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Reflections on The State of Africa


LIKE other regions around the globe, Africa is one of the fascinating continents to learn about. It’s rich with absorbing political and economic history; though at times a discomforting history to read about.

With its 54 countries the region still faces enormous challenges – disease, dictatorship, poverty, civil conflicts and so on. Of late, the Ebola outbreak has been terrorizing the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It’s been a situation that has been chilling to learn about.

Though these challenges are alive – and they won’t be dying anytime soon – the continent is experiencing remarkable economic growth. Six of the world’s fastest growing economies are in Africa. And the very slow march towards a democratic society can be seen in many countries across the continent.

When Ponty Moletsane, a station manager at Salaamedia and One Nation FM 88.9, invited me early this year to join the company as host of a weekly radio show, The State of Africa, focused on Africa’s current affairs, the idea was to establish a platform where the above political and economic forces shaping the continent can be untangled.

That has been our mission with the show. And it has been a remarkable year of broadcasting – filled with illuminating conversations and fascinating guests.

The premise of the program – which I have always pronounced on the show is to “take a look at critical political and economic issues shaping the African continent today – and then bring the fine minds to untangle those issues for you.”

On our very first program on the 7th of March, I facilitated a debate between Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) and the lefty Bench Marks Foundation – on privatization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in South Africa. In the second hour of that night’s show, we had South Africa’s former ambassador to Eritrea, Iqbal Jhazbhay, with whom I had an in-depth analysis of peace and security in Africa.

Since then, oh boy it’s been an exhilarating ride! We have spoken in length about the role of China in Africa, terrorism in East and West Africa, civil conflicts in Central Africa, how the Cold War wounded the continent, Africa’s role in World War I, and the politics and economics of South Africa.

The passing of South Africa’s anti-apartheid activist, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, was an event that got spoken about all over the world. She was Nelson Mandela’s wife – and her role in South Africa’s history incontournable.

One of the senior members of the African National Congress (ANC) and minister of small businesses, Lindiwe Zulu, joined me on the show to talk Winnie’s legacy, and to update our listeners on the burial arrangements at the time. Unsurprisingly, Lindiwe came out in strong defense of Winnie’s legacy, in the ANC and in South Africa.

Our goal in year 2019 is to bring our listeners an even better show. With Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and the continent’s biggest oil producer holding its election in February, there’s a great deal to talk about.

Add to that South Africa’s 6th national election since the end of apartheid scheduled for May, then 2019 is even more thrilling. We will talk about these crucial events on the show – and bring you the finest minds to make sense of them.

It’s been hard to find intellectuals and journalists who predict doom on the future of the African continent. People have been largely optimistic, yet also acknowledging that serious shortcomings persists.

The State of Africa is a platform for us Africans to engage on the shortcomings that persist in our continent. We have to start with a conversation – and thereafter take concrete actions to better our home.

On air, I have occasionally said that if you are an investor, a diplomat, a businessman, a traveler on the African continent, or you are just Africa’s politics and economics junkie – then The State of Africa should be your regular appointment. I say the same here.

I hope you will all continue to be our loyal listeners in 2019 – as we’ll be making sense of this very important region. We promise not to disappoint you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Ideology of victimhood is destroying our universities


WHAT South Africa’s universities have become over the past years is utterly sickening.

The inclusion of the ‘people of color’ (POC) supper, exclusively for black people, in the Decolonial Winter School program at the University of Cape Town last week was indicative of the shameful mess our universities have turned into.

Though UCT publicly condemned this act by the organisers, and the reference to POC was then subsequently removed, the saga highlighted a broader discomforting trend about South Africa’s universities: the rise of racist, left-wing movements that occasionally disrupt and divide our campuses.

The organisers of the racist supper have been unapologetic about what they were attempting to do – which was to exclude others on the basis of their race. That they are still unapologetic about this disgusting behaviour is telling.

How our university campuses have been turned into intolerant, openly racist enclaves is not difficult to understand.

Academics, the media and politicians have been behind the slow destruction of our universities. They turned campuses into places of mourning and resentment. On many occasions, they tolerated and supported hooliganism because it was in the name of so-called social justice.

