Ivo Vegter’s only New Year’s resolution: Unseat the ANC in 2024

In this sobering reflection on the state of South Africa and the world, Ivo Vegter traces the decline of optimism in New Year columns over the years. Despite global reasons for hope, local realities paint a stark picture of crumbling infrastructure, corruption, and the ANC’s long-standing policy failures. The call to action echoes as a New Year’s resolution: Vote the ANC out in 2024, with the hope that a political upheaval may begin the arduous task of pulling the nation out of its current quagmire.

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The only New Year’s resolution that matters in 2024

By Ivo Vegter*

Happy New Year! Oh, who am I kidding. Last year was terrible, and this year will be worse. Best of luck.

Should old traditions be forgot, and never brought to mind? 

In the case of my habitual optimism column for the New Year, sadly, I believe so.

The last time I published a New Year’s piece that unabashedly extolled the awesome state of the world was in 2018

In 2019, I didn’t write a New Year’s column at all, and in 2020 Daily Maverick refused to publish my usual optimism column because it argued that the Australian wildfires of that year weren’t indicative of a climate trend, but actually ran counter to a declining trend in global wildfires. Inconvenient facts, eh?

(This was the penultimate straw; I left Daily Maverick in March of that year when this column on price gouging was also refused, allegedly because I needed to be protected against readers who would tear me to shreds over my economic views. This, after I spent years going around telling sheep farmers they should let Shell frack the Karoo!)

By 2021, my optimistic façade was starting to crack, and I focused more on what we could learn from a particularly dismal 2020

In 2022, I spent the first half of my traditional optimism piece listing reasons to be pessimistic, before I eventually got around to looking on the bright side. 

Last year, I said the reasons for hope for the future are dimming

Both South Africa, and also the world, were headed in the wrong direction, I wrote, compelling us ‘to redouble our efforts to explain the evils not only of socialism, but also of state-capitalism, cronyism, big government and inflationary monetary policy’, and ‘to promote the ideals of free enterprise and individual rights and liberties as the only sustainable political solution to the modern world’s real and immediate problems’.

Global optimism

Well, now it’s 2024. My increasingly pessimistic predictions have for the most part held up.

Still, for the world – if you look beyond the rising nationalism, the hateful bigotry, the political polarisation, the looming economic crises, and the occasional war –  the usual reasons for optimism remain valid. 

All the justifications I listed in my 2018 column remain true. 

Kiko Llaneras compiled a great list of 35 reasons why the world is not getting worse, it’s getting better for El País

Nicholas Kristof, who also writes a regular New Year’s column about progress for the New York Timesstill argues that 2023, despite being terrible, was ‘maybe the best one yet for humanity’.

Time wrote about 13 ways the world got better in 2023, and I agree with at least half of them.

Malcolm Cochran of the Cato Institute’s Human Progress project, edited by Marian L. Tupy, compiled a list of 1000 good news stories from 2023, in a wide range of categories, from freedom, to energy, to conservation, to resource abundance, to food abundance, to science and health, demonstrating that while the media is strongly biased towards bad news, this obscures a larger trend of human progress.

Bloomberg reckons 2023’s US economy will be hard to top, but 2024’s just might do it.

Local pessimism

On the home front, sadly, optimism is now the preserve of the mad, the deluded, the ignorant, and those admirable souls who use it as a strategy to motivate action for change.

Last year, I wrote: ‘It has long been impossible to sustain … optimism on a short-term, South African level, thanks to the extraordinary failure of the ANC to even try to provide a better life for all. I expect load-shedding to get worse. I expect business conditions to get worse. I expect the middle class to shrink. I expect the rich to flee the country. I expect poverty and unemployment to continue rising. I expect nothing good in South Africa in the foreseeable future.’

Unfortunately, I was right on all counts, and things aren’t getting any better. 

