Through gender eyes

Styles of authority; Foreign affair (1); Foreign affair (2); Odd Goldstone; It's my party .

Through gender eyes

Through the Maureen Isaacson interview in The Star we learn of the anger of Mohau Pheko, the chief executive officer of the National Women's Coalition. She is, it turns out, angry about lots of things. Angry that not many government ministries have set up their obligatory "gender desks". Angry because Nelson Mandela did not call a cabinet meeting so that ministers could "contemplate the issue" of violence against women. Angry because ministers have not found the time to answer her nagging letters. Angry with the International Monetary Fund because it has "identified the women's coalition as being part of the resistance" to their rule. "All it amounts to is an old boys club", she says. Angry, even, at being called a feminist: "It's about time we realised that gender does not mean women's issues; rather it is an attitude."

Pheko knows all about this since in her long sojourn in the United States - she only returned to South Africa this year after 15 years away - she became a specialist in something called "gender analysis" and is even writing a thesis about the South African budget "through gender eyes". She certainly has some original ideas about the economy. "The main industries are still owned by a few white Afrikaner males," she says angrily, thus putting thoroughly in their place all those historians who thought the whole point of Afrikaner nationalism was that English-speakers held all the commanding economic heights.

Isaacson seems to admire all this. Although noting that "Pheko speaks her mind, hardly stopping for breath", she finds that "her anger is contained". Really? Well, no. Pheko has apparently decided that, the constitution apart, South Africa's women are worse off than they have ever been. Attending women's groups in Houghton she finds that women in them complain that the women from the Vaal Triangle are always late, and she is angry with the "white attitude" of the guy she deals with at the garage where she takes the family Merc.

So there you have it. Pheko has been tooling round to tea parties in Houghton in her Merc, getting angry because people like Francois Pienaar own Anglo-American and Liberty Life. Those of us unable to afford Mercs can only wonder at the clearly mind-bending potential of gender analysis -and recall Will Rogers' famous complaint that what made it so hard being a satirist was that real life gave you such ferocious competition.

Styles of authority

You can often tell a lot about a country's political culture by the way it manages its sports. When the 14th Earl, Lord Home, was kicked out as leader of the British Conservative party because it wanted someone more meritocratic, Home was immediately elected President of cricket's ruling body, the MCC - where older habits still held sway.

The manner of Francois Pienaar's sacking was a brutal reminder that the Broederbond style of authority is alive and well in the new South Africa. This style of authority consists of one Raging Bull [the boss) and a scared circle of backers who have been bought off into silent deference. In this model the Bull figure can just go on and on: there would have been no way of getting rid of Verwoerd if he had not been killed, no way of getting rid of PW Botha until he had a stroke, no way of getting rid of Danie Craven so he stayed in charge of South African rugby until the age of 1 SO. The Louis Luyt regime is in strict lineal descent: the best chance of seeing the back of him probably depends on his continuing obesity.

The virtually faultless management of the national cricket squad, on the other hand, is a monument to the way the country's best companies have been run, usually by English-speaking [and often by Jewish] South Africans. The team is meritocracy incarnate - an English coach stolen from under the noses of his home team, a coloured spin genius, an Afrikaner captain, with team cohesion cemented by a philosophy of complete loyalty to those who have performed well. Long, long before it was politically correct to do so, cricketers demanded the right to pick and play non-racial teams: merit alone was what mattered. The cricket team is ultra fit, toughly professional, filled with self belief, plays it clean and fair-and is massively successful. If the country were run on these lines we would probably have eight percent growth.

Unfortunately; this way of doing things has nothing in common with the style of authority sponsored by our elite. The watchwords here are transparency, accountability, consultation and affirmative action. The results are to be seen in the selection of any modem university vice chancellor: an exhausting ritual of public lectures, public interrogation, extensive lobbying by stakeholders, attempts by minority veto groups to deny the "legitimacy" of some candidates, and all the rest of it. This way of doing things has its point, but professionalism and meritocracy are not words much heard in this context. A cricket team selected on this basis would probably never win.

On the other hand, look at the way Patrick Lekota was deposed in the Free State, the way our next President is to be chosen, or the way in which the ANC's Western Cape leadership was selected: no nonsense about publicly competing candidates, consultation with stakeholders, or open debate and transparency there. So the bright side is that when things get really serious our new leaders do not practise what they preach.

Foreign affair (1)

The dispatch of South African National Defence Force troops to Zaire raises the interesting question of what exactly our interests in Zaire are, apart from preventing a bloodbath. Zaire is potentially by far our richest and most important neighbour but, due to its appalling misgovernment, it has never punched its weight. Indeed, it has virtually fallen apart as a country - and Mobutu, conscious of the separatist threat, has deliberately prevented the construction of a decent infrastructure in the eastern provinces of Kivu and Shaba.

The fact is that South Africa would stand to benefit if Zaire broke up completely, with Kivu and Shaba becoming independent states. Such states would be of a manageable size, are rich in diamonds and copper respectively, and would quickly be penetrated by South African capital and pulled into South Africa's orbit. This was why South Africa in the early 1960s looked with favour on the separatist movements in those provinces led by Moise Tshombe and Albert Kalonji and why, if the same thing happened again, Pretoria would find it felt the same again. As de Gaulle said, states have no friends, only interests.