These days, student heroism is defined by galvanising violent protests, spewing racist utterances, disrupting lectures and denying other students the opportunity to learn. When this happens, as we saw during the rampant student riots over the past four years, law enforcement becomes weak.

It becomes weak because the media, academic staff, and those in political seats equate the police’s actions to curb violence to those of apartheid law enforcement; a very dangerous thing to do in a democratic society that must maintain law and order.

Professors ought to be telling students how they, individually, can make a meaningful contribution to South Africa’s economic productivity. Instead, they teach students the ideology of victimhood; that somebody out there owes them something. They are told to resent those who have more than they have – through the flawed “income inequality” mantra.

That those kids led by Alex Hotz saw it appropriate to arrange for an exclusively black supper – and be subsequently unapologetic about it – shows how deep the rot is in our universities. These kids have an agenda – a destructive one. If you didn’t know better, you’d think they have political ambitions. Fuelling racism and victimhood is certainly one way to get to political fame.

I was fortunate that I was a student at UCT before rioting became fashionable. That a child from a poor family like mine got to study at a then reputable university like UCT was a great honour. It is something I will treasure for the rest of my life. It was not easy. I struggled. But thankfully, I survived.

If I were to ever set up a university, reckless behaviour would not be tolerated. Order would be one of the fundamental policies of my university. And it would be strongly enforced.

It’s time we accept that mourning, complaining and resenting those who are more successful than us will get us nowhere. We have to be focused, and work towards achieving our goals. Personal responsibility will be key to our success.

But to politicians and aspiring politicians, such advice is anathema. You will never hear Julius Malema and his party, the Stalinist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), promoting individual responsibility across South Africa and in universities. Where there are student riots, they go to fuel them. Why blame them? It’s in their interest. Chaos and promoting victimhood gets them votes.

A serious problem exists in our universities. If we do not act as soon as possible, it will be all over. Let’s not rely on politicians. They won’t bring the needed change. Nor should we rely on professors who, instead of teaching, become “advocates of social justice”. The media, similarly, are in it for the ratings and the money.

That leaves us. We, you and I, must make a difference. That difference will begin by acknowledging that personal responsibility, no-racialism, hard work and not blaming others, are the only ways we can build a prosperous South Africa. That acknowledgement must begin with all of us as individuals. PM


Trump was right, South Africa is a ‘crime ridden mess’


IT WAS horror at the Alexandra Community Health Centre two weeks ago when an unknown group of men armed with knives stormed the clinic and attacked a patient, stabbing him to death in full view of other patients and staff.

The staff and patients who witnessed the grisly murder were left traumatised. As I passed by the centre last week with my Uber driver, I could picture the horrifying incident. The thought alone was an unpleasant one.

Over the past few days, I couldn’t stop thinking that something is seriously wrong with South Africa. Violent crime and murders are happening at an alarming rate.

According to Africa Check, in 2016/17, an average of 52.1 people were murdered every day – which is a staggering rate by any standard. Assault and rape are also at shocking levels.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) recorded a total of 39 828 rapes in 2016/17. Though they were down from 41 503 in 2015/16, they remain too high and unsettling. An average of 109.1 rapes were recorded each day in 2016/17.

These stunning crime levels are a serious blow to South Africa’s image around the world. The world is aware that South Africa suffers from shocking high crime rates. They probably laugh at the idea of a “Rainbow Nation” because of how violent our society is.

Now cash-in-transit heists have become the order of the day. I watched in horror a video last month on Twitter that showed a gun battle between the cash-in-transit security officers and the heavily armed gang who confronted and bombed two cash armoured vehicles in Boksburg, Gauteng.

Though the five suspects were arrested and have appeared in the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court, the incident highlighted the terrifying magnitude of South Africa’s aggravated robberies and violent crime.

On Monday last week, there were three cash-in-transit heists in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga. Then the next day, on Tuesday, the police managed to foil two cash-in-transit heists in Limpopo and Gauteng. These aggravated robberies are all indicative of how serious the problem of crime is in South Africa.