In my own small town, where Gayton Mackenzie’s Patriotic Alliance betrayed the DA-led coalition for a couple of better-remunerated sinecures, thereby turning the municipality over to a corrupt coalition with the ANC and EFF, rates and taxes are rising sharply while services are collapsing. 

We now have uncollected refuse, sewerage running in the streets, periodically undrinkable water, and an illegal garbage dump in the centre of town. The decline was startlingly quick.

ANC rule elsewhere has achieved very little to brag about. The extension of water and electrification to formerly-neglected places is a highlight, but it now delivers load-shedding and contaminated water to non-paying residents. 

Everywhere, agencies of the state are disintegrating. Everywhere, municipal services are crumbling. Everywhere, infrastructure is falling apart. 

Deliberate policy

The ANC will blame its failures – and the need for journalists to consult the thesaurus to find synonyms for ‘collapsing’ – on white racists and the ‘nine lost years’ of Jacob Zuma. 

In reality, they are the results of deliberate policy choices by the ANC, many of which long predate Jacob Zuma, and have survived his ouster. 

The electricity crisis, for example, was predicted in 1998, when the ANC largely ignored it on the assumption that private generation would step into the breach. Only, it comprehensively failed to license such private generation. By 2007/8 the first bout of load-shedding struck, before Zuma had ousted the AIDS-denying, Zim-supporting Thabo Mbeki.

Likewise, corruption goes back at least as far as the arms deal, is baked into almost every government tender, and underlies the entire patronage network that keeps the ANC in power.

Every failure can be traced back to the pernicious effects of cadre deployment, over-zealous affirmative action and economic empowerment of the already empowered. The ANC has made a small black elite very rich, but it has nothing to offer the masses on whose behalf it claims to govern besides paltry welfare handouts.

If it had done only one thing: establish and maintain a world-class education system, these outcomes would have been prevented. We would now have a large cohort of well-educated, competent people who can manage both government services and private sector jobs.

But it didn’t do even that. It has trashed the education system, the healthcare system, transport infrastructure, and everything else it has touched. 

Socialism and corruption

Corruption, incompetence, and indifference have marked the 30-year rule of the ANC. These things happened not for lack of money to lavish on these functions of the state, nor even just for lack of skills, experience and integrity. 

All these negative effects have been harnessed in pursuit of the ANC’s underlying goal and ideological lodestone: a socialist revolution. 

As the IRR’s Dr. Anthea Jeffery very persuasively argues in her book Countdown to Socialism, that the ANC has not attempted any meaningful reforms is no accident. 

If South Africa were thriving, with a vibrant private sector and low unemployment, Jeffery explains, there would be no justification for expanding state control over the economy. It is exactly in economic failure that the socialist revolutionaries see the path to their ultimate victory: wielding absolute power over all the people.

Data has always clearly shown that indicators of individual and social welfare, including equality and the living conditions of the poor, improve everywhere except in countries ravaged by socialism, corruption, war, or a combination of these.

South Africa is beset by two of these, which is why optimism feels so futile.

New Year’s resolution

It is another old tradition to make New Year’s resolutions. 

I’ve always been cynical about them, but this time, the usual litany of ‘eat better, drink less, exercise more’ just seems trite by comparison with the one New Year’s resolution that every South African should make: vote the ANC out of power in 2024.

The country – including the ANC’s own constituency – cannot afford five more years of this. Vote them out, and convince all your non-voting friends and acquaintances to vote, too. 

Spread the message in towns and cities, in townships and on farms, in offices and on factory floors: your only goal in 2024 should be to vote the ANC out, and to do so with a resounding landslide, so that a coalition of the revolutionary left (together with craven opportunists such as the Patriotic Alliance) won’t be viable.

It will take many years to dig South Africa out of the quagmire into which the ANC has plunged it. The sooner that work begins, the better.

The year ahead will not be happy. It will likely be miserable. But let us at least wish for – and work for – a political upheaval to bring hope to the beloved country.

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*Ivo Vegter is a freelance journalist, columnist and speaker

This article was first published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission