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Netanyahu Livid at Trump Betrayal with Greenland

JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “incandescent with rage,” after learning that US President Donald Trump had expressed interest in purchasing Greenland from Denmark, one of the premier’s closest advisers has told The Kibbitzer.

Netanyahu reportedly described the president as a “greedy and rapacious two-timer,” for casting a lascivious eye on Greenland when “he’s already got Israel for free.”

“Apart from about four billion a year, Israel doesn’t ask for much from the US,” the prime minister’s adviser said. “But we do ask for fidelity and respect. Without them, no monogamous relationship can succeed.”

“I mean what does Greenland have that Israel can’t offer, except for a measly million square kilometers of snow?”

“Bibi’s like that,” said Foreign Minister Israel Katz, when asked about the PM’s reaction. “He doesn’t like rivals and clearly he regards Greenland as a rival for Trump’s affections. He’s just going to have to get used to the fact that Trump likes to play around.”

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Man’s suicide creates mass amnesia among fair weather friends

NEW YORK – Jeffrey Epstein may have to be buried as a John Doe due to the total inability of anyone to recognize his name, The Kibbitzer has learned. Some of those who never knew him are named as beneficiaries in his will.

“Epstein … Epstein, don’t think I ever met the fella,” former President Bill Clinton said. “I really have no idea why he would leave me his cigar and penis expander collections.”

“Never heard of him,” said Prince Andrew, responding to a question why Epstein’s will named him as the beneficiary of the late financier’s well-thumbed edition of Teen Pussy Grabbing for Beginners.  “Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m not a beginner.”

“I’m clueless as to why someone I never met should leave me an island,” said former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who Epstein named as executor of his will. “And I really have no idea who he wants me to execute on the island.”

Celebrity lawyer Alan Dershowitz denied that he had ever met anyone named Epstein and threatened to sue anyone who said otherwise.

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that while he had never met Epstein, he was deeply disappointed the deceased financier had not left him anything in his will. “I’ve gotten very used to rich people giving me stuff,” Netanyahu explained.

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To Bibi or not to Bibi

Israelis are due to go to the polls in just under five weeks for the second time this year. When prime minister nominee Benjamin Netanyahu was unable to form a government after the previous election (last April) he took the dubious expedient of calling new elections, rather than handing his mandate back to the president. Doing so was not illegal – in Israel a duly constituted parliament can vote for elections – but it certainly defied tradition and precedent. When Tzipi Livni was unable to form a government in September 2009, she returned the mandate to the president, who then tapped Netanyahu for the job. He, of course, was not keen to return the favor earlier this year.

It is unlikely that Elections 2 will turn out any better for the contestants than the previous one did, despite the desperate bloc-building and arm-twisting that have characterized its runup. The country is virtually split down the middle between two competing ideas about its nature and place in the world – a conservative, hawkish, anti-Palestinian and largely religious weltanschauung versus a more nebulous inclination toward democracy, secularism, liberal values and diplomatic compromise. The former bloc has a numerical edge over the latter, but not sufficient to prevail against the jokers that often leap out of the pack.

The current jokers are the same ones that stymied Netanyahu’s previous effort at coalition building and are capable of doing likewise next month – Netanyahu himself and Avigdor Lieberman, a veteran immigrant from Moldova with a taste for riches and high office and a penchant for being the enfant terrible. It was Lieberman’s refusal to join the mooted coalition unless he could hold the bloodied scalps of the ultra-Orthodox parties in his hands that scuttled the previous negotiations.

Netanyahu recently became Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. In office since March 2009, he has presided over the interment of international peace efforts, a massive growth in West Bank settlement, the trivialization of high-level corruption and the gradual inoculation of the population against humaneness, morality and compassion, as generally understood in the West. With at least three corruption indictments pending against him, Netanyahu is generally believed to regard the next government as being his only escape route from prosecution – by enacting legislation forbidding the prosecution of a sitting prime minister and giving the Knesset the power to overrule court rulings (should the High Court annul the aforementioned legislation.) For him, therefore, winning a plurality in the elections and forming the next government is a lot more than merely holding onto power (something he has never been loath to do.) It is literally a case of power or prison.

