Archive for the ‘South Africa’ Category

South Africa: Only a matter of time before the bomb explodes

March 3, 2016

by Moeletsi Mbeki: Author, political commentator and entrepreneur.
12 FEBRUARY 2011

I can predict when SA’s “Tunisia Day” will arrive. Tunisia Day is when the masses rise against the powers that be, as happened recently in Tunisia. The year will be 2020, give or take a couple of years. The year 2020 is when China estimates that its current minerals-intensive industrialisation phase will be concluded.

For SA, this will mean the African National Congress (ANC) government will have to cut back on social grants, which it uses to placate the black poor and to get their votes. China’s current industrialisation phase has forced up the prices of SA’s minerals, which has enabled the government to finance social welfare programmes.

The ANC inherited a flawed, complex society it barely understood; its tinkerings with it are turning it into an explosive cocktail. The ANC leaders are like a group of children playing with a hand grenade. One day one of them will figure out how to pull out the pin and everyone will be killed.

A famous African liberation movement, the National Liberation Front of Algeria, after tinkering for 30 years, pulled the grenade pin by cancelling an election in 1991 that was won by the opposition Islamic Salvation Front. In the civil war that ensued, 200000 people were killed.

The former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, once commented that whoever thought that the ANC could rule SA was living in Cloud Cuckoo Land. Why was Thatcher right? In the 16 years of ANC rule, all the symptoms of a government out of its depth have grown worse.
• Life expectancy has declined from 65 years to 53 years since the ANC came to power;
• In 2007, SA became a net food importer for the first time in its history;
• The elimination of agricultural subsidies by the government led to the loss of 600000 farm workers’ jobs and the eviction from the commercial farming sector of about 2,4-million people between 1997 and 2007; and
• The ANC stopped controlling the borders, leading to a flood of poor people into SA, which has led to conflicts between SA’s poor and foreign African migrants.
What should the ANC have done, or be doing?

The answer is quite straightforward. When they took control of the government in 1994, ANC leaders should have: identified what SA’s strengths were; identified what SA’s weaknesses were; and decided how to use the strengths to minimise and/or rectify the weaknesses.

A wise government would have persuaded the skilled white and Indian population to devote some of their time — even an hour a week — to train the black and coloured population to raise their skill levels.

What the ANC did instead when it came to power was to identify what its leaders and supporters wanted. It then used SA’s strengths to satisfy the short-term consumption demands of its supporters. In essence, this is what is called black economic empowerment (BEE).

BEE promotes a number of extremely negative socioeconomic trends in our country. It promotes a class of politicians dependent on big business and therefore promotes big business’s interests in the upper echelons of government. Second, BEE promotes an anti-entrepreneurial culture among the black middle class by legitimising an environment of entitlement. Third, affirmative action, a subset of BEE, promotes incompetence and corruption in the public sector by using ruling party allegiance and connections as the criteria for entry and promotion in the public service, instead of having tough public service entry examinations.

Let’s see where BEE, as we know it today, actually comes from. I first came across the concept of BEE from a company, which no longer exists, called Sankor. Sankor was the industrial division of Sanlam and it invented the concept of BEE.

The first purpose of BEE was to create a buffer group among the black political class that would become an ally of big business in SA. This buffer group would use its newfound power as controllers of the government to protect the assets of big business.

The buffer group would also protect the modus operandi of big business and thereby maintain the status quo in which South African business operates. That was the design of the big conglomerates.

Sanlam was soon followed by Anglo American. Sanlam established BEE vehicle Nail; Anglo established Real Africa, Johnnic and so forth. The conglomerates took their marginal assets, and gave them to politically influential black people, with the purpose, in my view, not to transform the economy but to create a black political class that is in alliance with the conglomerates and therefore wants to maintain the status quo of our economy and the way in which it operates.

But what is wrong with protecting SA’s conglomerates?

Well, there are many things wrong with how conglomerates operate and how they have structured our economy.
• The economy has a strong built-in dependence on cheap labour;
• It has a strong built-in dependence on the exploitation of primary resources;
• It is strongly unfavourable to the development of skills in our general population;
• It has a strong bias towards importing technology and economic solutions; and
• It promotes inequality between citizens by creating a large, marginalised underclass.
Conglomerates are a vehicle, not for creating development in SA but for exploiting natural resources without creating in-depth, inclusive social and economic development, which is what SA needs. That is what is wrong with protecting conglomerates.

The second problem with the formula of BEE is that it does not create entrepreneurs. You are taking political leaders and politically connected people and giving them assets which, in the first instance, they don’t know how to manage. So you are not adding value. You are faced with the threat of undermining value by taking assets from people who were managing them and giving them to people who cannot manage them. BEE thus creates a class of idle rich ANC politicos.

My quarrel with BEE is that what the conglomerates are doing is developing a new culture in SA — not a culture of entrepreneurship, but an entitlement culture, whereby black people who want to go into business think that they should acquire assets free, and that somebody is there to make them rich, rather than that they should build enterprises from the ground.

But we cannot build black companies if what black entrepreneurs look forward to is the distribution of already existing assets from the conglomerates in return for becoming lobbyists for the conglomerates.

The third worrying trend is that the ANC-controlled state has now internalised the BEE model. We are now seeing the state trying to implement the same model that the conglomerates developed.

What is the state distributing? It is distributing jobs to party faithful and social welfare to the poor. This is a recipe for incompetence and corruption, both of which are endemic in SA. This is what explains the service delivery upheavals that are becoming a normal part of our environment.

So what is the correct road SA should be travelling?

We all accept that a socialist model, along the lines of the Soviet Union, is not workable for SA today. The creation of a state-owned economy is not a formula that is an option for SA or for many parts of the world. Therefore, if we want to develop SA instead of shuffling pre-existing wealth, we have to create new entrepreneurs, and we need to support existing entrepreneurs to diversify into new economic sectors.

Mbeki is the author of Architects of Poverty: Why African Capitalism Needs Changing. This article forms part of a series on transformation supplied by the Centre for Development and Enterprise.


The Miracle of Blood River – 175 years ago today told by Herman Labuschagne

August 30, 2015

For those who asked for my Blood River story again, this is how I wrote it last year:

The miracle of Blood River

Today, on a Sunday 175 years ago an event took place which changed the history of South Africa. In a roundabout way, it was an event that changed the history of the world. It was the start of perhaps the most dramatic event in the blood-stained pages of our country’s past. And it was the start of a day that may never be forgotten as long as blood flows through the veins of the Afrikaner nation.

The story of what happened was told to me by Uncle Gert de Jager – and he repeated it for me a few months before his death at the age of 92. I asked him to tell it to me slowly so that I could listen with care and make sure that I understand it correctly. He even wrote down what he could remember, to make sure that it would not be misunderstood. These were facts that he still heard personally from his father and from his great-grandfather who had been present at the time. Several of my other family members were there also. Some of the events that I am about to tell of are poorly known. But this, to the tribute of those who were there – and to the glory of the Hand which protected them, is the story of what took place:

Uncle Gert’s great-grandfather remembered that when night fell upon the velvet green landscape of Natal, it was dark moon, as we call it. The night was so black that you could not see your hand in front of your eyes. In the western sky the lightning flickered on and off. The night ahead looked ominous, but so did the months that lay behind them. With one or two exceptions, it had been a series of never-ending disasters. There had been the Liebenberg murders during which unsuspecting pioneer families were suddenly overwhelmed and cut to pieces. Then there had been the climactic battle of Vegkop during which only 37 men, servants and boys fought off 4,000 Matabeles. There had also been the months of being besieged in rain-drenched laagers during which time they suffered dreadful hunger and disease. There had also been the tragic scene in which the Trek leader Piet Uys was led into an ambush, where he and his young son were brutally slain. It was an incident that had left the pioneers divided and weak.

Furthermore, there had been the worst day of all: the day in February of that same year when their leader, Governor Piet Retief was murdered, along with his young boy and his entire party of men. They had just concluded a successful land purchasing transaction with Dingane, king of the Zulu. During the festivities that followed, Dingane suddenly rose and shouted: “Kill the witchdoctors!” upon which Retief and all his unarmed men were seized. Their fate was so horrible that it cannot be described without shocking the senses. They were impaled alive and fed to the vultures – with Piet Retief being forced to watch it all until he too, as murdered.

That same night, the Zulu impies had swept across the length of the upper Tugela river. They fell upon the unsuspecting encampments of families across a huge distance. It was totally unexpected. In the darkness, that evening became the sum of all nightmares as unspeakable cruelties were committed. While men fought desperately in the darkness against an unseen foe, they were overcome by sheer force of numbers. Pregnant women were cut open, and children and babies were swung by their feet to have their brains bashed in against the wagon wheels. In that one night 500 men, women, children and servants were butchered. Their bloodied bodies with drawn-out entrails were found among the charred remains of their burnt out tents and wagons the next day. It was a crime and a tragedy in that small community which was so great that words could not be found to express emotions.

After this incident the pioneers realized that they were now faced with most desperate hour in the entire existence of civilization in Africa south of the equator. All attempts at peaceful relocation had failed. Their honest intentions had been met with murderous deceit. And now they were left weakened and vulnerable in a strange and hostile land.

Dingane commanded the most fearsome army in the history of Africa south of the Sahara. For two generations they had swept the southern and central parts of southern Africa, killing and murdering as far as they went. Entire nations were driven to the brink of extinction. In the Mfecane, or great cleansing, the vast interior had in fact become uninhabited by humans, except for a few miserable starving souls who tried to survive in the isolated mountain regions. They were already driven to the extremes of cannibalism as a result of these deprivations.

The pioneers knew that they had only two choices – either to return to the Cape Colony where they had already been exposed to nearly 60 years of border warfare – or to act with daring defiance that might amount to suicide. They knew their resources were desperately weakened by that time. But they had never been weak as men. And so they chose the most bold and daring action of all – to attack in order to survive. They knew the risks. It would be an all or nothing act of the most desperate kind. There would be no partial victory. It would be total victory or total oblivion. There was no doubt about the gravity of the risks they would be facing.

