An ANC dilemma and other things

28th April 2010 By: Denis Worrall

In the last Insight, after describing the tensions within the ANC and particularly as a result of Julius Malema's conduct and the policy positions he adopted, we raised the question of whether the ANC had the backbone to rein him in. And much has happened since then - with President Zuma laudably going public with a widely publicised television statement chastising the youth leader. Zuma said he would definitely face disciplinary action - although the nature of the charges against Malema would be determined by the appropriate ANC body. However, nobody seems to know what happened from that point.

The Youth League subsequently met with top echelon of ANC leader and afterwards suggested that it (the Youth League) would deal with the matter. And Malema with a sizeable delegation jetted off to Venezuela ostensibly to further his knowledge of successful nationalizations. Meanwhile back home, ANC spokespersons tell the media and the rest of the country that it is an internal ANC matter of interest to nobody else. But how Julius Malema is handled from this point on, is a major source of concern also internationally is evident from a story in The New York Times last week under the heading "South Africa's Malema to escape ANC discipline." That influential newspaper went on to say: "Investors are watching development between the ANC and its Youth and worry that the Youth leaders' racial rhetoric could - spark tension among races in Africa's biggest economy."

What I don't understand about many of my countrymen is their failure to appreciate the negative consequences of issues like this and our handling them. South Africa is not a "throw-away" country. It has enormous assets, an important geographic situation, the leading economy in Africa by virtue of its diversification, and in many respects the good-setter of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Right now, for example, I am in China in my capacity as Chairman of Omega Mining Partners promoting selected African mining investment opportunities. And it simply is not true that the Chinese, whether in Hong Kong or Beijing, are oblivious to developments in South Africa. In fact they are as sensitive as the people The New York Times referred to earlier.

The Judiciary in the spotlight once again

Judicial appointments in most democracies are critical and are almost invariably subject to a measure of controversy. This is obviously because in the final analysis in democracies it is the judiciary which decides critical issues. So, for example, at the present time, in the US President Obama has to nominate somebody to take the place of John Paul Stevens who is anticipated to resign at the age of 90 and after 35 years on the Court. This could be a critical decision for the President and the Democratic Party, given the balance of opinion within the Court and his earlier appointment of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court's first Latina judge.

In South Africa the judiciary has featured controversially more than is good for the country, for good governance and for an independent judiciary. The most recent controversy is sparked by the Judicial Services Commission's decision to overlook Jeremy Gauntlett as a judge in the Western Cape. Gauntlett, who had an extraordinary brilliant academic career (Rhodes scholar and all that) is unquestionably one of South Africa's top advocates and legal minds and the decision to overlook him is inexplicable - unless it be political.

I believe that had Gauntlett chosen some twenty or twenty-five years ago to practice also in the United Kingdom that he would have followed in the footsteps of Lord Johan Steyn and Lord Lenny Hoffman who, as South Africans, initially practiced in South Africa but who ended their careers at the top of the English legal system.

A Football Story

As I write there are 48 days to the start of the World Football Cup. And everything in South Africa - except for the country's team - is on course for this huge event. And in the spirit of the World Cup I would like to relate this story. It comes from a little one-page publication which is for what loose change you have available at intersections in Cape Town. (I don't know whether it circulates outside of Cape Town.) It is called Funny Money and I buy it because firstly I feel for the people selling it (they generally suggest they are very happy selling it) and secondly because most of the time it carries good jokes.

One of the latest tells the story of two old friends Fred and Joe, both now in their nineties, who loved football. Fred became very ill and was taken to hospital. On a visit to him, when the end was clearly near, Joe said to him: "My good friend, we've shared a passion for football and I want you to promise me one thing. When you get to heaven - as I know you will - tell me whether they play football in heaven." "Of course I will" said Joe. Shortly after this he passed away and shortly after that he appeared in the middle of the night to Joe. "I told you that I would keep my promise. And what I have to tell you is both good and bad. Yes, there is football in heaven." "Okay, that's the good message, what's the bad one?" said Joe. "The bad message", said Fred "is that you are scheduled to kick-off at 3.15pm next Saturday."