The sloganeering that characterised the ascension of Jacob Zuma to the helm of the ANC and the country painted a rosy picture of economic prosperity, social order, security and comfort for the nation.
The political rhetoric and bold promises that were being laid out by layers of political spin doctors, at some times, appeared to be winning even hard-core critics of Zuma, including me.
If the ANC was going to achieve even 25% of what it was promising, I certainly was going to be a beneficiary of those promises.
After all, if all the developmental indicators are being addressed, then half the job is done.
Even with the dimmest of views of Zuma’s leadership no one ever thought we would be teetering in the throes of self-inflicted recession.
His leadership has plunged the country into the economic doldrums with no reasonable prospects of lifting it up.
In 2008, at the ANC regional headquarters in Standard House, a bullish, newly elected Zuma boasted and bragged about his skillful knowledge of ANC processes and systems.
He told those senior leaders and activists that he knew nothing when it came to economics, mathematics and many other social indicators.
However, he said, “Angekhe ngishaywe muntu kwimigomo kaKongolozi (I can never be beaten on ANC processes).”
The meeting was attended by Stone Sizani, Mike Xego, Mthiwabo Ndube, Irvin Jim, Thobile Ntola, Zanoxolo Wayile and scores of other top leaders of the erstwhile mass democratic movement and the ANC, and then progressive trade union leaders.
Over time, I have observed that Zuma was on point with his claim.
He has demonstrated that he is a master of ANC processes and systems.
However, he has also equally demonstrated that when it comes to the economy, he is totally lost as to the workings of any system.
His lack of appreciation of the various economic plans that have been crafted, approved and disapproved by himself clearly demonstrates his total lack of understanding of economics, as he stated by own admission nearly nine years ago.
On some occasions, he has boldly spoken of creating five million jobs.
However, we know now that unemployment has just skyrocketed under his rule.
He has presented bold economic growth focuses.
We know, by the government’s own official statistics, that the economy has contracted to 0.7%. Under Zuma’s rule our country has been downgraded to junk economic status.
In simple language it means that the managers of our economy are a big risk and are not to be trusted, by both domestic and foreign investors.
The question that political, economic and social observers and historians are asking is: how is it that Zuma manages to get the whole nation to believe in his make-believe fantasy world?
Under his government, we have seen state borrowing ballooning, the civil servants salary bill rising to unmanageable levels, state bureaucracy becoming less efficient, and close to being totally paralysed and collapsing.
He has not shown a single sign of leadership amid all this administrative chaos.
In such circumstances, is there a chance of pulling out of the recession?
The prospects of that possibility are slim.
If corruption is deemed to be emanating from the highest office of the land, the chances of rooting it out are seriously diminished.
As is generally known, the cancer of corruption is a serious impediment to economic development.
Chances of serious investors ploughing their money into an economy where the expectation is that corruption is totally out of control are limited.
A country like ours that has low levels of savings has no choice but to rely on foreign investments, both fixed and speculative.
Investors get very jittery once the corruption weakens the state and its institutions.
Such an environment becomes vulnerable to economic gang lords who impose their parallel rule.
Such parallel rule manifests itself in the form of state capture in the case of South Africa.
There is a strong causal relationship between corruption and a weak state.
The leaked e-mails that are making the rounds seem to confirm this assertion.
The weakening of the state is shown by the certain collapse of the safety and security of the citizens, the poor service and goods delivery programme, and the wide-scale use of political power to facilitate bribery.
What scares serious observers is the fact that Zuma’s failures in the management of the economy count for nothing when it comes to the ANC structures, a confirmation of his claim that no one will be able to dislodge him from that tight grip.
If this is the case, then South Africa is in for a prolonged season of darkness.
However, if a more skillful and suitable leadership emanates from the ANC or other political formations, then there could be glimpses of hope.
Such leadership should be person/s who understand the workings of an economy.
That means that the economy will have to be driven first by the resources that we have control over.
Such a leadership would have to mobilise our productive forces, namely labour, capital, entrepreneurs and the land to maximum productivity levels.
These leaders should be people who understand the vitality of those who take risk and make things happen.
It would assist no one continuously to slander entrepreneurs, as if you have other alternatives to grow your economy and create jobs.
The slogans of “white monopoly capital” and “radical economic transformation” have just been hollow shouts of national diversion.
The recession, as confirmed by official state statistics, shows how the ordinary man and woman will be directly affected by the political mismanagement.