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Max du Preez: One thing more dramatic than SA's state capture

Jan 19 2018 06:42
Carin Smith

Cape Town - As dramatic as state capture is, the SA story of how civil society pushed back is even more dramatic, political analyst Max du Preez said on Thursday.

"This is not the kind of thing you will see in other young democracies," he said as a guest speaker at the annual Nedbank VinPro Information Day for the wine industry.

"For this country of ours, which US President Donald Trump calls 'South Shithole', the pendulum is swinging back. 'South Shithole' has hit rock bottom and is climbing up - how long it will take remains to be seen."

Du Preez said the era of SA President Jacob Zuma introduced concepts like state capture and tenderpreneurship to South Africans.

"He outsourced the power we gave him to an immigrant family in exchange for money. The old way of doing things is over now with the election of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as ANC president. Zuma is a wiley street fighter, while Cyril is a fine strategist and sophisticated urbanite," said Du Preez.

"Cyril is the opposite of a cheap populist and SA’s first democratic president not coming from the ANC in exile or the Mandela-era Robben Islanders. He will represent SA at the WEF as our de facto leader and will not embarrass us as has happened before in Davos."

In Du Preez's view, the wave of civil society activism has played a big part in securing a Ramaphosa win against Zuma's favourite, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. For him (Du Preez) the whole civil society push back started with the Nkandla Report by former public protector Tuli Madonsela and the Constitutional Court supporting her.

Zuma's firing of former finance ministers Nhlanhla Nene and Pravin Gordhan added to the civil society reaction, in his view, prompting various organisations to take action; leading to opposition parties starting to "talk to each other", and turning parliamentary portfolio committees into watchdogs again.

"Many call South Africa a failing state, but all studies conclude that open societies never become failed states. South Africa is one of the most open societies in the world. We also have religious tolerance and no culture of military intervention," said Du Preez.

In his view, Ramaphosa's biggest challenge is the kind of "cheap populism" experienced in SA over the last few years.

"Cheap populism is dangerous. Populists divide society into 'oppressing elite' and 'oppressed masses'. They promise people stuff (they cannot deliver)," said Du Preez.

"Cyril has a difficult task in having to tell South Africans that if you piss off the markets, they will punish you. You cannot run an economy on an island. That is what he has to tell his NEC," said Du Preez.

As for land reform, he foresees Ramaphosa calling for an investigation into the issue and the courts would have a role to play too in order to ensure that agricultural production and food security are not impacted.

For Du Preez it is better to have a "stable ANC" ruling the country than the party not getting a majority vote in the next national election.

"Despite what economists say, if we can get a spark of belief in the business sector, others will start believing in SA again, possibly then bringing a new investment," he said.

"It is wise to warn against seeing Cyril as the Messiah, though. Cyril has to be strong and has to make some difficult decisions, but he restored our country's national order. This active civil society won't tolerate any abuse of power by him (either)."

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