Lieberman, who in the early stages of his career worked for Netanyahu, shares many of his previous boss’ attributes. A settler himself, he is no less hawkish, no less anti-Palestinian, no less authoritarian, no less power hungry and no less prone to the pleasurable excesses that can be had at the nexus of power and money. Where he differs from Netanyahu is in his antipathy to the ultra-Orthodox, his Moldovan belligerence and petulance and his flair for showmanship, which makes him a sucker for the grand gesture. Netanyahu has always been prepared to give the religious parties whatever they want as the price of staying in power, but Lieberman is hostile to them and determined to dislodge them from government. Doing so involves forming a coalition with parties outside the conservative-hawk bloc, which Netanyahu is (or feels) unable to do, given the influence of his “natural” partners to the extreme right of his Likud Party.

Netanyahu, therefore, is hoping that the elections will strengthen the conservative-hawk-religious bloc sufficiently (a mere three or four seats is all it will take) for him to establish the coalition that eluded him earlier this year. Lieberman, whose five-seat party is expected to be strengthened following his antics earlier this year, is planning to be the kingmaker, conjuring up a so-called national unity government out of the Likud, the Blue & White Party, the largest grouping in the liberal-dove bloc, and of course his own Yisrael Beiteinu faction. If it works, he’s eyeing one of the top three jobs – defense, foreign affairs or finance.

But will it work? That, of course, depends on the Israeli electorate, a Janus-like creature that can’t quite decide whether it wants to be biblical or modern and which has been anesthetized by decades of conflict, brainwashing, Bibi and a strong economy into a state of blissful somnolence. Not all Israelis are sleepwalkers, of course. Many, particularly on the religious-settler right and among the ultra-Orthodox, are highly politicized and partisans of the parties that have traditionally upheld their points of view. In the past that was also true of Israel’s Palestinian population, though decades of affronts and frustration have resulted in a widespread environment of lethargy and ennui. Their voting rate is significantly down.

It’s all the rest, the silent majority, who are the political sleepwalkers. Some of them incline toward Netanyahu and the conservative-hawks, while others incline to the liberal-doves – but very few of them are overly concerned with the “big issues.” The shekel is strong, the standard of living is high, jobs are abundant, particularly in high-tech, there  are no obvious wars around the corner (bombing Gaza is now routine) and cheap flights (and a strong shekel) enable them to travel regularly and shop compulsively. What’s not to like? On the face of it, the bulk of the country’s population is doing just fine.

It’s a fair assumption that issues of life and death – the occupation, potential war, Gaza, the plight of the Palestinians, BDS – will not be a significant factor in the election. The Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are largely out of sight and therefore out of mind. After over 50 years, the occupation has settled comfortably into the Israeli subconscious without leaving a trace. Tel Aviv revels in his reputation as party city to the world, untroubled by the apartheid-like regime maintained by Israel just 20 kilometers from the city which never sleeps. Those Israelis who care about such things will support Blue & White or the parties to its left, but they will be far from a swing vote. The lefties in Israel are a known quantity and they don’t win elections.

With the economy doing well (a leg-up for Netanyahu) and the occupation-conflict of little interest to the bulk of the electorate, the election is likely to hinge on three issues: Whether the semi-consolidation on the right leads to a less fragmented vote than was the case last time; whether Lieberman’s stand against the ultra-Orthodox after the previous election will win him sufficient support to continue playing the role of king-maker; and whether Netanyahu has overstayed his welcome and alienated a sufficient number of voters though his machinations to stay in power.

There are signs of Netanyahu overdose among members of the public, but it’s hard to see those who want to be weened off him moving decisively to the liberal-hawk bloc. More likely is that they will vote for parties to the right of the Likud, thus boosting the overall conservative-hawk-religious bloc (which Netanyahu leads.) If the bloc is further strengthened by the recent consolidation of several (but not all) of the extreme right parties, the bloc could well win an overall majority and establish a government without Lieberman or the liberal-dove bloc.

