Magazine article The Spectator

Lies and More Lies

Magazine article The Spectator

Lies and More Lies

Article excerpt

Spending any length of time in South Africa is both an uplifting and sobering experience. Uplifting because for an English visitor the days are an unbroken series of blue skies, the food and the clothes are cheap (by British standards) and of high quality, and the countryside remains wholly breathtaking.

But, there are too many buts. Knowing South Africa well, as I have begun to do, since my brother moved to Johannesburg a few years ago, brings with it the realisation that the West takes so very little notice, or remains in ignorance, of the worsening problems of this nation. Rainbows? I don't think so. More like the desert travellers' mirage of an oasis. Alternatively, similar to some of Napoleon Ill's much-vaunted architecture for the less well-off - pretty façades hiding something rotten within.

To put it bluntly, President Mbeki is both a socialist and a racist. It would be foolish to forget that Mbeki was trained in the former Soviet Union as a 'freedom fighter'. He is no Mandela. No conciliator. In wishing to right the wrongs of apartheid, he behaves as aggressively as any 1960s Afrikaner. Consider a few examples. Companies have been issued with edicts. These are couched in terms of targets. In essence, though, businesses have been ordered to place 25 per cent of their shares in black hands - a few blacks chosen on the grounds of their political contacts; 50 per cent of directors must also be black. These directives are not officially laws, but it is made plain that companies which fail to reach these targets will be penalised.

What is this but wholescale redistribution of wealth, irrespective of merit? The government speaks much of education, yet a recent event illustrates its real lack of concern for the proper education of blacks. Juliet, who is a black taxi-driver, first alerted me to the story, with much disgust. Juliet is typical of poorer blacks who feel desperately short-changed by Mbeki. …

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