Tjatjarag: A no-name brand Cabinet can’t run SA

2012-08-04 10:01

Ben who? Ben Martins, the minister of transport. Bongi who? Bongi Ntuli, the deputy minister of social development.

Hendrietta who? Hendrietta Bogopane-Zulu, the deputy minister of women, children and people with disabilities. And, Gratitude? Gratitude Magwanishe, the deputy minister of home affairs.

The first time I heard of the communications minister Dina Pule doing anything at all was in relation to reports (allegations, of course) that she let her love interest run the department.

I am no clearer as to where on earth our essential analogue-to-digital migration exercise is, though in Zambia a fortnight ago, I learnt that they are streets ahead.

So is Kenya and shortly Nigeria will be too. We are becoming also-rans, our fantastic clutch of gold this week notwithstanding.

It’s not politically correct, I know, but our Cabinet is a real no-name brand of politicians. There are a few bright stars, but on the whole, it is like the intersection of Mediocre Avenue and Lacklustre Street.

Our president must be scratching his gorgeous pate in Kingston, Jamaica, this weekend as he contemplates who will fill the slim shoes of Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga.

There simply is no talent left in the ANC and what there is left is marginalised by a leader who has invested office in his own image.

Why, I wondered this week, can he not look to a person like Jonathan Jansen, who would do a wonderful job.

Take a look at the graphic to your right. It is a rough and short summary of an excellent World Bank report on inequality in South Africa.

It reinforces what we know well: our country is one of the most unequal in the world. We are comparatively rich and have a few good policies, but since 1994, all efforts to reduce inequality and create wider black prosperity have stalled. Why?

The factor on which we score highest – access to education – shows we have the money and the political will to dent inequality by staking a place on the Human Opportunity Index. This index uses a set of measures to reveal how good (or bad) a country is at levelling the playing field or creating equality of opportunity.

But after access to education, we head downhill. Quality of education is poor and on all the other indices, South Africa’s performance is not great.

The index measures access to electricity, water and sanitation for young people where, considering how much we have spent, we should measure higher than we do. For adults, the key determinant of equity is a job – economists across the world scratch their heads at how South Africa has managed to grow gross domestic product significantly while cauterising job creation.

We don’t need a labour minister, we need a labour markets minister. The other bottlenecks to equity are skills, location, the structure of the labour market, gender and ethnicity.

All the key factors can be solved by human talent, as Brazil, Peru and a few Caribbean islands are showing. Their Human Opportunity Index is headed north; ours is going west.

This is because the ANC’s once-immense reservoir of talent has dried up.

A friend points out that to rise to leadership in the ANC, you need to come from the ranks of the unemployable. Not nice, but true. The party has become an insiders’ club of talentless cadres incapable of running a modern and sophisticated state.

This is not being mean, but read the Auditor-General’s report on the state of provincial and municipal finances, and his message is pretty clear.

So, if the ANC wants to break the Gini, it needs to find our most talented compatriots, our best economic minds and people who are wealthy (and need nothing from the state) if we want to take this great nation and its lovely people to a better place.

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