Accordingly, when the spring rains came, a fighting force was assembled. The pioneers had no army. They were simply farmers, sons, fathers and grandfathers who had to defend heir families with every fibre of their strength. Even so, only 470 men could be assembled. With them came their 150 strong service core of ex-slaves and servants who would not be there to fight, but only to handle the livestock and move supplies.

When their reconnaissance-men returned, the news was dreadful to the extreme. The armies of Zululand were on the move. Like rivers of dark ants the dreaded regiments of the amaZulu – literally “people of the heavens” – were already streaming through the valleys towards them. They knew that battle had become unavoidable, and the best they could do was to hurriedly find a place where they could wait for it.

The place they found was on what would become Uncle Gert’s family’s farm until the current generation. There the desperate pioneers drew their wagons into a circular shape. On one side they had a deep ravine and on the other side a flooded river. In the space between these two defences there was only open range – a soft green landscape of rippling grass that afforded clear views northwards. This would be the theatre of death on which they had to act out the most terrifying play of all. In great haste they lashed the wagons together. The gaps between them were closed off by wooden grates, called “fighting gates.” Ammunition was checked, guns were oiled, and then they settled down to wait. If their spies were right, the Zulus would not keep them waiting long.

The men who were there that day must have known that on this fateful night they had come to fight back – or be exterminated from history. There would be no middle ground. They tough men, but ordinary all the same. Old men with weathered faces and gnarled hands. Middle-aged men who thought about their wives and unborn children. And clean-faced youths who had not experienced very much of battle yet. The Voortrekkers knew that theirs was a precarious situation. They were hugely outnumbered. Surrounding them in the darkness of an African night was possibly the biggest army that the Zulu empire had ever assembled. They were the most experienced, most cruel, and most effective army in Africa. And they were there to kill to the last man.

The Zulu army was exceedingly great. But they were pitched against an enemy who knew where their strength lay. Knowing that humanly they had no hope at all, the pioneers had made a covenant with God during the preceding days. A covenant which they had repeatedly every night. And a covenant which successive generations have continued to renew ever since that day. In this covenant, they had promised to God that if He would grant them victory, they would build a church to His honour, and that they and their descendants would honour this day as a Sabbath in all perpetuity. The pioneers had no ministers of religion with them, for not a single one had been willing to join their exodus. But that did not mean that they did not have some men of faith to lead them. Sarel Cilliers was a man who carried the word of God like a sword. And they called upon his to lay their case before the Lord.

Gathered round their spokesman, where he was standing on a small ship’s cannon, they renewed their covenant for the last time. His words must have sounded grave and hollow in the suffocating mist as he made his famous deal with God and spoke words that have been echoing across the ages ever since:
“At this moment we stand before the Holy God of heaven and earth,
to make a promise if He will be with us and protect us,
and deliver the enemy into our hands so that we may triumph over him,
that we shall observe the day and the date as an anniversary in each year,
and a day of thanksgiving like the Sabbath,
in His honour, and that we shall enjoin our children that they must take part with us in this for a remembrance even for our posterity.”
When it was over, cold fingers returned their damp hats to their heads. Hauntingly, their sad and melancholy psalms filled the night. And then the long sleepless wait began. Trouble was all around them. They knew it from the barking of the dogs, and from the restless way the cattle and horses milled around. Lantern light shines barely five paces. Beyond that the grass was rustling. That, they all knew, was the sound of death.

On the Zulu side, it proved to be a night like no other. The army had planned to attack the laager at midnight. Had they done so, it would have been a massacre. But this did not happen, because everything started to go wrong in dreadful slow-motion fashion. From nowhere an eerie mist settled in – a mist that was so thick that it enclosed the whole landscape and swallowed the Zulu army. The Zulu regiments got hopelessly lost, and after marching twice around the wrong hill, they concluded that the white men had managed to make themselves invisible by means of powerful sorcery.

The regiments who did manage to find the laager were baffled by what they saw. The Voortrekkers had tied lanterns to their whip sticks, which they then suspended above the wagons. In the haunting fog the diffused light of the lanterns looked like suspended balls of fire, and so the mightiest nation in Africa paused to reflect with superstitious awe. By slowly following the trail of the wagons the main force finally found the laager near the end of night. When most of them had reached the spot, they sat down on their shields and prepared to wait. Some were testing the sharpness of their spears already. Spears that had already tasted an ocean innocent blood.

Dawn broke with milky whiteness which yielded unwillingly before the eastern sun. In the laager the men had barely closed an eye. By the low droning of thousands of voices they could tell that they were completely surrounded. In the laager their horses and cattle were milling fearfully. Even they could smell the danger. After a while they were able to faintly make out the figures. The nearest ones were seated 50 paces away. In their hands they carried the long throwing spears of their ancestors, and the short stabbing spears of Chaka. In their hearts they bore the wish of death. Beyond them the regiments were still arriving like angry ants across the landscape. The pioneers could not believe their eyes. There were thousands upon thousands of them. So many that not even the Zulu commanders could count them. As many as 30,000 warriors were assembled, some history books say. Uncle Gert’s grandfather held that after both calculation and from his impression as a whole, the number might have been far larger yet. The odds were at least 63 to 1 – if they were lucky.

Inside the laager the Voortrekkers were deeply concerned. They knew almost without a shadow of doubt that they were doomed. Not only because of she sheer numbers against them, but particularly because they knew that after a night of such heavy fog their gunpowder would be rendered entirely useless. Gunpowder had a famous affinity for moisture. And after such a foggy night, the men all knew that their guns would not be firing. With a sinking feeling they realized that at this point nothing but a miracle could save them.

What they did not know was that his was destined to become a day of miracles. While they were still vainly straining to peer into the mist, it suddenly lifted. One moment it was there, and the next it just rose and vanished away into thin blue air. The change was startling and completely unexpected. Uncle Gert’s grandfather stressed that this was unprecedented and unbelievably dramatic. Suddenly not even a single cloud remained. Now, beneath the harsh glare of the morning sun, they could see that they were completely enclosed. With a surging drone the regiments rose. Lines upon lines of dark figures, grandly arrayed battle dress: plumes around the arms, blue crane feathers in the hair to signify war – and different coloured shields to identify the individual regiments. In their hands they held the sharpest spears in Zululand. And they were ready for the kill.

They wasted little time. At the blowing of a reed trumped the mass of straining warriors leapt forward, bellowing the ancient blood-curdling battle cry of “Usutu! Usutu! Usutu!” Thousands of spears were beaten against thousands of shields so that the very air shook with the thunder of it. It was as if the whole landscape had turned into a black avalanche which came thundering towards the dim square of fragile wagons. The attack was swift and brutal. With great anxiety the Voortrekkers held their fire – and then pressed the triggers. To their utter astonishment the powder exploded in all guns – and the laager erupted into a wall of liquid fire, followed by an avalanche of pure white smoke. In each barrel the men had placed multiple balls of lead. And now they were firing for their very lives. There was no need to aim. At each shot several warriors fell to a single shot – with great holes blown through their bodies by the heavy lead balls. Some tried to catch the bullets with their hands. Others charged forward without fear – for they had been blessed by their witchdoctors at their departure – and many believed they were untouchable by death. Yet, death found them faster than the speed of sound. And Uncle Gert’s great-grandfather said that they fell across each other like a reed patch in the wind.

In the laager, the men staggered back to reload their muskets with trembling hands. It took 2-3 minutes to reload each gun, and it must have taken about that long for the first warriors to reach their position. Yet the strangeness continued. After the third volley the smoke was so dense that the whole army could no longer be seen. Perplexingly, however, moments later the gun smoke cleared again – rising straight up into the air. This too, was something the defenders had never encountered before. The pride of Zululand broke as their front ranks faltered. And then the commanders began to think. Hurriedly the signal was given so that the warriors withdrew to beyond gunshot and settled down to reflect. The battle had started badly.

Realizing that they had to take advantage of momentary confusion, and emboldened by events thus far, Uncle Gert’s grandfather, along with some settlers then galloped out to provoke a new attack. In this they were successful. With a fearsome cry the battle-tested warriors leapt to their feet and came for them. With the sound of many waters their limbs raced across the bloody fields. Shouting and leaping across their fallen comrades they came – bellowing with rage and determination. Yet they ran into a wall of death again. Slight though the effect was upon their huge number, it nevertheless caused them to slow the attack.

When the second assault finally also faltered, 12 mounted men were sent out to provoke the next wave. As dreadful as it seemed, the regiments had to be kept moving so that they would not be able to rest. They were not as quick to respond this time. Then one man, Flip Coetzer, shouted at them.
“This time it’s not the women and children that you murdered in the camps,” he shouted at them, “but strong men who came to vanquish you!”

The next attack came at once. With earth-shaking thunder the regiments ran into streams of screaming lead. In the laager the small ships’ cannons thundered methodically. Their ranks crumpled like wheat before a scythe, but their numbers seemed limitless and they were advancing faster than the few hands could reload their cumbersome flintlocks guns. Even the three small ships cannons were unable to blow large enough holes into their ranks. It was as if all of Zululand had been unleashed upon the tiny circle, and for a moment it must have seemed as if they were about to be engulfed. And yet, again the attack lost impetus and then turned into a soft retreat.

At this point the Zulu commanders decided that there was no need for further attack. With their superior numbers all they needed to do was draw the circle tight and besiege the settlers. That night, they argued, they would close in and wipe them all out cleanly. At night settler eyes could not see to take aim. At night they could simply swamp the brittle defences and slaughter every living soul inside.

