Wealth gap: Inequality is inflicted by government

2015-03-02 08:00

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Herman Mashaba believes his remarkable rags-to-riches story would not be possible if he were starting today – with no education or qualifications – as he did 30 years ago.

“Spar would not be allowed to give me a job at R175 a month, and the alternative would be that I would not have had any job at all,” he says.

“But Spar did not exploit me. I exploited the opportunity to gain experience so I could find a better job.

“Inequality, unemployment and poverty are inflicted on the people by government in this country,” the Black Like Me hair care empire founder says.

Over the decades, since he first started selling everything – from insurance to crockery – door to

door in Hammanskraal, Mashaba has become an ardent free market proponent, advocating for an economy

with minimal government involvement and regulation, and maximum freedom for individuals.

He recently joined the DA after a stint as chairperson of the Free Market Foundation.

“Labour legislation and racial policies destroy small businesses,” he says.

“How can we address inequality when we support policies that create inequality; when you pass laws that discriminate on the basis of colour? If we make the same mistakes as they did before, then we are not going to have a different outcome.

“We have become one of the worst-performing economies in the world. We will be lucky if we end up with 1% growth. Our economy is not performing because we are discriminating against other South Africans.

“Our Constitution does not allow discrimination and it is against the spirit of what God wants. Giving every South African an equal opportunity is the only way forward.

“We have to find ways to employ people with no skills and no education,” he explains.

And despite recent findings by the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development that social grants to the poor help to close the wealthgap, Mashaba believes large welfare programmes do more harm than good.

“Social grants destroy families by destroying the dignity of the recipient. Of course society should provide for the elderly and others who cannot support themselves, but we must take care not to create a dependency culture among people who would rather have a hand-out than find a job,” he explains.

Mashaba saves his fiercest criticism for current political leaders: “These politicians have shown themselves incapable of dealing with unemployment and inequality.

“The best thing they can do is get rid of the laws and regulations that get in the way of businesses and entrepreneurs. Then they should step down and allow ordinary people to take responsibility for their own lives and opportunities,” he concludes.

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