Justice Malala: Leaders making us poorer

Your leaders are making you poor. They have been doing so since 2009 and will keep going as long as they can while becoming richer themselves. As the scandals of the rotten Jacob Zuma administration pile up, we have all focused on #GuptaE-mails and the deep tentacles of the corrupt gang he leads.

Everything we have known has been confirmed. The rot stretches in all directions.

Ayanda Dlodlo, the new Communications Minister who some of us had regarded as incorruptible, had her trip to Dubai paid for by the dastardly Gupta family that seems to pay all in our cabinet.

When she was appointed even Julius Malema said the only person he respected in that reshuffle was Dlodlo. Now it emerges she too is implicated.

At least she had the decency to confirm the trip and give her side of the story. But these are small mercies in a cesspool of corruption and denial. Your leaders are making you poor. Fast. Indeed, at the rate that the Zuma administration is going, the cupboards will be bare when the man hightails it to Dubai in 2019.

Mark my words: Zuma will turn this economy into a Zimbabwe by the time he leaves office.

You, dear reader, will be waiting tables in Botswana very soon because your country’s economy will have collapsed.

Don’t believe me? Last week, it was announced that the South African economy is in a technical recession. Technical? Really? As the editor and columnist Peter Bruce put it in Business Day, poor people know that “we are in a recession, plain and simple”.

If you don’t agree, just look at the unemployment numbers. StatsSA announced last week that unemployment was now back at 2003 levels, at 27.7%.

When Zuma and his cronies kicked Thabo Mbeki out of power in 2008 it was at 21%.

Zuma, the man who in 2009 promised us half a million jobs within six months, has been steadily destroying jobs since he came to power eight years ago.

Last week, we learnt that South Africa has slipped into a recession after its gross domestic product declined 0.7% during the first quarter of this year after contracting by 0.3% in the fourth quarter of last year.

The economy is no longer growing. That means jobs are no longer available, taxes for government expenditure are lower and, crucially, we cannot even increase the grants of those on social welfare. SA Inc is stuck in the mud.

Why are we here? The answer is right in front of us. No businessman or woman, no investor domestic or foreign, trusts Jacob Zuma.

A young woman in Thabazimbi will set up a cosmetics shop if she knows she will not be robbed every day. A global mining company will buy a coal mine if it knows that the president’s friends will not squeeze it out of business so the mine can be stripped and flipped.

Under Zuma neither the young woman nor the mining investor can be assured they won’t be robbed.

There is no confidence in South Africa. There is too much political uncertainty. Is Zuma going to stay or will he go?

If he stays, is he going to expropriate property without compensation (as he likes to tell traditional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal) or will he stay within the confines of the constitution (as he likes to tell the handful of bankers who still like to waste their time meeting him)?

Zuma’s midnight cabinet reshuffle – in which confidenceinspiring leaders like Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas were removed from the finance ministry – in March was pivotal in shaping sentiment towards South Africa.

Moody’s, the ratings agency that has consistently been the most positive on South Africa, was forced to join others and downgrade the country last Friday – by one notch, to BAA3.

This is now just one notch above sub-investment grade. It was not unexpected. Moody’s had placed South Africa on review for a downgrade in April after Zuma’s reshuffle.

Other agencies, S&P Global and Fitch, still have us at sub-investment grade or “junk”.

For working South Africans, things are going to get tougher in the next few years. Food‚ petrol and the cost of house or car loans will begin to go up.

Government needs to keep spending while the costs of its own borrowing will now be more expensive – so it will look at you and me. So taxes will rise. Ordinary people will get poorer.

All this thanks to Zuma, a man who is getting fabulously rich through his corrupt association with the Gupta family.

Much has been said about the numerous scandals roiling South Africa at the moment. Many more are coming. The country is being looted right before our very eyes. The real tragedy of what we are seeing here is that the well-off are becoming poor. The poor are getting poorer. The number of jobless people swells. The marginal are now desperate and will soon be begging at the street corner. Zuma is making you poorer by the day. “It’s the economy, stupid!” Bill Clinton once said. Nobody here is listening.

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