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.