‘We are on the edge of a great precipice of grave potential harm to so much that I love that … I cannot remain silent.’
South Africa’s dire situation
By Judge X
I strongly believe that judges should speak only through their judgments and not otherwise publicly at all on anything the least controversial. I think that even retired judges like me should be very reticent before talking. But we live in an unusual time of grave danger to our people whom I love and empathise with too closely to remain silent.
I have decided to write anonymously so that my own particular identity does not detract from or enhance what I say. I trust the reader to read the facts coldly and objectively and see for himself/herself if they are true.
I was diagnosed with Covid-19 and am 77. I spent many days enjoying gratefully the great privilege of great treatment in the Linksfield Hospital, including 8 in ICU and most of the rest in High Care.
I had the privilege of being treated by a team of doctors who work in close cooperation with each other constantly debating what strategies to employ or adjust. They also interact with colleagues unattached to Linksfield. I have no doubt that the medical treatment I received was the very best in the world. We can take great pride in this remarkable achievement of our people. Anecdotally, I hear of people overseas coming to South Africa for medical treatment here and returning home after being healed by our people.
I think we ought to interact with the heads of our highly successfully run hospitals in a search for ideas to enhance our public hospitals’ efficiency in providing care for the vulnerable patients of our people. We all know that even a small correction of an overlooked detail can result in a hugely beneficial leap forward.
As a retired judge on full salary and an excellent medical aid, PARMED, which I believe also serves our parliamentarians, I am very privileged to have received such treatment and am sad for our people out there who are sick and do not.
In hospital I witnessed things which have reinforced my love for our people and my faith that they are heroes and can, and in fact do, daily achieve the greatest heights of Ubuntu and expertise and creative delivery.
We are on the edge of a great precipice of grave potential harm to so much that I love that I repeat that I cannot remain silent.
Corruption is not our only problem. John Kane-Berman, renowned author of four books on social, political, business, and economic aspects of South Africa, and who has in addition delivered some 680 lectures about South Africa here and abroad, says that corruption is only one third of our problem. He has identified many more in a recent article here.
I have read an essay entitled ‘A Revised Framework for Investor Protection in South Africa’ by two formidable legal scholars of our people: F R Malan and Charl Hugo. Malan, a former professor of law, was appointed a judge and ended his outstanding judicial career as a judge of our Supreme Court of Appeal. And Hugo is a professor of banking law and the holder of four degrees from three of our universities. The essay appears in ‘Festschrift fur Michael Martinek zum 70’ by J C Beck, and can be viewed here.
The essay recounts clearly and in depth and detail the legal requirements demanded of a foreign investor in South Africa. I have read those requirements and, in my judgement, based on more than five decades of deciding what is probable and what is not, I have no doubt whatsoever that no foreign investor will invest in South Africa, unless that investor insists upon and enforces special harsh and draconian terms of its own, like using its own workforce, maintaining them separately here, removing them after the work is done, and refusing to allow any worker of our people to work on the project.
We are at risk of becoming another Cuba or Venezuela, or – on our own doorstep – Zimbabwe.
Mugabe promised equality and fairness, but he had homes throughout the world and lived in a palatial home in Zimbabwe and went to Singapore for medical treatment in the midst of all the heart-breaking misery of his people there. Very little could be more depraved and dastardly wicked than that.
We have made the grave mistake of concentrating our concern on leaders instead of on our people; our people who struggle to make ends meet are the heroes – the woman who sits and cooks and sells pap and wors on the road to send her son to school – people like her should enjoy our every attention and admiration, if not our adoration.
And she doesn’t send him to school to come last in his class, or to get some sort of average ‘equal’ mark; she sends him to work hard and come first! And that is how it should be. We don’t play soccer to draw. We play to win.
The lie of the communist socialist is that there can be equality of wealth and resources. There is no such equality in the world. We can only try to equip our children with as many skills as possible to survive and thrive, but we lie to them if we promise them such equality.
The 10th Commandment of our Holy Bible tells us not to envy, not to covet, and that applies not just to some of us. Every one of us is told not to covet. Our Holy Bible is telling us a very important truth about life: we will all have reason to covet, always reason to envy others, because life will always present us with inequality. The Holy Bible is telling us the truth.
But the communist socialists lie. They say there can be such equality. Imagine this ridiculous situation: Karl Marx, without any evidence that his ideas of equality had ever actually worked in practice, devised a theoretical scheme called communism which actually promised equality. Of course, in practice the communist elite enjoyed far from equal treatment with the people and communism brought terrible suffering to millions of people.
