Follow the money. It’s the economy, stupid. These catchphrases can help us understand and prevent South Africa’s downward spiral. Almost daily, politicians bring SA closer to bankruptcy.
They are led by a president who has a poor grasp of arithmetic and who, despite his oath of office, puts other interests ahead of the country’s. President Jacob Zuma’s weekend declaration that the ANC is more important than the country, is not the first of its kind from him. He has often shown disdain for the constitution.
From his record, we can list his priorities in descending order: self (No 1, indeed), family, friends, benefactors, supportive comrades, party and then, somewhere down the line, country. The poor get the occasional look-in. Given this ranking, it is not surprising that Zuma is, as Alec Hogg writes, the world’s highest paid, worst value-for-money president.
Hogg reaches this conclusion by using CNN data to create a table showing how many US dollars each leader is paid for each US$1 billion in GDP. Even leaving out stipends for four wives and home improvements, Zuma costs South African taxpayers 27 times what Americans pay for Barack Obama, nine times Germany’s Angela Merkel and 19 times more than Xi Jinping’s cost to Chinese taxpayers.
Hogg this week offers further calculations, comparing GDP per capita – the average earnings of the citizens in the selected countries. He shows that Zuma receives 34.5 times what the average South African is paid.
“The only leader who comes close is India’s Narendra Modi, who is paid almost 20 times his impoverished nation’s average. Despite all the Brics talk of addressing income inequality, the only other presidents to earn more than 10 times that of their citizens hail from Russia and Brazil … Only one of the Brics, China, is leading by example.”
So, we have a president who looks after himself, plus his nearest and dearest. And he is baffled by numbers. In this context, it is not surprising to hear suggestions of a new R4-billion jet for Zuma. Where will the money come from? Who knows? Last month, he scrapped university fee increases, at a cost of about R3 billion. Where will the money come from? Who knows?
To keep the Zuma gravy train on track, we have the world’s most bloated Cabinet, populated by people who make financially ruinous decisions. Examples include the recent job-killing fiasco over visas, the trade deal dispute with the US and the uncertainty which is destroying the mining industry.
Magnus Heystek says in this financial year SA will spend R550 billion on the salaries of all civil servants, from local to national government. This is political patronage, to cushion Zuma. We certainly don’t get value for money. Service delivery sucks. Heystek says SA is going bankrupt. #FeesMustFall is a symptom of that, along with other protests, ranging from Marikana to e-tolls.
People are feeling the pinch, big time. A tax revolt is being predicted. Sooner or later, enough folk will join the dots, linking their plight to Zuma’s self-interested profligacy and his financial illiteracy. He doesn’t care. That’s bad enough. He doesn’t even understand the sums. #ZumaMustFall.