Monday, March 08, 2010

The View from my Bicycle

Zuma's days are numbered - by Nick van der Leek

It was a stroke of luck, I remember thinking, when the ANC decided not to wait, and instead ousted Mbeki before his term expired. It was a matter of months, but mark my works, it set a dangerous precedent for future presidents. This could be the undoing of South Africa's democracy, or it could be the making of it.

Right now, rifts have formed that are splitting the ANC at the seams.
Zuma loses grip
Motlanthe seeks whistle-blowers

Malema 'hasn't submitted tax returns'
Rifts with the ANC Youth League, the Communist Party and the trade unions. There is really one force tearing the Alliance Apart - the recession. It's financial hence the preoccupation with Malema's tax returns, something no one would have cared about if everyone was still making money... And the force underlying the recession, is the price of energy. The price of energy really is a factor of the price of oil and coal and both of these skyrocketed in late 2008. The result?

* A 25% increase next month in the price of electricity, which will double by 2012;
* Rising petrol prices - from R4.41 a litre two years ago to R7.91 now;
* School fees, up this year by between 8% and 15%; and
* Medical aid contributions, up by about 11% this year after a 12% hike last year.

As a result:

* Nearly three million consumers are over three months in arrears on their bills; and
* An estimated 250000 middle-income earners have lost their jobs in the past two years.

The original problem is a global problem, but has come to roost in South Africa also - and that is we are a rapidly expanding global population with unlimited wants [as consumers] while resources in a finite world remain [gasp] finite. We are now bumping steadily against the limits to growth, and the result of excess demand in face of constrained supply is that you see prices going up beyond the equilibrium levels we've grown used to.

And as this inflationary contagion infests world finance, what happens? Credit evaporates. Financial instruments become defective, one of them being the myth that property prices appreciate infinitely. Phantom money meets the real world, as these small expenses that we thought didn't matter begin to aggregate, so that our lack of savings matters, our debt matters. Until you get an Oroboros scenario - money which created money now becomes a situation of contraction, where finance starts eating itself. Property markets evaporate, suburbia evaporates, the middle class evaporates, credit evaporates, more jobs are lost and more contraction occurs.

Against this background, political scheming is likely to appear flimsy and disingenuous. I should say, particularly flimsy, because politicking of late hasn't had much of a connection to reality, and it hasn't had to - but that's changed. As the middle class are being wiped out, they are beginning to care about what cars their leaders are driving, and what their leaders are saying.

In South Africa the poor are suffering under worsening economic circumstances. As this intensifies, tolerance for any behaviour that is slightly off is low. Zuma's days are numbered, but so are Malema's. Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe may get another swing as president as early as this year, or next as patience wears thin with Zuma, and extravagance in general. Motlanthe appears measured and moral, dignified and reserved, although don't let appearances deceive, when he started his reign he defaulted on his rent and wasn't living with his wife...

It may not be long before South Africans cry for someone that is the anathema to present leaders. Not black. And not a man. Who is that? And she is exactly what this country needs. A disciplined, accountable leader with high personal standards and a strong personal work ethic.

Meanwhile, the world isn't ready to gear down to a more disciplined lifestyle. The world's not ready to be honest about anthropomorphic global warming [what's that again?] The world is still distracted by music and movies and by delusions of wealth. We're still deeply lost in our delusions and selfishness. We're like Alice in Wonderland, except we're fat, and addicted, and Wonderland is like an endless games portal filled with Malls and bogus weight loss schemes and ponzi deals and debt traps and mazes. And we've decorated our hides with tattoos and piercings. Men dress like clowns and women like prostitutes. We're regressing, falling further down the rabbit hole while the tree above it, whithers and shakes in the storm. What world will we find when, if, we ever start the long climb back to reality?


Guy McLaren said...

You have a point or two that needs clarifying. Please study the whole CO2 thing, The trees feed off of CO2, thus adding CO2 to the atmosphere can't be all bad, But mainly the earth creates more CO2 annually than man has in 10 years or more.

Man has an effect on the environment but I fear you are looking in the wrong place, try studying deforestation, over population et al

Nick said...

Please study the whole CO2 thing...
Your explanation has shaken me to the core Guy. Can you suggest what I should study, perhaps materials that have inspired you?

I guess having travelled and experienced it doesn't count. I guess the icecaps melting doesn't count. I guess nothing counts.

People like yourself, apparently intelligent, prove what dire straits lie ahead of us.

Unknown said...

I have no idea about the levels of natural CO2 vs. man-made, but my first thought is that it doesn’t matter how much the earth naturally produces as long as it has the checks and balances in place to mitigate it. I’m going to hope that is what Guy was trying to say about deforestation; there just aren’t enough trees to deal with our pollution and there are less each year. Nevertheless, it sounds like you both agree on the basic problem: our planet cannot cope with all of us on it living as we do.

Personally, I believe you are right Nick, we all have to start living differently; but ultimately that isn’t going to save us as long as we keep reproducing at our present rate. People inevitably use up resources and our planet’s capacity is far from infinite. Clearly, there are economic ramifications to having less consumers out there, but that leads back to your point about living less materialistic lives.

In short, tackle both.