MBEKI IS TRASHED

Had you been outside the country between 1999, when Thabo Mbeki took over from Nelson Mandela, and September 2008 when he relinquished power, and you had nothing to read but Pottinger, you'd be forgiven for thinking Mbeki was this "native who caused all the trouble".

Had you been outside the country between 1999, when Thabo Mbeki took over from Nelson Mandela, and September 2008 when he relinquished power, and you had nothing to read but Pottinger, you'd be forgiven for thinking Mbeki was this "native who caused all the trouble".

Pottinger's point is: "His tenure ends with a more divided society - racially, ethnically and class-based - than it began with."

Pottinger finds no reason to feel as excited about the economy as ANC president Jacob Zuma does when he says that the ruling party has "overseen the longest economic expansion recorded in history, averaging 4,5 percent since 2004".

He just acknowledges that when he leaves office, Mbeki "will at least have the comfort of knowing he left strong, if now weakening, financial indicators, and took his best shot at extending a sizeable chunk of national wealth to the previously disadvantaged".

Pottinger's chief gripe is with the "growth of the dependency society".

He writes: "More than a third of all South African households now believe, correctly or not, that only state aid can ensure their survival. This group is becoming more dependent on subsidy, not less so, despite considerable efforts by the government to create paths to self-sufficiency."

On his electioneering trail, Zuma reminds us that "more than 12,6 million people now receive social grants". This is bad, says Pottinger. The ruling party is creating a nation of beggars.

When he says he's taken years of toil researching his book, I believe Pottinger, as the end product is "peopled" by experts and statistics and research findings from (credible) world bodies.

But has he been to places like Mogale City, where white Afrikaners have pitched up permanent tents in the caravan park and live in a virtually secluded village?

These are people who have known no physical work other than to wake up and go withdraw their old-age-disability grants from the ATM on the chosen day, or walk to a nearby establishment for a dop.

Was it okay for this section of the population to live on grants? What makes the shoe pinch more now? The colour of the new wearer?

Perhaps these are questions that need not be raised as Pottinger blames Mbeki for a legacy where he's "introduced an acrimonious, petty, race-based style of national discourse, so much at odds with the sentiments of the majority of his fellow citizens".

South Africa, in Mbeki's words, is a nation of two worlds, one wealthy and largely white and the other poor and largely black ...

This is talk that should not be encouraged in the world view of Pottinger as more and more blacks are getting richer.

Hear Pottinger make a case for affirmative action! It is a bad thing, worse, you'd think, than what the Afrikaner regime did to give white business an unfair advantage over others.

You'll have to read the book slowly to see the Mbeki legacy isn't as bad as Pottinger makes it out to be.

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