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The popular hit song, Another Brick in the Wall, perfectly describes our government’s present situation.
Realising its inability and lack of political direction and will, South Africa was desperate to position itself as a major player on the international stage.
Our leaders needed to show Africa just how smart we are and how stupid the rest of the continent is.
The question was, how to do this?
We could redirect our ever-failing communist-inspired policies and marketplace marginalisation and focus on true economic growth, industrialisation and the sociopolitical advantages that would come with it. Or, we could grab onto someone else’s coattails and act as though we, too, are a major economic player.
Had we opted for the former, our corrupt political leaders would have had to start thinking and leading. They would have had to start working, something that is a foreign concept to many of them.
So that option was thrown out of the window as, in South Africa, politicians don’t work – they only occasionally talk, but constantly grow rich.
So, our government chose the coattail option.
To do this successfully, our honourable leaders had to set the stage…
In 2007, the government introduced its Industrial Policy Action Plan (Ipap). Its objective was to grow the manufacturing industry by at least 350 000 new jobs by 2020.
No doubt this optimistic lie was to deceive and impress voters and those powerful clubs they had their eyes on. Our unemployed happily clapped, as jobs were desperately needed.
The reality is that by the end of 2020, the government’s failing policies had cost the manufacturing industry 218 000 jobs.
Desperate to be seen in good company, our leaders love being invited to international economic forums. It is there we play act our importance in the world and bandy about our deceptive Ipap.
They must also be seen by our great impoverished as they pose smilingly on the group photos having conveyed their Ipap deception and our imagined growth.
Yet beneath this veneer, South Africa was rapidly becoming a laughingstock.
Frantic not to be viewed as an increasingly fragile state, our leaders found the perfect “club” to join, Bric – an economic grouping consisting of Brazil, Russia, India and China.
Our grand entrance into Bric added an “S”. This was trumpeted as a magnificent contribution to the club. Now, our politicians take pleasure in name-dropping Brics when they talk.
In truth, we have increasingly become the Mickey Mouse member of Brics – something our leaders never openly mention.
But it allows us to straddle the divide between the traditional East and West.
We like to view ourselves as “nonaligned” and imply we know everything while our own country is falling to pieces.
Our political leaders are always quick to offer economic and political advice to those who we insist need it. They even offer to act as mediators in conflicts on the continent and beyond – despite not understanding them.
But being part of the Brics club makes us a “superpower”. The truth is, however, that we are akin to a mosquito to Brics.
Our grand contribution to this economic club is a mere two cents to the dollar. We love being asked to host Brics conferences. Then our leaders cannot stop bubbling sweet lies about how much we value our association with Brics.
But, in reality, they despise Brics – until they need them. We are the weakest partner in the club, yet whenever we can, we ignore our fellow members. They don’t ignore us, especially China. They use us as a resource-giver and a dumping ground for their rubbish.
And we fall for it. Every time. But its greatest advantage is that it allows our government to sell whatever they want – and pocket the money for themselves – without being questioned on the international stage.
Bric won’t miss South Africa if we leave – but so will no one else.
Mashaba holds an honorary doctorate in humanities, is the author of Practical Politics, Power and Governance in Africa and is a political advisor