The tittle to this opinion piece sits uncomfortably more or less with my underlying principles. I am for democracy irrespective of the cost. I wish for that not be disqualified based on my intended argument. However, looking at other models of development, particularly those of the East Asian Tigers (Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea), I find myself compelled to accommodate such a political stance.
The tittle simply implies that there is too much open and highly unregulated movement and flexibility fostered by democracy to allow cohesion and cooperation to take place for the pursued of economic development of this country. The country lacks coherency and cooperation most principally among the top ruling elites in both business and politics. I personally believe the two are imperative not only for sociopolitical purpose but also for economic developmental purpose.
Pragmatically, the ruled are divided because the rulers are divided themselves. The underlying implication is that there is no way a divided ‘nation’ can prosper. The ruling party calls for and the opposition parties and unions then later call for. Business on the other end of the spectrum comes with a bang and calls for something unambiguously astray. Nationalization and land redistribution for instance, two policies in the heart of the country seem to have the elites implicitly and explicitly equivocal or either for or against. Same goes for people on the ground, they too are either equivocal, for or against the policies.
As much as there are political and opposition parties in most if not all developed countries, the road map to economic development and overall prosperity has always been straight forward. You can date back to colonialism, imperialism and industrial revolution if one wishes. Irrespective of disagreements and flaws, economic development and overall prosperity for the country are elements embedded deep in their hearts and souls.
The most typical and explicit illustration of this assertion in comparison to South Africa is that you have a dominant party in power, although its missions and visions are always contested by not only highly mobile and vocal opposition parties, but also business, labor (unions) and the respected civil society in a form of NGO’s and organized mass movements. That is ideal for democracy. But the cost is that it is not ideal for economic development. The subsequent result of it is that it limits the power and disarray the vision of leadership. Botswana and Mauritius leadership or developmental state for instance sits at the top in sub-Saharan Africa, facsimile to the Asian tigers. If the two had the capacity South Africa has, I believe their economy would be better than that of the Asian tigers, China and India or even some of the fully industrialized countries.
Looking at South Africa’s road map to development, the country has implemented two maps already, all which have failed, RDP and GEAR. And recently in waiting is NDP. The two previous maps I believe failed because of what this paper is trying to stipulate, lack of coherency and cooperation. NDP is a map that entails and intends to provide projections and guidelines as to how the country should reach its highest point of development by 2030, instead of the map being contested by outside actors; it faces contestation by actors within the very same ruling party, labor in a form of union elites (COSATU and members). These elites use their power and the democratic privileges of labor to protest and contest any uncertainty or rather grievance. As a result, this impairs cohesion and cooperation with the ruling structure and subsequently prolongs and dispels any prospects as to how the country should develop its economy.
Using the recent BMW strike as an example, not only is South Africa failing to draw in satisfactory foreign direct investment, but also faces high possibilities of disinvestment or rather stagnation in investment. According to Moerdyk, in the late 1970’s when BMW decided to build a plant outside Germany, South Africa was the first choice to parent the company abroad. However, in the late 1980’s, South Africa was notably in 30th place on its list of preferred locations.
Countries like Singapore for instance have centralized their power through forming coalitions and nationalizing all labor unions to disqualify any openness to strike and flexibility. This has allowed the country to provide multinational corporations with low-cost and disciplined labor. And as a result, the model has brought about capital inflow and has furthermore allowed the country to invest heavily in health, education and infrastructural development. Today the country is on a trajectory to move away from the post-industrialization wave. A wave South Africa is still battling to grasp.
Picking from this model, South Africa needs a very strong, central, coherent and cooperative government that will minimize labor’s openness and flexibility and allow business to bring in capital and use that capital to develop the country for the ‘better life for all’. Education, Health and infrastructural development are the most imperative, literacy level, schools infrastructure, lack of libraries and teenage pregnancy, youth unemployment and one roomed houses provided to the poor are some if not the worst circumstances the country has to deal with. The country should have two political parties. That to my overall believes and understanding, will lower the ridiculous diversity in politics and leadership.
But then again, I suppose our political stance lies on the basis of our historical context. The majorities have been repressed far too long and now feel the need to practice their long fought democratic rights. It was clear during the transition period in the early-mid 1990’s that South Africa will need to draw in foreign direct investment for developmental purpose. One can counter argue that the country has sufficient capital to develop itself, although, due to political uncertainties and the minority and wealthiest greediness, capital is either invested somewhere else or saved in the Swiss coffers. Whatever stance one takes, it goes back to my argument; there is lack of coherency and cooperation within the ruling elites, both in business and politics.
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.