Ir-ra-tio-nal (adjective)
- Lacking in usual or normal clarity 
- Not endowed with reason or understanding.
- Actions steeped in emotional distress or cognitive deficiency.

Of late, society has been bombarded by several high-impact irrational decisions or comments by our country’s leaders. If there is one thing I have learnt over the past decade as a full-time civil activist, it’s that when government decisions and comments are irrational or nonsensical, they are either shrouded in corrupt intentions or ineptitude. Or both, since our government is heavily mired in both. 

Several very costly and disastrous decisions have been made in the past which still weigh heavily on the nation’s purse. One such example is the Medupi and Kusile construction projects. Irrational not because we didn’t need these new power stations – we definitely did – but because gross cost overruns of R450 billion plus were allowed, costing taxpayers at least three times more than the original budget. Yet, despite the massive costs, they are still incomplete and months, if not years, away from being fully connected to the grid. Guess why? Because like with so many other government projects, Medupi and Kusile have been mired in massive corruption and gross incompetence.  

Other costly decisions which had the hallmarks of corruption stamped all over them, were the e-toll decision (2008) and Zuma’s Russian nuclear energy plan (2016), both of which would have burdened the national fiscus with several billions of rands per year for decades to come, had civil society not intervened. To add insult to injury, in both these cases, the bulk of the money would have flowed offshore.  (In the case of e-tolls, Austrian company Kapsch stood to earn the most, and in the case of the nuclear deal, “Mother” Russia’s state-owned nuclear company Rosatom would have pocketed.) 

Over the past week or so, once again the political powers started singing loudly from the same Turkish Karpowership hymn sheet without offering any rational explanation or clear plan as to why this solution makes sense for South Africa. Our electricity crisis is two decades in the making (and shrouded in corruption and incompetence emanating from the ruling party).  It’s also no surprise that South Africa doesn’t have an updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), because this would dictate our medium- and long-term energy supply plan.  Alas, no formal plan to end our energy crisis will allow for deviation, confusion or creating ill-advised solutions on the run, since this creates breeding grounds for irrationality wherein corruption thrives.  

Over the past year or two, the proposal that Turkish Karpowerships docking in three of our harbours for 20 years as an “emergency” solution for the energy crisis, has been repeatedly punted by one minister – Gwede Mantashe. This despite OUTA’s initial cost projections of R220 billion (that could now easily have increased to around R500 billion because of Russia’s war in the Ukraine influencing the availability and price of gas, combined with factors such as the fall of the Rand as a result of the state of our country and its ties with Russia).  All this money to generate 1220 MW (megawatts) of electricity. What government doesn’t tell Karpowership pundits is that this will only be enough to off-set one level of loadshedding. Billions of Rands in South Africa’s taxes dished out to a foreign company without it making any permanent contribution to our generation capacity – When the contract is over, the ships will literally sail away. Does it make sense to you?

Over the past few weeks four other government leaders joined Mantashe’s Turkish choir:  Sindisiwe Chikunga (minister of transport), Pravin Gordhan (minister in charge of public enterprises), Enoch Godongwana (minister of finance) and President Ramaphosa himself.  By the way, Ramaphosa and ministers like Mantashe tell us that our electricity crisis will be a thing of the past within the next few months to two or three years (depending on who you listen to). When hearing these promises, bear in mind that it will take at least 12 to 18 months to set up the Karpowership infrastructure before one electron will find its way into the grid. 

Still on the topic of irrationality, let’s look at President Ramaphosa’s recent suggestion that an independent enquiry should be launched in response to allegations of weapons being loaded onto a US-sanctioned Russian cargo ship, the Lady R. The ship turned off its transponders to avoid detection as it slipped into the Simon's Town Naval Base.  Are things that bad that the person commanding the highest position of authority in the country cannot obtain the detail and facts of this event within a few days and without a commission?

On top of the unknown reason for a Russian cargo ship’s docking, we received an explanation from the South Africa authorities that a Russian aircraft belonging to Aviacon Zitotrans (a commercial airline under sanctions by the US), landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Tshwane to deliver diplomatic mail to the Russian Embassy. Seriously? (This happened almost exactly ten years after the Gupta family also landed a private jet at Waterkloof.)  

Add to all of this South Africa’s naval exercises with Russia and the recent visit to Moscow by the Chief of the South African Army, Lt. Gen. Lawrence Mbatha, apparently to discuss “issues of military cooperation” and “projects to enhance the combat readiness of the two countries’ armies” with the commander of Russia’s ground forces, Gen. Oleg Salyukov. It certainly appears to be irrational, given that our President has said we have taken a neutral stance on the war between Russia and Ukraine. Read more here

Government argues that Russia played a significant role in undoing the evil shackles of apartheid and that as a free nation, we are entitled to trade with whoever we desire.  I understand their reasoning, and also that we cannot and should not allow ourselves to be dictated to by other nations who themselves have been found wanting when it comes to unnecessary wars that generate self-benefit. (The USA has a shocking track record in this regard.) 

However, in the modern world and against a backdrop of history that clearly indicates how meaningful dialogue, rationality and peaceful solutions are the best options for everyone concerned, we should never side with the aggressor in any war. Instead, we should be doing everything in our power to mediate for peace. Sadly, aside from a belated utterance to this approach, South Africa’s political leadership has fumbled and blundered their way down a muddy path that has clearly sought to align with Russia, the undoubted aggressor in the Ukraine saga. 

Another brilliant example of our leadership’s irrational behaviour is the recent calls for South Africa’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court (ICC). This had to quickly be retracted by Ramaphosa himself. Clearly the bigger picture ramifications were not contemplated before announcing the withdrawal. It also remains to be seen how we will navigate Putin’s arrival and appearance at the BRICS summit in August this year. If not handled with the utmost care, SA could be on a slippery slope toward alienating itself from its major trading partners and heading fast toward sanctions and serious economic hardship.

On a positive note: we at OUTA are certainly motivated by several business leaders who have recently taken a stand and called out Government’s irrational conduct and numerous faux pas. Our country needs to see much more of this, but more importantly, we need to see meaningful action and dialogue with Government on the worrying decisions and stances of late. 
With the final 12 or so months to go until we face probably the most important elections since democracy, we are seeing a lot of plundering and tendering taking place – the kind of frenzied activity before the Treasury safe gets slammed in the event of a new government being elected. 

We cannot allow this kind of conduct to go unchecked, and if we do not act fast to prevent the cupboards of potential prosperity from being emptied out, it will take decades to restore this country to its rightful position on the international stage. 

The team at OUTA therefore has our job cut out for us, and we fully intend to keep holding those in power accountable on your behalf.  Once again, a big thank you to each person donating to our work – without you, we won’t be able to do our work. All donations to OUTA are tax-deductible, and Section 18 A certificates will be issued on request. Please make sure that we have your correct, updated details by clicking on the link

Kind regards,

Wayne and OUTA team.

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We are currently in court with Government on AARTO and the Karpowership deal. Please donate to us and spread the word about our work.