David Frum has an article about South Africa in The Atlantic
. May be worth a read:Can a New President Really Solve South Africa's Corruption Problem?
It's pretty clear that the outgoing president, Jacob Zuma, was corrupt. It remains to be seen whether things will get any better under the new president (probably not).
South Africa’s most highly educated minorities want out. The white middle class is emigrating in the hundreds of thousands to Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. South Africa’s Jewish population has declined especially sharply, its exodus accelerated by increasingly strident and even violent anti-Semitism, especially at South Africa’s stressed universities.
The recent vote of the South African parliament to expropriate without compensation white-owned farmland will not help. The vote is non-binding because frankly unconstitutional—but the willingness of the ANC majority to recommend constitutional change to allow uncompensated seizures is not reassuring for the country’s future development.
The one-time trade union leader [the new president] has amassed one of South Africa’s largest fortunes—estimated at anything from $400 million to $700 million—not by inventing a product or building a company, but by using his power over union pension funds to get equity for himself in other people’s enterprises. When he invested union pension funds, he would be rewarded with a preference share in the investment for himself personally. South African law requires high levels of compliance with what is locally termed “black economic empowerment”—and for many foreign and local companies, Ramaphosa has become the first partner to talk to. He has, for example, held large stakes in Coca Cola’s and McDonald’s South African investments. He often gained executive roles so that the firm in question could qualify under the BEE scheme for government contracts.
Given South Africa’s long, harsh history of racial subordination, Ramaphosa’s rise to wealth may be regarded as a form of restitution: the still powerful white elite sharing spoils with a rising black elite. Yet Ramaphosa’s way to wealth—the crucial first step of which was his control over retirement funds belonging to others—is different in scale, not in kind, from the principal of the local school granting the snack counter concession to his wife (a much-complained-of abuse in South Africa). International investors have become wary of the politicization of business enterprise in South Africa. Foreign investment is avoiding South Africa: only $2.2 billion of new money in 2016. To put that amount in perspective: It’s only slightly more than tiny Estonia and Latvia together received. It hardly begins to offset the $30 billion that flowed overseas out of South African stocks and bonds in 2016 and the first half of 2017.
Jacob Zuma was the unacceptable, unsophisticated face of South African petty corruption. Cyril Ramophosa is the credentialed, Davos-attending face of a blend of state power and private wealth familiar from Putin’s Moscow to Trump’s Washington. It’s perhaps an improvement to replace the one with the other. But South Africa’s transition to democracy will not be secure until and unless it recognizes that its future will be as stunted by institutionalized corruption as its past was deformed by institutionalized racism.
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.