Khaya Dlanga

Economic freedom: The new Swart Gevaar

2011-09-06 08:15

Khaya Dlanga

Perhaps I should start off with some shocking numbers, which I’m sure some will tell me I haven’t put in line with population numbers, education levels and other such factors. Well, there are other societies in the world that are similar to ours but hardly as unequal.

In 1995, just a year after the demise of apartheid, the average white income was R48 387, R9 668 for coloureds, R23 424 for Asians and a whopping R6 525 for blacks. Fast forward to 2008. You think things might have improved because you see lots of black folks driving fancy cars and eating in fancy restaurants, right? Let's see if you are right. White per capita income in 2008 was R75 297, coloured was R16 527, R51 457 for Asians and a bling, bling R9 790 for blacks. While a white person makes R100 a black person makes R13.

This is after BEE, AA and all sorts of other acronyms we have decided to put in place. None of them have made a dent. In fact, adjusted to inflation levels to the year 2000 per capita, blacks still don’t make as much money as whites did in 1917. Whites made R13 069 per capita in 1917. In the year 2008, blacks were only making R9 790. These stats are Leibbrandt, M et al (2010), “Trends in South African Income Distribution and Poverty since the Fall of Apartheid.” I didn’t make them up. A white person made them up. I promise.

When then deputy president Thabo Mbeki made his “Two Nations” speech at the opening of the debate in the National Assembly, on "Reconciliation and Nation Building” in 1998, some accused him of being divisive, there was no such thing. Well, the numbers speak for themselves.

For those of you who are too young to know history (you know history, that thing that happens in the past so that you can have a future and that subject you hated in school ), Swart Gevaar is what the fears of a black revolution was known during the apartheid era. Swart Gevaar, the Black Threat. Free blacks were a threat for some odd reason.

It is also known as black entitlement these days. Not to say that there is no such thing as entitlement. There are people who feel like they are owed something by someone, people that feel they don't have to work for anything. Unfortunately some want to paint all black people with this brush. It is not true. We don’t mind working hard to get what we want, but we mind having to work extra hard just to get a fraction of what a white person gets. But if it means we must work extra hard, we do it anyway.

It is a mistake to think that economic transformation is a black issue; it is a South African issue. Every South African should be trying to make it happen. We can no longer afford to delay. The longer we delay, the closer the day of destruction moonwalks.

It is the will to transfer skills, it is to teach others how to create and make wealth. It is about ensuring that we avoid the day when a populist, charismatic and angry leader will lead angry, hungry masses on the streets. On that day, it won’t just be the whites who will lose out my fellow black brothers and sisters, it will be everyone who lives in Sandton and any other such fancy abodes.

This is why economic liberation is the duty of every South African. If you forget the forgotten for too long, they will make us remember them. Woe unto the haves if that day comes. Again, it won’t be a black and white issue, it will be about the have nots, the majority which is black of course.

In the 1920s, in the Eastern Cape, black people started talking about having their land back and opposition to white rule was mobilised. A series of crop failures, cattle disease, locusts and drought put pressure on people. A newspaper of the time wrote, “These are the general conditions of life; poverty growing into hunger, debt with no hope of escape. No people under the sun who have not been tamed and weakened by centuries of low diet and despotism can fail in such conditions to get into a state of unrest.”

Maybe what we can say about today is that poverty is growing into hunger into anger. There it is up to the private sector to be proactive to ensure that it is opening up to grow the pie so that more can access it. The private sector is very quick to point fingers at government when it does naught. The private sector needs to do more to aid government before it is forced to by legislation.

Black economic liberation is essential for the survival of this country and continued white prosperity. Those who think that economic transformation is about taking from the whites to blacks don't get it. I believe that economic freedom is about giving everyone the opportunity to create jobs and to make money.

We are not trying to take from the whites so that they have nothing. We just want a chance for as many people to be prosperous, not just to showcase a few wealthy black people and pretend that is true economic transformation. It’s not. It’s black economic window dressing.

All black people want really is the ability to make money in their land. They want to feel like they own their own country by owning its wealth. That is all. There is no need to fear black prosperity. No need for the Black Economic gevaar.

The Freedom Charter clearly says, “The people shall share in the wealth of the land.” As you can see, it doesn’t say, “The people shall share in the wealth of the land but the blacks.” Let’s fix this.

- Follow Khaya on Twitter.

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