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Leaks driven by a leaking approach to public affairs leave Presidency red faced

Pali Lehohla

Pali Lehohla

Published Feb 1, 2022

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Faced with house arrest and possible beheading for the blasphemy of stating scientific facts, after judgement Galileo Galilei said eppur si muove – meaning “yet it moves”. So was the opposing voice in the leaked Social policy position on the basic income grant (BIG) – eppur si muove.

Amid everything that leaks and stinks in our Stinkwater tribal authority is the alarming but unsurprising leak of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council document a mere two weeks from the State of the Nation Address (Sona).

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Stinkwater is our latter day South Africa. This is where everything leaks and stinks in the physical and the virtual space. The stink and leak are what join us as a nation from the highest to the lowest levels of our public and private life, and ironically not the Constitution that had tongues wagging in the aftermath of Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s opinion piece on the South African Constitution.

Common high voltage leaks, notwithstanding, in “Stinkwater”, one would have expected some level of decency from the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (Peac) in processing their documents. The leaks of this important national advisory in the context of where we are as a nation is unacceptable and intolerable. It adds to the already tarnished Sona, which in the 27 years of post-apartheid South Africa has to be delivered from our “tribal kraal of Stinkwater” instead of a national platform – the National Assembly.

This happens so we learn in part – in the high drama of “he said” and “she said” and “they said” and “all said” – because of the National Treasury austerity measures. Measures that have reduced our definition of nationhood and the Parliament to a sheep kraal from whence a stone has to be picked against entry and exit of each sheep in order for the owner to know that the sheep stock is still intact.

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Unsurprisingly, the first leaked Peac advisory spews the same austerity. This seems to be in the DNA of manufacturing village Stinkwater , where the poor are kraaled in without the means. The document unashamedly begs for their patience as they face both adversity historically and in perpetuity. It thus becomes understandable that the leaked official document had a diametrically dissenting counter to the official one on social and economic policy. This counter was also leaked to mute the spirited and dominant narrative, which inspires austerity measures.

The latter contains important nuggets of why the poor should not be asked to wait any longer. The two leaks sum up our porous and our all rather inexcusable vitamin-deficient policy-design capabilities. Five critical elements are lacking in our political economy – systems design, design thinking, foresight, and tools of foresight and modelling modelling and above all callousness and lack of care and empathy when it comes to the plight of the poor.

This morbid intellectual, action and practice our void disposition of our official Peac advisory impugns hunger pangs to the poor who are always asked to wait for trickle-down economics, while business and politicians hobnob and enjoy fruits of liberation. Even with minuscule growth, business and politicians always win, and they also win very big when the growth is high, but shared growth is not in their horizon. They can spell it and pronounce it, but they refuse to commit to it.

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In his opinion piece titled “Is opposition to basic income support for vulnerable adults informed by evidence or ideology?”, Professor Alex van den Heever, chairperson in the field of Social Security Systems Administration and Management at Wits School of Government, concludes in an opinion in the Daily Maverick: “Not exercising this discretion to support income-vulnerable households is therefore not an imposition conditioned by an unfortunate set of time-bound economic circumstances”.

That we have chosen Stinkwater as our latter-day South Africa hurts. This, especially in the light of Peac leaks, albeit unsurprisingly. Even with a judicially adjudged right to a secret vote in Parliament to uphold conscience and obligation to the Constitution, the governing party has become more important than the nation.

There is precedence that allows for plurality and difference, yet Peac decided party approach over nation approach to difference. The Judiciary announces how the panel of judges made their decisions on judgment, and minority judgment accompanies the majority verdict.

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The South African Reserve Bank reports on which way the Monetary Policy Committee voted and when I led at Statstics SA, the Statistics Council released reports especially on the census, and minority verdicts on this outcome are a matter for public record.

A contested matter such as public policy to be ushered with a Stalinist fist by the Peac astonishes, if not embarrassing and degrading the standing of the Peac in society. Peac stimulated the appetite for leaks and emboldened our Stinkwater tribal authority where everything leaks and stinks. The Presidency is left red faced.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General and former head of Statistics South Africa, meet him @palilj01 and @ www.pie.org.za

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