In 2013, days after former president Nelson Mandela’s passing, the current president of the United States of America (US), Donald Trump, then still a private citizen, tweeted:

“I really like Nelson Mandela but South Africa is a crime ridden mess that is just waiting to explode-not a good situation for the people!”

Many South Africans took offence with Trump’s comments. They saw them as condescending. I accepted his comments because they were true and remain true even today. South Africa is a crime ridden mess – and we must all accept this fact before we embark on programs to address it.

What can we do about this high level of crime?

Previously, I have argued that South Africa’s law enforcement must be tough on crime. In the midst of a shootout with gangs – the police must not be discouraged from protecting themselves and the endangered, unarmed citizens in that moment. When a criminal is prepared to take an innocent life, law enforcement officers must not think twice about firing back in defence of their lives and the lives of innocent others. This, like other policing methods will need special and sophisticated training. The police ministry, led by the courageous Minister Bheki Cele, must ensure that it provides such training to its staff.

One of the most discomforting things to hear about is that many criminals are people who have been arrested before. They are not first-time offenders. Criminals are arrested and then subsequently released.

Recently, Cele said that they have raised the issue of bail for suspects with the minister of justice as some of the criminals continue with their criminal activity after being released. “There was a criminal we arrested who once had been out on bail 41 times before,” Cele said.

If this practice of arresting criminals and then subsequently releasing them persists, people like Trump will continue calling South Africa “a crime ridden mess”. It must stop.

South Africa’s police also need to up their game on crime intelligence. The recent spike on cash-in-transit heists suggests our crime intelligence capabilities are too weak to detect these crimes before they take place. Serious improvements are needed on this front.

Lastly, I’m not hostile to legal gun-ownership or gun rights. The law-abiding citizens who wish to legally own guns and protect their families must do so. This means the process to own a legal gun must be efficient and faster for law abiding citizens. Comprehensive background checks must be done on those who want to purchase guns. They should be encouraged to go for training before they buy their guns. In some cases, in a moment of life or death, having your legal gun to protect yourself and your family might be the only thing that saves your life.

The very few points I have laid out above to address and reduce the shocking crime levels aren’t all we need to do to address the problem. There are other, broader, long-term societal issues that need to be confronted if we are to substantially reduce these crime rates – such as the problem of children growing up without their fathers. That can’t be neglected – and at some point, we must talk about it. The sooner the better.

We must act on this crime matter with speed; it’s urgent. As long as these shocking crime levels persist, our national image around the world will remain tarnished. And in the eyes of the Donald Trump, we will remain “a crime ridden mess”. PM 



Christmas and taxes


IT’S Christmas time again. A special time to spend with family and friends. It could have been more special – had it not been for the political elite determined to milk us our earned income – through taxes.

Have you ever thought how much you’d be earning, were you not paying taxes? Do the math. Your Christmas holidays would have certainly been much better.

Seldom do we people question government taxation policies and their disturbing impact on our lives. That I take as serious ignorance from our part. We keep silent as politicians tirelessly take our money, deny us a decent Christmas, and spend it on their ineffective and inefficient programs.

Government taxes us every day. Every day. When we buy a meal they tax us, we fill up at the petrol station they tax us, we buy nice clothes for Christmas they tax us, we buy booze they tax us. That’s separate from taxes they take from our salaries monthly. They are surely making hell of a lot of money this festive season.

What makes things worse – is that the return on the investment is sub-standard. The quality of our government services is disturbing. Truly indicative of the necessity of tax reforms that aim to slash taxes and boost economic growth.

I have always been wary of the state intervening in anything through tax payers’ money – education, parenting, healthcare, business etc. Rightly so. States tend to always overreach in their interventions in these areas – because of politicians who want to look good and get votes at taxpayers’ expense.

However, given the fact that we live in a world where some people – like my family who could not afford sending me to university – grapple with life trying to make ends meet – there has to be some form of government intervention to assist those people.

Then the challenge, I personally believe, is how do you keep that intervention as limited, pro-human choice, pro-market as possible. This basically means taxes must be limited.

