South Africa’s annual midsummer shutdown has begun. For the next six weeks the entire economy switches to ‘pause’ mode.
It’s a merry interval that’s grown insidiously over the years. What used to be a week off between Christmas and New Year, expanded to encompass at one end the Day of Reconciliation in mid-December and, at the other end, the Cape tradition of a Tweede Nuwejaar.
It’s now the norm for builders merchants after mid-November to delay new stock orders because any supply delay leaves them holding costly inventory from when contractors down tools on December 14 until they resume in mid-January. At the same time, enough professionals extend their holidays into mid-January, to make the business of business impossible until after their return. And, increasingly, children don’t have to attend school after their last exam, so for some the holidays start as early as November 27.
Such hedonism would once have offended mightily my puritan sensibilities, but one mellows. While the world might frown at our tenuous work ethic, I now think it’s great. If the country is to go down the tubes, let’s do it en famille, chilled around the braai and with a glass of plonk in hand.
But before indolence, let’s start taking stock of 2012. This was another annus horribilis for President Jacob Zuma’s government, as it continues its slide into a morass of corruption.
Ironically it’s those charged with fighting corruption, the SA Police Service, who are at the sharp end. Not only did they kill 34 miners at Marikana, but it is difficult to imagine that the investigating judicial commission will not find, whatever the other factors behind the massacre, that the police are ill-trained, ill-equipped, ill-disciplined and poorly led.
There’s other evidence enough of that. In the past year, 720 people were shot dead by the police or died in police custody. Only 13 officers were convicted of wrongdoing.
Gauteng SAPS arrested 600 of its officers for corruption in a year. At any moment, more than 600 SAPS officers are on suspension with full pay.
More than 27 000 active service police officers have failed their firearm proficiency test. Of the 130 000 remaining officers, 55 000 have yet to be trained, before taking the test, but SAPS hasn’t the resources to do so. Over the past 18 months, 1,200 police firearms were lost or stolen.
The problems start at the top. For the second time, the African National Congress appointment to head the police has been fired following corruption allegations. Yet another ANC stalwart, also with zero policing background, was appointed as National Commissioner just prior to the Marikana massacre and for now is hanging in there.
R140 000 was taken from a police slush fund to build a wall around Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s house. (Incidentally, walls were hot property this year. Zingile Dingane, the secretary to Parliament, lied to get a soft loan for building an even bigger and better wall than Mthethwa’s, costing R186 000.)
Major-General Richard Mdluli was appointed to head of police intelligence, despite controversially withdrawn charges against him of abuse of state resources, fraud, corruption, murder and defeating the ends of justice. As a Zuma protégé, Mdluli had aspirations to be the next National Commissioner but faced the minor hurdle of National Prosecuting Authority’s specialised crime unit regional head, Glynnis Breytenbach, wanting to nail him on fraud charges.
Instead Breytenbach was suspended. Eventually, in response to public outcry, Mdluli was also suspended, for using the intelligence service to meddle in politics.
Mdluli, a true family man, appointed 23 relatives to cushy SAPS jobs, including his wife (a colonel), his former wife (a colonel), his daughter (a lieutenant-colonel), and his son (a captain). The Hawks claim the family managed to lay claim to 15 official luxury cars and that R150 000 was diverted for ‘security improvements’ – another wall? – at Mdluli’s home, all paid from a SAPS slush fund.
The Mdluli saga encapsulates the woes of SAPS and SA: deployed incompetents, nepotism, corruption, arrogance and the perversion of state security to serve the party. The response of ANC Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe to the Mdluli matter shows how far we are from a solution: ‘Why should the case of a civil servant who is in trouble with his department become a national matter? Why should it be elevated to a national question?’
Sigh! Expect 2013 to be another tough one.