By Muzi Kuzwayo
Political parties are disposable ladders that opportunists use to achieve their ambitions.
Our politics, which was once seen as the model that other countries could only dream of, has lost its South African values.
At first we made extensive progress, doubling the middle class and giving shelter to those who could not afford it. RDP houses mushroomed everywhere, destitute families were given grants so their children could have a better start in life.
The global economy was humming as China’s economy raced past its European rivals, while Japan’s became the second-largest in the world.
South African businesses were welcomed with open arms as they expanded around the globe and our economy grew.
Employment increased and people made money, which manifested through conspicuous consumption, which was in line with the world’s hyper-consumerism.
Television sets did not only have to be flat screen, but they had to be the biggest and they had to be many so that children did not have to fight with the adults as to what to watch.
They also had to be glossy, with sliver trimmings to make sure that they told as much about the owner as they did about the programs being watched.
Credit flowed, people and companies borrowed as if money was a beard on a man’s face, which only death can stop from growing.
Cars got bigger and families owned fleets of them. Driveways became as wide as the roads and every house in the new gated communities became a mansion.
The potbelly, which was once the trademark of the rich, became as common as the mansion.
The number of children who became morbidly obese increased as all they did was watch television and play on the gadgets that their parents bought for them.
Rivers of Champagne flowed and the newly rich indulged, and when they were hungover, the following morning, they drank more Champagne.
The music was good and it attested to the good times.
“Bosso ke mang? (Who is the boss?)”, the late HHP asked.
His answer? The boss is the one who eats their Rice Krispies with whisky.
Even the ANC succumbed to the ebullience, popping Champagne every year at its birthday. The leaders drank and ate cake, while the masses cheered in the blazing sun.
It was “irrational exuberance”, as the then chairperson of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, called it.
It all came to a crashing end when China’s economy cooled down. Companies produced less, their profits declined and they fired employees as Chinese imports became cheaper. The rand got weaker and luxury cars became more expensive.
It was history repeating itself, as told beautifully by Polly Adler, a madam who lived through the roaring 1920s, in her book A House Is Not A Home.
Adler talks about top-drawer boys who rolled high in New York’s bawdy houses.
In one instance, there was a long line of bankers, which went all the way around the block, waiting patiently to spend their hard-earned money on giving a bath to sex workers in a tub full of Veuve Clicquot.
When the good times came to an end, the young bankers couldn’t think of a future and many committed suicide.
A rising tide hides all sins and during the time of plenty, many mistakes were made and hidden.
It was only when the economy turned that things changed and the corrupt were noticed. It is time to rethink our politics beyond elections and the hyperbole of manifestos.
The biggest challenge is youth unemployment.
Every year we take hundreds of children into schools and for twelve years we pump them up with ambition, and then at the end of that period we let them sit idle at home, without jobs.
They soon become desperate and bitter, and unscrupulous politicians mobilise them for their own nefarious ends.
Let us keep them busy and introduce national service to give them practical skills that they can use in real life.