Why President Trump Should Slap Sanctions on South Africa

To the casual moralist, you don’t slap sanctions on a country on its knees while minding its own business. Never mind the country has a government of looters who campaign on a ticket of lies about Israel and fete Hamas terror leaders and a plane-highjacker on home soil. South Africa is not neighbouring Zimbabwe, on which President Trump already has slapped sanctions, although the Cato Institute warned him that South Africa is on the Zimbabwean road to hell.

For now, South Africa remains afloat. The problem (call it the exemplar effect) is somewhat different.

Zimbabwe’s Robert

Mugabe escaped a reckoning for crimes of genocide and grand larceny by being nudged into honorable retirement. The ancient fellow squats at the family seat on his Aladdin trove waiting for a natural death to get him. But there’s a problem with that for South Africa. Taking a leaf out of tyrant Mugabe’s soft landing, South Africa’s rulers nudged their criminal President into opulent retirement. Jacob Zuma, the saboteur and treasonist (he flogged the country to friends and let them run it) squats on his Aladdin trove like a genie unable to move for his weight and all his merry wives.

Nor did Zuma retire gratefully. From the sidelines, he pokes fun at the antics of his jolly replacement, President Cyril Ramaphosa. The latter has set up probes and commissions for the public to understand how hundreds of billions of dollars were spent on nothing visible – right under Ramaphosa’s nose. He, many know, was the Deputy President who leaned over Zuma’s shoulder to watch him robbing the country blind.

Presidents Putin and Ramphosa (photo credit: President of Russia, croppped)

What good, though, would sanctions do?

One good they would do is light a fire under the looters, many of whom remain at the helm. The ex-henchmen of Zuma breathe down the new leader’s neck. Honest only by default, he hangs onto power by a prayer and a whisper. Until all the criminals are under lock and key, President Trump should snap sanctions into place and keep them there. The economy is already on its knees, the billions laundered and spent can be kissed goodbye. No phoenix can rise from the ashes until every looter is accounted for and is not free to loot again.    

Another good that US sanctions on South Africa would accomplish is teach Africa all the lessons to be learned:

1.     No one is above the law

2.     Crime does not pay

3.     Work for a living; no one owes Africans one

4.     Legislated jobs and opportunities for blacks only (BEE or Transformation it’s called in South Africa) is racial discrimination under a peek-through cover.

5.     Black people are not perennial victims. The moral or economic case for protection against skins of white and brown expired long ago. 

6.     Human rights go with human responsibilities

7.     Don’t  emulate Zuma – work for wealth, not steal for it.

South Africa’s new millennials are watching. Values are being shaped. Young people see the many Bentleys on northern Johannesburg’s pocked roads; the mansions...the lifestyle dirty money can buy. The Zumas and Mugabes of Africa have to be made examples of, or South Africa will join all the basket cases on the continent.

At this time the omens don’t look good. The ruling party changed the constitution for no better reason than to win votes by allowing property to be seized. Expropriation without compensation report hurtles towards finish line

The African National Congress Party’s youth league, its future leaders, lick their lips at the prospect, encouraged by the example of all the President’s men. How far can Zimbabwean-style property invasions be down the road? How far can starvation and breakdown of law and order be? The government plays with fire by putting land-for-the-taking at the top of its election manifesto. Ramaphosa travels the world begging investors to sink their funds into the economy.  He speaks with a fork tongue. “The land reform program should not undermine investment in the economy or damage agriculture.”  Here is a tweet for President Trump: “Explain how the seizure of land is consistent with the willingness of investors to invest.” And another Tweet: “Give an example or two of countries where land seizure has not damaged agriculture.”

President Trump must not allow a political leader to convince him that the government has “begun to tackle obstacles.” That word “begun” is the well-trod escape route of ill-intent. They are always just beginning to do something. Afterwards when did something ever get done?

US–imposed sanctions would send a cannon ball across the bow of South Africa. It would signal Ramaphosa to lead by example. “First expropriate all the land you own, Mr President,” could be another Tweet for Trump.

For the good of the rainbow nation, President Trump should slap immediate sanctions on South Africa. Black, white and brown, its people would owe him a debt of gratitude for years to come. Sanctions would send a warning shot across the bow of the lurching, once proud, giant of Africa. To the whole continent, sanctions on South Africa would be a warning shot. Kindness sometimes requires cruelty. Being kind to the guilty is to be cruel to the innocent. Millions of refugees in the making are innocents deserving not a cruel future but a kind one.

Steve Apfel is an economist and a cost accountant in South Africa, but mostly a prolific author of non-fiction and fiction, including books, essays and articles.  Steve blogs at http://enemiesofzion.wordpress.com/