But suddenly a strange problem arose. The young warriors were still bloodthirsty and rearing for battle. They were severely dissatisfied at being denied more opportunity to attack. Furthermore, a few of them had made a new and critically-important important observation. It had quietly occurred to them that every time the horsemen were sent out, it took some time for the wagon that served as a gate to be drawn back into the perimeter. And during that time the entire defence was deeply vulnerable. Some of them had therefore devised the plan of sneaking around towards the gate area. When the horsemen were let loose, they planned to rush inside before the gate could close – and once that happened the battle would be over. From inside the settlers would stand no chance at all. Thereupon, a great argument ensured among the leaders, but eventually it was decided that this would be the surest way to victory. And so the young men stealthily moved into place to execute their plan.

Exactly as expected, the settlers soon sent out another 18 men to charge at the enemy and fire into their ranks. The young men saw the gate open and recognized their chance. This was when they would all be heroes – and they rose with whitened knuckles around their deadly spears. What followed next should been a race to victory. But then the strangest event took place – something that history could never explain – an event which some would later point to as having been one of the greatest miracles in our nation’s history.
“Even though each of us directed our gun shot at the nearest Zulus,” Uncle Gert’s great-grandfather remembered, “their faces were not directed at us. In stead, they were facing the mountain, in which direction they beckoned to each other.”

When this happened the curious horsemen blinked with astonishment. They could not believe their eyes when, almost as if by a prearranged signal, much of the entire Zulu army turned and ran. But not all of them, as Uncle Gert explained. Flight was not permitted in the Zulu army, and so the older regiment of white shields would not let the young ones depart. Running into their path of retreat they presented steel – and the two sides clashed with a thundering report. Before the incredible eyes of the settlers the Zulu army began slaughtering itself with the most bitter passion.

There are no words to describe the utter rout that now took place. The slaughter was so intense that many fell down and pretended to be dead. Suddenly it had become a fight of brother-against-brother and father-against-son. The pride of Zululand was cutting itself to pieces in a way that nobody had ever seen before. The scale of the confusion was beyond description. Many just ran in any direction – and the direction that most were drawn to was the direction that lead home. Accordingly, an enormous number of them plunged into the Buffalo river where they were drowned or swept away, or presumably taken by crocodiles. It was an outcome such as no man had ever expected to see.

As the battle of screaming humanity thundered away from the powder-stained laager, the Voortrekkers stared with disbelief. How could such a thing be possible?

The 18 men, in particular, were dumbfounded. They must have looked towards the mountain behind them many times and blinked in complete astonishment. What did the Zulu army see which had instilled the terror of death into their hearts? They looked, but they could see nothing. They were speechless.

The answer to this mystery was only revealed years later when old survivors of the battle came to Uncle Gert’s family and told them their version of the story. I had heard this story since I was a little boy, but this time I quizzed Uncle Gert most carefully. I wanted to make sure that I got the story exactly straight.

Uncle Gert told me that the old survivors told his father and grandfather that the turning point came when they looked up at the mountain and saw the most perplexing sight. According to them they saw a mighty army of fighters on white horses and streaming banners, tearing towards them across the soft green landscape. It was an army of cavalrymen, they said. And leading them – right at the very head of their columns, was a single man upon a white horse that carried a long knife – which was their way of describing a sword. It was at this dramatic appearance that the young regiments turned and fled.

As for the veteran regiments and even the settlers themselves – they never saw a thing. Not one of them saw that phantom army. The thought never even crossed their minds. Yet this story was told to several members of Uncle Gert’s family on various occasions. They shared what they heard with their friends and neighbours, but as Uncle Gert told me, most of them just dismissed it as “Zulu stories.” They themselves had, after all, never seen the white army.

In the meantime, the settlers pursued the fleeing Zulus. All around the laager the fight continued in places. Here and there it turned to hand-to-hand combat. Both Voortrekker leader Karel Landman and Andries Pretorius were attacked by Zulu warriors and both succeeded in killing the warriors with their own spears. Pretorius was wounded in his hand in the process. He was 39 year old at the time.

Uncle Gert told me that the settlers rode up and down the river banks for several hours – firing at all the noses they could see – and defending themselves from periodic attacks from the reed beds. Between the regiments’ killing themselves and the Voortrekkers’ shooting at what they could see, the river slowly turned red with the blood of Zululand’s best. And that is where the river got the name by which it is know to this very day: Blood River.

The Battle of Blood River was the pivotal event in South African history. After Blood River the Zulu army was still mighty. But after decades of slaughtering hundreds of thousands of innocent black tribesmen across South Africa they never managed to reorganize themselves completely. It was as if the fright that had taken hold of their hearts on that day remained with them forever. King Dingane was so shaken by the defeat of his enormous army that he burnt his own capital at Ulundi and fled into the depths of Zululand where he felt more safe. For the time being, this left him unwilling or unable to reorganize his armies.

During this time of confusion the Voortrekkers took possession of the land of Natal which they had fairly bought from the Zulu king months ago. A year after their deputation had been treacherously murdered by the Zulu king they discovered the skeletons of their fallen governor with the deed of sale still in his leather pouch. It exists to this day, still bearing the cross which Dingane had scrawled upon it by his own hand. Dingane had murdered Retief’s men, but he had already set in motion a sequence of events that could not be altered. After this the land was safe to dwell in.

In the annals of famous South African battles, none are as important or as famous as Blood River. It was the most unlikely of victories under the strangest of circumstances. There are those who may ascribe the deliverance to luck and pluck. Some scholars and armchair historians even argue that the outcome had been assured because after all – what match could spear-carrying natives have been against modern firearms? And yet, if one carefully thinks about it, the argument seems pitifully flawed. When the overwhelming force of numbers is considered, the entire notion becomes childish.

There are many who will always acknowledge that “something took place” that day at Blood River. Something that was not of human making.

Among the settlers, only two were lightly wounded, one of them being the commander himself. Among their ranks, not a single man was killed. Among the Zulus the number of dead as so great that it could never be estimated. According to Uncle Gert, his great-grandfather said that in his opinion the numbers must have been close to the largest figure that history suggests. A figure so great that it is often regarded as improbable. The dead numbered in the thousands – and the greatest part of these, Ungle Gert’s grandfather said – did not die by settler bullets. They were killed by the blades that had been forged in their own kraals. Whatever the real facts, it was a totally unlikely outcome of incredible significance.

This day continues to be remembered for divine deliverance in a battle which the settlers never could have won on their own. The covenant that was made on this day was renewed many times by succeeding generations. There are those who choose to dismiss the covenant, or the events which took place on that day. But there are some who still remember. And some who still acknowledge that we are alive today because that ancient battle had been won. Without it, the history of South Africa would have been vastly different.

In 1938 my great-grandfather wrote a letter to his son, whose name I bear. It was the year of the centenary of the Great Trek. That letter was carried by one of the centenary wagons which trekked all the way from the Cape to Pretoria where the Voortrekker monument was revealed on this same day. It was a letter that he had written not only for his son, but also for posterity. He ended his letter with the following words:

“And so we close with the prayer that this Centenary would contribute towards making of us better, father, mothers, better sons and daughters, better Christians, better burghers and fatherlanders. And that the heritage of our forefathers would always be held in great honour, that it shall be built up and improved, and that we may become a noble nation in a pure land. That you, dear Herman, with everyone entrusted to you, would have a happy and a blessed future in our beloved South Africa – this is the blessing and prayer of your loving parents.

In my family, we have never had any doubt at all that God’s hand was to be seen at Blood River. We have been reared with a sense of ever-lasting gratitude that victory had been granted to our forefathers when they certainly could not have deserved it.

I visited the 175th commemoration of this Battle of Blood River and the Great Trek at Hartenbos today. With me there were the descendants of many of the men who fought that day – and across South Africa – their number is beyond estimation. At the commemoration Frans Moolman, professor of history, said something that made a significant impression on me. He said that the Battle of Blood River has been politicized so much. It has been dismissed as irrelevant by modern generations. It is often even held in a negative light from the point of racial relations. And yet, he argued, if this is how the world is viewing it, they are missing the entire point.

The facts of history show that the Battle of Blood River was not the result of land-hungry invaders that had come to disturb a peaceful people. In stead, it was a peaceful people who had come not to rob land, but to fairly purchase it. When they were faced with murderous treachery, they presented arms out of a sense of self-preservation. That they survived, could only be accounted to divine intervention. The Battle of Blood River, he pointed out, pointed not to the triumph of white over black. In stead, it marked the triumph of the light of civilization over the cruelty and barbarism.

I never really thought about it like that before. Professor Moolman said if the tribes of South Africa understood Blood River for what it really was, they too, would commemorate the day with much enthusiasm. After all, between Chaka and Dingane, innocent thousands without number had been slaughtered. Death, superstition and fear pervaded that land from the dry interior to the shining coast. When the might of the Zulu nation was crushed at Blood River, that was when the bell of liberty rang for the multitudes who would surely still have perished beneath Dingane’s cruel hand.

As for king Dingane, he died as he had lived – assassinated as a back-stabbing traitor, just the way that he himself had assassinated his own half-brother Chaka before. His successor, Mpanda, remained a loyal friend of the Andries Pretorius, the victor of Blood River. Between the two they signed a treaty of “everlasting friendship.”

The Voortrekkers never lost their respect for the Zulu nation after that, nor did the Zulus lose their respect for the Trekkers. I grew up with the Zulus – and always felt that in the greater scheme of South African politics, there exists a strangely respectful bond between our two peoples. Perhaps not a bond of total brotherliness, but the bond of understanding that can be found between two groups who would like to never go to war against each other again. In my family, I never knew a shred of disrespect or resentment about those dreadful times of the past.

Finally then, we can look at Blood River today and ask ourselves what would have happened if the pioneers had lost the fight that day? Almost without question, the Zulu armies would have spilled across the land and slaughtered all the encampments in Natal. From there they probably would have wiped out the settlements in the deep interior. What they did not finish off, the Matabele of the north probably would have taken care of.

