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Planning Minister Trevor Manuel not long ago likened big business’s seeming reluctance to engage in debates about government policy as akin to cowardice and challenged it to come out of its shell.
Manuel was contrasting business’s silence with organised labour’s vocal defence of its rights and privileges, including demands for a ban of labour brokers.
The minister seemed to suggest that business had only itself to blame for its apparent failure to influence the instinctively pro-labour Zuma administration.
Manuel was, of course, partly correct, but one can now understand why business is so coy about voicing its opinion about the politics of this country.
The all-out government attack of Nedbank non-executive chairman Reuel Khoza, who committed the sin – in the eyes of our infallible government – of lamenting the calibre of political leadership in our country is the chief reason few will dare voice their true opinion about what they really think about the direction of the country.
The lesson from the Khoza affair is that you criticise government at your peril, and risk being made a pariah, cut off from doing business with state institutions.
Gwede Mantashe, the ANC’s secretary-general and the third highest ranking ruling party official, said as much this week: he warned Nedbank might be punished by the government where it did business with the bank.
The insults directed at Khoza by President Jacob Zuma’s minions have been personal and vicious and are clearly intended to silence any criticism of the government by leading members of society.
The fact that Khoza was close to Zuma’s political foe, former president Thabo Mbeki, might explain the personal nature of the broadsides, but it’s not a good enough excuse.
Mantashe and his SA Communist party sidekick, who doubles as minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, seem to hold the totalitarian view that only the dominant faction of the ruling party has a right to voice an opinion on matters confronting our society.
The president’s bullies have not even deigned to respond to Khoza’s view, which happens to be shared by many in business and the middle class, that the country is adrift owing to a lack of firm political leadership and direction.
They have in fact confirmed Khoza’s concern that they are petty, and not possessed of vision, magnanimity, political maturity and sophistication to lead a country with ambitions of greatness. They are an insecure lot.
Interestingly, some of the people attacking Khoza have been leading the charge against the judiciary, accusing it of wanting to usurp the powers of an elected government when the judges have ruled against the executive.
They don’t seem to understand, or they won’t understand, that South Africa is a constitutional democracy as opposed to a parliamentary one.
As things stand, our constitution is supreme and the judges are obliged to faithfully make their rulings according to the laws of the country, not the whims of the politicians in power at the time.
Reports that our first citizen plans to marry again will undoubtedly be a cause for much chatter and mirth this week.
Brave man, our president. Some kings have been known for having multiple wives, not so an elected president of a republic.
I suspect Mr Zuma is going to make the Guinness Book of World Records if he has not already.
I also think the man should be allowed to have as many wives as he likes provided he is competent at his job as head of state and that the taxpayer won’t have to pay for his penchant.