullies that are most often muddy because of water and sewage flowing down them. Rubbish is piled on the sides of street.

Whoever believed that we would read about the city that generates 11% of Africa’s GDP and a third of South Africa’s GDP, as the M&G reported on Monday (19 May): “Marshall Street is criss–crossed with makeshift barricades of rusty barbed wire, tyres and chunks of concrete. In Main Street, shops have been literally disembowelled, their heavy–duty Jozi iron shutters wrenched off and their interiors cleaned out… Police officers in bulletproof vests, with shotguns slung over their shoulders, stand guard at intersections, firing warning shots over the heads of would-be looters. Helicopters clatter above us constantly and sirens and alarms wail all day.”

Phosa said this weekend that President Thabo Mbeki “has lost the confidence of his party, partly because of the perception that he has lost touch with the wishes of the majority.” He is wrong, Mbeki long ago lost the confidence of the country and now he is pulling the walls down around him. He has to go while there is still the capacity to rebuild.

  • Jon

    In a democracy you’ll get the government — and the president — you deserve, remember? Mbeki didn’t force himself on to the nation and nor has Zuma. And, while Mbeki has been a total flop, there is nothing to indicate that Zuma will be any better. In fact, all the signs are flashing very brightly that Zuma will be a whole lot worse.

  • anton kleinschmidt

    In essence you are saying that our first post-apartheid government is a failure.

    I cannot think of a single area where the Mbeki administration has really performed well. Even the much vaunted economy has done little more than create a few very wealthy “elites” but this is contrasted by a large number of “prisoners of debt”

    I agree that we need a grand cleanout after which the new adminsitration must focus on getting the basics right for the benefit of all our people. No more arms deals, no more Gautrains, no more soccer world cups. In other words no more arrogant showing off.

    Unfortunately when I look at the available political and bureaucratic skills I simply do not see the capacity to pull the coals out of the fire.


    maybe south africans should ask Mbeki how to handle this CRISIS in SA since according to him weeks ago there was no crisis in Zimbabwe, OH wait a minute maybe he meant that SA has CRISIS not Zimbabwe.. the guy never fails…WOW how about that, maybe he shares the same genes with Bush..WISH U ALL LUCK

  • Siphiwo Qangani with Kangaroos

    It’s just sad that Mbeki will have to be pushed to resign or leave the office. Mugabe started as a good man, look at him now people cant bare his sight. Tony Blair left the office before people started attacking him badly…For his dignity & pride, its better he (Mbeki)leaves the office because people are just stomping on him. What a waste of an intellectual? We used to look upon him, but now when his name is mentioned you start to wonder where does he leave? How does he react when he reads any of the daily or even weekend papers, seeing letters, comments, articles and even cartoons about his mute diplomacy, lame duck-ness and the sort? Its just sad that we are watching and assisting SA to fall & collapse to its knees…What went wrong to a SA we know? beautiful nature, lovely& friendly people, good economy, promising government, eventful country and Mandela’s country.
    Somebody has to come & rescue us or someone has to vacate an office.

  • Skipper

    Maybe we should have a run-off election between Mbeki and Zille?

  • khosi

    I sometimes wonder how people would vote if Mbeki’s face was allowed on the next ballot paper. Charlene seems to think that the country has lost confidence in the President. I wonder where she gets the stats that affirm that statement.

    There is a lot about this country that is unpleasant, depraved and despicable. If there is one thing that Mbeki did not do was to re-coat on a cracked wall (whether a failure or a lack of interest in keeping the lie going). Now the cracks are there for all to see.

    I work in the rural KZN and people are very grateful of the improvements in their lives. Their will say that although, according to Charlene’s distance over time measuring skills, it takes twice the amount to time to get from JHB to Kimberley, they now have a tarred road that gives them access to other areas even if it rains.

    I asked one Magogo, what she would say if she had an audience with the President. Her words in IsiZulu translated “I would tell him to leave his post, as he has carried our sins for too long”. Really, do we not all find comfort when there is someone to blame. People need to get over themselves, we need Thabo Mbeki to carry ‘our sins’ for the sake of our sanity.

  • Paul Whelan

    Jon & Charlene

    Mbeki and Zuma did not ‘force themselves’ on the nation – the ANC rather just gentled them in for the rest of us. If the ANC decides in the end, for some political reason, that Zuma will not be the next president after all, what more say will we have had in the matter?

    We ought to give more thought to the nature of our ‘democracy’, starting with our electoral system and how it works to produce certain outcomes.

    Mbeki is not the creator but the product of the system. If it had not been him, it would have been someone else, worse or better. Next time, like last, voters will not have the satisfaction or consolation – depending – of knowing they at least brought better or worse upon themselves.

  • owen

    You mentioned the word necklace – Now who invented it and condoned its use? Does anyone think that the necklace party can run a country?

    It was barbaric in the 80’s and still is – yet people still try to think that the ANC is not barbaric.

