RW Johnson – the author of How Long Will South Africa Survive? – says the Democratic Alliance does not have a chance of winning the 2019 national elections, certainly “not given the way they are going on now”. He says his old friend Helen Zille should have her smartphone taken away from her because it was a dangerous thing for her to have a phone with which she can send out tweets. The problem with her colonialism tweet was that she had placed her party leader, Mmusi Maimane, in an invidious position as he would not want to be seen as “an Uncle Tom”. Johnson spoke at the Cape Town Press Club. Cape Messenger editor Donwald Pressly analyses Johnson’s view of the South African political economy
1 May 2017 – RW Johnson puts it bluntly. Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Mamimane, who took over the leadership from Helen Zille of the official opposition less than two years ago, doesn’t want to be seen as “an Uncle Tom”. Thus Johnson implies that Zille will have to be disciplined and publicly rebuked.
An African man leading the party did not want to be seen as vulnerable. Zille had added salt to the wound, however. (Cape Messenger this metaphor was not used by RW Johnson, it is the poetic licence of the editor). Zille had gone on to complain that if anyone misinterpreted what she had said about colonialism was guilty of fueling African Nationalism. “This is going the wrong way.”
There was the added matter that the Economic Freedom Fighters had demanded that Zille be removed as Premier of the Western Cape. Johnson said if the EFF did not see that she had been punished – he did not indicate that it would require her removal from office but the EFF has demanded this – “The EFF will walk out of the coalition in Pretoria and Joburg”. Johnson believed that the matter sh0uld be sorted out with a public rebuke and a fine and her phone should be taken away. “Take away her phone,” he said, adding that he would not say any more about the matter because his advice on the matter had been ignored.
The best outcome would be that Zille would be allowed to continue as premier to the end of 2019 when her term ended and be allowed to retire “with public approbation… she has done a marvelous job as mayor and premier”.
Johnson said there was the added complication for the DA in this whole mess. “She is by far the chief fundraiser for the DA,” he noted.
He referred earlier to the DA shenanigans as “how to shoot yourself in the foot. It is a completely unnecessary fight.”
Turning to the ANC, he said there was no sign from ANC presidential candidate Cyril Ramaphosa that he would reverse the national democratic revolution rhetoric of the ruling party if he won the leadership in December. He may move moderately liberal direction “and not to go the whole hog on any of (the key economic) issues”. Asked about the nuclear deal, said that it would be a battle now that the High Court had ruled against it. “The track record is that …the Zuma government doesn’t pay all that much attention to the constitution or law… it breaks procedural rules. I can’t believe that the enormous interests behind the nuclear deal are saying… oh dear … we must go home.” However, he said: “I wonder whether they can get where they need to be the end of the year. This judgment has put them in a highly problematic situation.”
Paul Hoffman of Accountability Now, a guest at the Press Club, noted that there appeared to be a coalescing of forces between Zweli Mkhize and Ramaphosa including that Mkhize had nominated Ramaphosa as deputy president of the ANC at the 2012 ANC conference. Johnson agreed “Every indication is that Mkhize is on the Ramaphosa side… I don’t think there is any doubt about that.”
Noting that when Nenegate occurred in December 2015, Ramaphosa and Mkhize invited the SA Institute of Race Relations’ CEO Frans Cronje to speak to them on economic matters. The talks included NEC economics chair Enoch Godongwana. “They nodded and agreed… but his (Cronje’s) appreciation was the ANC consists of a tiny communists’ section and a middle opportunist section interested in keeping their jobs and a reformist group. He (Cronje) places Rampahosa and Mkhize in that. He (Cronje) said he didn’t think they are willing to get their feet wet. In order to have the impact that they need… they are going to have to make a very dramatic show… I don’t see any sign (of it).”
