Wednesday, 30 January 2008

SA following Zim, warns Minto

Louise Luttig, Beeld

Auckland - If the South African government doesn't change its economic policy to meet the needs of the country's unemployed masses and the poor, it will follow the path of Zimbabwe.

This is the warning of John Minto, leader of the anti-Springbok Tour movement and a political activist in New Zealand.

Minto says he has decided to decline his nomination for the Companion of OR Tambo award put to him by a government official in November last year, as he could not associate him with the award.

However, Mukoni Ratshitanga, a spokesperson for President Thabo Mbeki, said on Tuesday that Minto had not been nominated for any of South Africa's orders.

A 2005 documentary on New Zealand's top 100 history makers listed him as No 89.

In an interview, Minto said he was deeply dismayed at the African National Congress's following of the free-market economy, which is mainly based on profit, and has not met the needs of the poor and the unemployed.

Open letter to Mbeki

Millions of South Africans are worse off than in the days of apartheid, or, at best, their already poor situation has remained the same.

In response, he has written an open letter to President Thabo Mbeki explaining his reasons. The contents have been covered extensively in the media.

According to Minto, the ANC government received a mandate in 1994 to improve the lives and circumstances of all in the country, something for which he and many others fought bitterly, and has failed miserably.

Minto acknowledged that he had never been to South Africa, but had an intense interest in what was happening in South Africa and Zimbabwe.

He also had contact with many organisations there and followed events on the internet.

He said the South African government was making the same mistake as Zimbabwe did 20 years ago when they adopted a free-market economy.

Playing the race card

And, when it did not work in Zimbabwe and the poor started to show their frustration, President Mugabe played the race card, and blamed the whites for the country's problems, with tragic consequences.

Minto said the ANC would do the same.

Instead, the South African government should take control of the infrastructure, such as electricity and water, and govern it to improve the circumstances of each man, woman and child, not only those who were able to pay for it. Minto said he put it to President Mandela's delegation when Mandela visited New Zealand in 1992, that they should learn from the mistakes of New Zealand, which also adopted free-market principles, and which he believed did not benefit all in society.

He was aware of state-owned Eskom's inability to meet the electricity demands, but saw that as a management problem and not the result of government policy.

He did not believe Jacob Zuma, with his leftist support base, would make a difference, said Minto, as it was all rhetoric and no policy.

He hoped South Africans did not get sucked in by such rhetoric.

Mandela's legacy

If the ANC did not drastically change its policy, the country would follow Zimbabwe, he said.

Minto believed it was only the legacy of Nelson Mandela that ensured the ANC of its huge support.

He believed that if Mandela was no longer there, and economic policies remained unchanged, the country was facing a destructive outcome.

Minto intends to visit South Africa later this year to get to know the country and its people firsthand, and to meet with the many organisations with whom he has had contact.

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