Less likely is that the anti-Netanyahu vote will move strongly to Lieberman and the moderate Blue & White Party, thus depriving the religious-conservative-hawk bloc of its majority. The obvious scenario then is a Likud-Blue & White unity government, with or without Lieberman at its fulcrum. The problem is that Lieberman has already said he will not sit in a government with indictment-pending Netanyahu and it’s possible that quite a few members of Blue & White will feel likewise. Were that veto to eventuate, Lieberman (a born shit-stirrer) and the leaders of Blue & White will probably attempt to persuade their Likud counterparts that they – and the country – will be a lot better off without Netanyahu.

To prevent such an outcome, Netanyahu has demanded that all candidates on his party’s Knesset list sign an undertaking that they will not support anyone else for the leadership of the party and the bloc. Of course, they may well sign and then change their minds when the cards are down. Such things have been known to happen in Israeli politics.

There is no way that the liberal-dove block will be able to form a government without Lieberman and/or the religious parties. To do so, even in the most favourable circumstances, they will need to make a pact with the three Arab parties, which are now running as their own little bloc. Israel has never had a coalition government reliant on the Arab parties.

As things stand then, the smart money is on Netanyahu forming the coalition that eluded him earlier this year. But there are still five weeks to go and five weeks is a long time in Israeli politics – particularly during summer, which is traditionally the time of year that Israel likes to stage its wars. Things could still get very interesting.

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Kibbitz

Jacob & Bibi: Viva the grandchildren!

FROM THE OFFICE OF THE EX-PRESIDENT

February 25, 2018

Dear Bibi:

So Friday afternoon I bade farewell to my former staff at the Union Buildings and needless to say there was a huge amount of weeping and so forth. We South Africans, Bibi, besides being happy and smiling, are a sentimental bunch. Only things we love more than money and bemoaning the evils of our holocaust (the apartheid years) are public farewells, funerals and apologies.

The farewell was of course captured in glorious technicolour by one of my (former) trusty photographers from the oddly-named GCIS, Government Communication and Information System, also known by many as the JGSU, Jacob Gedleyihlekisa – or sometimes Joseph Goebbels – Strike Unit. But I never named the GCIS; that’s one they can’t blame on me; if memory serves, it was christened during Thabo Mbeki’s reign or maybe even the Old Man’s.

But none of the pictures, though they were dispatched to all the fake news practitioners, will appear in this morning’s newspapers. If they did, the white monopoly capitalists and all their thousands, nay millions, of followers would erupt in a mammoth wail and general gnashing of teeth. On the other hand, Squirrel teeing off at some charity golf jamboree, even more incompetently than I ever did, two days ago, will be the lead story on the front pages for weeks to come.

But I have to say that Squirrel is learning fast. Very fast. Everyone’s chosen not to notice that a few days ago, Gigabyte the finance minister gave Squirrel R700 000 a year more than I got. Not, I concede, a lot in dirhams, rupees or dollars, but still.  And four days ago, Squirrel hosted a farewell function for me at the Tuynhuys (we have more official dachas than you fellows) in Cape Town – and, without even blanching, he paid tribute to me for my “contribution to South Africa’s development” during my nine years in office. Not bad, given that even an easily-bamboozled person such as he is knows my main contribution was always to my own development and my family’s.

Because you see, Bibi, I have always been, above all, a family man, as you obviously have also been – though, if you don’t mind me saying, my 23 (or 24 – sometimes I lose count) kids have been kinder to me than your few to you. Did you know, by the way, that I have a Jewish grandson? I have insisted he call me zeyde – and he does! I call him Bafana, which means boychik.

Yes, my boy Duduzane, cognizant that happy congress with a beautiful Jewish woman is accompanied by seven years’ good luck (but also, as you say, some tsuris), has shown himself to be as fruitful as I have been, and will,Insha’Allah, continue to be. My point is that, even amidst my troubles, I have put some money aside in Dubai for the young lad. Surely, after you complete your imperial ambitions in the Middle East, as you surely will, the bank there will be easily available to Jewish people?

Viva the grandchildren!

