Gerald Warner: Dark days ahead for continent as South Africa regresses

AFRICA is a continent sinking, relentlessly and irreversibly, into the Stone Age. It is not polite to say so, of course: such talk has been denounced by bien-pensants wishful thinkers for many years. We live in a society conditioned to accept that "progress" is an axiom, therefore it must be occurring, however much the evidence suggests the contrary.

A more reliable axiom holds that South Africa is the bread basket of the continent; today, it is fast becoming a basket case. The future of the continent, since the end of colonialism, has always hinged on South Africa. Stability there might have reversed much of the chaos and decay further north. For years, the outcome has hung in the balance. Over the past 12 months the pendulum has decisively swung towards disintegration. South Africa is now set to become the second Zimbabwe.

Superficially, the situation still does not appear entirely negative. The country has a patina of modernity, imparted by the large modern cities that are its legacy from the past. South Africa has a sophisticated financial sector, though markets are determinedly in denial over the economic programme being concocted by the ruling ANC. Compared to fourth world states such as Equatorial Guinea, there is an illusion of economic competence.

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The underlying reality is more sombre. The unemployment rate is 23%, inflation stands at around 12%, manufacturing – which accounts for 16% of the economy – fell by 6.9% in the third quarter of 2008. There is a brain drain that is haemorrhaging educated personnel from the country: every year South Africa loses a quarter of its graduates. Immigration is composed of desperate refugees from Zimbabwe and other unskilled incomers.

Life expectancy is 49 years. This is largely due to the HIV/Aids crisis, with 18.1% of the population infected. There are 5.7million South Africans suffering from HIV or Aids, with 500,000 new infections every year. The UN-sponsored panacea of the condom is killing huge numbers of Africans. When Pope Benedict XVI pointed this out he was pilloried by western liberals. The fact is that people practising pre-marital chastity and post-marital fidelity cannot contract Aids.

The UN claims a 90% protection rate for condoms. The 10% difference among populations of many millions is liberalism's African genocide. The statistics speak for themselves. In Burundi, which is 62% Catholic, the Aids rate is 2%; in Angola, 38% Catholic, it is 2.1%. In South Africa, which is 7.1% Catholic, the rate is 18.1%.

The principal motor of South Africa's decline is political. Last week the ANC government banned the Dalai Lama from attending a peace conference to be held in South Africa next year. This reflects the ANC's links with China. Yet only 6.6% of South Africa's exports go to China, so the bond is linked to aid and ideology. The ANC began its existence as a communist front organisation and today it has returned to its roots. Its secretary general, Gwede Mantashe, was also chairman of the South African Communist Party.

The ANC manifesto for the April 22 general election is extravagantly Marxist. It would abolish school fees for the 60% of pupils currently paying for education, introduce a family allowance of 15 a month for everybody up to age 18 at a cost of 3bn, implement universal free health insurance, "create" five million new jobs. A fraction of that programme would increase marginal rates of income tax from 40% to 66%. There would not be a graduate left in the country.

The communists drew up this national suicide note, with the acquiescence of the ANC leader, Jacob Zuma. South Africa already has one of the biggest current account deficits in the world. This is a blueprint for economic meltdown, in a country where 40% already receive state handouts.

Like a bird of ill omen, Winnie Mandela, who supported "necklacing" of political opponents, has returned to the political arena. She is number five on the ANC list, which guarantees her a cabinet post.

The ANC is consciously following in the footsteps of Robert Mugabe. Last year, South Africa used its non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council to block tougher sanctions against Zimbabwe. Now, despite having an opinion poll lead of 45% to 7% over its nearest rivals, the ANC is employing widespread violence and intimidation in the election campaign. It is even fielding "war veterans" who are far too young to have participated in the anti-apartheid struggle – exactly on the Zanu-PF model in Zimbabwe.

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If Mugabe's Zimbabwe is the template for the bread basket of Africa – as it clearly is – then dire consequences can be expected for the entire continent.