Pseudo-progressive rent-seekers love to paint the ANC as democratic South Africa’s #1 benefactor

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Pseudo-progressive rent-seeker

In a recent missive from his regular soapbox in Business Day, South Africa’s premier business daily, Stuart Theobald, a pedlar of financial services, made some condescending claims about the prevalence of availability biasThe availability heuristic is a cognitive bias in which you make a decision based on an example, information, or recent experience that is that readily available to you, even though it may not be the best example to inform your decision. among South African commentators.

He then proceeds to reveal his own surfeit of availability bias by constructing a patently self-serving narrative. This is a quick rebuttal to expose an all too common phenomenon among rent-seekers in the financial sector: ‘networking’ their way onto public platforms despite a limited understanding and cynical manipulation of the issues under discussion.

In this particular instance, Theobald seems to occupy an alternative universe, one where his consultancy can keep on charging for ‘services’ rendered based on some pseudo-progressive revision of South African society and history.

A few gems from Theobald’s alternate universe:

The ANC in 1994 took on the task of rebuilding the public service into one that could implement its democratic mandate. It built new institutions — the National Treasury, the Constitutional Court, among others. 

. . . by 2007 the government was able to run fiscal surpluses, raise debt at three notches above investment grade, and simultaneously create the world’s biggest welfare state to deal with the legacy of poverty left by apartheid. And that while the economy was growing at more than 5% a year.

Our problems are not ones created by the democratic state. They have been created by particular people within it. The state itself has been capable of remarkable administrative success, and in diagnosing its ills, we must not conclude it is not capable of better. It is, and it has done it before.

Back in the real world, it has been proven over and over again that ANC policies, such as unlawful cadre deployment, sowed the seeds of destruction that reached full bloom during Jacob Zuma’s tenure. It was only due to external factors (Constitutional restraints, pressure from international bodies like the World Bank and IMF, newfound access to international capital & trade markets, and a global resource boom) that SA didn’t plunge into chaos immediately post 1994. And last time I checked, the original post-apartheid sin, the Arms Deal Scandal, occurred under Mandela’s watch.

As an example of the pervasive revisionism and/or ignorance of historical facts in this trite piece, the writer baldly asserts that the ANC created the Constitutional Court. Really? Does anyone at Business Day still do fact checking these days?

FACT: The CC was established by the Interim Constitution of 1993 as negotiated by all political parties. And even that has turned out to be an edifice with crumbling foundations due to ANC meddling – witness the absurd (and politically convenient) appointment of a deranged nut-job like Mogoeng to Chief Justice.

While I support a welfare system that protects the most vulnerable in society, it is simply bonkers to celebrate the fact that 50% of a country’s population rely on social grants. Blaming apartheid as the sole driver of (growing) poverty is simply disingenuous, when ANC policies and violent extortionist trade unions have for years been identified as the biggest brakes on job creation. Or perhaps the IMF, World Bank, etc. are all idiots in Theobald’s alternate reality.

The one and only reality is that South Africa is a mafia state where crime syndicates have infiltrated every sector of society. And that includes the financial industry. The collapsing criminal justice system has yet to deliver one single conviction of a major player in either government corruption or corporate malfeasance. And that’s 25 years after the Arms Deal Scandal erupted!

Away from the main news headlines, countless lawyers, accountants, financial consultants, judges, magistrates and administrators have been implicated in fraud, corruption, gross negligence and incompetence. Some professions such lawyers and accountants operate like self-governing cartels that believe they are above the law, in part due to the uselessness of public oversight bodies. Insider trading is rife on the JSE, but not one high-profile investment guru has made it a cause célèbre.

FACT: South Africa has become one of the 20 most criminal societies on earth. The Global Organised Crime Index provides a pretty detailed (and nauseating) breakdown of all the crime syndicates that plague the country.

And I haven’t even addressed the litany of gross human rights abuses committed by the writer’s beloved ANC since their first days in government. Horrific post 1994 stats include numerous elderly patients dying in filthy hospitals, the world’s highest rates of rape and child abuse, and some of the world’s worst educational outcomes. But I suppose that’s easy to ignore if you are a wealthy white man sitting in an ivory tower of apartheid privilege.

FACT: The seeds of SA’s current malaise were sown way before Zuma’s ascendance and so-called state capture. For example, widespread violent service delivery protests were first reported in the halcyon days of 2004. Which means the ANC had already started effing things up in the 1990s.

The elephant in the room is that regressive culture and a concomitant lack of basic civilisational values (such as accountability, diligence, pragmatism, transparency, and egalitarianism) have always been the twin millstones around this country’s neck. After all, the current regime’s callous venality is simply based on the playbook given to it by the apartheid regime and its corporate henchmen, many of whom are still a blot on the South African landscape.

I’m old and ugly enough to accept the reality of the abovementioned horror show, but I’m sick and tired of sanctimonious, willfully ignorant rent-seekers weaseling their way onto public platforms to push fake narratives for personal gain.