Jacob


 

THE PRIME MINISTER’S BUREAU

Dear Jacob

February 25, 2018

I’m delighted to hear that you have a Jewish grandson. You beat me to it! Normally, I would urge you to send him to Israel to absorb a little yiddishkeit, but the timing is probably not appropriate. You see, we’re trying to get rid of our black Africans right now and I wouldn’t want him to be mistaken for an infiltrator and sent to Rwanda. (Though that’s in Africa, so he could probably take an Uber home, couldn’t he?)

Your best bet would be to ensure that he gets a good Jewish education in South Africa – Zionist, but I’d steer clear of the Lubavitch – and then send him here to spend some time among his own kind. Yair has kindly to offered to show him around the strip clubs and whorehouses of Tel Aviv, complete with state-financed bodyguard and car. Though, come to think of it, that may not be a good idea. Most of the women are Russians, who are not particularly partial to people of color. Maybe Sara knows some appropriate non-Russians.

But I must insist that you teach him to avoid the mistake that you yourself made in your last email. There was, is and always will be only one Holocaust (spelled with a capital H) and that is the Jewish one. Other people have tragedies, disasters – catastrophes, even – but only Jews have a Holocaust. Talk of other holocausts is in most cases no more than disguised anti-Semitism. God gave the Jews the Book and the Holocaust (and a gift for finance, some say.)

Seeing that your grandson – I think you said his name is Banana – has a Jewish mother, it would be best to leave his Holocaust education up to her. That way, he’ll be up to speed when he gets here.

As for me, the local gestapo has ordered me in for questioning this week on what are colloquially known as Cases 3000 and 4000. Not, God forbid, 3 & 4. The Nazis want the public to believe that my supposed indiscretions run into the thousands! After all I’ve done for the Jewish people, they want to grill me like a common criminal – and about what? About favors I purportedly doled out to an old friend (almost family!) in return for positive coverage about me and my family in the press.

Could even Goebbels have made up a better lie? (By the way, I noticed your reference to him but didn’t really understand the context. Were you referring to the lies about you in your local rags?) Is it the fate of all great men to be besmirched by pygmies?

Last week that righteous Christian Donald Trump announced that the US embassy would move to Jerusalem in May. One of the greatest achievements of the Jewish people – a miracle no less than that of Hanukkah or the salvation of the Jews on Purim – that happened on my watch. But do you think I get any recognition for it? Any thanks? Forget it. Case 4000 is what I get!

Your brother in anguish

Bibi

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Kvetch

Celebrating 50 years of false reality

Israel’s myth-making industry is having a field day as the country celebrates the Golden Anniversary of the Six Day War.

Even the progressive Israeli newspaper Haaretz saw fit this morning to describe the 1967 war as “a just war; a war of no choice,” before going on to lament the “enormous harm wrought by the war” – namely, the continuing occupation of Palestine and the Palestinians.

The war, according to Haaretz, “changed the character of the state, gave birth to a sub-state in the occupied territories, bolstered messianic religious ideology, distorted the justice system so that it became, in part, a tool that judicially sanitizes the occupation, and cracked the foundations of the Zionist dream.”

All that is true – and it was true long before the 1967 war. The war didn’t create or change the character of the state, the messianic religious ideology or the distorted justice system. All it did was exacerbate what was already in existence.

Encapsulated in the Haaretz editorial are two key myths about the Six Day War: That the war was forced on Israel, which had no option but to launch the first strike; and that the occupation is at the heart of the dispute with the Palestinians. Had Israel not been forced into occupying the West Bank, the narrative goes, everything would be peachy. While the ‘just war’ myth has become integral to the national collective memory and is shared by virtually all Israelis, the ‘occupation as the root of all evil’ myth is the foundation stone of the anti-occupation Zionist left.

Both are equally false. The 1967 war was the culmination of nineteen years of mutual provocation and aggression between Israel and an Arab front comprising Syria, Egypt and Palestinian refugees-turned-guerillas. The armistice lines agreed at the end of the 1948 war – and particularly the disputed areas which the UN described as “no-man’s land” – satisfied no-one. Refugees seeking to return to land occupied by Israel in 1948 were shot by the hundreds, if not the thousands, and Israel encouraged kibbutzim to cultivate land in the disputed areas, resulting in repeated military retaliation by Syria, including dogfights over the Golan Heights.

It was widely believed in both the IDF and the government that Israel had missed a golden opportunity in 1948 by not grabbing the entire biblical Land of Israel. “I’ve never forgiven the Ben-Gurion government – it didn’t let us finish the job in 1948-1949,” said Yigal Allon, commander of the Palmach in 1948 and subsequently Israel’s foreign minister. There is ample historical evidence that the 1967 war was regarded by many prominent Israelis as an opportunity to correct the mistake made in 1948.

In the years leading up to 1967, Allon, Moshe Dayan and many other leading soldiers, politicians and cultural figures constituted a Greater Israel lobby that actively promoted and planned for the conquest of the West Bank. According to Tel Aviv University Professor Yehouda Shenhav, “In June 1963, when Levi Eshkol took office as Prime Minister, Chief of Staff Tzvi Tzur and his deputy Yitzhak Rabin presented him with Israel’s desirable borders: the River Jordan, in the depths of the Jordanian West Bank; the Litani River, 30 kilometers into Lebanon; and the Suez Canal, beyond the Egyptian peninsula of Sinai.”

On the Arab side, the Palestinian refugee problem created in 1948 was regarded as an immense wrong that needed to be righted. Thus, both sides indulged in continuous needling and military provocation, attempting to overturn a status quo that was not acceptable to either of them. An Israeli attack on Syrian forces on the Golan Heights in April 1967 was described by Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin as an attempt to “humiliate Syria.”

There was brinkmanship before June 1967, particularly during a crisis on the Israel-Syria border in 1960, which was finally defused by UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold and Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. The latter was no stranger to imperial ambitions – only a very blunt message from US President Dwight Eisenhower prevented him from declaring the Sinai as part of the “Third Kingdom of Israel” after the 1956 Sinai Campaign – but he had come around to the belief that the demographic consequences of ruling over the Palestinians would be fatal for Israel.

The repeated tit-for-tat provocations and brinkmanship that preceded the 1967 war were hardly new; what had changed was the environment. Hammarskjold and Ben-Gurion were no longer in office to calm the passions on both sides, the Greater Israel lobby was waiting for an opportunity to make its move and Egypt’s over-confident president Nasser miscalculated how far he could go. It was a war waiting to happen, but it was neither just nor a war of no-choice. And Israel made the first move.

The second myth – that the occupation is the core issue that needs to be resolved – totally ignores the historical roots of the conflict. Jews and Palestinians didn’t live in peace and harmony until 1967; they had clashed repeatedly since the start of large-scale Jewish immigration to Israel in the early twentieth century. Returning the borders of Israel to the so-called Green Line – with or without settlement blocs, land swaps and all the other enduring legacies of the occupation – may remove a major irritant, but it won’t resolve the root cause.

Returning to the Green Line is favored by the Zionist Left because it would leave the kibbutzim, the moshavim and the original Ashkenazi political-economic elite with all the Palestinian land and property they expropriated in 1948 and from which they have profited ever since. It would also enable them to continue living in their self-created moral bubble, according to which Israel was a just and moral society until 1967.

But that, as Trump might put it, is fake reality. The Palestinian land and property confiscated in 1948 and the 700,000-odd refugees driven from their homes are the very crux of the problem. As is, at a deeper level, the Zionist mindset that persists until today in which the Israeli right to the land is exclusive and Palestinians can be dealt with unilaterally. Zionists have always prayed for the Palestinians to simply disappear, like the unfortunate millions in the TV series “The Leftovers.” Many still do.

Even if the Palestinian Authority – under the same inexorable Israeli and American pressure that caused Arafat to cave in at Oslo – were to agree to the sort of limited, non-sovereign and non-contiguous solution offered by Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, it will be no more successful than Oslo. Real peace can’t be forced. And it will require solutions to the real problems – land, refugees and Israeli disdain for the Palestinians and their rights – rather than an exclusive focus on Israeli security and other Israeli concerns. After almost seventy years of statehood and fifty years of occupation Israelis remain staggeringly incurious about what drives the Palestinians.