Inspired by these successes, it is likely that the Xhosa of the Eastern Cape would have launched the greatest assault against the eastern border. Desperately weakened by the departure of the pioneers of the frontier, the Colony very likely might have collapsed. It is not unthinkable that it might have wiped out the light of civilization in South Africa for the next half a century or more. If this had happened, the history of the world would have been entirely different. Throughout all of this, genocide would have followed genocide among the black and brown races of the southern continent – and millions who are alive today would have never existed.

This then, sums up the history and the significance of the most important day on the calendar of South Africa. This is a day that our children should know of – and that the world should understand. In the end victory came to the pioneers not because they were good, but simply because God was great.

May we who live today, never forget to teach that to the heroes of tomorrow.

Herman Labuschagne, Glentana, 16 December 2013.
Original article:…

Eskom and Shedding – a personal view by Nico van der Merwe Snr. March 23, 2015

April 21, 2015

Hierdie brief word gerig aan ons personeel en vriende en is geensins opgestel om mense paniekerig of negatief te stem nie. Dit word gestuur om mense die feite te gee en aan te moedig om PARAAT te wees vir wat DALK mag gebeur. Interessant dat as jy iets begin doen, soos ek onder voorstel, sal jy vind jou negatiwiteit begin verdwyn want voorsorg is tog immers beter as nasorg.


Vandat ek in 1993 begin reis het in ander Afrika lande, het ek opgemerk dat daar 3 faktore is wat uitstaan bo al die ander. Hierdie 3 faktore het ‘n wesenlike invloed op elke persoon in daai land in ‘n mindere of meerdere mate en ‘n geweldige invloed op die bedryf van ‘n gesonde besigheid. Verskeie Afrikaanse sakemanne (Whitey Basson van Shoprite en Louis vd Watt van Atterbury om net 2 te noem) verstaan dit baie goed en het die kuns bemeester om die 3 probleme te oorkom wat besigheid kan sink of laat floreer in Afrika.

• Betroubare krag voorsiening
• Betroubare water voorsiening
• Eie, effektiewe sekuriteit

Ek noem betroubare krag en water voorsiening want om net dan-en-wan krag of water te kry help ‘n sakeman niks – kyk maar hoe al die winkels gesluit is in Menlyn en ander inkopiesentrums op ‘n Saterdagoggend (die besigste dag van die week) as beurtkrag skielik inskop. Eie, effektiewe sekuriteit is ook krities noodsaaklik want hoe minder mense het hoe groter die versoeking om van ander te vat wat dalk meer as hulle het. Dadelik sien ek natuurlik die leemte in ons eie organisasie – kontrole van die wat ingaan, maar kontrole van die wat uitgaan (dalk met maatskappy eiendom in hulle besit), word nie gedoen nie.

Suid Afrika is deel van Afrika en word ‘meer deel’ daarvan elke dag. Kragvoorsiening is onbetroubaar, daarmee saam watervoorsiening (ons was al met tye tot 4 dae sonder water!) en privaat sekuriteit is ‘n massiewe industrie in ons land. Om pro-aktief te beplan is dus van uiterste noodsaaklikheid, veral as mens ‘n ‘total blackout’ in die gesig staar soos dikwels al in die pers genoem is en Eskom ten sterkste ontken het. Dit laat my dink aan Shakespeare se stuk in Hamlet … “Methinks thou dost protest too much”

As ek dan ook dink aan die opmerking van ‘n Turkse sakeman toe ek en my vrou Anita jare gelede een aand langs die Bosporus staan en gesels het oor die dramatiese devaluasie van die Turkse Lire op daai stadium en ek die sakeman vra hoe hulle oorleef toe was sy antwoord “Never trust the government”. Dit het my tussen die oë getref en my bygebly. Geweet dit was ‘n boodskap wat ek moes hoor.

En so lei die Here mens om seker goed te doen wat vir baie mense half onnodig is of nie sin maak nie. Met die installasie van ons kragopwekker by ons hoofkantoor in 2007 het ons professionele span gesê dit is ‘n ‘over kill’ en wat het gebeur? “In the later months of 2007 South Africa started experiencing widespread rolling blackouts as supply fell behind demand, threatening to destabilize the national grid.” Ons het vir die kragopwekker binne ‘n week betaal. Ons het ook ‘n 10’000 liter houer met water in die kelder-parkering laat insit wat al handig te pas gekom het wanneer daar nie water was vir welke rede ookal nie. Maar dit is geskiedenis.

Situasie vandag

Wat van die toekoms? Wat gebeur sou daar ‘n ‘total blackout’ wees? Die eksperts sê om die ‘grid’ weer lewendig te kry kan tussen 2 en 6 weke neem (selfs langer!) Eskom se kredietwaardigheid is al verskeie kere afgradeer en staan tans op ‘junk’ status. Nog steeds word niks of baie min gedoen en word Eskom verbruikers letterlik in die duister gehou. Volgens die Mail & Guardian van 3 Feb 2015 …
Eskom on Monday would not divulge what plans it has in the event of a national blackout.

The utility announced on Monday that a unit at Koeberg power station should be operational by the end of the week. (David Harrison, M&G)
This was after Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille warned in her SA Today column that a nationwide power blackout would result in “catastrophe”.
According to reports Eskom has warned Cabinet about the risk of a national blackout.
Zille defined a blackout as “what happens when the grid fails and everything shuts down indefinitely”.
Eskom has repeatedly said that rotational power cuts – or load-shedding – were necessary to prevent a total blackout. Previously the parastatal indicated such a situation could take around two weeks to resolve.
Zille said that if the national power grid was hit with a blackout, a “huge amount” of electricity would need to be sourced from elsewhere to restart the grid. “This is not available from any of our neighbours.”
Asked about the validity of Zille’s claim and to what extent Eskom has planned for this possibility, aside from implementing power cuts as a preventative measure, the parastatal would not disclose details.
So, dit lyk vir my of daar dalk ‘n sterk moontlikheid is vir ‘n ‘total blackout’ hierdie winter. Om voorbereid te wees sou dit gebeur is dus na my mening nogal belangrik. Daarom deel ek hierdie met u, nie om jou die skrik op die lyf te jaag of jou te laat paniek aankope doen nie maar om jou aan die dink te sit en pro-aktief te laat begin optree.

Dit is belangrik om te verstaan wat gebeur tydens ‘n ‘total blackout’.

Reuters reported on Friday that in the event of a national blackout, President Jacob Zuma and his Cabinet would be taken to a secret location and soldiers would be deployed at national key points, such as the SA Reserve Bank and the SABC’s head office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
Eskom this week refused to be drawn on the chances of a large-scale blackout happening and merely said it would continue to implement load shedding to protect the grid, as this was the best way to protect South Africa’s power system.
US embassy staff are now taking a hard look at South Africa’s power situation on a daily basis.
US Embassy spokesperson Jack Hillmeyer confirmed the embassy had a plan, but said it was “standard procedure”. “The safety and security of our American and local staff and facilities is a top priority,” he said. “As we do in our locations throughout the world, we plan and prepare for possible emergency situations we may face. Our planning in South Africa is similar to what we do in all countries.” Hillmeyer said he could not discuss specifics about safety and security planning for “obvious reasons”. Eskom sources have told City Press a national blackout was a “very significant possibility for the foreseeable future”.

Hoekom al hierdie prosedures? As die krag stop, stop die water (pompe kan nie meer water suiwer of water in die reservoirs pomp nie); die riool stop (oorvol rioolpype begin in die strate uitloop); ATM’s stop – geen kontant beskikbaar nie want die ATM’s en kredietkaart masjiene in die winkels en supermarkte werk nie meer nie; banke kom tot stilstand; brandstop stop uiteindelik (gelukkig het my garage ‘n kragopwekker! … jammer! Die rafinaderye sal nie meer brandstof kan voorsien nie want alles stop!) So as ek nie genoeg spaar brandstof vir my kragkopwekkers het nie (ja ook by die kantoor wat die dompelpompe aan die gang moet hou sodat die kelderparkering en stoorkamers nie oorstroom word met grondwater nie!) sal ek ‘n groot probleem hê! Vrieskaste sal begin ontdooi en kos vrot – jy sal nie vinnig genoeg kan braai en eet voor alles om jou vrot nie! Daarmee saam sal kos aflewerings staak (geen vervaardiging agv geen krag en geen aflewering nie weens brandstof tekorte) en in massa histerie sal mense blikkieskos en water begin opkoop maar dit sal alles te min te laat wees. Binne 5 dae sê kundiges begin daar bendes in die strate alles roof wat hulle kan. Totale anergie begin intree. ‘n Slegte scenario wat ek verseker hoop nie sal gebeur nie maar tog ‘n moontlikheid is waaraan mens moet dink onder die huidige omstandighede.

Is daar iets wat ek kan doen?

Natuurlik! Ons elkeen se plig is om krag te bespaar soveel as wat ons kan. Gloeilampe te vervang met LED lampies wat feitlik geen krag gebruik nie, sonenergie warmwater toestelle installeer (duur!) en krag in die algemeen te spaar – net genoeg water in die ketel vir daai koppie koffie ipv die hele ketel se water te kook, tensy jy dit in ‘n warmfles bewaar vir later gebruik, swembadpomp minder te laat loop, geyser af te sit tydens piek tye; ligte afsit as jy uit die kamer of kantoor uitstap; ens. ens. ens. Is dit regtig nodig dat al die ligte in die kantoor aan is terwyl lig van buite instroom? Baie mense kyk na son-krag om heeltemal van die ‘grid’ af te gaan maar dit is op die stadium nog baie duur.