And Stalin, without any evidence that his ideas of equality would work in practice, destroyed farms, caused mass starvation and killed 20 million people whilst you can be sure he did not go hungry and lived very comfortably.
What our people desperately need is money. Without money you cannot buy a piece of bread; you cannot pay for the taxi; you cannot feed your family.
There are very important policies which are stopping our people from making money. Let us discuss each one in turn.
This may mean that the very best of our people are not given the job; this means that the job may not be well done and possibly even that the business will collapse. This means that our people who work for the business will earn less money or maybe, God forbid, even lose their jobs. It also may mean that the business does not grow, and is not able to make more money and expand to provide more money for jobs for our people. There is a further problem: Satisfying the complicated BEE requirements takes up a substantial amount of costly administration and time, and produces no wealth, and so there is less money for our people to earn and less tax for the government to collect; the policy makes everyone poorer.
Tight labour laws
If it is very hard to fire a worker employers will be reluctant to employ new people and so there are much fewer jobs available and less money for our people to earn,
If there is a family of five, parents and children of, say, 21, 23 and 27 years old living in a tiny shack together and starving, and they can get a job at a factory nearby for R1 000 per month each, they can bring home R5 000 monthly to their shack, and at least not starve, and very importantly, they can learn a skill and perhaps make more money later. But R1 000 is below the minimum wage and so they cannot be employed, and they starve.
If there is a man better suited to a job than a particular woman, she may get the job in the cause of gender representation. But because he was better suited the job may not be as well done and the business may fail, God forbid; our people may lose jobs or get paid less or the business may not grow to provide more money and work for more of our people.
In any event, our women are great; for years they have been making money for their families, performing wonderful services for many, bringing up children and often even grandchildren. No self-respecting woman wants to be told she got her job not because she was the best for it but because a better man was disqualified because he was a man and not a woman.
On a personal note, the two brilliant heads of my Covid-19 medical team are women. My life has been in grave danger. I was ill earlier this year and in the care of prominent male specialists whose advice differed radically from that of a female specialist found for me by my resourceful GP. I listened to the two opposing views, more strongly held by the men than by the woman who was diffident and concerned. I decided that she was right and that they were wrong and chose her to treat me. She did so very successfully; and then subsequently I got Covid-19. My choice may well have been crucial to my survival. There can be no doubt that choosing on the basis of merit rather than gender can make the difference between life and death.
Expropriation without compensation
Anyone with money to invest to buy a property and build on it and provide jobs and money to our starving people may decide not to do so because the government may take away his property without compensation and he will lose a lot of money. But more seriously, our people who could have been employed there to build and to run the business get nothing, and make no money to look after their families.
Of course, wherever they live, and subject to the property rights of the owners concerned, our people should be empowered by being granted full ownership of the land they live on, enabling them to use their land to borrow money, and to use it to fund new business and create more wealth. Full ownership empowers and encourages people to care for and improve their property, increasing the wealth of all of us. But to give city dwellers a piece of agricultural land serves no purpose and does not help our people to make money. We know you need a tractor, a plough, diesel, fertiliser and many other things, and you are far from the towns where there are jobs and opportunities to make money.
For years SAA has been a failure. But many private airlines are run successfully by our own people. SAA’s continued failure means many of our people there have lost their jobs and the money they need to live. But there is an additional important and very sad factor that makes our people poorer: because of SAA’s failure it has not grown as a business and has not created more jobs and money for our people.
Many of our SOEs are failing. That must lead to job losses for our people, and their failure to grow means fewer jobs and money for our people in the future. It’s not surprising SOEs fail. Most governments anywhere in the world cannot run businesses. The solution is to have faith in our people, and to entrust SOEs to them so that they can, as owners, take control, and, whilst pursuing profit for themselves, working as hard as they can to do so, create real ever-increasing wealth, and with it ever-increasing opportunities for jobs and money for our people, who are now so deprived of hope for the future. People trying to make profit for themselves work much, much harder than they otherwise would, and in the process, their businesses grow, new jobs are created and more of our people get an opportunity to find a job. There is another benefit that arises from the higher profit made – the government gets to collect more tax and can provide better for those of our people who continue to struggle.
BEE and gender
I venture to think that when we make these appointments we concentrate on the interests of the prospective appointee, and tend to overlook the people he or she has to serve, control and take care of. I think we need always to ask: how many of our people could be adversely or beneficially affected by this appointment? For example, the head of a large hospital will affect many of our people but the cleaner, important though his or her work may be, may only affect a small number of our people in that little area of the hospital.