As Israel marks the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 war, its collective memory remains impervious to change. Israel is just, noble and wise; Arabs were responsible for all the country’s wars and there is still no partner for peace. Onward to the next fifty!

 

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Sara Inspires Ted Cruz to Make 2020 Bid

Ted Cruz, an unsuccessful Republican candidate in 2016, announced this morning that he would  challenge the incumbent Donald Trump for the presidency in 2020, having now “learned how it’s done.”

“I didn’t think it was physically possible to upstage Trump,” Cruz said in a telephone interview with The Kibbitzer. “But yesterday I saw on TV how he stood mute and totally lost for words in the face of Sara Netanyahu’s verbal onslaught.”

“I intend studying the tapes carefully to learn her technique,” Cruz added. “I think one of my mistakes was in trying to make some sort of sense, while what Sara seems to prove is that you have to make even less sense than he does.”

“If I can get it right, I’ll definitely be running against him in 2020.”

In Jerusalem, meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted a composite image of his wife and Melania Trump with the caption, “Whose wife speaks a thousand words?”

 

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Trump Doubtful About Peace After Meeting Sara

In a rambling and disjointed series of tweets before dawn on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump appeared to stipulate his preconditions for peace in the Middle East.

“No chance of peace until the slut shuts her trap and Bibi wipes the cat-got-the-milk grin off his face,” Trump wrote in his first tweet.

“And no more shaking hands with Israelis. Ever!” he wrote in a subsequent tweet.

Political observers in Jerusalem who were questioned by The Kibbitzer differed over whether Trump’s remark that Oren Hazan “should be nuked” was a fourth condition for peace or merely a recommendation.

A source in the Trump entourage who asked to remain anonymous told The Kibbitzer that the president appeared “shaken and unnerved” after his first encounter with Israelis en masse.

“He is a lot less confident about making peace after the airport reception and then dinner with the Netanyahus,” the source said. “He has finally realized what he’s up against.”

Meanwhile, The Kibbitzer has learned that Melania Trump required three booster shots of botox on Monday to keep her face smiling and immobile throughout the day.

 

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Israbluff Facing its Greatest Challenge Yet

The secret but highly influential Israel Bluffers Association (IBA) has urged its members to exercise utmost caution during the visit to Israel of United States President Donald Trump, which begins tomorrow.

The IBA counts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, cabinet ministers and most Knesset members among its membership. Critics say that the association exercises an undue influence on government policies and activities.

“Our monopoly over deceit and mendacity in the Jewish state will face an enormous challenge with the arrival of the acknowledged world lying champion,” the IBA said in a confidential memo that was hand-delivered to its members this morning. The memo has come into the possession of The Kibbitzer.

“Proud as we are of the long and honored tradition of Israbluff, we should not bluff ourselves that we are invincible,” the memo continued. “Not since the days of Nixon have we come up against a bluffer whose skills equal, if not exceed, our own.”

“It is incumbent on all members to ensure that they don’t fall for Trumpbluff and find themselves agreeing to reduce the pace of settlement or even, God forbid, to hand over parts of the Land of Israel to heathens.”

The memo ends with the admonition that failure to take care when conversing with Trump could “spell the end of over 70 years of Israbluff.”

 

 

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Kvetch

The surprising longevity of apartheid

The Afrikaner still reigns supreme in the Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest and most popular game reserve. The reception desks, restaurants and stores in the reserve’s rest camps are now manned by blacks, but otherwise little has changed in the past thirty or forty years. Afrikaans-speaking South Africans in khaki clothes and floppy sun hats still dominate among the almost exclusively white clientele. Practical, if not official, apartheid lives on in the Kruger Park, as it does in most of the formerly white areas of the country.

At a Saturday food market adjacent to the Waterfront shopping complex in Cape Town, my daughter and I played “spot the black.” There were many black people, of course, but they were all preparing and serving food. Those paying the money and eating the food were white. When we eventually spotted a colored (mixed race) man eating at one of the tables, we agreed to count him as black. We were bored with the game by then.

Wall-to-wall whiteness also prevailed at Cape Point Vineyards, where I tasted seven wines, one of them magnificent and three pretty good, while overlooking the spectacular beach of Noordhoek on the Cape peninsula. (The tasting, by the way, cost 60 Rand or $4.50.) Same story at Constantia Glen, a boutique winery set among exquisite hills and vineyards close to the city.

At the Waterfront itself, a vast, gentrified portion of the old Cape Town port, there were quite a few, coloreds, Indians and even blacks among the swarming crowds, but that was a semi-multiracial exception. The malls and restaurants in Johannesburg were again solid white. The only times I mingled with substantial numbers of non-white people were in a buffet restaurant in Cape Town (situated in the building that formerly housed The Cape Times newspaper), a weekend market in Hout Bay (which, many whites will tell you, has been “overrun” by their more swarthy countrymen) and at an Indian restaurant in the predominantly Indian area of Fordsburg south of the Johannesburg city center.

And then there was the mall at the Carlton Center, deep in downtown Johannesburg. These days, the city center is a no-go area for whites, who prefer to live with their own kind in the leafy northern suburbs of the city. My friend Jeremy and I ventured into the Carlton Center mall for coffee, finding ourselves the only whites in the place (as far as we could see.) It was a bit unsettling. No-one seemed to pay us any attention and the people we encountered were typically friendly, but after almost two months in South Africa I had grown used to predominantly white surroundings. The Carlton Center was pure Africa, which is a pejorative concept for many whites on the tip of the continent. “Welcome to Africa,” they say, when the electricity suddenly goes out or a black cashier takes too long counting out the change.

Social apartheid is still alive and kicking in South Africa. Twenty-three years after the last apartheid government fell, white families still have black servants, shop in predominantly white shopping centers and live in large houses (with high walls topped by electrified fences) in white suburbs. Today it is a segregation enforced by economics, rather than law, but it looks and feels like the good old days of apartheid and white privilege.

In Sea Point, a mainly white suburb of Cape Town perched between the mountains and the sea, the bid by a Jewish educational trust to purchase an abandoned school and its property led to a full-scale crisis. Social activists demanded that the provincial government, which owns the land, use it instead for building affordable housing for poor people who currently commute long distances to work in the suburb. The government eventually decided to sell the property to the trust, but not before the controversy had aroused a lot of bad blood. All the whites I spoke to about the issue, most of whom would probably describe themselves as liberals and former opponents of apartheid, were opposed to the use of the property for low-cost housing. They used such terms as “social incompatibility” and “lack of economic logic,” but their real objection was to the influx of poor blacks into their white neighborhood.

To be fair, the precedents for building low-cost housing in the midst of middle-class (read white) neighborhoods have been less than successful. In Hout Bay, formerly a mink and manure oasis some twenty-five kilometers down the coast from Cape Town, the authorities built a few permanent houses for homeless people who had been living on a local beach. Those houses soon turned into a massive squatter camp of some 20,000 people that today straggles a good way up one of the mountains that surround the town. Hout Bay locals say that crime has spiraled and property values have plummeted, both by dozens of percent.

A fire broke out in the camp while I was there and nine people died. Fire engines couldn’t make their way through the sprawl of makeshift housing to fight the blaze.

The concerns of the residents of Sea Point are real. It’s not necessarily racism to be concerned about the value of one’s property and rising crime and it’s arguably human nature to want to retain one’s standard of living. But there’s something seriously askew when the wider context of those concerns is the most unequal country on earth (according to both the Gini index of inequality and the Palma ratio.) By and large, South Africa’s whites have thrived since the end of apartheid, despite the niggling inconveniences of black empowerment, university entrance quotas and bureaucratic bungling. But the majority of the population remains entrenched in horrific poverty.

The failure of the four ANC governments since the first democratic elections in 1994 to tackle poverty and provide basic living conditions (housing, education and healthcare) for the majority of the population has been catastrophic. The incumbent President, Jacob Zuma, doesn’t even seem to have tried, preferring to enrich himself and his cronies. The result has been what South Africans call “state capture,” the takeover of the levers of political and economic power by Zuma and his allies for their own personal financial gain and to solidify their hold on power.

