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Experience is something you get the moment after you need it.
This witty comment came from the guy sipping his coffee at the table next to me
in a café last week. However, in reviewing South Africa’s future, the wisdom in
the comment can be turned on its head as we have had so much experience of both
the highs and lows in our recent past. Surely we can learn from that.
So, let’s go through the six principal flags identified by
various august institutions as the ones most likely to influence our future:
is the latest victim of this flag with food and medical supplies running out,
and life being absolute hell for its ordinary citizens. By contrast, here in
South Africa, we are seeing attempts to turn the situation around with the
commission on state capture now in action and the president voicing his
determination to root out corrupt practices. This is a good sign, but for the
flag to turn really green the perpetrators must see their day in court and, if
found guilty, must suffer the consequences.
Infrastructure: We have not had another round of major load-shedding by Eskom
this winter season and serious attempts are being made to improve management of
state-owned enterprises. However it is worrying to see so many construction
companies with their backs against the wall. This implies that the multi-billion
rand government programme to improve infrastructure is not yet seriously
underway. The manner in which National Health Insurance in South Africa is
implemented will provide considerable guidance on the prospects of this flag
Style of leadership:
South Africa works very well when it has a leader or purpose uniting it. Witness
the years of economic growth under Mandela and the outstanding reception given
to soccer players and foreign fans during the 2010 World Cup. Our current
president is definitely a person who can exercise the right kind of inclusive
leadership to put us on our feet again, but he will have to handle the final
flag of land reform very carefully in order to avoid a mutiny on deck.
Pockets of Excellence:
We have so many pockets of excellence in South Africa in both the public and
private sector, but the last ten years have taken their toll and many people
who would have formed the next generation of excellence have sadly left the
country. The most important area in which to watch this flag is education
because only high quality education is capable of reducing social inequality in
the long run. We have some of the best schools and university faculties in the
world. If we can learn from them in order to uplift the rest, we will be on our
way to becoming a winning nation.
By common consent, this flag is the one that can change the country’s economic
destiny the most and create a genuine state of economic freedom. We need an
enterprise summit rather than a jobs summit to tackle the exclusiveness that
still persists in our daily lives; to integrate the township economies into the
mainstream economy; and to come up with innovative solutions to convert rural
communities into thriving networks of local activity. At the heart of all this
will lie the goal of multiplying the number of youthful entrepreneurs in our
Land reform: The
latest tweet by Donald Trump is not helpful on this issue, but it goes to show
that only the kind of team approach that caused the political miracle of the
early 1990s can turn this flag green. The positive meeting of agricultural
players last week in Bela-Bela should be seen as a forerunner to a full-scale
Agridesa that can take place once the government has completed its
consultations with the public. Any move to impose a top-down remedy on land
redistribution which sparks widespread resistance among existing land owners is
bound to have immense downside on both the local and international fronts. The
injustices of the past must be corrected, but in a way that involves consensus
from all sides on the best way forward. Otherwise this will be the most
disruptive flag of all.
The six flags lead to three possible scenarios for South
This is the scenario where we reverse the negative economic trends of recent
times by turning all six flags green. We start regularly hitting an economic
growth rate between 3 and 5% per annum while at the same time moving away from
being one of the most unequal societies on Earth. Critically, we serve as an
inspiring example to other nations of how racial divisions can be healed by
implementing a vision based on ethics and common sense.
In this scenario we relinquish our position as the number one economy in Africa
that we have held for 150 years and become just another third world destination.
The decline is peaceful although all the flags stay reddish in colour. The
problems prove too hard for even the most talented leadership to resolve and we
remain a racially divided country from which the best talent emigrates in the
hope of a more peaceful and better life elsewhere.
This is the scenario where the wheels come off completely in the near future
mainly as a result of the last flag turning really nasty and violence rearing
its ugly head on a wide scale. Nobody overseas even thinks of investing here as
we descend into that group of nations which for one reason or another is
regarded as a wasteland with no hope of redemption.
At the moment, the probabilities I attach to these three
scenarios are 60% for the first one, 30% for the second and 10% for the third.
Nevertheless, I respect the fact that each reader may have a completely
different spectrum of probabilities given that this country is at a tipping
Whichever way the future breaks, be sure to anticipate it by
watching the flags! Better still, roll up your sleeves to help turn the flags
green and raise the probability of staying in the Premier League.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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