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How to understand such strife? The sources are complex. Everywhere in independent Africa a small successor elite grabbed all the key political and bureaucratic positions and used them as a source of personal enrichment. There was no parallel in the pre-colonial situation for the gross inequalities that this produced: Leopold Senghor, the President of Senegal, owning a French chateau, Krobo Edusei, one of Nkrumah’s ministers in Ghana, owning a solid gold bed, the Congolese dictator Mobutu becoming one of the world’s richest men. This was achieved, moreover, in bone-poor countries. But when the ANC elite came to power in South Africa they were taking over the richest country on the African continent. The result has been a feeding frenzy which no Senegalese, Ghanaian or Congolese could ever have dreamt of. In a nutshell, the South African black elite has been involved in a vast, continuous party for the last 24 years.

Take, as a very small example, Gengezi Mgidlana, the Secretary to Parliament (i.e. to the Speaker) who, it is now revealed, used his position to acquire a large cash bonus, a study bursary for which he was not qualified, expensive clothes for his wife and himself, and business-class travel for himself and his wife. These he used on a number of foreign trips, most of which seem to have been nothing more than luxury holidays and shopping expeditions, in which he, his wife and friends stayed in top hotels and, at home, enjoyed chauffeured travel in luxury cars, often with blue lights flashing and outriders to emphasise his elite status.

Mgidlana was just a minor functionary, nothing more, but in effect he stole many millions of Rand — such were the resources available that even a minor functionary could steal for years without detection. And every cent of it has gone on conspicuous consumption, thus proving what a Big Man Mgidlana is or was. This is a perfect microcosm of what has happened with the South African black elite. Among the many billions thus peculated perhaps the most shocking thing is how few assets have been acquired.

The corruption took off under Nelson Mandela, accelerated under Thabo Mbeki and reached its current apogee under Jacob Zuma. What was different about Zuma was that the President himself set out quite openly to enrich himself and his family, that in return for kickbacks he allowed the state to be captured by an Indian immigrant family, the Guptas, and that corruption became systemic. Every town, every city, every province, every nationalised industry and every government department became a patchwork of interlocking rackets and patronage networks, often criminally enforced. Those brave enough to blow the whistle on what was going on were, quite normally, assassinated. But the fruits of office were universally known so that not infrequently even figures as lowly as town councillors were murdered by rivals eager to get their hands on contracts and tenders. Even the teachers’ union regularly sold teaching jobs, and the whistleblowers there too were sometimes murdered, for a thriving hit-man racket has sprung up and “contracts” to terminate witnesses are relatively cheap.
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August 27th, 2018
2:08 PM
What's up with these comments only wanting to hear about 'good news'. If there was anything of import that could bring significant change to an evermore dire situation, Mr. Johnson would have mentioned as much. Stop looking for the silver lining everywhere; this may have been a South African strength in the past but given the winds of change currently taking place in the country, it's only serving to blind and incapacitate you. Watch & accept the signs and act realistically.

Gary : From a Distance
July 18th, 2018
1:07 PM
RWJ is the most incisive and insightful commentator I have read on the SA situation. Why, then, is he ignored and ostracised by the mainstream media in South Africa? Is it because he speaks uncomfortable truths that South Africans wish to ignore while indulging in political correctness and enjoying their braaivleis and shopping mall trips? I was born in SA but left after university for England and for the past the past twenty years have been living in a country that has been constantly on the rise and has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, while South Africa is declining with poverty increasing, as I saw in visits in 2013, and 2017.

June 30th, 2018
10:06 AM
Please list the positive things happening?

June 26th, 2018
2:06 PM
Sadly, I think Johnson is being generous is his analysis. The lack of skills, education and intent by the ruling party.

Richard Stephens
June 7th, 2018
12:06 PM
I've never heard such doom and gloom! What about all the positive things that are happening in South Africa - things that we could only dream about with Zuma at the helm!

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