Die groot gevaar tydens beurtkrag of selfs ‘n ‘total blackout’ is egter die emosionele effek wat dit op ‘n mens het. As jy in die donker sit begin jy ook donker gedagtes kry. Depressie, emigreer gedagtes en paniek wat vinnig begin posvat. Maar daar is ‘n paar basiese stappe wat mens kan neem wat jou emosioneel paraat sal laat voel sonder dat dit jou ‘n sak vol geld kos! Hier is ‘n paar wenke (dit is geensins volledig nie!) …

1. Koop ‘n paar gassilinders (gassilinder met ‘n kookplaat bo-op en ‘n stang vir ‘n sterk gaslig. Tenminste kan jy as die krag af is kos kook (al bak jy net ‘n eier!) / water en sop warm maak en lig hê. Dit alleen is al klaar ‘n groot stap vorentoe. As jy 2 of 3 ekstra gassilinders kan bekostig om in jou sitkamer en slaapkamers te sit vir lig help dit al klaar baie. Jy kan dit noual gebruik tydens beurtkrag. Voorraad kerse en vuurhoutjies veral vir die nie-rokers is ook noodsaaklik.
2. Een of twee gasverwarmers – daar is niks so negatief as om in die middel van die winter koud te kry terwyl jy in die donkerte sit nie. Jy kan dieselfde verwarmers ook in die toekoms gebruik al is die krag nie af nie.
3. Genoeg kontant in jou huis te alle tye om te voorsien in jou kos / brandstof / water en ander behoeftes tenminste vir ‘n maand. Onthou geen ATM of kredietkaartmasjien gaan werk of bank wat gaan oop wees nie. Koop maar daai kluis wat jy altyd wou hê om jou kontant en vuurwapen in te stoor.
4. Vuurwapen en ammunisie – jy sal jou eie goed moet beskerm. Geen ADT / Chubb meer of elektriese heinings nie. Geen selfoon ontvangs of telefone wat werk om vir hulp te bel nie – die selfoontorings het al lankal gaan staan. Wees paraat!
5. Hou altyd tenminste ‘n maand se noodsaaklike medikasie as noodvoorraad en gaan die vervaldatums gereeld na. Ruil gereeld jou ou medikasie met nuwes om!
6. Sorg dat jy ‘n voorraad drinkwater het – laat kontroleer jou boorgatwater se suiwerheid (onthou jy moet dan ‘n kragopwekker met genoeg spaar brandstof hê om die pomp van krag te voorsien – kan ook dalk jou koelkas en vrieskaste voorsien). Mens kan ook natuurlik jou swembadwater drink mits dit varswater en nie soutwater is nie. Suiwer egter alle drinkwater deur dit te kook of gebruik watersuiwerings tablette.
7. Sorg dat jy genoeg blikkies / nie bederfbare kos soos pasta / tuna / sardiens / geblikte beesvleis / ham / rys / groente / mieliemeel / tee / koffie / suiker / ens het vir tenminste ‘n maand… wat dalk gerek kan word na 2 maande in ‘n noodsituasie. Hoë proteïen voedsel van goeie kwaliteit is van uiterste belang en geblikte kos het gewoonlik lang vervaldatums en kan geëet word na die krisis verby is. Sogenaamde ‘Corned beef’ is heelwat duurder en beter kwaliteit as ‘Corned meat’ (wat enige vleis kan bevat – selfs ook perd of donkie!)
8. Plastieksakke om in die toilet te gebruik is noodsaaklik – onthou wanneer daar geen water is nie werk die rioleringsisteem nie! Behalwe as jy ‘n ‘French drain’ het maar dan het jy water nodig. Gooi jou
swembad chloor op die vastestowwe en begrawe die sakke in die tuin. Gebruik ook vir rommel – daai leë blikkies moet sorgvuldig platgetrap en begrawe word anders kan allerhande peste uitbreek.
9. Baie belangrik! Koop sterk skoonmaakmiddels en seep om jou hande / koppies / borde / werksareas skoon te hou. Meer mense gaan dood van voedselvergiftiging / diarree tydens ‘n krisis as van hongerly! Sorg dat jy Kantrexil of enige ander sterk antibiotika in jou huis hou sou jy of van jou gesin diarree ontwikkel. Was jou hande gereeld!! Handy Andy / opwas seep / Jig / ens is noodsaaklik.
10. Sorg vir ‘n groot genoeg voorraad gas – vir jou braaier / gas stofie / ligte / verwarmers. Jy kan dit altyd gebruik na die krisis verby is.
11. Flitse met ekstra stel batterye of twee. Consol se sonenergie liggies werk net so goed – kan dit op jou stoep ook later gebruik. Herlaaibare flitse gaan nie die ding doen nie want daar is niks om dit mee te laai nie!
12. Maak seker jou motor is vol brandstof veral as jy die tekens begin sien soos meer gereelde en langer kragonderbrekings. As jy ‘n diesel motor ry wil jy dalk diesel kragopwekker hê en paar honderd liter diesel veilig stoor? Dalk wil mens nou al belê in twee of drie skoon 200 liter dromme , reg om op te vul die oomblik as die tekens begin wys op ‘n krisis … vlak 3 beurtkrag met lang tye sonder krag is een daarvan.
13. Bêre alles in 1 of 2 plastiek kratte. Maklik om op te tel en te vervoer as jy besluit om uit die stad pad te gee.

Voeg elke maand bietjie-vir-bietjie by jou nie-bederfbare noodkosvoorraad.

Die eksperts sê dat indien mens tydens so ‘n ‘black out’ so gou as moontlik uit die stad kan kom, dit ideaal sal wees. Ken jy iemand wat ‘n plaas besit? Meeste boere is redelik selfvoorsienend. Spaar diesel / pompe / water en party selfs met hulle eie krag, gas koelkaste en gas waterverwarmers. Meeste het ook ‘French Drain’ riool sisteme en boorgatwater wat ideaal is in ‘n krisis situasie. Dalk wil jy voor die tyd reël dat jy eendag kan kom kuier in die geval van ‘n ‘total blackout’? Wild en veeboere het altyd iets om te slag en te eet … dit is die ideale opset en persoon om by te gaan bly – kos, water, sekuriteit. MAAR, dan moet jy so gou moontlik na die ‘blackout’ uit die stad uit padgee – voor daar chaos intree… en onthou om jou kratte kos saam te neem!   

Ek sê weer, bostaande is NIE om mens die skrik op die lyf te jag nie maar om jou te laat dink en proaktief te laat begin optree ten einde PARAAT te wees sou ‘n krisis dalk ontstaan. Jy kan maklik elke maand ‘n paar ekstra goedjies aankoop – beginnende met die gassilinders / kookplaat / ligte / water en geblikte kos en voor jy weet is jy paraat en reg vir wat dalk mag kom. Dink net hoe lekker gaan ons lag as daar niks van kom terwyl ons ons Bully beef partytjies saam het nie! Terselfdertyd dink mens ook daaraan as daar wel so ‘n krisis op ons land toesak – dan is ons paraat en reg daarvoor, sonder paniek aankope en opsoek na blikkieskos op leë rakke.

Wat van besighede?

Tenlaaste moet ons ook onthou dat wanneer daar ‘n ‘total blackout’ kom sluit al die maatskappye feitlik oornag. Soos wat Menlyn se besighede gesluit het die Saterdagoggend toe daar beurtkrag was. Niemand is daarvoor gerat nie, behalwe Woollies. Dit beteken dat mense onmiddellik op onbetaalde, verpligte verlof geplaas sal word totdat die situasie na normaal terugkeer. Ek hoor iemand vra “hoekom onbetaald?’ want maatskappye kan geen inkomste genereer nie; geen oorplasings kan gemaak word na bankrekeninge en in sulke omstandighede probeer elkeen net oorleef. Ja self pensionarisse kry geen inbetalings in hulle bankrekeninge nie want die banke is toe! Wat daarna gebeur as alles na normaal toe terugkeer, is ‘n ander storie. Het jy genoeg kontant spaargeld om ‘n maand of twee sonder inkomste te oorleef? Laat mens dink nê?

Dink oor bostaande, ek is seker baie mense sal nog baie ander punte kan byvoeg, elkeen wat vir hom/haar belangrik is. Ek voel egter hierdie is die basiese dinge om in gedagte te hou in die geval van ‘n krisis. Laat ons nie soos die 5 dwase maagde in Matteus 25:2 gevang word sonder om voorbereid te wees en genoeg olie ons in lampies te hê nie. Macro was laas klaar uitverkoop van LED ligte – meeste mense wat ek ken het nie eers ‘n kers in hulle huise nie!

Maar, terwyl ons besin en oor bostaande nadink, laat ons ook Jesaja 43:18+19 in gedagte hou…

“Maar moenie net aan die vroeëre dinge dink en daar by die verlede stilstaan nie.
Kyk, Ek gan iets nuuts doen, dit staan op die punt om te gebeur, julle kan dit al sien kom;
Ek maak in die woestyn ‘n pad, Ek laat in die droë wêreld riviere ontspring.”

Ek vra vir die Here wysheid en insig oor wat Hy wil hê ek moet doen. Dit is met ‘n opgewondenheid dat ek uitsien na Sy belofte hier bo … dat Hy reeds besig is om iets nuuts doen, en dat dit op die punt staan om te gebeur. Niemand sal weet of ‘n ‘total blackout’ dalk deel van Sy plan mag wees om verandering van denke teweeg te bring in ons land. Maar tenminste is ek paraat – het ek ‘n plan vir my en my familie. Here maak my oë oop sodat ek sal sien en sal weet en sal deelneem aan die … Nuwe Suidafrika waarvan Louis Wilsenach praat.

Sien jy dit nie? Dit staan op die punt om te gebeur!
Nico van der Merwe is die skrywer van ‘What does God know About Business?’ – Making the right decisions in tough times. Hy was ook die samesteller van ‘n ‘Noodtas’ namens die Aptekers Vereniging van SA tydens die 1976 Soweto opstande waarvan meer as 60’000 verkoop is deur apteke landwyd. Hy is die voorsitter van hulle familie besigheid (H.A.S.S. Groep), stigter van die Oorinstitute en stigterslid van die Eduplex in Pretoria.
Web werwe | | |

Cost of living: South Africa vs the world

April 20, 2015

While South Africans often complain about the rising cost of living in the country, it remains one of the most affordable countries in the world.