  • jose barreira

    Maybe the man is a failure. Maybe? No: the man is a failure. The “maybe” could have worked some time ago, but nowadays evidence is mounting to a “Crisis” point. In some countries – democratic or not – when the highest leader endangers his people and/or country, most probably putting at stake his closest allies’ life styles as well, then usually the man is showed the way out. Discretely or not, they do it (well, we know Zim’s the exception).
    But, considering that there might be a very hidden and almost-not-probable possibility that the man is doing his job honestly and correctly, then we have to assume at least that the man is “naïve”. Why? Because leaders must be able to gather around a whole collection of counsellors, with more than one opinion on each theme, in order to have the necessary sensibility of the different points of view. And this for sure is not happening, since the man concludes that “there is no crisis”.
    And this takes us to wonder, what is happening around the little man on the hill, surrounded in such a way by bad advisors that he cannot see what’s happening down the same hill, and around the hill, and all over the country’s other hills. I mean, maybe it could be worth to analyse WHO gains with all this crisis-that-is-not-a-crisis. Why bad and stupid things happen so frequently? Why are the black migrants being attacked at this very moment? Why can TV reporters and photographers be able to take images of a whole bunch of guys with sticks and other things threatening to attack other people, while the police don’t just disperse them? In this case, at least riot police – if not the armed forces – should be on the streets, not allowing mobs even to gather. Are the people in government naïve? Are the police officers naïve? Are they all a bunch of naives together is a curious coincidence? OR ARE THEY BEING ORCHESTRATED? And if that is so, who does this situation serves? Is it the democratic opposition? Is it the extremist right wing? Is it Mugabe’s men and/or Mugabe’s friends (and in this case Mozambicans and others are just side-victims)?

    All this naïve “rainbow country” and naïve “no crisis” situation, and naïve riot dealing is very odd…

  • JLA

    Siphiwo, my curiosity just got the better of me, and maybe I am going to regret asking this, but where are you with the kangeroos?

  • david saks

    Mbeki is an exceptionally capable and clever man. What worries me is that if he has failed so badly – and, sadly, it is looking more and more like this will be history’s verdict on him – will his successor be able to do any better? Just what has gone wrong?

  • Tom Plantagenet

    I was not aware that matthews phosa was the secretary general of the ANC, have you conjured up this fact or is this an example of your typical shoddy analysis (tinged with emotion and no factual basis)?

  • Lyndall Beddy


    The country is not ready for an election – but Mbeki should stand down, and hand over to his Deputy President. By all accounts she is competant – and was not part of the inner circle during the arms deal, where everything points back to.

    Mbeki chose his “bad advisors”. Have you ever thought that maybe the reason he never fires any of his incompetant ministers was because he chose them because they were not more competant than him and would not outshine him?

    If “they are being orchestrated” then the only one “who gains” in my personal opinion is the ANC -maybe the people are being deflected from lack of delivery to an outside “enemy”.

    If it is being orchestrated – only the Scorpions could have had the ability to uncover this.

  • jose barreira

    @R2P2G dot EU
    I’m very very curious to see what FIFA’s boss is going to decide when the no-turning point is reached. That “point” is still to come, regardless of the millions SA has buried in those event related infrastructures. And some countries have a very close eye on the whole situation since it could be a GREAT opportunity for them to replace SA in 2010.
    I bet FIFA’s boss won’t take the responsability of foreigners’ deaths, and you’re right, it’s a hell of a possibility (does that already run as a bet in european bet market? Keep checking!).

  • lungi

    I am always stunned when people blame Thabo Mbeki for this and for that and for everything going wrong in South Africa. Is he the only one responsible for government policies? Did the people of South Africa vote for a one man party?

    we all love to have someone to point a finger at. what about our responsibilities as individuals? I have not even once seen a comment from anyone saying “I have a blanket to spare, ten bucks to buy a loaf of bread or a tin of fish at home, where is the closest place hosting refugees?
    NOOO. That will be getting too involved.Let somebody else deal with it so that I can sit back and point out their mistakes for all to see. All have a lot to say about the government and Mbeki hiding anonymously behind their monitors.
    Actions speak louder than words. Instead of complaining and moaning, why not do something. we might not have been the ones to say “there is no crisis” but surely we all act that way.

    Do something worthwhile before complainning about something useless said or done by someone

  • Dave

    The ANC elite has hitherto run this country like its own personal business venture. Had they taken a principled approach to leadership from the outset, many of these problems would have been addressed and dealt with early on and not left to fester and spread. Unfortunately, it seems that it is only when these problems begin to affect image and ultimately profit that those in power suddenly attempt to deal with them.

    We have seen a leadership whose main priorities have been to maintain power – ‘the ANC will rule until Jesus returns’!! – and to enrich itself. The best thing that could happen to this country would be for a new party to be voted into government, and for the ANC to be forced out of power. Hopefully then it would take a long hard look at itself and finally recognise the gulf between the principles and values it espouses on paper, and the manner of its conduct in practice.
    Of course, as long as we as South Africans refuse to consider voting for opposition parties this will never happen.

