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Cartoons, conspiracies and court judgements

Zapiro's visual commentary on the state of justice in SA caused outrage last week.
Read time 5min 00sec

No wonder there was a heat wave in Gauteng last week, what with the amount of hot air being spewed out over cartoons, conspiracies and court judgements.

Sure, Zapiro with his pithy visual commentary on the state of justice in the land had an important point to make. It was a point that had been made in countless ways before, but somehow his visual was what finally got through the thick skulls of those who would lead us.

But anybody who thinks that it will make a difference is fooling themselves. One vicious cartoon, or a thousand incendiary articles, will not change the bloody minds of those who are now hungry for power at any expense. Particularly at the expense of "the people" who various loud-mouthed politicians claim to so nobly protect.

There is no such thing as falling on your sword in South Africa. The apartheid government didn't do it (with FW de Klerk being a weird sort of exception). Winnie Mandela didn't do it. Tony Yengeni sure isn't going to do it. And neither will our future president, Jacob Zuma, despite his deeply tainted history. On the facts alone, he is not suitable to lead a country. He has no tertiary education, he committed adultery with a woman he knew to be HIV positive, he has been slavishly involved with Shabir Shaik who is now sitting in prison, he has made homophobic remarks and he has done nothing to rein in his supporters when their words amounted to hate speech. It's clear he is not fit to lead.

But unless a viable opposition party springs up out of the ruins of the party we were all once so proud to call our government, he will be our president.

For individuals, taking the short-term view is viable. With kids to educate, retirement savings to protect and crime an ever-present problem, many may want to leave this country. In the past, I thought deserters were lily livered, if not stupid. There were huge gains to be made in this country - if you could stay alive, that was.

Unless a viable opposition party springs up out of the ruins of the party we were all once so proud to call our government, he [Jacob Zuma] will be our president.

Ren'ee Bonorchis, Business Day, editor at large

Now, with the supposed left wing becoming incredibly right wing in their promise to crush any opposition with violence, leaving South Africa to let it take its own course is not such a bad idea. In fact, when the best opposition we have appears to be a lone cartoonist, you know things are looking bad.

But for business it's not so easy. Business has to have a long-term view - it can't just pack up and leave.

From the way the stage is set, there are three possible outcomes for South Africa that business will have to mull over. The first option is that Zuma will become president, he'll introduce all sorts of left-leaning policies that will be managed with right wing force and, after his term, one of his cronies will continue his legacy. This is what he has promised the people, but we don't know yet whether or not it's political rhetoric aimed at gathering votes.

Another outcome could be that Zuma will be relatively benign, he'll leave the economy largely to get on with its own initiatives and his term will peter out, leaving a gap for a strong candidate with more integrity five years from now. And thirdly, but it would seem unlikely, an opposition party may spring up between now and the elections that would oust Zuma's ANC and set up a government we could be satisfied with. The dream team would consist of finance minister Trevor Manuel at the helm, and Patricia de Lille, the Democratic Alliance and the old guard of Mbeki's ANC, backing him up.

Some companies I've spoken to are fervently hoping that option two will come to pass. But I think that's the blinkered view. It's far more likely that option one is what we're in for. But that still doesn't mean that business should up and leave. If, as economist Milton Friedman said, the business of business is business, then it's the profit motive that counts. Not politics. And from what we know of Zimbabwe and other African states that are short on democracy, making a profit will still be possible, if not even easier, under a regime like the one Zuma is proposing. This is because the system will be skewed towards the elite.

On the surface it will mean the black elite, but dig deeper and it usually means anybody wily enough to fly below the radar and make a buck. The best suited to this type of administration will be businesses that serve the masses with small ticket items or businesses catering to the insatiable elite - both will be protected from any new policies designed to stamp out middle class excess.

And if you can make it through those times, the political climate will eventually change for the better. Cold comfort, I know, but it's better to think ahead than to one day find yourself trapped in the present.

So cartoons, conspiracies and court judgements aside, it's time for the private sector to look further, much further, and decide on whether or not it has the chutzpah and the cunning to make a go of it in a country where democracy is no longer a given.

* Ren'ee Bonorchis is Business Day's editor at large.

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