By Ernst van Zyl
We have all encountered a person in our lives who jumps from project to project but whose boundless ambitions never yield any fruit. From a third-person perspective, you can see exactly the same missteps in every single one of their schemes, while they keep on assuring you that “this time it’s going to be different”. The major difference between that familiar scenario and the current predicament South Africans finds themselves in with the National Health Insurance (NHI) on the horizon, is that the former scenario isn’t reliant on your hard-earned income financing all those expensive failures.
An effective challenge for people who compulsively buy new books is to only allow themselves to buy a new one for every three they read. I reckon this principle should be applied to the ANC government as well. From South African Airways to Eskom, the Post Office, the SABC and public education – the ANC government has truly demonstrated a consistent inverted Midas touch when it comes to running state-owned enterprises. If we are to continue down this big government/big spending paradigm – which I cannot see us abandoning in the near future – the least South Africans can do is to demand of the state to demonstrate a clear ability to look after their toys before they are given any expensive new ones. With the ANC’s dismal track record, I reckon this is a perfectly reasonable demand from taxpayers. Until the ANC practise what they preach and deliver what they promise, South Africans should refuse to fund any further expensive schemes like the NHI, the only goal of which appears to be further centralisation of more power and control in the hands of the governing elite, and thus furthering the National Democratic Revolution (NDR). President Ramaphosa has recently promised that “We want to run a clean ship in our NHI Fund.” What should seriously concern us is that this would be the very first clean ANC ship in their entire fleet.
If the ANC is unable to demonstrate its ability to run state hospitals effectively it should never be given a mandate to explore further risky healthcare ventures. This could force them to consider alternative paths to reach the same goals they seek to achieve. The single principal contributing factor enabling wider access to private healthcare remains a nation’s level of per capita income. Therefore, the most logical alternative path to increase access to private healthcare across society should be one focused on economic growth, accompanied by a reduced individual tax burden.
Experience has shown that a monopolistic system like the NHI is inherently weak and inefficient by design, suffering from the typical problems associated with such uncompetitive systems: Ever increasing costs, declining quality, inefficient resource allocation and an unmanageable bureaucracy. Adding insult to injury, the ANC NHI will provide a much weaker and exorbitantly more expensive health system, while expecting the already overburdened taxpayers to sponsor it.
Yet, maybe the fundamental crux of the problem is that the ANC government is just terrible at managing and executing otherwise well-designed government programmes and systems. Perhaps the problem is something more deep-seated: That South Africans have been conditioned for almost a century to believe that they need a big government to solve all their problems. Perhaps the time has come to question that narrative of the paternal state and the infantilised citizenry. Politicians and bureaucrats got us into this dependent and helpless situation, therefore South Africans need to consider whether the time has come to either democratically show the ANC the door or alternatively roll up our sleeves and slowly but surely take our destiny into our own hands on this sinking ship.
The obvious solution of good governance and economic growth is in the hands of the ANC. But if the Titanic does not change course, let us start solving our own problems by building small life rafts, one step at a time. From neighbourhoods coming together to organise community safety networks, to AfriForum fixing potholes and painting street signs, to communities getting involved in providing basic health services – we must improve our chances of survival while we wait for a political miracle to happen. The time has come for tax paying South Africans to take a stand against the NHI by publicly demanding that the ANC stop milking them dry to fund any further public spending experiments, in which the citizenry are the guinea pigs. It is a universal truth that one must crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run. The ANC has, up till now, demonstrated no crawling ability and yet it expects us to pay for the most expensive new NHI running shoes in the world.
Ernst van Zyl is a campaign officer for strategy and content at AfriForum, a co-presenter on the Podlitiek podcast and host of the Stream of Consciousness live interview show on YouTube. Ernst usually posts on Twitter and YouTube under his pseudonym Conscious Caracal (https://twitter.com/ConCaracal).