If I had to pick the South African minister who was the most destructive force in government in the post-liberation era, it might seem obvious that the winner would be former President Jacob Zuma. He presided over, after all, State Capture, a cloud of corruption and cadre proliferation, and a lost economic decade as SA’s national debt exploded, state-owned enterprises went bankrupt and unemployment soared. Very bad list.
But, you know, he had help. You cannot achieve this level of economic disaster on your own. Next on the waiting list, I will put his ex-wife, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini Zuma, famous for blockbuster scenes like Sarafina 2, Virodene and the tobacco ban during Covid, has now issued a tirade against SA banks (again).
Speaking at the BRICS Youth Summit in Durban, Dlamini-Zuma said NSA was “forced to kneel in front of five banks”.
In fact, 63 banks operate in South Africa – 17 of which are local.
“This represents some of the most concentrated banking systems in the world,” she said. I mean – should I write this? SA is nowhere near being the most concentrated banking country in the world. In the UK there are five banks that account for about 90% of deposits. Switzerland has five banks that account for 95% of deposits. For a country the size of SA with five major banks operating in an intensely competitive manner, it is routinely mentioned in international reports as one of the country’s most valuable assets!
She continues, “The greater focus of banking on the Big Five has clearly undermined accountability, hindered development, stifled competition and shifted the cost burden onto citizens.”
This is just horse manure.
SA’s top five companies operate on margins that are well within the football field of countries with a similar risk profile.
The price-to-book ratios of a South African bank are richer than those of developed-country banks: they should be, because — and this is something you hope Dlamini-Zuma has noticed after 25 years in government — the South Australian government is so dysfunctional that our country’s risks are rising and economic growth is stagnant, forcing banks to make larger bad-debt provisions.
But, you know, that wasn’t what really bothered me most about that speech.
We’ve heard this nonsense so many times before that most people in business and government smile and wave. What got me was the flip of the speech, where I talked about the urgent need to fight with all our might against the “unipolar” world, and how BRICS is the best way to achieve this noble goal.
Well, you know, there’s a global rebalancing going on; It is inevitable and welcome because it depends on the collective enrichment of some of the world’s poorest people.
But what Dlamini-Zuma sees as resulting from this is not global solidarity, but “multipolarity”. It argues that multipolarity is a departure from the hegemonic reality of a unipolar world order in which there is only one dominant power. (You have to ask, what world do you think she lives in?)
In a multipolar world, power is dispersed, and no single country has the power to dictate the international agenda. The rationale behind multipolarity is that it enhances stability and reduces the potential for conflicts.
“When there is no single dominant power, each great power must negotiate and cooperate with others to achieve its national interests. Having multiple centers of power also means that no single power has the power to impose its will on others, which can help prevent conflicts and promote peaceful resolution of disputes,” she says.
Strangely enough, we have seen how a multipolar world works. It was pretty awful.
Because if your philosophy is rooted only in the concept of national power dynamics, rather than, say, global cooperation, then the powers will merge and suddenly you have two opposing blocs of power aimed at each other.
What follows is all the delights of nuclear confrontations, proxy wars, and Third World tyrants who cling to power by playing one power against another, as we did during the Soviet era.
Multipolarity will only work if there are, say, five balanced forces competing with each other. It’s weird.
But that is not what the BRICS group is all about. BRICS, in Dlamini-Zuma’s worldview, is about uniting to create a bipolar world of them – “the West” – against us, the glorious rest.
And what the BRICS will do is fight the treacherous symbols of oppression and neo-colonialism, the horrors of this terrible new world order, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (where, by the way, all BRICS members are represented including South Africa. The inherent evil of an organization is clearly not reason enough to leave).
I hope the Bretton Woods institutions will forget this rhetoric when it ends up that Strategic Offensive has no choice but to try to beat them up for the much needed bailout, a direction in which we seem relentlessly heading. DM