We have to tilt our thinking to a direction that acknowledges taxes destroy prosperity and ought to be as low as possible. That thinking won’t be brought by politicians for sure. Most politicians want our tax money so they spread it around for the purposes of getting more votes in the next election. So we can’t expect much from them.

The initiative has to come from us active citizenry. We will first have to confront the fact that it is dead wrong of us to vote politicians who promise us “free goodies” into the public office. The “free goodies” concept is a classic left wing fraud – that envisions a society where things are free – don’t have to be paid for.  Such a world is a fantasy – it doesn’t exist and will never exist. Nothing is free. They, politicians, will use your money for these “free goodies” – and deny you a decent Christmas with your family and friends.

On taxes and politics, my favorite economist, Thomas Sowell of the Hoover Institution, once said “Someone once said that taxes are the price we pay for civilization. That may have been true when he said it, but today taxes are mostly the price we pay so that politicians can play Santa Claus and get re-elected.”

It’s very hard to disagree with Thomas Sowell. Indeed, today’s taxes are the price we pay so that politicians like Jacob Zuma, play Santa Claus by providing “free” education. All in desperation for votes.

Christmas comes once a year – and I believe all of us should be grateful every time it reaches us. It’s a special time with the people we love. At least it ought to be one.

It is the political elite who constrain us from having a better Christmas through high taxes. We deserve better. PM

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


Money will play a big role in shaping ANC’s election outcome


LOOKING at the African National Congress (ANC)’s upcoming elective conference, one is struck by how close it is. It’s so close that it has become very difficult to predict who will win. Many of us who watch South Africa’s political and economic trends closely, never thought Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa would perform as well as he did in Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal during the branch nominations process; in contest for the next leadership of the ANC against Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

There had been speculations that post the provincial general meetings, one of the two camps would compromise to avoid the split of the party, according to the left-wing Mail and Guardian. But neither candidate has backed down ahead of this crucial conference.

The closeness of this race, the huge political interests at stake, and the staggering corruption still afflicting South Africa’s society, all, should be a sign that money will be a huge factor in deciding the outcome of the elective conference. The selling and buying of votes, that the Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, warned the delegates about not long ago, is already taking place and will take place at the conference. The manipulation of the process has already begun. We would be fooling ourselves to think otherwise.

A great deal is at stake for the parties involved in this nasty race – especially for Jacob Zuma-backed camp – led by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. If Dlamini-Zuma’s camp loses at the elective conference, the president’s future becomes even more uncertain.

Already, there are strong calls to have him removed from his presidential seat by early next year, after his term as president of the ANC finishes this month. Jackson Mthembu – ANC’s top Member of Parliament and supporter of Cyril Ramaphosa – has said Zuma must vacate his office after the conference – so the ANC cleans itself up and prepares for the national election in 2019.

We all know what will happen if Jacob Zuma gets booted out of power before the end of his second and last term as President of South Africa in 2019. The investigations on state capture allegations and the decision whether to prosecute him for his corruption charges will speed up – which could culminate in him facing the court of law. Something he has dodged for years.

President Jacob Zuma wants someone, people, he can trust to negotiate with on the matters pertaining to his corruption charges. He trusts Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma – his ex-wife – she’s from KwaZulu Natal – there’s a cultural connection between them.

The North Gauteng High Court’s ruling last week – that the appointment of Shaun Abrahams as the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) was unlawful and must be set aside – and that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa be the one appointing the new NDPP – has put the president in a very awkward position.

The president is appealing the ruling; in part because, I believe, he wants to see the outcome of the elective conference. If his favoured camp loses at the conference – it will certainly be the end of his presidency and power. He will surely be axed by the new leadership – and Ramaphosa will follow suit as ordered by a judge – and appoint the new NDPP who is likely to prosecute Jacob Zuma without delays.

The president understands these forces at work – he’s a political genius – a master tactician. And that is why he knows his camp has to win, must win, at the conference.

If Jacob Zuma’s camp wins – thereby consolidating their power in the ANC – Jacob Zuma could fire Ramaphosa, at worst. So that someone else, the new deputy president, preferred by Zuma, appoints the new NDPP.

