The article was first published on 26 July 2021
The Open Letter to Ramaphosa penned last week by a BizNews community member captured the zeitgeist, having been read by more than a quarter million people within a few days. The video had over 75,000 downloads in the first 24 hours. On the assumption that you can never get too much of a great thing, here is the follow up, the first of what we hope will be many contributions by “Niemöller” the nom de plume our correspondent has selected. It honours the anti-Hitler German theologian of that name whose famous poem “First they came…” resonates as powerfully today as it did when written exactly three quarters of a century ago. In the piece below, our Niemöller provides a little background to the first Open Letter – and follows up with an equally powerful second one. – Alec Hogg
I didn’t think my letter would travel quite as far and as wide as it did. I didn’t write it for circulation; it was mostly to let off steam. I’d just had enough. It looked like its many readers had too.
One should probably quit while one is ahead, but I really did have a bit more to say. Alas, freedom of speech is somewhat of an illusion in South Africa, which is why I’m still anonymous. You can call me Niemöller.
So I thought – for now – that the best thing to do to would be to double down, because there’s more on my mind. And to quote a famous South African, I write what I like.
I see I made a mistake in saying we didn’t have a white Minister, when there’s Barbara Creecy. But frankly, having one is almost worse than having none. Zero is at least politically honest.
So here we go…
Dear Mr President,
My letter to you last week seemed to reflect what quite a few people were thinking, but no one had said aloud. At least not to you. Not that you have nothing else on your plate, but I have a bit more to say. Forgive my frankness. It is – or at least was – the South African way. On the positive side, you won’t have to read between any lines.
So here is some more advice you may care to hear.
Start arresting more people for planning this insurrection. Sure, we don’t want the NPA to mess it up, but for goodness’ sake, how much evidence do you need? The Zuma daughter incited violence. It’s on Twitter. Go get her. Her twin encouraged people to “loot responsibly”. He really did. It’s on YouTube. It’s inconceivable that nothing has been done about them. And particularly the now-famous “12”. I’m sure there are others. Many of them.
Declare a State of Emergency in KZN if you still feel anxious about the temperature on the ground. It doesn’t have to be a national one. It’s not draconian, it’s sensible. They’re a problem, and we all know it.
Reshuffle the Cabinet for crying out aloud. The RET brigade lost. They have very little popular support, and almost none from the very large middle ground. Your long game is over now. Surely you can muster up enough professionals with political clout to protect you as you purge your Cabinet of these loathsome, incompetent, ineffectual people?
Start reading the Riot Act to provincial public prosecutors. Because while we’re on the subject of arrests, why haven’t obvious crooks been arrested yet? Like certain politically connected thieves involved in the outrageous rip off at VBS. It’s clear that some Provincial Directors of Public Prosecutions won’t play ball with Shamila Batohi, and are refusing to prosecute. Find a way to replace them. Otherwise, she has no power, and you know it, even if you haven’t told the public that.
Make sure that the DPP in the Free State has his ducks in a row. There’s a lot at stake prosecuting Ace Magashule. And make sure they nail Edwin Sodi while you’re about it, odious, corrupt, rent-seeking reptile that he is.
Get the NPA to get a move on prosecuting Markus Jooste, who still strolls around Hermanus, undisturbed and unperturbed. Enough. He’s a crook. It’s been four years now. You can’t possibly need more evidence – PwC provided it all – or preparation time. Get Jooste out of his mansion and into Pollsmoor. And be sure to film his trial so we can all watch him go down.
Speaking of people who haven’t yet had their day in court, where is our Deputy President? Private health care is still excellent here (at least for now) so why didn’t he check into the closest Mediclinic? And he leaves for Russia at the exact time of the looting. Odd, that. A bit like the Ayatollah hanging out in Paris until the revolution was all over bar the shouting?
Make a phone call to David Unterhalter to apologise for the appalling anti-Semitism that reared its head during his interview by a certain member of the Judicial Service Commission. It was revolting. Tell him you strongly disapprove. And where was the Human Rights Commission? Asleep again? Shout at them.
