The TownhallBusinessPolitics

Politics, supply chains, and what’s really happening in South Africa

 By Gugulethu Hughes 

For the last couple of days, civil unrest has engulfed South Africa. This is characterized by looting of shops and burning down of strategic infrastructure.

At first, protests were against the South African Constitutional Court’s incarceration of President J.G. Zuma without trial. However, they ended up becoming a confluence of distinct grievances. 

At the heart of the protests are the government’s decision to put the country in perpetual Covid-19 lockdown without supplying much stimulus to the general citizenry. The impact of the past few days has to a greater extent exposed both the government and the private sector for poor risk management, a humongous error of judgement.  

What Exactly is Politics?  

Politics refers to those activities concerned with the governance of a particular area. In democratic societies, political parties barter their manifestos in exchange for electoral votes. 

South Africa is one such country, unique in that the governance system is a hybrid model of tyranny, aristocracy, and oligarchy. This type of political management gives rise to an eruption of different societal classes in constant collision over ownership of means of production and having influence on the government of the day. 

South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world. The income shares of the top 10% of households is estimated at 65%, more than Asia where the top 10% households capture 49% of income. Such a scenario points to the undeniable fact that the means of production are in the hands of the minority, maintenance of exploitation, and exclusionist corporate attitudes.  

But something happened in 2017. The ruling ANC party held its elective conference at Nasrec Expo Centre where Cyril Ramaphosa emerged as the winner. His victory has led to speculation that unethical use of resources to influence delegates swayed votes in his favour. 

Since then, he’s had to produce bank statements detailing the money trail. Also, contributions into his campaign by private businesses and other rich individuals, sealed by the country’s High Court.  

Who is Cyril Ramaphosa?  

During apartheid years, Cyril was instrumental in the formation of National Union of Mine Workers. He’s also served as ANC Secretary General and participated in CODESA negotiations that led to a transition from apartheid to “democracy.” 

Then, he took part in the drafting of the country’s constitution and served as the Deputy President in the 3rd Republic. In August 2012, he directed the shooting and killing of miners who protested for a salary increase at Lonmin Mine in the country’s platinum belt province of Northwest. 

When he took a hiatus from government, he managed to amass wealth through his businesses and various positions he held in several monopolistic corporate entities. He enjoys proximity to the 10% households that own the means of production. 

More so, the judiciary has formulated a culture of ruling in his favour. He’s currently busy purging all dissenting voices within the ANC through suspensions and expulsions. For a man who doesn’t enjoy popular support within the ANC branches, his actions are a recipe for disaster. 

They form a key part of the reasons why South Africa is at war with itself.  

Clearly, Cyril Ramaphosa’s policies don’t serve the interests of the majority black and poor people. He’s more interested in meeting the needs of private capital. He’s also pushing for privatization of State-Owned Entities. 

Additionally, he’s making redundant all existing policies that looked to ensure fair participation of disadvantaged communities in the economics of production and service provision.

Durban Debacle  

The port city of Durban has been the citadel of attacks on supply chain infrastructure and looting. 

The busiest port in Africa is in Durban. Recent events including the blocking of strategic logistics routes out of Durban to Johannesburg has led to a total disruption of the supply chain. 

Protestors have burned down Distribution Centres and warehouses, leading to immediate closure of some firms and suspension of production in others. Some other businesses have declared force majeure as they’re no longer able to meet some of their supply contract obligations.  

The average person on the street isn’t privy to supply chain operations, attacks on logistics, and distribution infrastructure including burning down of trucks in being executed by people who are masters of economics. 

An important outcome appears. Service provision, a key element of governance politics, is negatively affected by supply chain disruption, particularly premeditated attacks of this size. The unfortunate part is that this may only be the beginning, using supply chain attacks to settle political scores. 

But wait, there’s yet another dimension – the government’s level of response to the crisis is suspect. There does seem to be a deliberate ploy to make Durban a dysfunctional port city that poses many risks to investors and businesses. This could justify the relocation of critical logistics functions to another port city.  

Racism and Genocide  

Attacks on shops and distribution lines have led to food and medical supply disruptions. This has led to people driving to unaffected areas to buy necessities. This has in turn brought up the ugly face of racism. 

Now, black people are being prevented from entering affluent areas of Durban. Barricades have been put in points of entry manned by gun wielding young and old white men while black soldiers look helpless. 

In another area of Durban called Phoenix, a predominantly Indian neighbourhood, black people are being shot and killed like flies – I call it a genocide. Durban is commonly known as Little India as it has the biggest population and concentration of Indians outside of India.  

Lessons for Businesses  

Ensuring supply chain security includes having risk management measures in place. These measures include timeous stakeholder engagement where threats emanating from external factors are found. Most importantly, businesses need effective communication. 

Your supply chain is the heartbeat of your business; it’s a strategic function. Collaboration with other businesses is pivotal for the efficient sharing of data. Supply chains are generally interconnected and only when businesses adopt an attitude of partnership compared to that of competition will they be able to avert some external threats.  

What next?  

Regardless, Durban is still open for business. It will forever remain a strategic location for any businesses looking to service different markets, local and global. The positioning of Durban gives it the edge over all other African cities, purely from a production and logistics standpoint.

It’s also a beautiful holiday destination with amazing weather. Altogether, it’s a perfect place for those services companies that want to set up their headquarters in Africa.  

But South Africa’s government must learn aesthetics isn’t a sustainable mode of governance. With every burning supply chain, the government loses its value. 

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Curtis Scoon

Editor-In-Chief | Founder

The editor-in-chief, executive producer, writer, and businessman. Curtis is active in helping the black community by employing and providing services in the Washington, DC and Detroit, MI areas.

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