Clem Sunter

Peace or war: It’s your call

2012-06-20 08:52

Clem Sunter

With the report on the News24 website that ANCYL’s Deputy President, Ronald Lamola, stated in Durban yesterday that an act as forceful as war was needed to bring the land back to Africans, I would like to repeat the comment I made two weeks ago in an article on the latest South African scenarios:

"The fourth flag [for a 'Failed State' scenario] is the most lethal one: land grabs which will immediately divide the nation and possibly cause a civil war. We will literally hit the wall and be off everybody’s investment agenda. The whole point of identifying a red flag like this is to ask how it can be kept down. We [Chantell Ilbury and I] believe that the country needs an Agridesa of all the major players in the agricultural game to negotiate a land transformation programme with a reasonable chance of success.  In other words, land grabs should be pre-empted."

What more can Chantell Ilbury and I say as futurists desperately wanting our country to stay in the "Premier League" of nations and maintain its status as the leading and most advanced economy in Africa? We currently assign a 10% probability to the "Failed State" scenario which is up from the zero probability we were giving it 18 months ago. Quite a few commentators and companies attach a much higher probability, with the latter actively seeking ways of extending their geographical footprint into other African countries where they have a greater trust in a peaceful future. I am not kidding when I say that the CEOs doing this are probably giving 50:50 odds to a future of peace or war in South Africa.

In other words, the fear is that we turn into an old version of Liberia and Sierra Leone, where child soldiers with newly acquired AK47s are driven around on Toyota pick-ups and atrocities become a daily occurrence. The infrastructure of the country is completely degraded, the economy goes into a precipitous dive and the only issues are starvation and lack of medical facilities to treat the dying and wounded. The critical variable then becomes whether the war is purely a black-versus-white affair or whether it descends into ethnic strife with shifting allegiances and all the chaos that entails.

We have to face up to one fact. While we have a free and fair political system, we do not have a free and fair economy. Citizens of South Africa certainly have political freedom, but not economic freedom. The economy is far too centralised and lop-sided to be anything like one which can be called inclusive. For all those critics who talk about an absence of work ethic among the citizenry, I would totally disagree. Entrepreneurs in South Africa are in chains because of their shoddy treatment by government, parastatals and big business who seem to have formed an unholy alliance to keep the economy in as few hands as possible. The unions don't help by pursuing a very narrow definition of decent work which means either unionised employment or no employment at all. The informal sector instead of being supported is frowned upon and ignored.

So I will end with the conclusion Chantell Ilbury and I put forward in the article two weeks ago:
"We therefore call this moment a second tipping point as the first tipping point occurred in the early 1990s when we could have tipped into civil war, but were saved from doing so by Codesa 1 and 2 which resulted in a new constitution and an open, democratic election. We now need a Codesa 3 or Economic Codesa in which the government, the top 100 CEOs in the private sector, the unions and other significant players in civil society participate to create an inclusive economy driven by a new generation of entrepreneurs and industrialists."


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