Yet another friend told me the other day that the ANC is getting too much coverage in South African media. She argued, with reason, that there are many other things taking place in the country that do not get the media attention they deserve.
I wasn’t sure whether to tell her it’s all sensational, or give her an answer that sits closer to the analytical eye of someone who spends a lot of time observing the patterns that inform perceptions about brands, including destination or country brands. I chose the latter.
Her concerns are, of course, legitimate. We could be talking about the SA business sector and how it deals with the same things occurring within our governing party, if and when these issues crop up. After all, where there is money, there is temptation. Look at what happened at Steinhoff, to choose just one example. That is probably human nature.
So, we could be going back to focus on several companies in whose names wrong was done in recent years – the kind of wrong that ended up with hundreds of millions, even billions of rand being stolen; not to mention key officials being strategically amputated in their attempts to separate their acts from the good name of their companies.
We could look at where those people find themselves, today, and whether, thanks to Google searches, those people are now hiding in shadows of their own making while they wait for the reputational dust to settle, hoping that someone will forget what they did in the past and offer them another chance.
We could talk about all these things and a lot more, including exciting developments in the South African tech space and how increasing numbers of new ideas are being created, sometimes in badly lit spaces, to help meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.
But we cannot do that with all the attention it requires while the madness we continue to be subjected to, as a country, continues.
Perhaps we could ignore the madness if it were happening in a fringe political party far removed from the public coffers and policy making levers, one that could cough all it wanted without the rest of us catching a cold. This, sadly, is not the case.
Everything that happens in South Africa, and all the sentiments that exist at home and around the world about the country’s reputational health and the direction in which it is heading, are heavily informed by what happens in the ANC. So, my friends, we have to talk about the ruling party. Not only that; if this once-glorious liberation movement continues to fail us, we must do as corporates do when their leaders fail, and start serious conversations about how to strategically amputate it or its errant leaders from the affairs of our country before it pushes South Africa over the precipice. We should do this for the sake of both the ANC and for our country. South Africa should not have to go down with the ANC.
It is good, on one hand, that a lot of stuff is progressively making its way into the open, thanks to the ongoing intra-party mudslinging driven by hunger for retribution, fear for possible jail time, attempts at character assassination and greed.
On the other hand, all of it depresses more of us while, dangerously, it numbs the tolerance levels of many who fail to connect the dots against what should be unacceptable conduct by those deployed into public office by their elected parties. And it doesn’t help that the moral high ground of a president in whom so much hope remains invested by many, against all odds, has also come under serious attack from those seeking to weaken his resolve to clean up the mess they caused, at best or, at worst, to remove him from office and leave us all exposed to a possible economic and reputational Armageddon.
Everything that happens in this economic and political engine room that the ANC has become for South Africa, therefore determines sentiments further downstream and, eventually, what people do. Many of those with skills that can be sold elsewhere around the world have become open to the idea, previously inconceivable for some of them, of quietly looking around for offshore opportunities and of leaving the country. Some of those with money that can be invested in the local economy continue to either hold on to it, waiting for the dust to settle but fearing for the worst, or to take it out of the country. They do this quietly, without making noise on social media about it.
The more they see what has been happening to public funds under the control of the ANC in South Africa, the more determined they have become to stop, or reduce, the taxes they pay into a system where the controls have been so weakened and levels of impunity so high that nothing seems to happen to those who abuse public funds.
The masses who continue to support the criminals in our system on the basis of skin colour – failing to see the connect between the billions that have been stolen and the rising levels of financial distress around the country, leading to infrastructure damage and service delivery protests – need to wake up, look into the mirror, and acknowledge what they see.