South African Buzz: The country in a state of flux

A VENDOR sells newspapers in South Africa.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
A VENDOR sells newspapers in South Africa.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The highest legal body in South Africa the Constitutional Court, has ruled that our beloved (sic) President Jacob Zuma had violated the Constitution by ignoring the public protector’s recommendation that he pay back the money used for upgrading his home in Nkandla, Kwa-Zulu Natal, for non-security additions. Zuma had spent 250 million rands of public money for the improvements. He had been dodging the issue for some considerable time. To ignore the public protector is a violation of the Constitution and a criminal offence.
To backtrack: Zuma was brought up at Nkandla in rural Natal where he was a herd boy instead of being a schoolboy. After he became president he upgraded his property “for security reasons,” adding such “security” features as a swimming pool, a cattle kraal (fenced-in area) and much, much more. For years there has been an outcry from the opposition and chants in Parliament of “Pay Back the Money.” But every time Zuma baulked and got away with some excuse for delaying payment.
Often when questioned he would giggle at the questioner.
Now the public protector (a very astute lady, incidentally) has had her original findings against Zuma, that he had defied the Constitution, justified by the court. She has said, “If you stand for the truth and do so long enough, hope does eventually pay.”
Zuma, meanwhile, in an public address broadcast over radio and TV apologized for “frustration and confusion” that the matter had caused and blamed his lawyers or giving him “bad advice”. But he omitted to say when he would pay back the money. There have been calls for his resignation or impeachment, but so far he is standing firm.
Even the South African Communist Party has called for his resignation. (Aside: What has South Africa got that Russia has not got? Answer: A Communist Party.) Zuma has 60 days to decide what he will pay back and then he has to make payment within 45 days of that; the offer has to be acceptable to the Revenue Service and then the Constitutional Court.
Harold Wilson, when he was British prime minister, said that “a week is a long time in politics,” so by this weekend will we see Zuma exit or will he be The Great Survivor? Diamonds are Forever? The diamond cutting and polishing industry in South Africa has had an extremely close relationship with Israel’s diamond industry almost since the founding of the state in 1948.
It has almost been a fraternal relationship.
Over the years the Israelis have brought many innovations to the trade and truthfully they are exceeding the South Africans in expertise.
Today there are many Israelis living and working in South Africa as diamond dealers or polishers. Indeed there are Israeli-owned or -run factories. But during the last decade the industry in South Africa has faltered due to several factors, including: government interference by putting people with little or no knowledge of the trade into top positions; and the departure of De Beers, the iconic company which controlled the supply for years, to neighboring Botswana. The weak rand and the number of workers who have left the trade tells the story.
Botswana is a landlocked country, northwest of South Africa, with Namibia to the west and Zimbabwe on the northwest border. The capital is Gaborone. It has a population of a little over 2 million, mostly Tshwane speaking. It is an arid country, semi-desert in parts. Now here is the surprise – it has become the world’s largest producer of diamonds. Naturally diamond people have moved there including Israelis.
Three-quarters of Botswana’s income from exports is from diamonds. And how is this for mazal? Last November, the biggest diamond found anywhere in over a century was found in Botswana. It weighed 1,112 carats and the rough stone was the size of a tennis ball.
A little trivia: The most famous advert for De Beers’s diamonds is “Diamonds are Forever,” supposedly invented by an advertising firm in America in about 1937. However, if you read Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1925) by Anita Loos in America, there is a line: “A kiss on the hand is all very grand but a diamond lasts much longer”!