'Sellout' cat has confused pigeons all aflutter with conspiracy theory
I WAS very amused at the brouhaha following my comments on the ANC two weeks ago. Indignant readers accused me of being a sellout, saying the only explanation is that I must have been "got at" by the new black owners of the Sunday Times. I am ashamed to admit that my knowledge of corporate matters is virtually non-existent and I could probably name more breakfast cereals than I could name black directors of Times Media. There has never been any attempt to influence my copy and the only time something is removed from an article is when it might land me in court for defamation.
The most unexpected response came from my old chum, David Gleason, who flatteringly devoted his entire Torque column to suggesting that I was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. In the article I said that if a general election were held tomorrow, I would vote ANC. The key word is "tomorrow" - I can't vouch for my affections in 1999. However, unlike Gleason I believe that the ANC today is very different from the ANC of a year ago and that a new pragmatism has emerged, probably because the government realises that the gaffes of the past year have cost the country dearly. Unlike David Gleason, I don't believe affirmative action is an important issue. It is a largely discredited employment policy which insults talented black management by implying tokenism and places unqualified people in jobs they are incapable of doing. Logic tells me that the system is clearly unworkable and will eventually burn itself out. It was obvious that the public service would employ more black faces under the ANC, just as the previous administration created jobs for unskilled Afrikaners. As an aside, my own experience is that the new incumbents are far more courteous and helpful than their predecessors.
GLEASON claims that he couldn't vote ANC because he doesn't know what the party stands for and doubts whether they do. So what major party does know what it stands for? Some of them don't even seem to know what they stand against!
As evidence of the ANC's confused policy-making, Gleason cites the example of the party's recent attempts to centralise power. As he correctly points out, two provinces have "delivered sharp rebukes to the men who fondly think they run the show from the President's kitchen". That looks encouragingly like the democratic process at work to me and surely should be cause for celebration.
Financial markets have been particularly robust this year, in sharp contrast to a year ago when the ANC was busy unwittingly sabotaging the economy. I surely don't need to point out to the publisher of a financial journal that the relative strength of the markets and the ANC's economic policies cannot be divorced. Foreign investors evidently believe the government is serious about cutting wasteful expenditure, growing the economy and keeping a watchful eye on its indebtedness. Maybe they are right, maybe they are wrong but at least they are putting their money in SA markets.
Exchange controls are just another way a government interferes with an individual's personal freedom, in this case where to leave his after-tax income. Gleason has been rightly critical of them, so I hope he will remember who imposed them when the ANC dismantles them.
PERHAPS David Gleason and I use different dictionaries, but my comment that nobody could doubt the commitment of the Ministers of Land and Water Affairs could hardly be described as "panegyric", particularly considering my damning comments about all politicians earlier in the article. Many people will remember that, under the previous government, the post of Water Affairs was used as a shunting yard for downwardly mobile defence ministers and had very little to do with water at all.
It is very easy and fashionable to trash the government week after week, but I believe that if this column is to have at least a modicum of credibility then praise must also be given when due. We live in a stunningly beautiful country which has emerged from four horrific and oppressive decades with remarkably little bloodshed. Tourists are visiting, significant foreign investment is poised to come in if we send the right signals, property is cheap, food is plentiful. In the words of Harold Macmillan: "You've never had it so good."