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Despite its bluster and bravado, the ANC is emotionally deeply insecure.
This lack of confidence, coupled paradoxically with feelings of entitlement, often leads to irrational and obnoxious behaviour.
The psychology is that of the immature teen. When it comes to the international arena, this translates into South Africa – like a tempestuous adolescent ruled by raging hormones rather than sound sense – alternating between defiant posturing and the cringingly obsequiousness.
Even while begging the Western democracies for life-saving injections of investment and loans, the ANC is unwilling – or unable – to conceal its loathing of its capitalist benefactors.
On the other hand, the infatuation of President Cyril Ramaphosa and his sidekicks with the Cubans, the Venezuelans and their revolutionary ilk, is that of the classic schoolyard crush.
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For historical reasons, it is with the Cubans, in particular, that the ties are strongest and most emotional. It’s a fairy-tale romance, with the ANC unswervingly starry-eyed despite the financial cost of the dalliance.
Last year, when Covid-19 struck, the government did a deal with Cuba for the deployment of 187 medical personnel at more than R400 million.
This week, the government announced it was doing the same thing and importing 24 Cuban water engineers at a cost of R64.6 million. These latest Cubans, we’re assured, have all kinds of skills that SA’s experts, once considered among the best in the world, lack.
But the benefit of the Cubans is not technical prowess but the political benefits they provide. The ANC hopes to solve the collapse of the country’s water infrastructure, without having the embarrassment of bringing back those experts that it got rid of.
That is, the ones who were of the wrong hue or political persuasion. Similarly, when it comes to medicine, instead of building local capacity, since the mid-’90s SA has been sending 800 youngsters each year to train in Cuban medical schools.
At more than double the cost of training locally. Cuban medical assistance, worldwide, is both about building diplomatic leverage and keeping financially afloat.
Take last year’s pandemic assistance to SA. The salaries earned by the Cubans are almost double those earned by our doctors. The ANC’s fawning engagement with these Cubans is at the level of a gaggle of simpering schoolgirls towards the hunky rugby captain.
Lovesick as it is, the ANC is quick to lavish largesse on its adored.
Aside from the R400 million we know was paid to the Cuban pandemic squad, the SA National Defence Force spent an unauthorised R260 million on the unauthorised acquisition of a Cuban “miracle cure” for Covid-19.
And while borrowing $4.3 billion in Covid-19 emergency funding from the IMF, the ANC sent massive airlifted consignments of medical and food supplies to the island nation.
As long as it was legally done, there is of course nothing wrong with the ANC government splurging all this money it doesn’t have on its hot Cuban date. After all, theirs may yet prove to be a marriage made in heaven.
But for all the reasons outlined above, Ramaphosa’s nomination of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Cuban medical mercenaries is a different matter.
It’s the epitome of how puppy love is indifferent to reality and it’s damn annoying and embarrassing to the adults in the room.