To make money for our people we need huge investments of foreign money. We need rich countries to invest in South Africa to provide jobs and money in our people’s pockets, and to employ the son of the woman who makes pap and wors on the road. We need to put real money in his pocket so that he can help his beloved mother to buy her better equipment, and to buy her better product to cook so she too can make more money.
We need to concentrate all our attention on the richest countries of the world where enormous amounts of wealth are constantly searching for exciting new developing countries with enormous potential for growth. We need to look at the present reality facing our people now. Life is short. Each generation must make its own decisions based on the facts as they are now and not on the facts as they were long ago.
But instead of doing all of that we glorify nations and groups which helped us decades ago to end the terrible crime against humanity perpetrated by a minority of our people on the majority of our people.
We have had 26 years of freedom from that shameful crime against humanity and why are our people still so poor? Why have our schools still got pit latrines? There are many more whys. You know them better than I, a privileged, retired, well paid and protected judge.
Eskom is, of course, probably the most serious of our failures, with load-shedding having terrible consequences regularly on the functioning of businesses of all kinds, and resulting in financial losses our people can ill afford. Every stoppage causes not only inconvenience to our people, but also has a psychologically paralysing effect on their feeling of wellbeing, which, in itself, inhibits the creation of wealth. Surely, after all this travail, the time has come to place our trust in our people, and to liberate Eskom from being our sole source of energy, giving our talented and creative people the right, in free competition with one another, to work as hard and creatively as they can to make profit for themselves, but at the same time to produce and sell freely, in the interests of our people, the electricity we so vitally need. Competition will drive down the price and increase the quality of delivery and will ensure the power we need so much to create ever increasing wealth for our people.
The answer to the desperate and urgent need to save our people is not rocket science; it’s to have faith in our precious and beloved people, and in their ability to achieve absolutely massive, massive, massive, massive economic growth. Only massive economic growth can free our people from joblessness and hopelessness. And massive economic growth is only possible when you believe enough in our people, made in God’s image, to let them work and trade and do business as freely and easily as possible.
So, everything that impedes massive economic growth, and certainly all the negative things discussed above must very, very, very urgently disappear. We cannot wait four long painful years for the next election. Too many of our wonderful precious people are starving. We need to free them right now from the policies which are stopping them from making money and looking after their families.
South Africa can become a great magnet for huge investments by the richest countries of the world. We have the most beautiful country and wildlife for a huge tourist industry providing many jobs for our people. We still have minerals worth mining with huge potential for employment of our people. God has blessed us with more than I or anyone can recount. And if all that investment flooded into South Africa our people would be able to have real money in their pockets.
I believe in our people. That’s why I have written all of this. They are close to my heart. I know all our people working together, whether they originate in Africa or Europe or Asia, can make this precious country of ours rich and successful, but only if we free them from policies which strangle their freedom, and strangle their growth, and if we make the rich countries our friends.
Then, many more of our people will have real money in their pockets, and be able to buy bread, pay the taxi and care for their families. Of course, there will be no equality of earnings. Some of our people will become very rich, some not so rich, and some will just earn enough to live. Some may not be able to earn enough or may earn nothing. But then all of us, who have more money, will be better able to help the needy, in the spirit of ubuntu, and in the spirit of the charitableness our Holy Bible teaches. And because businesses will make more money and pay more tax, the government will be able to help too.
On a personal note, whenever I meet someone, I give them my first name, and I ask for their name. If I am unfamiliar with the language concerned, I often ask what the name means. In hospital I had these exchanges with numerous people. It has struck me how profound and full of optimism and hope the names often are, reflecting greatly profound wisdom of the purpose of our short and precious time on this earth, things like gratitude, hope, optimism, trust, remembering and more. Our people are enriched by at least 11 languages in South Africa. Perhaps it will help to unify us more if we often ask each other what the other’s name means, especially, of course, if we are unfamiliar with their language. Furthermore, it’s a known psychological fact that everyone loves his/her name, and loves it mentioned and discussed. There is also often great benefit in hearing names which reinforce important values such as trust and integrity and ubuntu and kindness.
The world tends to glorify the material advances made by man – the invention of the cellphone, and things like that. The world is also impressed by the written word, by tomes of complicated writing. And so the majority of our people are often written off as having nothing to contribute. But what is overlooked are the oral traditions of that majority, rich in wisdom and insight, replete with many stories of the past – stories full of memories worthy of preserving. Of course, stories themselves, and especially those that have survived through many generations can have great inspirational and pedagogic value. And I fear, but hopefully I am wrong, that we may not be doing enough now to record, research, and properly structure so much that is precious and profound that may be lost.
