Over the past few months there have been a few activities of noteworthy mention in South Africa. Although these are quite generalised, they do affect and impact South Africa’s Tamil and Indian populations as equally as every other cultural group. Some individuals and organisations have been eating the flesh out of South Africa's economy; like lions feasting on fresh meat!
Release of the State Capture Report by the Zondo Commission
For those who are not familiar with the term ‘State Capture’, it has become synonymous with the nine dark years of the Zuma administration with former president Jacob Zuma at the helm of the country’s highest office. He surrounded himself with allies, who together, looted the state coffers from the tax agency to the national energy supply. The Public Protector at the time, Thuli Madonsela, released a report requesting that an independent enquiry be set up to investigate the phenomenon of State Capture. Judge Raymond Zondo was appointed as head of the commission, now known as the Zondo Commission. After numerous extensions, the several thousand-page report has been handed to the sitting president, Cyril Ramaphosa. It details how the Zuma administration captured South Africa with the help of the Indian-born Gupta family who fled to Dubai when all eyes rested on them as they weaved themselves into every fabric of state-owned enterprise. The Gupta family benefited from all kinds of interests in South Africa which included attempts to destabilise our currency for their benefit. They had their hands every cookie jar that the Zuma administration allowed, and it stirred the anger of many South Africans who wanted justice. We are yet to see a single arrest but Jacob Zuma and his allies were alleged to be accountable for the looting and riots that took place in the country last year.
The Gupta Brothers in Manacles
The UAE did not have an extradition treaty with South Africa and so it took years to get to the stage where the Gupta brothers were arrested in early June, with a view to be extradited to South Africa. This recent news got many of us excited even if some of it is with a false sense of hope that they will reach a trial in our lifetime. They, together with the former president Zuma, are notorious for dodging their legal obligations by using delay tactics. It is quite a story of how the Gupta brothers came to South Africa as businessmen and then almost owned the country. It will take much work to undo the damage caused by their influence in the highest office of the country.
Stage 6 Loadshedding
The Gupta brother's interests in gaining access to our power utility is one of the many complex reasons why it has destabilised. Their improper acquisition of tenders added a financial complexity to an already struggling organisation. On 28 June, we entered stage 6 load shedding which effectively means that we have power for only half the day while the utility manages sabotage at their power stations, poor maintenance of infrastructure that was built during the apartheid era, and a workforce which had gone on strike. To be fair, many of the employees at Eskom earn far more than their inputs and there is an over-inflated yet underqualified workforce. The sub-standard quality of engineering and other critical skills is a result of mass economic migration where people seek better pastures. South Africa, while home to most of Africa’s refugees from other war-torn countries, is facing a massive skills shortage within its own citizens.
The Refugee Crisis and Xenophobic Attacks
African nationals from Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Somalia and many others find themselves living in clustered communities in South Africa. There is a jostle for jobs as South Africa’s youth unemployment is sitting at 34% and communities are angered by the number of undocumented foreign nationals residing in the country. Many live in shanty towns or informal settlements and it is rumoured that many of the crime and underworld syndicates that South Africa is notorious for is run by a foreign national network. There are hardworking foreign nationals who are fleeing war zones and who seek a better life for themselves, and their families and I know many of them who give back to South Africa’s economy to fill the skills shortage. But alas, there is a problem with our Department of Home Affairs which allows undocumented foreign nationals the right to live freely in South Africa and take advantage of the already strained resources. As recent flooding in KwaZulu-Natal proved, South Africa’s infrastructure is under immense threat as our citizens are vulnerable to all manners of natural disasters because of climate change. There are accounts of undocumented foreign nationals stealing South African's identities, and committing a host of crimes. They are not the regular hardworking African who must wants a safe place for their families and somewhere to call home. I feel like this can resonate with many readers who have been scattered across the globe because of political instability in the nations they were born.
Water Shortages and Day Zeros
KwaZulu-Natal’s recent flooding means that the dams are overflowing. Adjacent Eastern Cape and the City of Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) is fast approaching ‘day zero’ where taps open to no water. Poor infrastructure upkeep rears it’s ugly head again. Inept management at government level, together with unqualified staff in key positions lend itself to a recipe for disaster. NGO’s such as Gift of the Givers find themselves doing the work of government by digging boreholes or supplying water to vulnerable communities across the country. The impact of Russia-Ukraine war has also impacted on our agriculture industry where feed supply has reduced. Our exports are impacted, and our imports are so exorbitant that the cost of living has basically sky-rocketed with the reserve bank having raised interest rates recently, and we are expecting another interest rate hike in the coming weeks.
The cost of fuel has risen to well above affordability levels. People who own cars are spending almost twice as much on filling up their tanks than ever before. Our public transport system leaves much to be desired as it does not effectively service all commuter’s needs. Uber is still a viable option but still outpriced against other potential modes of transportation which could take away pressures of commute costs. One note of the impact of apartheid is that the system was designed to place marginalised communities at the outskirts of the metropolitan areas which means that, even today, people spend up to 70% of their salaries on commute costs. The local taxi industry which operates minibuses transport the general working population of South Africa. This means that when the taxi industry goes on strike, South Africa’s economy halts. Taxi violence is still a real threat as taxi associations struggle to manage many of the owner-run turf wars.
The Good News
South Africa is our home. South Africans fight every single day to work hard and build a meaningful life in this very diverse and colourful land, with some of the most enviable natural resources and unimaginable raw beauty. We live here inspired by warm and sunny skies, friendly people and an obnoxious sense of humour. South Africans laugh at ourselves and laugh with each other even when there's a deep crisis point and there's a national pride that makes our people beam – come visit. There is so much you can experience that will make you fall in love with who we are and you can support our economy in ways that we need to mitigate the dramas that face us. I don't believe that any of the above are all doom and gloom. Every country has their challenges - we have ours and I feel like airing dirty laundry makes us all the more relatable.