For Mboweni's growth plan to succeed the ANC has to give up certain dogmatic positions that were formulated when 7% growth was the status quo, writes Adriaan Basson.
Gwede Mantashe. (Netwerk24, file)
Multimedia · User Galleries · News in Pictures
Send us your pictures · Send us your stories
At the now not-much-remembered, invitation-only conference around
land reform – the National Forum for
Dialogue on Land, Heritage and Human Rights – mining and minerals minister
Gwede Mantashe made much of the need to defeat greed. Land expropriation, he
said, needed to be targeted at people who were acquiring too much land.
"When a person is greedy and
takes every piece of land for himself," Mantashe declared, "that
person should be the first for expropriation, because he doesn't need land."
The practical gist of Mantashe's
remarks was probably a signal about limitations on land ownership or land
ceilings, at times as prospective government policy. That is a substantive
policy question, though one Mantashe does
very little to advance with evidence or argument. But the manner in which it
was framed puts some ethical questions on the table.
How much is enough? What do we need?
When do our wants and ambitions become morally untenable? What is fair and
equitable to all concerned? Can acquisition be justified against the backdrop
of severe deprivation and extreme inequalities?
These are profound considerations, and
against the background of the past few years they have a particular resonance.
The basis for decrying it – as we should – is not
only the malfeasance that has taken place, but what it says about the moral
corrosion of our society.
Land ownership is of course not the
only context in which these concerns have been raised. Thinking on corporate
governance is increasingly attempting to accommodate ethical concerns and 'corporate
citizenship'. Executive pay has been another, prominent, theme. Brand
Pretorius, then chairman of Absa bank's remuneration committee, remarked in
2014 that salaries paid to executives "is not just a business issue
anymore. It has become a really important and sensitive social issue."
On the other hand, growth – whether in
business, responsibilities or one's pay cheque – is the prime incentive for any
economic activity. It is in the nature of business success that enterprises
grow, and that entrepreneurs acquire. In the case of land, it is
well-documented that market pressures are forcing farms to consolidate to stay
Are the land acquirers who so offend
Mantashe trying to stack the deck against their competitors – or are they
visionary businesspeople dreaming of seeing their produce in stores from
Blikkiesdorp to Beijing?
a reasonable discussion to be had on these matters, but not a simple one.
Indeed, moralism can be quite
damaging to rational policy debate. Few things would be as valuable to South
Africa's economic future as developing a vigorous small business economy. On
this, almost everyone agrees. But 'small business' is too often taken up by
people with little experience in the actual running of a business as a moral
avatar – the acceptable face of capitalism and the solution to economic
exclusion – rather than as the competitive operations that they need to be.
Business environment specialists SBP
remarks: "Small businesses are not charities, welfare measures or
systems to generate employment for its own sake." What social benefits
there are "are a happy by-product of healthy small businesses seeking
opportunities in a market, not their inherent objective".
"Small businesses' potential to grow – indeed to
function at all – is no different from that of their larger counterparts
insofar as economic decisions must be based on economic incentives. Imbuing
small businesses with excessive moral or ideological significance is
counterproductive. Small business is business, first and foremost."
But if greed and selfishness is a pathology that needs to be
shamed and combated, it is surely one that might profitably be applied outside
the economy – perhaps in the field in which Mantashe works – in politics and
If greed is to be measured by acquisitiveness, it is hard to
imagine a field in which it finds a more full-bodied expression than politics.
It is rare to hear a politician suggesting that his or her own party holds too
much power. Oh yes, there may be sage words about "checks and balances"
and the need to find "inclusive solutions", but the idea that one's
party receives too many votes, holds an unhealthy number of parliamentary
seats, forms majorities in a distressingly large proportion of provinces and
municipalities… very rare indeed.
In a competitive, multi-party system, monopoly and monopsony
is pretty much what politicians wish for. In South Africa, with an electoral
system that fixates on political parties, there is little incentive to think in
any other terms.
Mantashe's own party, long dominant in South Africa, has
certainly not attempted to break this pattern. It has shown little enthusiasm
for a revised electoral system that might engender more give and take. More to
the point, its leaders have repeatedly voiced the goal of expanding its
footprint. In the run-up to the second post-liberation election, in 1999,
despite holding a comfortable majority nationally, and despite holding seven of
the nine provinces, its stated goal was an "overwhelming" or "two-thirds
majority", which would allow it to govern "unfettered by constraints".
Over subsequent years, it consciously sought to expand this
– and successfully came in at just under 70% of the vote in 2004. It also readily
absorbed representatives from other parties (and in the case of the New
National Party, whole parties). In the City of Cape Town, it even used councillor
defections – the disreputable 'floor crossing' – to take control of the city.
By Mantashe's reasoning, it is
unclear why it should have wanted – or needed – all of this. And, for the record,
it is difficult to imagine any of the opposition parties piously failing to
take advantage in this way, had things aligned more favourably for themselves.
But one could argue that limits on
the greed of politicians and political parties are more important than they are
in respect of business and business people. The expansion of one's business
interests may translate into the ability to wield power over others; the
expansion of political power is by definition geared to doing so. Accumulated
political power can be extraordinarily venal.
As a country we need to ask questions
about the abuses of power and resources. We need to insert ethical questions
into our policy thinking – while guarding against ill-thought-out assumptions.
It would be fruitless to demand limits on permissible representation, or for
parties to voluntarily stand down when opportunities for growth and power
present themselves. Not dissimilarly, a moralised, evidence-free condemnation
of business growth is counterproductive for the economic take-off South Africa
- Terence Corrigan is a project
manager at the Institute of Race Relations.
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.
All the latest flicks in SA cinemas right now!
Choosing the brightest body colour isn't necessarily a good thing. Here's why...
Boys make up part of the 41 583 rapes committed in SA over the 2018/2019 period.
Teens are pledging to not have children until governments address climate change.
Mercedes-Benz have now upgraded its GLC with a host of new changes.
Getting scammed isn't cute.
We'll keep you in the loop!
Culprits could face 4 years in prison
MosselbaaiCalandria Labour Consultants
Western CapeGlobe RecruitmentR30 000.00 Per Month Per Month
R 11 800 000
R 5 250 000
R 8 400 000
We subscribe to the Press Code.
You choose what you want
News24 on Android
Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.
Terms and Conditions
24.com Terms and Conditions - Updated April 2012
Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.
This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.