Things reached boiling point at the end of March, when Zuma sacked his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, who had been an obstacle to some of the president’s more flagrant escapades. His replacement, Malusi Gigaba is expected to be a lot more amenable to the Zuma-led kleptocracy. The sacking of the respected Gordhan outraged the international financial community and resulted in the downgrading of South Africa’s debt to junk status by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, two of the Big Three international credit rating agencies. Foreign investment in South Africa is now an endangered species.

Zuma, who is scheduled to step down as the head of the ANC at the end of this year, is said to be grooming his former wife, Nokosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as his successor. If elected, she would replace him as president in 2019, when he has to step down according to ANC rules. Assumedly, he is planning on retaining political clout after he leaves office, not to mention staying out of jail after he loses immunity. With 249 seats in the 400-seat parliament, the ANC is unlikely to lose a no-confidence vote before the end of Zuma’s term. Nor is there much chance of a significant number of ANC MPs turning against the president; Zuma has wisely spread the largesse.

As things stand, then, things are at an impasse. Zuma isn’t going anywhere and he has given no indication that he intends to change his thieving ways – nor those of his allies in provincial governments, the public service, the security forces, the judiciary, parastatals and more. But the money will soon run out. Here are two possible scenarios of what could transpire:

Bereft of foreign investment and bled dry by the kleptocracy, South Africa turns to the IMF for assistance. The terms offered by the IMF are unacceptable – both because they would mean the end of the corruption orgy and because the traditional fiscal recipes of the IMF are anathema to the influential Communist Party of South Africa and its trade union allies. Left to its own devices, South Africa dwindles into an African basket case, with less and less development, state services and growth. Power cuts become routine, infrastructure crumbles and poverty and crime both soar, with the underfunded police unable to cope. The tribal clashes that led to some 14,000 deaths before the 1994 elections flare up again. Armed and hungry men roam the countryside. Whites are now the obvious and natural target. Those who can, pack up and leave, now a lot more concerned for their lives than for their living standards. South Africa becomes a failed state, like Somalia and South Sudan.

Another scenario is that Zuma undertakes “radical economic transformation,” which in South Africa is synonymous with nationalization, income and land distribution and stripping whites of company and business ownership. That frees up the capital held by whites and reduces the need for foreign investment. But the poor to whom the land and businesses are distributed don’t know how to farm or how to run a business. Soon, the land is lying fallow and commercial activity is at a standstill. Deprived of their livelihoods and much of their property, most of the whites leave. South Africa becomes a second Zimbabwe.

Perhaps I’m being over-negative and there is still a good scenario for South Africa. But I don’t see it. Even without the corruption of Zuma and friends, the country would still be a bog of inequality, racial tension and class conflict. It remains deeply segregated and has few prospects for growth. The end of apartheid certainly improved human rights and sparked the growth of a small black middle class, but very little prosperity has percolated down. South Africa desperately needs sound leadership and heavy investment, neither of which is visible on the horizon. All I see is a solid mass of very black clouds.

 

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Zuma: World Recognizes SA Economic Excellence

The excellence of the South African economy has been internationally recognized, President Jacob Zuma told The Kibbitzer in an exclusive interview yesterday.

Zuma was responding to a question regarding the country’s downgrading by Standard and Poor’s credit agency to BB+ last week.

“I never went to school, but a friend of mine who did told me that the highest you can get in an exam is an A and the second highest is a B,” the president said.

“That means that our double-B-plus is almost the highest a country can get. We’re almost at genius level.”

Reminded by The Kibbitzer that BB+ is regarded as junk status, Zuma said: “I have a friend who started out buying and selling junk and today he’s a multi-millionaire. Under my leadership, we’re becoming a country of millionaires.”

The president rejected the widespread criticism that he had brought the country close to collapse.  “If I, an uneducated boy from a very poor background, can end up with three (or is it four?) wives and a big house with a swimming pool, anybody can do it,” he said.

“All it takes is some hard graft.”