This is according to new data from Deutshe Bank, looking at world prices for a number of goods and serves in terms of purchasing power.

The 2015 report follows indices like the Big Mac Index closely, but covers a far wider selection of goods than simply the famous McDonalds burger.

The Big Mac Index – which is also included in DB’s research – is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP).

This is the notion that, in the long run, exchange rates should move towards the rate that would equalise the prices of an identical basket of goods and services (in this case, a Big Mac burger) in any two countries.

The Bic Mac is selected for comparison as the popular fast-food meal is widely available across the world, and remains fairly consistent in pricing; however, it is by no means an exact science.

DB’s research covers more items, including the relative cost of living across 20 countries, car rentals and hotel rooms, as well as specific goods such as Coca Cola, beer, sports shoes, Levis jeans and Apple iPhones.

Prices in New York City are used as the standard measure, and all other prices are listed by city, where applicable, relative to NYC.

Global cost of living

Along with other emerging markets, South Africa has seen relatively large shifts in consumer prices – over 6% – between 2013 and 2014. This is an increase on par with economies like Brazil, India and Russia.

In relative terms of purchasing power parity, however, the cost of living in South Africa is just over 44% of that of the United States, showing relative affordability.

On the flip side, however, this trend of affordability in South Africa is notably shifting.

According to DB, in 2001, Johannesburg was the third most affordable city measured on the index. Fast-forward to 2014, and the South African city has disappeared from the top 10 completely.

Cost of living 2001 vs 2014 Top and Bottom 10

“In previous years, Australia had consistently been the world’s most expensive country while the United States had been the cheapest developed country,” deutsche Bank said.

“This year, however, the strength of the USD has significantly narrowed the gap between the two. Similarly, shopping in Europe and Japan now feels a lot cheaper than before.”

Brazil was the most expensive emerging market in the world and was more expensive than the US for several categories.

However, currency depreciation has brought Brazilian prices more in line with what one would expect for a country at its level of development.

India remains the cheapest major economy in the world across a range of products.

Relative price levels by PPP

South African prices

In its report, Deutsche Bank measures countries across a basket of goods, looking at multiple cities where possible.

Two South African cities were featured: Cape Town and Johannesburg. Here is how South Africa’s averages compared to the New York standard, as well as how Cape Town and Joburg fared, head to head.

Item Cape Town price Johannesburg price South Africa average
Petrol (1 litre) 143% 143% 143%
iPhone 6 126% 126% 126%
iPhone 5S 120% 120% 120%
VW Golf 2.0 TDI 99% 102% 101%
Levis 93% 106% 100%
Five star hotel rooms 109% 64% 87%
Sports shoes 86% 86% 86%
Coca Cola 56% 56% 56%
Taxi trip 48% 63% 56%
Economist subscription 51% 51% 51%
Men’s haircut 51% 45% 48%
Big Mac 46% 46% 46%
Car rentals 42% 42% 42%
Movie ticket 31% 37% 34%
Gym membership 32% 35% 34%
Beer 27% 26% 27%
Public transport 20% 27% 24%
Marlboro cigarettes 22% 22% 22%

According to the data, South Africa’s highest relative charge is for petrol, where the country pays 143% the relative value of a litre of petrol in New York.

On the other end of the spectrum, vices such as smoking are more affordable in the country, where a pack of cigarettes is only 22% of the relative value in the States.

Looking at the cities, of the 18 items, Cape Town and Joburg differed in price in nine – six of which had higher prices in Joburg.

Education, dates and holidays

Using Harvard as its standard, DB also analysed business school tuition fees and salaries offered to graduates across the world.

In South Africa, tuition fees at Wits and UCT were only a fraction of those at Harvard – 14% – but with an average starting salary of US$43,556 for graduates, South Africa ranked lowest for pay.

In it’s “cheap date index”, Cape Town offers the 7th most affordable night out, with date costs amounting to only 40% of the same night in New York.

Joburg prices amount to 47% of NYC’s prices.

A cheap date consists of taxi rides, McDonalds burgers, soft drinks, two movie tickets and a couple of beers.

The weekend getaway index, which looks at a two night stay at a 5-star hotel, four meals, snacks and car rentals, among other things, also works out to be relatively cheap in South Africa.

Cape Town prices work out to be 89% of the New York values, with Joburg prices even cheaper at 61%.

On Moving Back to South Africa

June 23, 2014

On Moving Back to South Africa.

On Angry South African Expats

June 23, 2014

On Angry South African Expats.


March 25, 2014

I have a little Satnav, It sits there in my car

A Satnav is a driver’s friend, it tells you where you are.

I have a little Satnav, I’ve had it all my life

It’s better than the normal ones, my Satnav is my wife.

It gives me full instructions, especially how to drive

“It’s sixty miles an hour”, it says, “You’re doing sixty five”.

It tells me when to stop and start, and when to use the brake

And tells me that it’s never ever, safe to overtake.

It tells me when a light is red, and when it goes to green

It seems to know instinctively, just when to intervene.

It lists the vehicles just in front, and all those to the rear

And taking this into account, it specifies my gear.

I’m sure no other driver, has so helpful a device

For when we leave and lock the car, it still gives its advice.

It fills me up with counseling, each journey’s pretty fraught

So why don’t I exchange it, and get a quieter sort?

Ah well, you see, it cleans the house, makes sure I’m properly fed

It washes all my shirts and things, and keeps me warm in bed!

Despite all these advantages, and my tendency to scoff,

I only wish that now and then, I could turn the bugger off.

Apartheid Never Died

October 14, 2012
Apartheid never died in South Africa. It inspired a world order upheld by force and illusion by John Pilger, 19 September 2012.

The murder of 34 miners by the South African police, most of them shot in the back, puts paid to the illusion of post-apartheid democracy and illuminates the new worldwide apartheid of which South Africa is both an historic and contemporary model.

In 1894, long before the infamous Afrikaans word foretold “separate development” for the majority people of South Africa, an Englishman, Cecil John Rhodes, oversaw the Glen Grey Act in what was then the Cape Colony. This was designed to force blacks from agriculture into an army of cheap labour, principally for the mining of newly discovered gold and other precious minerals. As a result of this social Darwinism, Rhodes’ own De Beers company quickly developed into a world monopoly, making him fabulously rich. In keeping with liberalism in Britain and the United States, he was celebrated as a philanthropist supporting high-minded causes.

Today, the Rhodes scholarship at Oxford University is prized among liberal elites. Successful Rhodes scholars must demonstrate “moral force of character” and “sympathy for and protection of the weak, and unselfishness, kindliness and fellowship”. The former president Bill Clinton is one, General Wesley Clark, who led the Nato attack on Yugoslavia, is another. The wall known as apartheid was built for the benefit of the few, not least the most ambitious of the bourgeoisie.

This was something of a taboo during the years of racial apartheid. South Africans of British descent could indulge an apparent opposition to the Boers’ obsession with race, and their contempt for the Boers themselves, while providing the facades behind which an inhumane system guaranteed privileges based on race and, more importantly, on class.

The new black elite in South Africa, whose numbers and influence had been growing steadily during the latter racial apartheid years, understood the part they would play following “liberation”. Their “historic mission”, wrote Frantz Fanon in his prescient classic The Wretched of the Earth, “has nothing to do with transforming the nation: it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.

This applied to leading figures in the African National Congress, such as Cyril Ramaphosa, head of the National Union of Mineworkers, now a corporate multi-millionaire, who negotiated a power-sharing “deal” with the regime of de F.W. Klerk, and Nelson Mandela himself, whose devotion to an “historic compromise” meant that freedom for the majority from poverty and inequity was a freedom too far. This became clear as early as 1985 when a group of South African industrialists led by Gavin Reilly, chairman of the Anglo-American mining company, met prominent ANC officials in Zambia and both sides agreed, in effect, that racial apartheid would be replaced by economic apartheid, known as the “free market”.

Secret meetings subsequently took place in a stately home in England, Mells Park House, at which a future president of liberated South Africa, Tabo Mbeki, supped malt whisky with the heads of corporations that had shored up racial apartheid. The British giant Consolidated Goldfields supplied the venue and the whisky. The aim was to divide the “moderates” – the likes of Mbeki and Mandela – from an increasingly revolutionary multitude in the townships who evoked memories of uprisings following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 and at Soweto in 1976 – without ANC help.

Once Mandela was released from prison in 1990, the ANC’s “unbreakable promise” to take over monopoly capital was seldom heard again. On his triumphant tour of the US, Mandela said in New York: “The ANC will re-introduce the market to South Africa.” When I interviewed Mandela in 1997 – he was then president – and reminded him of the unbreakable promise, I was told in no uncertain terms that “the policy of the ANC is privatisation”.

Enveloped in the hot air of corporate-speak, the Mandela and Mbeki governments took their cues from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. While the gap between the majority living beneath tin roofs without running water and the newly wealthy black elite in their gated estates became a chasm, finance minister Trevor Manuel was lauded in Washington for his “macro-economic achievements”. South Africa, noted George Soros in 2001, had been delivered into “the hands of international capital”.

Shortly before the massacre of miners employed for a pittance in a dangerous, British-registered platinum mine, the erosion of South Africa’s economic independence was demonstrated when the ANC government of Jacob Zuma stopped importing 42 per cent of its oil from Iran under intense pressure from Washington. The price of petrol has already risen sharply, further impoverishing people.

This economic apartheid is now replicated across the world as poor countries comply with the demands of western “interests” as opposed to their own. The arrival of China as a contender for the resources of Africa, though without the economic and military threats of America, has provided further excuse for American military expansion, and the possibility of world war, as demonstrated by President Barack Obama’s recent arms and military budget of $737.5 billion, the biggest ever. The first African-American president of the land of slavery presides over a perpetual war economy, mass unemployment and abandoned civil liberties: a system that has no objection to black or brown people as long as they serve the right class. Those who do not comply are likely to be incarcerated.