Cape Messenger notes that Mkhize may be out of the starting blocks in his campaign to do something dramatic. He spoke openly about the dangers of factionalism, corruption and state capture in the Chris Hani lecture in Lusikisiki on May Day. See Cape Messenger article:
Asked by former DA MP Ken Andrew if he foresaw an ANC splitting in December at its elective conference. “Discipline is strong (in the ANC),” Johnson answered. He referred to his experience with friends in the French Communist Party who saw each other as “family”. Talking about splits in the ANC was not easy “in the way that white Westerners think”. The Eastern Cape appeared to be lining up behind Ramaphosa. This was a resurgence of the Zulu/Xhosa competition in the ANC. “That could become more pronounced… you could have a split along those lines.. if there is a major split it has to have an ethnic component… otherwise, you will have tiny splits that don’t matter so much. But I would find it hard to forecast any such thing.”
Given that there was a wounded buffalo up north in the form of President Robert Mugabe, one press club member asked, would this be replicated down South. “Mugabe was able to seize the land … and do what he did… largely because South Africa was there as a safety valve. Not only (then President Thabo) Mbeki backed him up… millions of Zimbabweans could flood south. If anyone tries (that) with the land in South Africa… there will be no food for cities and nowhere for us to go. No one with any sense at all could possibly end up doing that. You can reach some ruinous state by other means… but going literally the Mugabe route, I can’t see.”
Worst case scenario for the SA economy
Johnson said he thought Zuma could step down before the end of his term. “I assume whoever is elected as ANC president in December the power will tend to start flowing to that person immediately… quite possibly Zuma would step down before the end of his term… he is not terribly bothered once he feels secure… why would he hang on?” (Cape Messenger notes that would probably be the case if Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Zuma’s preferred candidate, won, but Johnson did not make that point).
Talking about worse case scenarios, Johnson said a key indicator of trouble was when SA was omitted from the World Government Bond Index. “The one that really matters if (you are) omitted … all sorts of institutions have to stop buying your bonds. At the end of that forced, 135 billion rands forced a sale. The result will be a blow to financial confidence. “We will have confirmation of slower growth, increasing inequality and higher unemployment.
“Voters all around the world… as that happens they are going to blame the government. The government is trying desperately to get people to blame white monopoly capitalism. It won’t work. They are going to attract more blame. They may deflect it a bit. That is the drama of the next eight of nine months. It is a race against time. Already Zuma is already at 20 percent approval ratings in urban areas.”
“Things will worsen politically as these things kick in and weaken his (Zuma’s) position.” In the lineup to 2017 elective conference, he will have the four premier league provinces. Against him, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Gauteng and Western Cape and what we are unsure about is Limpopo. If he can keep the premier league and if you have presidential buttons to push… you can least get minorities in the provinces that you lose. If he managed to do that Nkosazana Zuma will be elected successfully.”
Whoever wins, whether Rampahosa or Zuma’s preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma both will be under “enormous pressure” to have a change of economic direction once they were in.
South Africa had ever increasing pressure of this kind in the 1980s, PW responded by talking to Mandela, ignoring the pass laws and allowing people to live illegally in the wrong areas. “When he (PW) reached his Rubicon.. he ducked.. the pressures kept building… (President FW) De Klerk took the lead… then you had a paradigm shift and a whole new ball game.”
Things were similar now. The only trouble was if one looked at either contender – either Ramaphosa of Nkosazana Zuma – it was difficult to see them make the dramatic moves that were necessary. Dlamini-Zuma had supported Mbeki’s denialism and had backed Mugabe. “She is not going to change… if she does win it will be entirely due to Zuma’s patronage network. If that happens he will want to continue to control that network…rather than letting her control it. If he continues to control that network… she cant be much more than a puppet.”
She would carry on avoiding an IMF bailout and there would be a low growth scenario for the foreseeable future.
It was quite obvious what Ramaphosa should be doing, said Johnson. Ramaphosa should be saying: “As an African nationalist it is an outrage to me that a foreign family of Indians has been allowed to confiscate the gains of liberation… I am going to stop this.” He had not done so. If you looked at the Zuma fight with Mbeki, Zuma had the SACP, Cosatu, the ANC youth league and the Zulu block on his side.
If Mkhize backed Ramaphosa or put forward himself as president, if he were able to detach KwaZulu-Natal from the Zuma camp, it was possible that the Zuma camp could collapse. “The trouble.. is that it would be a declaration of war. It would be pretty strong. I don’t think that Zweli Mkhize has much appetite for that. Time is getting very short… it sounds unlikely.”