Clouds Across the Rainbow

Following the euphoria surrounding the World Cup, it’s back to cold hard reality in South Africa. 

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the lounge of the King George Hotel in beautiful George in South Africa’s Western Cape province. Memories of South Africa’s big moment of the year, the hosting of the soccer World Cup, were already fading. The country had returned to dealing—or rather not dealing, in many respects—with its ongoing challenges.

Looking out across the rugged Outeniqua Mountains, all appeared calm and peaceful, just as it did when I first took in this view back in 1994. But then, as now, the view belies the reality. South Africa is far from being “the rainbow nation at peace with itself,” as touted by Nelson Mandela shortly after he gained the nation’s presidency in 1995. This troubled society is jarringly at odds with the beauty of the handiwork of the Creator who carved out its breathtaking countryside.

After spending a few days in the picturesque tourist resort of George, we landed in Cape Town, its renowned Table Mountain dominating the hinterland, the waters of the famous harbor glistening in spring sunshine.

The first time I took in this view was also in 1994. I expected change, and that’s what I saw. The most obvious change is the prominence of African blacks in positions of service previously held by whites. This is the result of a deliberate policy of the African National Congress (anc)-dominated government to displace whites with blacks based on racial preference rather than job performance. The result has been an obvious reduction in the efficiency of the delivery of service.

Those whose minds have been perverted by the inane political correctness of the age will have trouble handling that statement of fact; nevertheless, it is the reality. There is no political correctness in today’s South Africa—just a blatant effort by the leaders of the majority ethnic population to take from those who brought them from rank tribalism to civilized society in barely a couple of centuries.

A Broken Promise

Any transition of power from a dominant, sophisticated culture to a less developed culture would ordinarily take a good deal of time and effort, and full cooperation between the parties involved. This has not been the case with South Africa. The old government simply wanted to divest itself of the largest problem in its “too hard” basket, for the right price. The new government came in with an agenda: Displace whites from their perch and take over the wealth of the land, distributing it to privileged blacks who had been the most vocal and active in resisting white rule.

In South Africa, the result has been much the same as in other ex-colonial African nations: The Big Men (and women) get the lion’s share of the wealth; the poor continue to rot in their festering ghettos.

A year after the handover of the country by President F.W. de Klerk to the anc-dominated government, I stood only a few yards away from Nelson Mandela in the press gallery on the lawns in front of the fine old colonial Union Building in Pretoria. The politicians who had helped give away a country that had been gifted by God to the modern descendants of the ancient nation of Israel sat behind him. Before Mandela, the adoring, clamoring crowd amassed on the lawn. The occasion was the first anniversary of the handover of the country, “Freedom Day” as it has come to be labeled.

As I looked into the eyes of Mandela, the former terrorist, one year into his presidency of the great country of South Africa, the words of my editor in chief rang loud in my ears. “South Africa,” he said to me as we discussed just what 1994 portended for the West, “is the first of the Anglo-Saxon nations to give away its God-given birthright.”

Returning to this once richly blessed country a decade and a half later, I see the results of that fatal decision. The shanty towns in Cape Town that were a new blight on the country in the mid-’90s are now entrenched in the urban scene. They are larger and continue to extend, month by month. Illegal immigrants pour across the nation’s ill-secured borders to the north. Their number adds to an already endemic social problem in South Africa: the rapidly swelling ranks of the unemployed. This in a country that already has a staggering 37 percent general unemployment and 60 percent youth unemployment. That latter figure is now leading to spontaneous youth riots in various communities.

Mandela’s electoral promise of a home for every black remains largely unfulfilled even as a significant class of black nouveau riche has arisen attached to the government, the bureaucracy and, to a certain extent, business and commerce. This is the result of deeply entrenched corruption, nepotism and a “jobs for the boys” mentality: Ill-qualified lackeys of the anc are granted fat-salaried “jobs” that often amount to nothing more than an official title with the trappings of office and a nice paycheck with little or no accountability. This situation has not been helped by a white commercial class that has toadied to the government for the favor it needs in order to continue reaping corporate profits.

Despite such rampant corruption, the South African government continues to window dress under the delusion that it can aspire to global power status.

A New Growth Path

In late October, South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, trotted out a list of platitudes designed to mask the reality of the systemic problems that have plagued the country for 17 years now.

The Economist reported on October 29, “President Jacob Zuma’s government announced a ‘new growth path’ this week, with the aim of creating 5 million jobs over the next 10 years. Since the official unemployment rate stands at over 25 percent—and at almost 37 percent if those too discouraged to go on looking for a job are included—this should indeed be a priority.

“Sadly, however, there is not much new in the government’s plan. It amounts to little more than a long list of worthy suggestions (less corruption, more efficiency, greater cooperation with unions and so on). If conditions were right this might do it. But they are not.”

On the foreign-policy front, the Zuma government seeks to align with the so-called bric emerging economies—Brazil, Russia, India and China. Zuma has visited each of these countries over the past year in efforts to raise inward investment in South Africa.

Last August, President Zuma visited Beijing and signed a comprehensive strategic partnership with China, the latest in a number of efforts to cozy up to other emerging economic powers and thus increase Pretoria’s global prestige. However, as Stratfor reported, “While such partnerships can help bring much-needed investment and technical expertise into the country, South Africa’s domestic challenges, such as unemployment, public sector strikes and widespread poverty, will need to be addressed before it can credibly rise as a regional power with global influence, and some of the potential partnerships with China could even exacerbate existing problems” (Aug. 24, 2010).

The Zuma government must recognize that any nation that invests in the development of South African resources will have only its own national interest at heart. Distracted by deeply entrenched social problems and having lost much of the strong military edge that South Africa once possessed before the anc/sacp took over in 1994, more dominant powers have little to fear in terms of retribution for pillaging the nation’s wealth. As Stratfor noted, a “potential influx of Chinese laborers displacing their South African counterparts, as has been the case elsewhere in Africa, would compound Pretoria’s existing employment problems” (ibid.).

A Difficult Choice

South Africa faces a difficult choice. To survive, it must market its much-desired natural resources. The risk is that it will be taken advantage of by stronger and more resilient economies such as China and the increasingly powerful European Union, especially its lead nation, Germany. These two giant competing yet interdependent markets are eying South Africa’s raw materials as they seek to feed their resource-hungry industries. These are the two great “marts” prophesied in Isaiah 23. Between them they hold the major portion of the bargaining chips for South Africa’s mineral wealth.

Any aspiration by South Africa to mix with the mighty as a global player will continue to be frustrated by the ineptness of its self-serving political class. Rather than advancing the lot of its native population, South Africa appears rather to be retrogressing in the delivery of much-needed social services. As in so many other African nations, it seems the cult of entitlement has subsumed any sense of public responsibility in South Africa’s post-apartheid rulers.

Storm clouds are gathering over the rainbow nation. The risk is that the tensions between the 4 percent of the population that pay taxes and the rest will become so great that South African society will erupt in internecine strife. In the meantime, those of the birthright people who remain, whose leaders sold their nation for a bowl of pottage, maintain a precarious foothold, mostly in the Western Cape province.

A Curse Fulfilled

Whether it is obvious or not to the casual observer, South Africa is a classic demonstration of what happens to a people who forget their God. He simply allows them, in their rebellion, to flush their God-given birthright down the drain!

In the great prophecy to the Israelites, the Eternal God declared, “[I]f thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes … all these curses shall come upon thee .… The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. … [H]e shalt be the head, and thou shalt be the tail” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44).