17 MARCH 2017

SOUTH AFRICA, it seems, is being badly battered by the elements on many fronts. This week the north eastern parts of the country braced for the arrival of Cyclone Dineo. Forecasters warned of howling gales, torrential downpours, probable flooding, loss of homes and possible loss of life. Photographs from Mozambique showed the havoc already caused by the tropical storm. Seven were reported dead by Thursday night. Hardly a comforting sight for this nation – already pulverised by chronic drought, raging fires and an epidemic of army worms. And with a worse plague apparently on its way. Pest control experts are warning of an invasion of red locusts which they say poses a far bigger threat than the crop-eating caterpillars. But our troubles do not end here.

The parallels between nature and politics are hard to miss. Parliament too has been the scene of  a storm. What was supposed to be the most august occasion of the year – the State of the Nation Address – deviated so far off track that it is better likened to the tropical cyclone battering our north eastern borders. But the tempest in parliament has been very long in the making  and its impact has not just been confined to the parliamentary precincts. Virtually every arm of the state has been affected, if not overturned or uprooted.  Vital institutions have been swept away and others so badly broken that they are no longer fit for the intended purpose of government – which is to serve and protect. Instead they are dysfunctional and increasingly dangerous tools manipulated for personal political battle. There is no need to draw up a list. It’s hardly a secret that all that is left in tact is our courts. This is tied to the plague of corruption ravaging our country. Not a day passes without fresh evidence of theft so vast from those who can least afford it that it is  gut-turning. For instance, the revelations on Thursday of obscene graft and mismanagement at Eskom were hardly a novelty. But what was shocking was the level of greed revealed – so great that those involved were ready to suck the parastatal into paralysed bankruptcy, imperil the entire national grid and facilitate waves of blackouts over every citizen and the economy.

And they continued to do so for years! And as if that was not bad enough, when those entrusted with oversight of the national power utility were presented with evidence of  the corruption, they went around trying to destroy that evidence. Hard to believe but it’s there in black and white: On  August 14, 2015, the board of Eskom recorded itself in minutes agreeing to “collect and destroy” copies of an incriminating report of corruption at its top echelons. But then, this is the kind of leadership style that has been rammed into the faces and down the throats of South Africans for at least eight years. Little wonder students set their campuses ablaze last year. And little wonder that the rage that ignited those fires burns on still. Irrespective of what label President Jacob Zuma tries to give the youth, tertiary education remains as precariously combustible as it was last year. This is the real state of President Jacob Zuma’s nation. If he cannot sum up the political and economic reality of his own making, he should try looking at the weather.