Bruce’s List: A guide to informed reads.
Casting himself as the victim of a conspiracy, just as he did when Thabo Mbeki fired him more than a decade ago, President Jacob Zuma has been out on the stump over the past few days railing against enemies in his own party, big business and the West as part of a plot to get rid of him. It worked a while ago but it won’t work now. He is too damaged (typically self-inflicted) now and he has damaged too many hopes in too many people after seven years in power. Nonetheless, he has the state machinery behind him (well, some powerful pieces of it) so if you think 2016 has been a rough year politically in SA, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Remember, Zuma’s primary aim in life is to avoid having to face the 783 counts of fraud against him. They were dropped back in 2009 on spurious grounds and they have effectively been reinstated by the Pretoria high court, which ruled the decision to drop them in the first place irrational. The only reason he isn’t in the dock is that both he and the National Prosecuting Authority, of course, have appealed the high court decision. The supreme court of appeal will hear argument as to why it should bother hearing the appeal early next year, in February or March. It will treat the argument as the appeal and, as it usually does, will decide quickly. He will lose and then appeal to the constitutional court and lose there as well. So he will go into the December 2017 ANC elective congress in Kimberley an accused person, which will fatally weaken his ability to control his succession as leader of the ANC and, ultimately, of the country. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
As she often does, Ranjeni Munusamy, herself once seen as an integral part of Zuma’s wider campaign to topple Mbeki, has Zuma in her cross hairs these days and neatly nails the futility of his final battle for sympathy. And as she and the Sunday Times pointed out yesterday, the irony of declaring, as Zuma did, that he knows who the “real thieves” in SA are, is obviously lost on the man. If he knows of crimes being committed, why doesn’t he simply report them?
Justice Malala probably says it best in the Rand Daily Mail. Compare Zuma’s drivelling to the majesty of a speech made last week by deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas as he calls for a “new consensus” in SA about how we move forward and to get an accurate measure of what a danger Zuma is to a struggling nation.
Meanwhile, deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa has doggedly pursued arguably his only real hope of holding a position among the finalists for the ANC leadership and was able to “announce” at the weekend that agreement had been reached among the social partners on the R3,500 a month national minimum wage. Big deal. And it still isn’t done and even if he gets it in writing it’ll take years to implement. There’s a lot of argument about a minimum wage. Some say it will destroy jobs and others that it will stimulate the economy. No-one has yet come up with an example of a minimum wage working in a country with even remotely our levels of unemployment and skills levels. More troubling in Ramaphosa’s announcement was the vague suggestion that agreement had also been reached on a deal under which unions would ballot members before a strike. At the very least this should accompany a minimum wage deal, if only to satisfy the ratings agencies that our anarchic labour sector is making a contribution to economic stability. But no, Ramaphosa will have to have private conversations with the agencies in town in the next few days and soothe concerns that might naturally persist in the absence of actual, measurable, progress. As it is, R3,500 is a pretty poor wage and it didn’t take long for the Young Communist League to challenge Ramaphosa to live on it for a week, let alone a month.
I have written before that overinvoicing is the most common form of corruption in our public sector. You secure a R10m tender by invoicing the guy on the other side R20m and you and he pocket the difference. So I was surprised to see the practice pop up in relation to a deal in which the Gupta newspaper, The New Age, cracked R17m in advertising. The issue is contained in court papers and involves Eric Wood, or “Dr” Eric Wood, CEO of the Gupta-aligned Trillian Capital. People who once worked with Wood at Investec say he was a very bright guy. But this looks dumber than dumb.
And finally, and obviously, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has to go, and immediately. An honourable man would simply have resigned on the spot after the loss to Italy — Italy! — on Saturday. I know there’s a deeper rot in our rugby, what with the old farts running the game, but a good coach can work wonders with almost any team — look at Wales, England, Ireland, Scotland and, yes, Italy. They all have foreign coaches, mainly from New Zealand. Coetzee is just hopeless, out of his depth and evidently incapable of creating a game plan and training his players to follow it.