Send in the clowns

2011-03-23 00:00

NOW that local government elections are around the corner, our nation is forced once again to witness the circus of electioneering. Indeed, lovers of truth will not hide the fact that most of our politicians are veritable clowns. Anyone who finds this harsh must watch the so-called elections debate on SABC 1 on Sundays.

After watching our so-called debate, recall the debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. If you need more evidence, ret­rieve the video of the last debate between Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg before the most recent British elections. In both the United States and British debates, the central question was: what to do with the economy.

Watching these real debates, a capacitated mind couldn't help marvelling at the substance of politicians elsewhere. They tackle such technical economic questions as taxation, inflation management, fiscal prudence, or how best to package interventions to rescue collapsing financial institutions

Imagine President Jacob Zuma having to answer questions on any of these subjects. Smile, or say: "We must continue to debate these issues."

Sunday in and Sunday out on SABC 1, we watch the elections debate with disbelief as the clowns shout at each other without substance. The phrase their brains have been forced strenuously to absorb is "job creation". How? Our clowns don't know.

Indeed, job creation is a fashionable term today. The New Growth Path even speculates that mining will create 200 000 jobs by 2030. How can this be achieved when Eskom struggles to power the current size of our economy? Those who know a little bit about mining would be aware that it is an energy-intensive industry. In agriculture, smallholder schemes are projected to create 145 000 by 2020. How can this be realistic when most of our rural municipalities can't provide water?

Recently, a great deal of excitement has been generated by the afterthought decision of the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries to allow South Africa to join this new association. After peeling back the propaganda emanating from our politicians, an ugly core remains that, other than the smiles from Zuma when pictures are taken, there is little that South Africa will gain. Instead, our taxpayers will have to pay for government officials to attend jamborees.

If South Africa wishes to gain an advantage in the global economy and to create jobs locally, there is a great deal to learn from China. One important lesson is that China did not break out of its economic torpor by becoming a member of useless international associations.

The Chinese analysed the global economy and devised a clear strategy for China to become a formidable player. They were smart enough to target the world's biggest economy, the United States. Taking advantage of the rising tide of consumerism in the U.S., the Chinese created conditions in their country for cheaper production to attract U.S. firms. Where are the largest volumes of Nike products produced today?

Before they knew it, U.S. citizens were clothed by China, and used technological gadgets made in China. When the U.S. was printing dollars, China was voraciously buying them, thereby devaluing its own currency. As the U.S. was expanding its deficit, the Chinese were saving money. In 2007, when the U.S. needed to borrow $800 billion from global markets, China ran a current-account surplus of $262 billion.

As a result of its economic cleverness, China effectively became producer and banker to the U.S. When U.S. citizens walk with a swagger, thinking that they are the best in the world, the Chinese smile at such ignorance. While it is true that China's army of poor people is still very large, there are more than 345 000 dollar millionaires in China today. Since the ideological turnaround in 1978/9, China has literally lifted more than 200 million of its citizens out of poverty.

Therefore, when we watch our clowns on SABC 1 engaging in the so-called elections debate, we should ask critical questions. When they abuse the phrase "job creation", we must demand to know what strategy they have to position South Africa better in the global economy.

Instead of shouting at each other, our politicians must be pressed hard to explain why they think investors will choose South Africa over China as the production workshop for the world.

Given that South Africans don't save, we deserve answers as to where our country will get the money to finance the mushrooming of massive labour-intensive schemes. If they do not offer answers to these important questions, we must dismiss these fellows as nothing but clowns.

— News 24

• Prince Mashele is the executive director of the Centre for Politics and Research ( and a member of the Midrand Group. Mashele's new book, The Death of Our Society, will be published soon.

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