Now is the time of monsters

COMMENT

Water cannons and stun grenades were used outside of the World Economic Forum Africa (WEFAfrica) meeting in Cape Town this week against womxn protesters, after the brutal rape and murder of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana.

This came after days of xenophobic marauding and looting, with foreign and South African shopowners having their livelihoods erased in the Johannesburg and Pretoria CBDs, Tembisa and Alexandra.

In Nigeria protesters responded by targeting South African-owned businesses, Shoprite and MTN, the army reportedly preventing the destruction of one Shoprite store.

Eskom, in a state of the system briefing on Wednesday, reported that its turnaround plan has stabilised the system, but that it has not been able to improve power station performance, meaning the risk of further power cuts remains, especially in the coming period when it takes more plant out of operation for maintenance.

An alleged organised crime boss, as per evidence to the Zondo commission from a former crony, was feted at his funeral service in central Port Elizabeth, with a former head of state and other political dignitaries in attendance.

Speaking at WEFAfrica before the water cannons were turned on, President Cyril Ramaphosa quoted Antonio Gramsci: “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”

Indeed.

Treasury, in these monstrous times, has been trying to keep Eskom (and with it the rest of the economy) afloat while tax revenues — chiefly VAT and corporate taxes — fall, and credit downgrades loom with an attendant higher cost of borrowing, while investor disquiet — much of it centred around an unpredictable, mad United States president — stalks the global markets.

It would be impressive — perhaps miraculous — under these conditions if treasury could both cut back spending and spur growth, somehow pulling off these contradictory demands simultaneously.

Last month, on August 22, Business Day reported that treasury had called for government departments to make expenditure cuts of 5%, 6% and 7% over the next three years, the total savings amounting to as much as R300-billion.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni earlier, in his February budget, signalled he was looking at cutting R25-billion from the civil service wage bill over the next three years, Bloomberg reported. This would be done by encouraging early retirement.

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