BY SOME miracle, the government has managed, in the space of just three days, to make a terrible mistake, realise what it has done without even so much as a "workshop", and reverse it. The 270 miners charged with murdering themselves in the Lonmin massacre going on three weeks ago will now not be charged with murder and, once police have been able to get a fix on their addresses, be released until all of the Zuma administration’s many inquiries into the shootings are complete.
It is, of course, the prospect of imminent political meltdown that got President Jacob Zuma working the phones. Where he thinks he has time, he takes his time. Like all politicians, I suppose. If only there was a strong and big opposition party, the African National Congress (ANC) would behave impeccably. If the black middle classes were to vote Democratic Alliance (DA) in the 2014 election, it would have the most electrifying effect on the ANC and, critically, on the lives of the poor, to whom the ANC would have seriously to begin to "deliver". I know Cape Town is already clean but, equally, if the Western Cape middle classes were to vote ANC in the next local elections, Helen Zille and the DA would go to extraordinary lengths to do their jobs better. The answer to almost all of our many problems isn’t revolution — it’s political competition.
I was really disappointed with an article last week in the normally fabulous New York Times. Written in the wake of the Marikana killings, it raises the spectre of a country literally on the verge of social and political explosion and quotes, I’m afraid, Business Day columnist Aubrey Matshiqi and Times columnist Justice Malala as its primary sources for this cataclysmic view.
I just don’t believe the doomsayers and when foreign correspondents start quoting newspaper columnists it may be time to cover, um, another country. By far the worst thing we are on the verge of is another seven years of a Zuma presidency. That’s no leadership until almost 2020, the miner decision notwithstanding.
There is no point in middle-class foreign correspondents asking middle-class commentators here what’s going to happen. The middle classes haven’t got a clue, which is why they always sound so scared. TV pictures of the striking Lonmin miners licking their spears seem to have done their work perfectly.
Lots of folk, religions too, have an interest in scaring the rest of us. Religions will threaten you with hell if you don’t follow the rules. Similarly, the political left in South Africa want you to believe the country is on the brink. They want you to be scared enough to follow their prescriptions.
The truth is always more complicated. There is a huge but unmeasured informal economy in South Africa and it sustains millions of our fellow citizens. Some of them may even want it that way. Drive through any small rural town in South Africa early in the morning and count the number of people queueing at ATMs. They’re not depositing, they’re going shopping!
Let’s not get hysterical. Ours is a fundamentally conservative society. It is our great strength and, at difficult times like these, post-Marikana, it always shows its mettle.
A DEATH, like life, I suppose, is always quicker than you expect. At about 10.30am on Friday, I was wondering what we would be writing an editorial about for this morning’s paper. Half an hour later, it no longer mattered.
I was no longer the editor and unable to interfere in the content of the newspaper.
It has been almost 12 years and I am so grateful to readers, advertisers and, above all, my colleagues at Business Day, for the support they have given me.
From today, I glory in the title of publisher of both Business Day and the Financial Mail (of which I was a long time ago the editor) and of Summit Television. My job is different but the goal the same — to bring you strong and independent titles and journalism.
These are, as we all know, testing times for print journalism but I have not a second’s doubt that we will sail through. The acting editor at Business Day is my deputy of the past four years — Pearl Sebolao (email@example.com or, on Twitter and for no good reason, @loveydoh). She is a great editor, a fact borne out by her request after lunch on Friday that I continue writing this column every Monday.
And I will.
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