Foreign affair (2)

Deputy President Thabo Mbeki's protracted tour of Europe has failed to budge the European Union one iota over the question of allowing free access to its market of the 39 percent of our agricultural exports that currently fall foul of EU tariffs. Sceptics point out that it can hardly help our European diplomacy that our ambassadors to France, Germany and Italy cannot speak French, German or Italian respectively, but in fact their linguistic abilities - or lack of them - can hardly have been decisive.

What is now clear is that South Africa missed a very large trick in 1994. What should have happened is for Mandela and his ministers to have flown straight from the inauguration to Europe where, in the full flush of post-election euphoria, the European Union leaders should have been told, you say you want to help the new South Africa, do it now. And absolutely no trips to South Africa for Mitterrand, Major or Kohl until the trade issue is sorted out. This would have worked then. In effect Mbeki has been trying the same tactic two and half years late.

The surprising thing is that the departments of trade and foreign affairs seem not to have told Mbeki that this tactic cannot possibly work now. The reason lies in the enormous political pain European Union countries are going through to cut their budgets and debts down to the levels required by the Maastricht Treaty by 1999. With unemployment in Italy at 12.2 percent, at 12.6 percent in France and 22.3 percent in Spain, such cuts are meeting huge social resistance. These southern European states are the ones whose farmers stand to get hurt by South African competition and their governments know that to ask for extra trouble from their farmers now is to court electoral suicide.

Mbeki should have been warned that he was always bound to be wasting his time on this trip: no deal is possible until 1999. Thabo should be planning now for the trip to Brussels he will have to make straight after his own inauguration in that year.

Odd Goldstone

Whichever gallery Richard Goldstone, the new chancellor of Wits, was playing to at his induction, it was not the one in front of him, mainly composed of white graduates and faculty. There was, he said, "a price to pay" for South Africa's past and young whites were going to have to pay it. "It is subjectively unfair that white children of today and tomorrow will be called upon to pay the price for some of the actions of their parents' or grandparents' generations. But there is really no alternative," he said.

This was odd stuff when one considers the priority President Mandela has rightly put on dissuading skilled whites from emigrating. Short of handing out free plane tickets along with their graduation scrolls, it is difficult what more Goldstone could do to encourage the emigration of young white graduates - who will doubtless note that Goldstone's own children are already settled elsewhere.

Odd, too, to find Goldstone accepting the doctrine of collective guilt even to the second and third generation. This has been the classic doctrine used as justification for anti-Semitic persecutions down the ages - and was also precisely the rationalisation for the mutual atrocities used by the Bosnian Serbs and Muslims, about whose errors one thought Goldstone might have learnt a thing or two.

It's my party

Did the SACP veto an IMF loan to South Africa in October ? It looks like it. First, we hear Michael Camdessus, the IMF President, is to make a special visit to SA. M. Camdessus is not given to empty diplomatic shuttles and it seems unlikely that he wanted to come simply in order to see Table Mountain or picnic at Hout Bay. With the Rand under pressure argument mounts that the only way out is the immediate abolition of exchange controls - and that the IMF is to provide us with a credit facility to smooth the initial turbulence in the markets.

This hypothesis gains further credence when Camdessus is met at Johannesburg International by a notably lugubrious Trevor Manuel. Why does Trevor look like a man with a hangover at his mother's funeral ? Can it be that he is not looking forward to explaining to ANC MPs that he's taken the King's shilling and requested an IMF loan? Conviction grows to near certainly when President Mandela, clearly pre-primed, emerges to meet Camdessus and announces that SA welcomes the help of the IMF.

By then Camdessus goes before ANC parliamentarians where leading SACP MPs, led by Rob Davies, give him a torrid time. A dazed Camdessus emerges to say he had never before been accused of trying to grind the faces of the poor: he just lends money to them.

He files out with no loan announced. The Party has, in effect, brought sharply to the notice of the ANC just how much support it can rally against any idea of taking an IMF loan. The Governor of the Reserve Bank, Chris Stals, acts for all the world like a man who seen a lifebelt snatched from him as he goes under for the second time and a few days later releases details of what is, in effect, his own economic wish list - including a $2bn. IMF loan. In the following two weeks the Rand drops another 1 against the $. Each time this happens the proportion of the national budget devoted to interest payment increases. This upward ratchet ting is already forcing Manuel to present the toughest budget SA has seen in many years. This will bring him political pain. The real question is when will Manuel [and Mandela) decide that the pain the markets inflicts is greater than anything Rob Davies and Co. can hand out?

One man and his dog

Ever since Eugene Terreblanche fell off his horse he has, in a sense, kept falling. Most recently ET was in court to face a charge of intent to commit grievous bodily harm to an African garage attendant. Arriving at a garage one Saturday night, ET somehow managed to get into an argument with an attendant at a filling station on the other side of the street.

ET's dog, allegedly on his master's instructions, raced across the road and began biting the attendant, followed in hot pursuit by ET himself. The attendant, still harassed by the dog, fled into a toilet only to have ET burst in by kicking in the toilet door. The attendant claims that ET then hurled racist abuse at him and assaulted him, while ETs story is that he kicked the door in to save the man from being hurt further by his dog.

The outlook is not too bright for ET. For a start, not many South Africans will easily believe that he would take the part of a black man against his own dog. But he is also facing another, unrelated charge of attempted murder against an African employee of the security firm that guards his house - after the employee had, allegedly, provided a somewhat lacklustre service.

Opinion seems to be divided. Some would like to see both ET and his dog sent to jail. Others feel that to sentence ET for getting into a three-cornered brawl with a petrol attendant and a dog would be akin to sending Al Capone to Sing Sing for tax evasion.