Why SA’s not ready for ‘Lula moment’

2012-09-18 14:47

Corruption, an unnecessary quick policy turnover and a dysfunctional state are among the reasons why South Africa is not yet ready to have a “Lula moment” – a reference to transformation successes in Brazil.

This, according to political scientist professor Somadoda Fikeni who addressed delegates at the Cosatu congress in Midrand today.

Brazil’s former president, Lula da Silva, reduced poverty, created jobs, fought corruption and grew his country’s economy.

Among the things that make it difficult for South Africa to be successful as a country, according to Fikeni, were the:

» Honesty deficit: Fikeni said this was the impact of a negotiated political settlement which resulted in South Africans feeling that anything honest might hurt their fellow citizens.

» Courage deficit: He said we cannot blame everything on apartheid and that some of our policy interventions and a courage deficit have yielded negative results.

» Common sense deficit: Fikeni said South Africa is obsessed with complex things. “That’s why even our bidding committees award tenders to the bidders who have confused them the most.”

» Vision deficit: “You ask anyone what’s your national interest and they speak in tongues,” Fikeni said.

“If we fail now the next generations will visit our graves not to lay flowers but to spit on them.”

» Leadership deficit: Fikeni said the leadership deficit was experienced at all levels.

“We do have leaders but they don’t necessarily exercise leadership. The Lula moment will only happen when that (exercising leadership) happens.”

Fikeni further decried the country’s unstable policy positions, with a turnover that did not allow time for proper implementation.

“RDP comes and goes, GEAR shifts gears, Asgisa becomes New Growth Path and the national plan is still contested.

This new turnover of policy is something we need to investigate. Every time a new policy is implemented billions are spent.

When you’re a teacher, today it’s OBE, tomorrow it’s something else. As you’re starting to get used to something it changes.”

“You can’t have a Lula moment with this.”

Fikeni said he differed with the ANC and its alliance partners Cosatu and the SACP for always highlighting the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequalities, while excluding corruption.

“If we think corruption has become such a cancer why don’t we include it with the three?”

He said people don’t get jobs and poverty cannot be reduced because money set aside for it ends up in the pockets of corrupt people.

The introduction of a tender system has corrupted the state and often delayed service delivery, said Fikeni.

“I’m told when babies start speaking the first word they say is papa, then they learn to say mama and a few months down the line the third word is ‘tender’.

We can’t allow such a grammar to be transmitted into our speech form.”

Fikeni said financial mismanagement was also at the centre of government’s failure to transform South Africa’s socio-economic situation.

“Fruitless and wasteful expenditure is more than the money you’re being asked to pay for the Gauteng freeway improvement (project),” Fikeni said, referring to the R20 billion debt that saw government proposing that motorists pay e-tolls for Gauteng roads.

“This country has got money everywhere except where it’s needed,” he said.

Fikeni told delegates that South Africa has done well in putting institutions of democracy in place, but poor in areas of “social and economic transformation as well as political justice”.

Cosatu has for some time wanted President Jacob Zuma to follow Da Silva’s example in the way he transformed Brazil.

At the time that Da Silva’s term ended his popularity ratings were high among his country’s citizens because of his administration’s achievements.

» Follow @City_Press for updates from the congress.

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