  • Consulting Engineer

    @David Saks

    Now ask the question how do we set it right? Certainly it will not be via the ANC, whose penchant for private jets and strategy for flying the plane seems to be point the nose down and open the throttles, but make sure you have a parachute for yourself.

  • Paul

    @ David
    I disagree with you that Mbeki is clever. I feel he might have a good IQ but as far as emotionla intelligence goes he is lacking a great deal. He has never been one to tolerate discussion or disagreement. he has surrounded hismelf with yes men. Let us see how JZ goes. He at leat has met minorities J(Jews and Afrikaners) he has said crime is a porblem as is AIDS. Mbeki has never said any of these things. At least JZ has acknowledged that there is a problem. Let us see if he can do something about it.

  • amused reader

    I don’t know why we are debating if it is mbeki or the ANC, it is clearly both!

    Anton Kleinschmidt is right (as usual), where will our salvation come from?

    Lyndall Beddy is also right, our deputy president probably would be our best bet, which is why neither faction of the ANC want her!

    Helen Zille, Patricia De Lille, Kenneth Meshoe, i would give my eye teeth for any of them, although Zille would be my choice.

    Democracy is wasted on SA.

  • amused reader

    @ Lungi

    The western world has been pouring billions of dollars into Africa for 50 years, and it has done bugger all good thus far.

    You can willingly have my blanket, R10, and a tin of fish, but what is it going to solve, whilst the lunatics are still running the asylum?

  • Joe

    Blaming the man at the top is not the answer. Its like saying its Bush’s fault everytime we disagree with American actions we do not like.
    These individuals are supported by cabinet ministers etc.
    Local government probably has more to answer for than central government. But even so, are they not all surrounded by advisors who’s job it is to make sure that their incompetent bosses don’t mess up.
    We are going downhill very fast and we need someone to apply the brakes. Put the nepotism aside and employ the best and hopefully we will still have time to stop the rot.
    Generals need good, well trained and dedicated troops to have an effective army. Without them they will not win any battles let alone the war we are already fighting.

  • Charlene Smith

    Vuyo/Bouwer aka Tom P – thanks for the correction. It’s regrettable, but no doubt inevitable, that instead of an intelligent rebuttal you have to resort to insult.

  • anton kleinschmidt

    @ lungi

    Thabo Mbeki in his role as President is the man in the hot seat or the equivalent of Chief Executive Officer of South Africa Ltd. When something goes wrong with the governing of South Africa he carries the can. That is what he gets paid for and it is called accountability / responsibilty

    Several top international bankers including the CEO of Citibank (one of the worlds biggest) were recently fired because things went wrong whilst they were in charge. Tony Blair jumped before he was pushed and George Bush is about to suffer a similar fate

    When you right at the top of the pile there is no one else to blame when things go wrong. You cannot simply ignore failure at the top because things can only get worse

  • Yaj

    Too right. Thabo Mbeki, Trevor Manuel, Tito Mboweni and Alec Erwin have been disasters for this country. Why Cosatu is throwing their support behind Zuma boggles the mind. We must pray to god that Mr Motlanthe can lead us out of this socio-economic mess

  • Siphiwo Qangani with Kangaroos

    downunder, the thirstiest continet in the world…

  • Chuma

    Can somebody give me evidence that Motlanthe is not a fervent supporter of ZANU PF and an of the targeted sanctions. Still nobody suggests what really Mbeki should do to save the situation in Zimbabwe.

  • Paul Whelan


    No one is obliged to suggest what Mbeki needs to do to ‘save the situation’ (whatever that means) in Zim and when people do make suggestions, those suggestions do not bind Mbeki – in the sense that he is the country’s president and it is his decision. He is free to choose whether he thinks critics are right or wrong and whether or not to follow their advice.

    The fact that no one else may have a solution does not relieve Mbeki of his problem. He is president.

    If the way he solves or does not solve the problem is unsatisfactory, people are free to say so.

  • Lyndall Beddy


    Mbeki had been mediating (interfering and protecting Bob) for 8 years. He should have recused himself after less than ONE year.

  • Kit

    *I have not even once seen a comment from anyone saying “I have a blanket to spare, ten bucks to buy a loaf of bread or a tin of fish at home, where is the closest place hosting refugees?*

    Because we would look like prats and morons trying to prove how impressive we were when actually however much we are doing, it isn’t enough. Additionally, because those of us who are (and were before this current outrage) doing something already KNOW where to send the stuff because it’s not that hard to find places. You just open your eyes.

    Would it make my opinion more valid if I gave you the list you want? I’d suggest you actually couldn’t care less but I could always email it to interested parties (if I could get over the complete and sickening lack of humility feeling).