This is the South African and American way, of which Obama, son of Africa, is the embodiment. Liberal hysteria that the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is more extreme than Obama is no more than a familiar promotion of “lesser evilism” and changes nothing. Ironically, the election of Romney to the White House is likely to reawaken mass dissent in the US, whose demise is Obama’s singular achievement.

Although Mandela and Obama cannot be compared – one is a figure of personal strength and courage, the other a pseudo political creation — the illusion that both beckoned a new world of social justice is similar. It belongs to a grand illusion that relegates all human endeavour to a material value, and confuses media with information and military conquest with humanitarian purpose. Only when we surrender these fantasies shall we begin to end apartheid across the world.

Dear Spear Chucker [ written by AkhonaMashaya ]

October 9, 2012

Growing up in a multi-racial South Africa has spared my soul of resentment. I have never been openly denied any opportunity based on skin colour. Thanks to my liberal thinking mother, I was exposed to quality education from a very young age.

I have always sat in a desk, in a classroom of no more than thirty scholars of many races. Racism has never been a topic discussed in our living room. Of course no black child fully escapes the odd Apartheid story; especially the ‘life was hard back in our day’ line. As a matter of fact, even though three years old almost, I vaguely remember a time of darkness. I remember a nation in tears.

As a child growing up in an Apartheid manufactured ghetto, I remember the anthem Thula sizwe being sung in the most angelic of voices.

Sprouting from this river of tears was hope. The people’s great leader, Mandela had been freed. From what? It mattered little to me. All I knew was that soon, the tears would be replaced by laughter, song and dance. Even though still young and ignorant, it was pretty obvious that South Africa was on the brink of something. The winds of change and expectation were blowing, and though having never before been incarcerated by legislation: I too, bought into the notion that freedom was at our doorstep.

At the height of my older brother’s rebellion and my mother’s promotion to headmistress, our community was beginning to shape itself into one that would go on to inspire my generation. More professionals moved into our neighbourhood. Bankers, managers, doctors, nurses, social workers, policemen, educators and lawyers all transformed our community. Supper changed from ‘pap’ and spinach, to rice, chicken and veges.

Economic life had picked up, and as democracy kissed our nation, a tidal wave cleansed our ghetto. We were now all free. As South Africa experienced a meteoric rise, with Francois Pienaar and Niel Tovey lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy and the Africa cup respectively, national pride started to ferment among black communities. Pictures of white doves draped off badly built township walls and white people spoke of ubuntu, but the bigger change had gone unnoticed.

The language spoken by my friends and I had now ‘transformed’ into something between isiXhosa and English. The line ‘mlungu-mlungu bloody shit’, rolled off our often blue and black tongues. We knew not what it meant but we felt good saying it. It sounded different and besides, we were free.

As we were willingly cleansed of our blackness in pursuit of light; we soon realised that education would be the only key to unlock doors which had previously been locked. Mandela’s dream became ours. Big words spewed out of our parents’ mouths. They spoke of reconciliation and forgiveness. South Africa seemed to be on the mend. As our parents invested more into our education, we continued to lose ourselves.

Slowly but surely, with the emergence of  post-Apartheid South Africa, we too evolved into refined young black people. We were gearing ourselves up for success, and the newly elected government seemed to endorse this dream. Like America, South Africa too had a dream.

The Corruption of The Dream

As it often happens with systemic change, operations run smoothly until the rotten apples in the basket spread the rot onto the fresh ones. As much as the ANC has and should shoulder the blame for our nation’s underachievement, it would be disingenuous to dismiss the NP as the corrupter. As South Africans witnessed a generation of firsts, more young black people were being inspired by the new economic opportunities.

As the Motsepes, Sexwales and the Ramaphosas cashed in, the turn of the millennium saw our economy reach new heights. Communities similar to the one I was fast growing up in, started to grow. Freedom was both transforming and uniting South Africa.

We were soon to notice a change. As ANC membership grew, certain black people were growing fatter. A fourth sector in our economy had emerged and a new businessman had been born. He would later be called the tenderprenuer. As tenders were being issued by virtue of clan names, a new culture was brewing. Greed. It was becoming apparent that tenderpreneurship had become a government sponsored sport for the corrupt.

Like a little delinquent caught with hands in a cookie jar, the ANC spun lies, destroyed records and covered up most of the claims tabled against them by Patricia De lille. The arms deal had uncovered our eyes and we saw people for who they really were. We had impostors in government; people who had been pretending to be champions of the poor while they were swindling state funds. The rot had spread at a more rapid pace. South Africa was slowly losing its newly found principles.

A Dream Deferred

HIV and Aids became talking points and government had become more liberal in its greed. Just like the good blood cells are killed by the bad blood cells in an HIV positive person, good and transparent governance was being influenced and eroded by corruption. Charlatanry had reached ad nauseum. The ANC was slowly killing president Mandela’s dream.
Though far from perfect, president Mbeki had been fast becoming the ANC’s conscience. His performance based goal orientated leadership, though weakening, often stood as the only regulatory measure against corruption. For the swindlers to optimize their goals, Mbeki needed to be replaced. And so rape and corruption charges survivor, Jacob Zuma, had become the prefered successor.

At The Mercy of The Spear

Now in post-Polokwane South Africa, with the ‘giggling cassanova of Nkandla’ at the helm: a corruption of a dream has never been more apparent. Zuma has proved to be nothing short of a cock-up. With Zuma’s scrotum adnated onto the Gupta vice grip; amid talks of the erection of a new town only a stone throw away from the Zuma R203 million compound, millions of people stiil find themselves repressed by poverty and unemployment. As Limpopo together with many parts of the country remain Bantustans, Zuma continues to be caught with his hands in the cookie jar.

While our country’s unfit primary citizen prolongs his fornication of the South African dream, the youth seems to be suffering from a mental block (Perhaps ‘mental herpes’ is the appropriate term). Years of seeing corrupt people grow their bellies at the expense of the nation’s poor has resulted in the youth’s increased dependence on government. Education has been neglected as a growth solution. With reference to the recent illegal strikes, South Africa is on the brink of corporate anarchy.

Our government has lost its conscience. South Africa is at the mercy of an immoral tribalist. Our nation bleeds at the Spear’s every thrust. Our economy is faltering and government’s moral compass has long eroded. I now find myself filled with resentment and hatred towards the ruling party. I have no respect for the Zuma lead ANC. These charlatans have virtually killed our nation’s dream.

The country is worse than it was eighteen years ago. Our nation is reverting towards disunity. Chants of Kill the boer roll off the tongues of a disenfranchised youth. Economic life seems to have taken a down turn. This is not the freedom our liberators died for.

I now go back to the very same neighbourhood that inspired my generation. I find today’s youth hanging around street corners. Sweets have taken a back seat to cannabis. Sex and violence have now become the chosen sport. Education has been given the boot. Our people continue to fail themselves because government has failed them.

My plea to the president

Honourable Spear chucker, the nation bleeds at your every thrust. The ANC is bordering on evil and our youth is self-destructing. It is now time to realign our politics. It is time for the nation to move forward. Do the honourable thing, go no further than Mangaung.

From bully boys to wimps: the decline of SA’s military

June 13, 2012

04 MAY 2012 00:00 – PHILLIP DE WET

A comprehensive review of SA’s military capabilities paints a grim picture of the country’s defence capabilities. Let’s hope Lesotho doesn’t invade.

It is a good thing that Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe do not seem to have any territorial ambitions, because if they chose to annex a few South African provinces, the defence force would be hard-pressed to stop them, especially if Lesotho decided to get into the action.

A large and long overdue review of South Africa’s defence capabilities and needs, now in the phase of public consultation, paints a grim picture.

The country has too few fighting men and women, often with old or useless equipment, often without the discipline required to constitute an effective fighting force, little ability to deploy them rapidly, little by way of heavy equipment to back them up and a severely limited ability to communicate with them once they are in the field.

Shortcomings stretch from basic training to intelligence capability, leaving the defence force if not defenceless as such, at least easily outmatched by a sufficiently large multifront attack using chemical or biological weapons, heavily armoured units or any combination of these.

And that is the formal, written version. In private, analysts and military professionals across the board scoff at the idea that South Africa could defend itself from any serious, determined, concerted attack almost as much as they scoff at the idea that such an attack could take place in the foreseeable future.

“We are not going to fight a conventional war in the short-to-medium term,” said Len le Roux, a retired major general and consultant to the Institute for Security Studies on defence policy. But if national defence remains the real job of the defence force, the defence review says, then somebody will have to pay for it.

“The persistent disconnect between the defence mandate, government expectation and resource allocation has eroded defence capabilities to the point where the defence force is unable to fully deliver its constitutional responsibility to defend and protect South Africa and its people and further cannot even support the current modest level of ambition,” the discussion draft reads.

Although it takes a high-level strategic view and specifically steers clear of enumerating crises and the cost of fixing them, the 423-page document makes it abundantly clear that maintenance of crumbling runways, for instance, will not wait. And there is wide consensus that almost every capability the defence force has is fast being eroded.

“We are at the point where we have two choices: either we spend a big chunk of money, or we do not intervene and we accept that we are going beyond the point of no return,” said Abel Esterhuyse, associate professor of strategy at Stellenbosch University’s faculty of military science and editor of the South African Journal of Military Studies.

That does not mean splurging on capital equipment arms-deal style. Both the review and analysts who were not involved in its drafting said operational funds were what was most desperately needed—money for the everyday running of the armed services rather than expensive equipment. There are some exceptions, such as transport aircraft and ground vehicles, but those are relatively cheap and can be acquired over time. What the existing forces need instead is to actually use their equipment, including what has already been bought at such expense and controversy.

