If not Malema, what else, expert asks
Johannesburg - Nationalising the mines and other demands by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema appeal to the poor because no one is offering better alternatives, SA Institute of Race Relations chief executive John Kane-Berman said on Thursday.
"The problem - and a source of potential growth for the Malemas of this world - is that no one else is offering them anything better," he said, in a speech prepared for delivery to the Southern African-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Johannesburg.
"Mr Malema himself has nothing to offer them except nationalisation. This is his equivalent of the garlic-and-beetroot offered not so long ago by the ANC and its late health minister as a cure for Aids," he said, referring to late former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.
Kane-Berman raised the question of how to reverse the country's slide into a Zimbabwe, Habsburg, Argentina or predatory-party-like scenario described by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu).
One way to do this was to put forward "alternative ideas" based on principles of political and economic liberalism.
"[Malema]... has identified a fast-growing, political market: black youth. A minority of this group can benefit from cadre deployment, patronage, nepotism, tenderpreneurship, fronting, affirmative action, black economic empowerment, and the other familiar components of ANC policy.
"The rest have little hope," he said.
"Their education is mostly dreadful, their employment prospects are low, and their chances of winding up in crime statistics or dead from Aids are quite high," he said.
"When Mr Malema says Cosatu and the South African Communist Party have betrayed the poor he is right."
He said Cosatu's only interest was in protecting unionised labour aristocracy, while the other ANC ally, the communists, were mainly interested in grabbing hold of as many levers of power as possible without having to fight elections.
"The ANC - with its own threats to mining and agriculture, and its racial and labour policies - is offering them [the poor youth] what is best described as 'Malema-lite'," he said.
Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel's development plan - arising from his planning commission - was a "mirage".
"In the meantime Mr Malema's constituency will grow. If he were really smart and constructive, he would launch a campaign to liberate the labour market to enable unemployed youngsters to get jobs more easily.
"He would take on the teaching unions who are destroying the prospects of yet another generation of schoolchildren. Unfortunately, however, just like President [Jacob] Zuma, Mr Malema is a creature of the ANC. He may be younger, but he is also an anachronism."
This left the media, business and civil society who Kane-Berman called on to be "bold in propagating classically liberal alternatives to the present dirigiste (economic planning and control by the state) policies".
Forewarned is forearmed
He said "panic" was not "policy" and these actors had to provide more than a "robust anti-nationalisation strategy".
"You have to offer something better than either business or government is doing right now.
"A start would be for business to clarify whether or not it actually believes in liberalising the labour market. The plan must be to steal Mr Malema's constituency from under him by offering it something better than he does.
"And this has to be done by public debate. Mr Malema gets huge press coverage, and you can't counter his ideas by taking tea with the minister."
Kane-Berman also urged "Juju [Malema]" to "take a bow" as his threats on nationalisation and land reform served to alert the country to the pitfalls ahead.
"...let us be grateful to Mr Malema for spelling out a scenario for South Africa which is as plausible as any other. Forewarned is forearmed."
Reversing the decline
Malema was partly blamed for alienating whites, Indians and coloureds after the ANC faired poorly among these groups in the 2011 local government elections, but legislation already passed and comments on coloureds by government spokesperson Jimmy Manyi had served the same purpose.
Malema was also accused of discouraging foreign investment, said Kane-Berman, even though it was not him but Cosatu and no less than three Cabinet ministers who placed the Walmart/Massmart deal in jeopardy.
The Transvaal Agricultural Union bemoaned Malema's comments on land reform, saying it created a climate for land invasions, however, he said, legislation encouraging such invasions was passed by the Cabinet at the end of last year.
Also, Malema's comments on nationalising the mines were "but the culmination of a series of incremental interventions by the government which have already injured the industry."
Another way of reversing the decline was to defend key components of a free society such as an independent judiciary and central bank, property rights, academic freedom, a free press and a market economy.
"To assume, as some people do, that the case for these things is self-evident and universally accepted, is naive. It has to be made time and time again.
"Your own chamber rightly pointed out last year that a free press was not only a pillar of democracy but also a precondition for a functioning economy."