Government has developed a fool proof strategy to divert (most) attention from its frenetic fumbling of the economy that they had successfully put on full-throttle reverse.
The Job Summit’s rehearsed pitches and agreements to create jobs (almost as if jobs can be manufactured like overalls), to minimise retrenchments and to buy local, reminds one of the annual retirement village talent concert: nothing new, innovative or inspiring. Rather old hat. It solicited respectful applause, but thankfully Nhlanhla Nene (ably assisted by Julius Malema and by the grace of the Guptas) diverted attention from the dreary Summit.
One has to give it to the ANC: just as the Job Summit was obscured by sheNenegans, the previous big building block – the Emergency Stimulus Package – was enveloped by a court verdict releasing thick aromatic clouds of “Personal stimulus by zol”. That high successfully obscured the regurgitating of empty promises of yesterday’s infrastructure development plans.
Can Trevor Noah develop such a script?
With the Investment Summit around the corner and recalling investment ambassador Trevor Manuel’s acknowledgement that it was difficult to sell Expropriation without Compensation, Government basically has two choices:
- It can announce attention-grabbing policy about-turns (think how De Klerk pulled a negotiated future from the apartheid hat on 2 February 1990), or
- It can repeat the old-age home talent concert approach and ensure an attention-diverter at least on par with “A jol with a zol” or “The confessions of the cornered”.
How the Investment Summit can grab attention and inspire
The only way the Investment Summit will deliver on luring investments will be if the conjurer’s hand comes out of the hat with not a rabbit, but with a faster running hare. Also not one hare, but a few with very specific genes and names.
- If Hare 1 is “No expropriation without compensation” it will result in the best run since Wayde van Niekerk won the 400m gold in a world record time.
- Hare 2 named “Merit trumps colour” would give Hare 1 a run for its money. With productive knowledge genes and not “Baantjies for Broeders” or “Careers for Comrades”, it will signal a decisive break with the burial of the the ideological twin policies of job reservation and BEE.
- Hare 3 has a long name – “Government will concentrate on doing basic government tasks well rather than meddling in non-governmental territory”. This hare is an extraordinary specimen with a long pedigree of good economic growth genes. The obvious place to start would be to reform the police service radically, getting rid of the crooks, the retired and the lazy (within the SAPS) and to start building from that very lean remaining base an effective crime prevention and crime-busting institution. A similar process can be followed in municipalities.
- Hare 4 is called “Privatisation of SA ports”. Considering that the whole economy is being held hostage by inefficient ports with tariffs more than double the world average, this hare would in itself make mockery of the triumvirate of the National Development Plan, the New Growth Path and the Emergency Stimulus Package.
- Hare 5 – “Closing down SAA” – is not a potential gold medal winner like the other four. But it would make such a nice pie to enjoy, knowing that the long-term heart burn caused by forced-feeding with tax-payers’ money will be something of the past.
Fake news and farm killings
If unwilling to pull such hares from the hat, Government could stage another old-age home concert approach for the Investment Summit. The agenda (actually items) would be:
- “Praise song for low delivery in the Civil Disservice” by “The Careers for Cadres Crooners”. This will introduce a session on how effective bureaucracy and good governance form the foundation for solid economic growth.
- “The-fake-news-good-news” presentation will expose SAPS statistics on farm killings as false and spread the gospel truth that there are not only no farm murders, but that crime has no real effect despite cash in transit heists, truck-jackings and robberies.
- “How we will create economic growth and jobs in a declining mining and industrial sector” based on economic statistics showing the long term trend of decline in industrial, mining and construction output and employment data since 1994.
- “The wheelchair can-can” by Bathabile Dhlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane purely to demonstrate there’s life after failure.
Upholding the Constitution by lengthy “serious attention”
To draw the attention away from the obvious fault lines in the old-age home concert approach to investment, the President has a few options to consider:
- A presidential presentation on “How to give serious attention to matters of grave concern in order to maintain party unity in search of an election victory”. In April, after the Supreme Court of Appeal dismissed Malusi Gigaba’s appeal against the North Gauteng High Court’s ruling that Gigaba “deliberately told untruths under oath” and had violated the Constitution, Pres. Ramaphosa promised “to give serious attention to this matter of grave concern”. Six months later the onus is on the President to prove that his ignoring to act on these verdicts by keeping Gigaba in Cabinet doesn’t boil down to him breaking his oath to uphold and protect the Constitution.
- Redeploying Gigaba as special permanent envoy in Hana, Hawaii. Hana is probably the only safe place on earth to post Gigaba: it is the populated place furthest away from Pretoria (Pretoria’s antipode). Sending Gigaba further away than Hana would result in him being closer to South Africa again. (There are several other candidates to be sent to Hana as well…)
- A lecture on “Lessons in Good Governance” at the Gibbs Business School dealing with State-owned Enterprises. This should comprise two Master Classes, the first dealing with the financial statements of the SOEs and the reasons why the salaries and pensions of Cabinet Ministers and public sector employees should be linked to an index of how state-owned enterprises perform. The second should focus on the context for strategic and managerial decisions with Eskom as a case study commencing with the “War Room” at Eskom where the then vice-president was in charge. Particular, attention should be given to the interactions that led to bringing Brian Molefe in from Transnet to act as CEO at Eskom. How was that decision arrived at and which role was played by the War Room, by the Eskom Board of Directors, and by the Minister of Public Enterprises?
Can Trevor Noah match Government’s script?
Maybe Government should just forget the investment drive: the chances to raise money through a sitcom dealing with the South African reality surely will be a hit for television audiences all around the world. Not even Trevor Noah can think out a script that ludicrous…