If he does not expel Ramaphosa – because it’s highly likely that the new ANC national executive committee (NEC) would refuse such an action – he would, along with the NEC pressure Ramaphosa to appoint the NDPP who’s likely not going to prosecute him, let alone pursue the state capture allegations objectively.

Given these circumstances – the money is playing, will play, a big role in this presidential contest. It will shape the outcome of the occasion. And given this reality – I urge South Africans not to read much into what is reported on the media – a media that seemingly – wants to see Ramaphosa win the elective conference.

It’s not clear much is at stake for Ramaphosa. He’s been a businessman since 1990s – and is not in desperation to avoid courts – as some of his counterparts are. He acknowledges that the ANC is in trouble and needs reformation. Given this fact, it’s hard to imagine him going too far, for the purpose of winning this race. Though some in his camp may.

It’s a brutal contest for the soul of Nelson Mandela’s ANC. The stakes are too high for the parties involved. It is a power struggle – of which the outcome will shape South Africa’s future in many ways. And it seems, those most desperate, with most money, have no other option but to win. PM


Can South Africa’s basic education be fixed?


THE state of South Africa’s basic education is a topic of constant debate – by political parties, the media, civil organisations and the general public. Even though basic education has had a positive impact on South Africa’s development post-apartheid, problems such as dismal educational outcomes and the absence of teachers torment us, and, especially, low-income families.

These problems aside, some progress has been made in addressing and eradicating the legacy of apartheid in education. Increased access to education has accelerated the growth of the black middle class so that, for the first time, in 2008, the size of the black middle class surpassed that of whites.

Throughout human history, education has been a big factor in the development of nations, and, therefore, South Africa’s prosperity is dependent on the quality of its basic education.

Even though South Africa’s education faces many challenges, it is fair to say that, on balance, the opening up of educational opportunities has had a positive impact on our society.

South Africa’s basic education challenges

Even with the progress that has been made since 1994, relative to the past, South Africa’s basic education is not doing as well as in other countries. Government is failing in many respects to pursue the reforms needed to improve the country’s education.

Besides the absence of teachers and dismal outcomes, other problems that challenge the provision of education in South Africa range from the shortage of educational facilities, to overcrowded classrooms, and the destructive actions embarked upon by teacher unions like SADTU (South African Democratic Teachers Union).

Most affected by government’s failure to improve public basic education are children from low-income families – where parents cannot afford to seek out alternative sources of education for their children.

Twenty per cent of South Africa’s government expenditure–the biggest allocation compared to other sectors, goes to education. Yet the outcomes still disappoint.

According to Africa Check, South Africa ranks behind poorer African countries like Kenya, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zimbabwe on literacy and numeracy. That we are behind these poorer countries with all our privileges ought to unsettle us all.”

In Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)results released in 2016, South Africa ranked second last in the world. African countries like Botswana, Egypt and Morocco, performed better than South Africa.

Could independent schools be the solution to South Africa’s education problems?

As government fails to produce desirable results on public education, reforms are urgently needed to make improvements. Government needs to look into encouraging and creating an environment where independent schools can thrive and grow.

Independent schools are already having a significant impact on South Africa’s education. Between 2000 and 2010, according to an article that appeared in The Economist in December 2015, the number of government schools established in South Africa fell by 9%; while that of independent schools grew by 44%.

But parents from low income families cannot afford many of the independent schools. Private education is expensive. Government needs to find ways to encourage the establishment of low-fee independent schools to fuel not only competition between private schools, but also competition between low-fee private schools and public schools, and so improve overall basic education in South Africa.

Low-fee private schools have a huge potential. The Spark school in the suburb of Bramley, is a good example of the kind of education system the government could pursue.

“Quality independent schooling such as Spark, priced at R19,100 a year, means families with widely different incomes can afford to, or simply choose to, send their children to low-fee schools,” Lisa Steyn wrote in the Mail & Guardian in December 2016.

Schools like Spark are badly needed, and the task for government must be to encourage the growth of such low-fee schools so that education becomes competitive and its quality improved.