Stop already with the Cuban obsession. Have you ever visited there as a normal citizen? It’s appalling. Surely after 30 years, the ANC has repaid the favour of pre-democracy support from them? Enough now. It’s a brutal, repressive regime that tramples on human rights. We don’t need their help. Nor their social, economic or political example. So rein in Lindiwe Sisulu. She’s jaw-droppingly arrogant and stark raving mad.
Stop prioritising the employed and start worrying about the unemployed. The employed don’t need your help. Enough with the stranglehold of labour legislation. Stop with this Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act. It’s a disaster.
Disbelieve business if it says it broadly supports this new Act, because many of them don’t. They’re just too timid to withstand the accusation of being “anti-transformation”. Rather have some honest one-on-one conversations.
Here’s the headline: modern South African capital is agnostic; it just doesn’t care.
What do you really think – that executives sit around in dark, smoke-filled rooms dreaming up new and imaginative ways to exclude black and women executives from their companies? Capital doesn’t care, Mr President, it just doesn’t care. We are so critically short of skills in this country that even the most unreconstructed racist would concede that the pool was too small to discriminate.
The fact is that we don’t care if a job applicant is a dreadlocked, gay, disabled person who self-identifies as a Martian every alternate Thursday. We just want the skills and the talent. And a propensity for hard work and a good attitude. We judge them on these things, and the content of their character. The rest is really irrelevant. We don’t think about it. So why do you insist on this ruinous policy which just further divides South Africans, is of questionable public or economic benefit, and only serves to chase skills away to foreign countries? It seriously isn’t winning you any votes.
Introduce us to a live beneficiary of affirmative action. Bet you can’t. Because if you ask any black South African if they’re in their job because of it, they’ll take it as a deep insult. They’ll assure you that only merit, skill and ability played a role. So, if it’s so offensive, why have it as public policy? If it’s such a worthy pursuit, why do the courts find that calling someone an affirmative action appointment or quota player is racially offensive? Surely if your policy is aspirational and ethically defensible, beneficiaries should consider it a source of pride? Please do us all a favour and think deeply about the screaming hypocrisy of this.
Get some real skill into the government – fast. Hire more people like your Minister in the Presidency. She is self-confident, assertive, smart, no-nonsense, and everything all your ministers should be. If you know what’s good for you, chain her to her desk and refuse any attempt for her to leave. There must be more just like her. Find them. Hunt them down.
Stop with the planning already. We have enough plans. You’re like a field marshal who comes up with brilliant military strategy, but has no battalions. Success lies in execution. So execute a Marshall Plan for South Africa, because we sure as hell need one.
Call in the best and brightest, and don’t drown them in politics, bureaucracy and brick walls, like you’ve done to Martin Kingston. Ask Standard Bank to free up Sim Tshabalala for a few months – he should have time on his hands now. Call in Dikgang Moseneke, Vincent Maphai, Malcolm Wyman, Shameel Joosub, Jay Naidoo, Adrian Gore, Sipho Maseko, Cheryl Carolus, Calvo Mawela, Koos Bekker, and yes, even Trevor. There are many others. They are all brilliant, networked tacticians who only want what’s best for the country. Get them on board for a few months – their companies will spare them because there’s so much at stake. Make that phone call. Give them some real power so they don’t get frustrated and exit stage.
Lose the National Democratic Revolution rubbish. It’s long past its sell-by date and it’s destructive, divisive, and so anachronistic that it’s just plain ridiculous in a modern democracy. You’re not a liberation party anymore, you’re the damn government. Enough now. There is no revolution to win. You’re in power. Grow up and behave like it.
Sort out state security for goodness’ sake. Bheki Cele is just plain incompetent and the SAPS is dire. Khehla Sitole is even worse if that’s possible, and unforgivably MIA during the looting. Ayanda Dlodlo doesn’t exactly look like she’s cracking her job either. They’re so busy sticking knives in each other’s backs that they’re not doing the job they’re paid for. Admit it. It’s a mess. R4-billion a year on criminal intelligence and they couldn’t spot the insurrection coming?
Stop with this new gun control nonsense. What do you think citizens were armed with when they stood up to the looters and defended democracy? The only people who obey gun control laws are those who use them responsibly anyway.
