/ 22 April 2023

No G7, no Phala Phala, no problem

Ed 445218 (1)

There’s not a cloud in sight as President Cyril Ramaphosa hosts his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob, for his first state visit to our fair, but somewhat shopsoiled, Republic.

It’s rather kind – and timeous – of Geingob to come to South Africa, given that the G7 doesn’t love us right now and we can do with a friend or two.

It’s also another reminder that Namibia has actually forgiven us for 75 years of armed occupation, murder and atrocity by the apartheid regime.

I would have been part of that army of occupation myself if I hadn’t dodged registration for the army at school – or if I’d handed myself in at Natal Command when they caught up with me – probably the smartest moves I’ve made in my life.

Hiding in plain sight in Durban while my classmates got called up was actually pretty easy – about as hard as secreting some money in the sofa – as the regime wasn’t as efficient as it was made out to be.

Getting a job and opening a bank account with no ID book was difficult, but not impossible, and way more fun than invading a neighbouring country in defence of white minority rule.

There are no cash-stuffed couches visible  – exotic animals likewise – as the two heads of state meet to discuss matters of mutual interest, including trade, regional security and the Russia-Ukraine situation.

One would assume that the drama at Phala Phala won’t be on the agenda for discussion between the two leaders  – or between their ministerial teams holding bilateral meetings as part of the state visit – or even at the banquet held after the day’s business has been done.

One would also assume that the millions lifted from our jefe’s sofa at Phala Phala was not counted as part of the $3 billion in South African exports that crossed the Orange River into Namibia in 2020.

Nor too, are the discussions on mutual security likely to focus on some border jumping that allegedly took place in an attempt to get Ramaphosa’s stash of shekels – and the mob who lifted it – back.

Fair enough.

No Ankole, mystery Sudanese billionaire or burglary jokes from the master of ceremonies before Ramaphosa’s welcoming speech at the gala dinner.

No one liners about abduction, torture or illegal border crossings to break the ice.

Most definitely no rendition of Pata Pata by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) band –  just in case anybody sings along.

Like many of my fellow South Africans, I’m not in the least surprised that Cyril won’t be going to the upcoming G7 Summit in Japan to charge his iPad.

It’s not because our minister of electricity, Kgosientsho Ramakgopa, has been able to keep the lights on since Easter ended, obviating the need for the president to go abroad to power up his personal devices.

Ramakgopa hasn’t saved the day, to which our move to stage six of load shedding for the foreseeable future will attest.

Given that Ramaphosa has failed to remove powers from Gwede Mantashe to give Ramakgopa the powers to secure power, the electricity minister appears – like the rest of us – to be powerless – or at least disempowered – through no fault of his own.

Ramakgopa may have the moves, but Mantashe has the muscle, and it’s already pretty clear that the real power when it comes to our energy policy will remain with the ANC national chairperson, and not with the electricity minister – or the president.

Cyril also didn’t fail to make the invite list for the G7 invite list because of our foreign policy and our stance on the war in Ukraine, which isn’t exactly in line with the positions taken by the member states of the bloc.

It also wasn’t our move to extend the life of Eskom’s coal powered fleet, which may have costly implications further on down the road, that got our man dumped by the world’s richest and most powerful nations.

The real reason the Japanese government didn’t add Ramaphosa to the guest list for the forum in Hiroshima next month is that our president has ducked off  from such forums to deal with the power crisis at home so often in the recent past that it no longer makes sense to invite him.

That said, if  the G7 are already peeved with Ramaphosa and the rest of us for failing  – how much more so after South Africa hosts Russian president Vladimir Putin later in the year, when he arrives in Mzansi for the Brics summit and heads home afterwards, unarrested.

We are led.