We must remember, including those of us too young to have experienced the horrendous past, that the policies of BEE and others criticised above were well intended. Terrible things, amounting to a crime against humanity, happened in that past to the majority of our people at the hands of a minority of our people who were in exclusive control of our beautiful country.
I am a member of that minority. I realised with absolute clarity and pain, at the age of about eleven, what horrendous and awful and terrible things we were doing to that majority. That painful knowledge has and will remain with me always.
Our opposition to the current policies must be based only on the fact that these policies simply don’t work. The past 26 years have clearly proved that. Surely we can’t continue doing the same things for the next 26 years.
The minority of our people must, I believe, accept that it owes the majority a debt of penitence, remorsefulness and contrition beyond any calculation. A child of five is drowning. A man saves his life. The child goes on to live a good life until the age of 100. The man who saved him gave him 95 extra years of precious life. That man who did the saving cannot be repaid. How can children repay parents who for years themselves go hungry to pay for the education of those children? Some debts are so enormous that they cannot be repaid. The minority’s debt to the majority of our people is such a debt. That debt cannot be repaid.
But what the minority can do is to do everything possible to ensure a really great, and successful, and rich South Africa for the benefit of all, including, of course, the majority. That is a lofty and worthy ideal. But it lacks specifics. The specifics arise in every interaction between a member of the minority of our people with a member of the majority of our people. In every such interaction with the majority the minority must act with real, genuine, and heartfelt kindness, reverence, respect and courtesy.
For its part, the majority should never forget the long oppression they suffered at the hands of the minority, and never forget the huge sacrifices made by the heroes of the past to end the oppression, but the majority should also vow to ensure never themselves to become the oppressor, never to seek to diminish the minority’s dignity and security, and that they interact with them kindly and also with real, genuine, and heartfelt reverence, and respect and courtesy.
In short, both the minority and the majority of our wonderful people must treat each other with kindness. Kindness is the key to the future of our country and to those who follow us when our sacred work on this earth has ended.
In fact, our country is already full of kindness. Visitors here often comment on how friendly our people are. I believe, on the basis of my own observations on the ground, that we are all actually already doing well in our interactions with one another.
I loved being a judge. It gave me the power to cut through red tape to expedite justice and do things to right wrongs like sending telegrams for the immediate release of prisoners wrongly imprisoned.
Most cases were heard in court and, if the result was easy, I would often give an oral judgment immediately. But often, too, the correct result was not clear to me, and I needed to tell the parties that I would have to reserve judgment, which meant that I would have to give a written judgment later. I took a great deal of trouble in drafting those judgments, often having many drafts because so much was at stake for the parties.
In the course of my long career of more than 50 years I must have painstakingly drafted thousands of documents.
This document you are so kindly reading and considering is by very far the most important document I ever have drafted, or will ever draft, because so much is at stake for our beloved people of South Africa.
May God bless you with His boundless love and may God bless all our people of South Africa.
UNkulunkulu akubusise ngothando lwakhe olungenamkhawulo futhi abusise nabantu bonke beNingizimu Afrika.
Mudzimu anishudufhadze nga lufuno lwawe lusina mugumo. Mudzimu kha shudufhadze shango la Afrika tshipembe na mirafho yothe.
Xikwembu Xi mi katekisa hi rirhandzu le ri nga heriki. Xi katekisa na vanhu hinkwavu va hina va Afrika Dzonga .
Molimo a o hlohonolofatse ka lerato la hae le sa feleng hape ha Molimo a hlohonolofatse setjhaba sa Afrika Borwa.
A Modimo a go segofatse ka Lorato lo lo senang bokhutlo. A Modimo a segofatse batho botlhe ba Afrika Borwa.
Wanga uThixo angakusikelela ngothando lwakhe olungenasiphelo yaye asikelele bonke abemi baseMzantsi Afrika.
A Modimo ago shegofatse ka lerato le safelego, a Modimo a shegofatse setshabasa Afrika Borwa ka bophara.
UZimu akutjudubaze ngothando lwakhe oludzindzileko begodu atjudubaze nesitjhaba soke sesewula Afrika.
Simakadze akubusise ngelutsandvo lwakhe lolubandzi aphinze asibusisele bonke bantsu base Ningizimu Afrika.
Mag die Here jou seën met Sy grenslose liefde en mag Hy al ons mense van Suid- Afrika seën.
*This letter was published online here.
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR
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