Clamp down on illegal firearms, particularly those circulating on the Cape Flats, largely gifted by rogue SAPS members (you know this to be true). And while I’m about it, what the hell are your people doing with Jeremy Veary and Andre Lincoln – and a few others? They’re the corruption-busting good guys. Where are their commendations? Nope, just years and years of targeted harassment by half-witted, under-skilled, corrupt, politically motivated morons in the SAPS leadership. Enough. Pick up the phone.
Reel in the Competition Commission. You simply can’t block a foreign acquisition on the basis that BEE would be diluted. What does that mean in practice? That black shareholders are stuck with their shareholdings and can never sell their shares unless it’s to another black South African shareholder? You’ve just wiped out the value of their shareholdings, for goodness’ sake! Not to mention the message you’re sending foreign investors. Tell the Commission to get out of the way and stop meddling in stuff that doesn’t involve them.
Stop giving groups and individuals a free pass on tax. The kind that’s just sitting there, laughing at you. Taxis, shebeens, spazas. The illegal industries are thriving – liquor, tobacco, gambling, textiles. Do something. The illegal markets for liquor and tobacco are nearly as big as the legal market now – how’s that for a gangster state? It’s a howler.
Get Edward Kieswetter an army of enforcers to get out there on the streets, and demand these guys pay what’s due. No tax return? Simple. Close it down. Legal taxpayers have seriously had enough of paying Scandinavian levels of tax for virtually no return, when others casually flip a middle finger at the tax collector with no consequence. If they don’t pay up, jail them. If you don’t, tax morality will drop even further through the floor.
Put Kieswetter back in his box when he talks to the dwindling number of law abiding citizens. How dare he say he’ll ask taxpayers nicely only once? No. Just no.
Tell your SARS Commissioner to get down on bended knee and thank every taxpayer for their contribution, and to genuflect at the feet of the top 1%. We have one of the heaviest tax burdens in the world. Without us, you’d be in real trouble, and you could say goodbye to social stability. Kieswetter might be uncorruptible and have a stratospheric IQ, but he could do with a huge dose of humility.
Tell SASSA grant beneficiaries the truth about where their money is coming from. It isn’t the ANC. Over 30% of the population receives a grant, so don’t you think there should be “Your SASSA grant courtesy of the taxpayer” printed on every SASSA receipt?
Stop opening your mouth to change feet. How could you defend MPs’ salaries by saying that they struggle to make ends meet? On R1-million a year plus benefits? Are you serious? Most of the private sector have had deep cuts in their salaries during Covid, with some losing their benefits altogether, not to mention those who actually lost their jobs or businesses. And these are people who are keeping the economy going, sustaining jobs and paying tax. Just how tone deaf are you? Couldn’t you have just done a cuddle-up with MPs and explained that on those salaries, they are in the top 4% of earners in SA, and that they better just make do since the rest of us have blood on the floor? Come on, seriously.
Stop people thinking that any criticism of the government is subliminal racism. That’s genuinely juvenile. Most South Africans couldn’t care less what colour the government is. They just want clean government. Good services they pay for. Fair taxation. Respect. Law and order. The opportunity to exchange their skills for fair compensation. Fair treatment under the law. The basics. We don’t much care about anything else. So tell them to grow up.
Let me end by asking you a genuine question. Do you not actually realise that you’ve won? Because you sure as hell don’t look like it.
I don’t mean the election, I mean the insurrection. Citizens across the board gathered to man the barricades, shoulder to shoulder. The bad guys were repelled. Sanity re-emerged. The RET brigade lost. South Africans stood together to defend not only their lives and property, but the Constitution and the democratic state. The one you lead. So, the RET gangsters lost the battle, but also the psychological one. And the political one. It was a close-run thing at times, but the centre held.
I’m not in politics (there is a God) but you should know this from your previous life: in business, half the trick of successful leadership is behaving like a leader, and the other half is sounding like one. So why don’t you? When your enemy is down, you don’t start playing a long game of chess, you kick him. We don’t see any evidence of kicking, and it’s making us nervous.
The attempted coup was an inflection point. It’s not the time to drop the ball. Run with it.
Get out of the Fresnaye bunker. Take the difficult decisions. Do a bit of shock and awe, and the momentum of resolute action will be unstoppable. Bring the country with you. All of us. As equal citizens. Start acting like a winner. A lot depends on it.
- Niemoller is the nom de plume of a member of the BizNews community who prefers to remain anonymous.
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