Has the SA dream failed?
South Africa is like a baby who had a difficult pregnancy, a relatively trouble free birth, and has now developed severe complications.
We had the early euphoria of the birth of the rainbow nation dampened somewhat by the scourge of nepotism, corruption and racism. This is unfortunately symptomatic of most liberated countries worldwide – liberation movements seldom make good governments.
We had one opportunity, because of the power and charisma of a single person – Mandela – to escape this trap. Alas, it has not happened. The Liberators have become the oppressors.
The question of how and why it happened is perhaps less interesting than to ask how we escape it. However, we need to examine the root causes in order to escape the consequences.
First problem: We have a de facto one party state, with the ANC dominating politics from the beginning. ANC supporters are not totally rational when it comes to supporting their party – it is a bit like a soccer team support. It does not matter if your team plays well or not, you still support them. Unfortunately, when it comes to politics, it does matter how the team plays… Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The current crop of government officials do not see themselves as governing or serving the people – they see themselves as rulers. Big difference. They are untouchable, they are not accountable, and believe they can get away with anything. And they frequently do.
The Nkandla scandal, e-tolls, Guptagate… any of these would have been sufficient to topple a government in a normal democracy. The ANC is still confident of getting in excess of 60% of the support in the upcoming elections.
Second problem: Economic growth is stifled and destroyed by BEE, cadre deployment, corruption, labour unrest, expensive labour, excessive taxes, lack of electricity and constant rumbling about nationalisation.
Economic growth is not rocket science. You need resources – which we have in buckets; you need labour – we have loads of unskilled, and not enough skilled labour; you need electricity – which we don’t have; and you need an infrastructure and access to markets. And then you need investors who are confident in the future of the country, and wants to invest.
We had an infrastructure which compared well with the rest of the world. Alas, this has deteriorated due to lack of planning, lack of maintenance and lack of investment.
We had plenty of cheap electricity. This is no longer the case. Why would a company like Billiton build a smelter in SA if they had to close one down due to lack of electricity?
Our labour cost in terms of productivity is extremely expensive. The rest of the world has mechanised – most labour functions, which means less people to do the job. We want to have the same salaries, but yet we do not deliver the same productivity.
Labour unrest, and the threat of nationalisation has chased away a lot of investors. Why would Angloplats invest in a new mine if they have not been able to produce for 4 months due to labour unrest?
Why would anybody invest in SA if the rand is depreciating against major currencies, and there is the constant threat of nationalisation hanging over your head?
Government departments are run by corrupt, incompetent officials who are put there by the demon of cadre deployment. This is plain and simply nepotism… and unfortunately they all suffer from the Kruger-Dunning effect, where the illusions of their own competence is simply astounding.
I can go on and on – about BEE or BBBEE as it is now known – and how incomprehensible it is for foreign investors, and how expensive it is to manage, and how it makes us less competitive… but BEE is like the holy cow – you are not allowed to say anything bad about it.
Third problem: Lack of education and excessive population growth. I believe it is time for us to face up to the real reason why so many people in South Africa is poverty stricken… we have too many people. We cannot sustain the current population growth with our current economic growth. If we look at the SA population growth over the past 30 years, we see a startling situation. In 1980, the total population of SA was approximately 32.5 million, including the ‘independent homelands’.
Of this number, approximately 4.5 million were white, and about 24 million black. In 1994 the population was 40 million, of which the white population was more or less the same – 4.5 million. Since 1994 the white population has decreased to approximately 4 million, whereas the total population has increased to 50 million.
I am using this demographic not as a racial profile, but because the average education level amongst white people are higher than among black people. Therefore it is not unrealistic to project that the majority of population growth has happened under the poor and uneducated people.
These are exactly the people who cannot afford the children they do have. This is the reason we have 15 million people in SA on government grants, and only 6 million people paying taxes.
If you have less children, you can afford to give them a better opportunity in life – better education, more attention and better housing/food. This will result in kids who are better suited to become successful in life. If the current situation persist, it will result in the divide between classes in SA becoming bigger and bigger with each generation.
The concurrent problem is that in SA the class divide is compounded by a racial divide. So we need to start educating people for life – let school kids know that you cannot survive on child grants. We need to let people know that it is not ok to have 10 or 15 kids anymore – especially if you cannot afford it.
We need to stop people saying it is your revolutionary duty to have more kids.
We need to focus on quality education for everyone – which we cannot afford if the current trend continue.
Quality education is also suffering under BEE – if a black kid finish school and has maths or science and is accepted to study further, how many would you think would go and study to become a teacher? They can get bursaries for engineering, accounting, medicine… why on earth should they study to become a teacher?
So each generation the education divide becomes bigger. Kids in townships do not get taught maths and science by people who actually understand maths and science…
And, in my opinion, the biggest problem of all – SA is too focused on the past, and do not have any vision for the future. The current government is only interested in redistributing the cake, rather than growing the cake to ensure everybody has a decent slice. No, it is more important to take away the slice from those that have…
How do we solve this?
It won’t be easy. But it has to be done. It will need some hard choices. Get rid of the cadre deployment – appoint competent people in government. Make them responsible and accountable. Reduce our government employees – we have too many, the bloated bureaucracy is killing our economy. Government salaries are the same as the total tax paid in personal income tax, approximately R300 billion.
BEE needs to be scrapped. It has failed miserably. The education system has to be completely overhauled. It is failing our children.
Focus on job creation by creating the right environment – use international investors to bring the capital. If you create the right environment, they will come. STOP THREATENING TO NATIONALISE!!! Instead sell off the state monopolies like Telkom, SABC, SAA, Eskom – list them on the Stock exchange (or sell off the share you still have) and use the money to invest in infrastructure.
Government should focus on creating infrastructure, providing healthcare and education. And a safe and secure environment where we can live and work in peace.
Reduce taxes, increase the tax basis. We have reached the downslope of the Laffer curve. People pay too much tax, it is stifling future growth…
The one thing which is clear – we will not save SA while the current crop of politicians run the place.
My suggestion is that the one–person parties get together – UDM, Agang, Cope… The leaders, Bantu Holomisa, Mamphela and Lekota are people with integrity and have always struck me as people who has the best interest of SA at heart. Bring on board the disillusioned ANC members like Ronnie, Trevor... also people with integrity.
Form a single party with vision and integrity. Maybe the DA can be absorbed in this new party – as long as they stop whining. But as long as we are a de facto one party state, nothing will change.