“You have aircraft like the Gripen … unless you have a certain number of flying hours a month you begin to lose the skills of the pilots and you can quite easily dig a large hole in the ground with a supersonic jet,” said David Chuter, a lecturer, a writer on defence and a former British defence official with a long history of project involvement in South Africa.

“The risk is that quite soon you have the pilot and you have the aircraft, but you don’t have a pilot capable of flying the aircraft effectively.”

Defence against the type of aggression that requires a Gripen fighter jet is not South Africa’s main area of concern at the moment, but the principle seems to hold true for the duties the military, air force and navy are carrying out.

Insufficient practice compounds problematic hardware and initial training and results in a force that has neither the credibility required to deter aggression nor the ability to fight poachers in the Kruger Park or pirates off the Mozambican coast. And there is a sense of near despair at the failure of politicians who order such tasks to fund them.

“Border protection was given back to the defence force from the South African Police Service [in 2010] without any substantial increase in budget to do that,” said Roelf Meyer, chairperson of the committee responsible for the defence review. “If the expectation is that we should take care of border protection and if it is a government priority, then we need more money.”

Although Meyer’s committee is independent of the military and tasked with reviewing it in terms of government priorities, he tends to slip into a parental “we” when speaking of the seemingly impossible demands being placed on the defence force. His committee’s draft document reads like an extended pitch for funding.

Still, his group well understands the political trouble a sudden and substantial increase in military spending would cause and seems to have learned from the work of the National Planning Commission. That body first published indicators—hard data with a touch of analysis that illustrated problems in an unarguable way. Once that was accepted, criticism of its subsequent hard-hitting recommendations was more difficult and critics found themselves called on to provide alternatives. The defence review could create the same type of baseline for the fully costed budget that will have to follow.

“I would like to see us build a consensus around the document as much as we can so that, when we put it to Parliament, we can say this is the view of South Africans,” said Meyer.

“I would hope we would be able to give this document to the minister [of defence] for her to put forward the argument, which I don’t think is any secret: the defence force is underfunded.”

In some respects, the argument for more money—and it will be an argument—will be easier than at any time in the past decade, the dragging bad karma of the arms deal notwithstanding. Better border protection also means preventing more smuggling of cigarettes and other goods that attract high levels of tax and are easily loaded on to a light aircraft, which should have a direct impact on taxes collected and thus be attractive to the more economically minded.

Combatting rhino poaching by way of the military tactics Chuter summarised, such as “scaring the shit” out of poachers through helicopter-landed special forces, touches on an issue particularly emotive for the middle class.

An improved peacekeeping capability would delight those with a pan-African bent. Commercial fishermen would approve of better patrolling of South Africa’s waters.

And, should the administration in charge in 2013 wish to reduce rather than magnify the perceived waste of money on the arms deal, a little bit of money could go a long way.

“For a relatively small amount of extra money, you can actually start making use of all this kit properly, in a way that would justify the initial expenditure and allow the defence force to carry out the missions it was bought for effectively,” said Chuter.


The disconnect between military requirements and military funding had its roots in the transition from apartheid, analysts said. It was a time when the overriding priority was to prevent a military coup, although there was a secondary nod to showing the rest of Southern Africa that South Africa would never again be a threat. That meant disempowering the military rather than supporting it and subsequent swift policy changes did not help.

“Mandela was trying to get the military out of the domestic environment. There was all this suspicion and doubt with white generals and black politicians, so the emphasis was on pulling them out of the domestic realm,” said Stellenbosch University’s Abel Esterhuyse. “Mbeki deployed the military into the foreign policy environment and made the key decision to disband the commando system, [leading to] the loss of that blanket domestic intelligence capability that we had across every small town in the country.

“Now, in the Zuma era, we are seeing that the police cannot cope with domestic challenges, so subtly the emphasis is starting to move towards a return to the domestic realm for the military. We do not want to be seen to be scaling down on our international commitments, but that is where it is going.”

Costly mission: The Gripen fighter jet. (Frans Dely)

In the middle of those shifts came the last formal defence review, conducted in 1998, which magnificently failed to predict anything like the actual future.“There was a bit of a utopian view at the time, especially about Africa,” said Len le Roux, who was involved in that process. “The Cold War was over, apartheid was gone, so what could go wrong in Africa?

The extent of South Africa’s commitment to peace missions was just not foreseen — and other stuff—I mean, who predicted the Arab Spring two years ago? Who predicted the way piracy would start up?

But even as it became clear that South Africa would be a major participant in far-flung and complex missions for a long time to come, the requirement for more social spending and a big increase in public servant wages demanded reductions elsewhere. Then the global financial crisis struck state income.


Deploying troops within South Africa’s borders in situations in which they could end up in conflict with civilians was long politically unpalatable. This, however, seems to be changing fast. The defence review makes no value judgment on domestic deployment, but coyly points out that the army requires urban warfare training anyway, which has value both in fighting insurgents north of Limpopo and in arresting violent service delivery protesters.

Effective border patrols would require a highly manoeuvrable component, such as motorbike squads, which likewise has a dual purpose. Non-lethal ammunition for the military is considered an important need, as is creating a faster process to authorise the deployment of defence units.

Analysts and military veterans also point out that the use of heavier weapons and explosives by crime syndicates requires an equal or greater response and that democracy may not be best served by militarising the police service to the point where it could handle such threats.


The military has a labour problem. According to the defence review, it lacks a sufficient number of fighting soldiers while employing people variously described as uneconomical or ill-suited to their tasks. And it is costing too much. In the past financial year, 55% of the military budget went to personnel costs, whereas 40% is generally agreed to be a more acceptable level.

Outside analysts and former commanders, however, go much further. They said the application of general labour practices in the military meant an inability to discipline soldiers and prevented unsuitable recruits from being weeded out.

This, in a service such as the army that already has a clash of culture between the old defence force ways and the different norms brought in by the integration of forces from armed-struggle groups, has caused trouble. Add to the mix poorly conceived change to the formal discipline system and you have chaos.

“The current military discipline system [which entered into force in 1999] has not served its intended purpose and has conversely served to weaken military discipline and undermine the power of commanders,” said the defence review.

“The system has specifically disempowered commanders by removing summary discipline.”

After more than a decade under such a system and with the debate on unionisation within the defence force still unsettled, the results are starting to show and affect South Africa’s reputation.

“When you have troops on deployment in another country, they are representing you; they are flying your flag,” said one observer.

“When you have people misbehaving in shared United Nations camps and when you hear unflattering comparisons between South African officers and officers from other African countries, I wonder how much good we’re doing our strategy in Africa.”


On paper, the defence force has only one real objective: to seem scary enough to deter other countries or groups from looking for trouble and be ready enough to counter such trouble if it does develop. But as the review spells out in painstaking detail, it is being used in a wide range of other roles.

Peacekeeping operations

Troops have been deployed to a number of countries on the continent, where they have faced everything up to light artillery fire.

Border protection

After a hiatus of several years, the defence force was in 2010 ordered back to the borders. That is nearly

4 000km  of coastline—excluding territorial waters—and a little less than 4 500km of land borders.

Piracy prevention

With pirates based in Somalia operating as far south as the Mozambique channel and with no other country on the east coast of Africa capable of patrolling waters far beyond its bases, the navy has by default become responsible for doing so.

Police support

Joint deployment has been few and far between, but the indications are that the army and air force will increasingly be called to battle gangs and help to quell service delivery protests.

Anti-poaching Fighting rhino and abalone poaching requires skill and equipment found only in the military and its role in both is set to increase.


The military has long resisted, with varying degrees of success, being seen as a potential creator of jobs, a developer of rural economies and, generally, a tool of the developmental agenda. Among other non-core activities, the military is involved in anti-poaching and peacekeeping missions. (Gianluigi Guercia, AFP)

The defence review follows a similar line, pointing out that the military should “contribute to national development primarily by creating the security conditions necessary for development to take place”.

Land use and redistribution remains a particularly sticky issue. The military controls vast areas that often seem to be badly underutilised. But, the review says, some communication installations require quiet zones, some munition depots require safety zones and some types of training need wide open spaces.

The review concedes that although the defence force should not be structured around economic or social development, there are many things that can be done to help: identifying spare facilities in rural areas that communities can use for education, spreading bases more widely and making those bases procure more locally, opening base schools and hospitals to civilians and promoting local research, development and manufacture.


If South Africa decides it needs a fully functional military—and the consensus is that it can hardly do without one—it will come at a cost of between R7.5-billion and R14-billion a year on top of current spending.

Defence analysts reach those numbers in different ways. Some argue that South Africa should be spending about 1.5% to 1.6% of its gross domestic product on defence, others consider total defence spending as a fraction of the total government budget and others base their calculations on the immediate need to stop further deterioration.

The defence review committee itself has tacitly endorsed the view that the defence budget needs to increase by about a quarter, although it generally steers well clear of trying to quantify the problem. In a government budget already stretched thin, this kind of money would be hard to come by and achieving even a portion of the required increase may be Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s toughest political test.


The defence review committee, which is due to deliver its final report in August, has at its political core a mixture of individuals with diverse experiences of the military and varying levels of political clout. Chairperson Roelf Meyer was the minister of defence for a short period in late 1991 and early 1992, a time during which he apparently did not get along with hardline generals. He retired from politics in 2000, but still receives credit for his role as the chief government negotiator during the transition to democracy.

His deputy, Thandi Modise, received military training in Angola before being arrested as an Umkhonto we Sizwe operative. She is facing a possible revolt in North West, where she is premier.

Charles Nqakula became minister of defence after the toppling of Thabo Mbeki, apparently as a way to remove him from the safety and security portfolio, but did not survive the Zuma Cabinet reshuffle. And Tony Yengeni’s involvement in the arms deal indirectly resulted in him being jailed for a short time, but he remains a force within the ANC.—Phillip De Wet