Competition would improve not only private education, but also public schools, because public schools would have to compete with other schools by providing quality education for South Africa’s youth.

The role played by businesses, parents, and communities in general, is critical in any effort to improve the education sector in this country. These stakeholders, other than our bureaucratic government, must assume greater control of the schools in their communities. The participation of the private sector in our schools would demand greater commitment from all involved.

Dr. Thomas Sowell, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, once said that there are no solutions in economics, there are only trade-offs. Competition will not be the solution to South Africa’s education problem – but it could be government’s first step towards bringing about significant reforms in the sector. PM



Sugar tax: It’s about personal freedom


FOR us who deeply believe in personal freedom, it is troubling. The notion that South Africa’s political elite unashamedly wants to tax us for consuming sugar and constrict our market choices, is deeply, deeply troubling.

At the present moment, I’m convinced the pistol is aimed our way. And it seems, at least to me, we can’t dodge the bullet in this situation. We will have no option but to abide by the political class’ sugar tax policy aimed at controlling our lives, if implemented. And frankly speaking, I doubt it will not be implemented.

I think the public hearing in parliament this week was not about its economic or health feasibility; well, it may have seemed like it was; but it was not, in my opinion.

The hearing was about whether the political elite should meddle in our lives, through taxes to discourage us from making personal choices about sugar; or leave us alone to decide on the amount of sugar we want to consume. That is what the public hearing was about, not the economic or health feasibility of the policy.

The department of health and the department of the treasury would be delighted to see the sugar tax policy implemented. And they are not the only people seriously wanting this. Even health experts want to see it rolled out. One of these health experts is Dr. Frank Chaloupka, a health economist from the University of Illinois, United States.

At the public hearing, Dr. Chaloupka cited Mexico as an example where the sugar tax policy, implemented in 2014, has produced desirable results – and reduced the drinking of sugary beverages by 11% by 2016.

He further said that, according to the Sunday Times report, a 10% reduction in South Africa would mean 189‚000 less people developing diabetes and could prevent 18 900 premature deaths.

The statistics pronounced by Dr. Chaloupka are statistics from his research, we cannot simply reject them. But we can certainly oppose his tax recommendations to reduce the consumption of sugar and alleviate disease.

His support for sugar tax is a clear reminder that people with fancy degrees can be very destructive to our society – when they do not uphold or believe in the principles of personal freedom.

None of us conservatives and libertarians oppose efforts to discourage consumption of sugar; at least I do not. Diabetes, tuberculosis and other diseases ought to be a concern to all of us. We all want a healthy, educated and prosperous nation. But the sugar tax approach isn’t the way to discourage sugar, quell disease and enrich this country.

A balanced approach is very much needed. As much as we want to overcome our socioeconomic predicaments, we must be cautious not to do it at the expense of peoples’ liberties, as personal freedom must be superior in public policy.

To department of health’s concern about the burden on the healthcare system, yes that may be true – but the suggestion that sugar tax should be adopted at the expense of personal freedoms, must be rejected outright.

We cannot and must not trade personal freedom for alleged low healthcare costs. We ought to think about other pro-liberty ways to discourage high levels of sugar consumption and fight disease.

Perhaps the better approach would be for government to educate people about the dangers of sugary beverages. Government can rigorously disseminate information so South Africans make informed decisions in the market. This may not be the best approach but it certainly is better than a sugar tax; because it upholds personal freedom.

We are unfortunate to live in times where government wants to be our nanny. Politicians think they can do almost anything to turn our planet earth into heaven – where there are no diseases and everybody is rich.

They see themselves as Messiahs who have come to save our world. In their pursuit of a heavenly world, peoples’ freedoms, in the process, are restrained.

We have to be very thoughtful on what our government can and cannot do, especially in a country that has a very small tax base, staggering unemployment and a rising public debt. The growing government by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is a serious threat to personal freedoms. It must be spoken against and its potential tragedies highlighted.

This sugar tax debate must not be focused on the economics and health of the policy; individual freedom must be priority number one; the other stuff can come behind. Because it is not about whether this policy works or doesn’t work, it’s about the safeguarding of personal freedoms. PM