Herman Mashaba

Herman Mashaba: the work of fixing South Africa has to start with our economy

2020-01-19 09:00
Fixing the economy will go a long way toward fixing South Africa, says the writer. (iStock)

Fixing the economy will go a long way toward fixing South Africa, says the writer. (iStock)

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We need a government which says what it means and does what it says, and not a government that speaks with a forked tongue where our economic policy is framed by who they are addressing, writes Herman Mashaba

Every day, 11 million South Africans wake up and face a life without the dignity of work.

They are unable to improve the lives of their families, or offer their children a brighter future than they grew up with.

These South Africans are promised by unscrupulous politicians, election after election, that they will benefit from millions of new jobs.

The jobs never materialise, but the promises keep coming.

Every economic indicator in our country is pointing in the direction that suggests we are heading towards a collapse that will make Zimbabwe look like a picnic.

This is why I am seized by the work of The People’s Dialogue.

Launched in December 2019, it has already achieved a level of conversation that has exceeded my wildest expectations. Millions of people are being engaged, and pouring their hearts and souls into their submissions on how we can fix our country.

This coming week, I am going to be starting the second phase of the dialogue. It is going to shift to a focused weekly discussion on the particular issues that South Africans, of all backgrounds, have raised with the platform.

It should come as no surprise that first on our agenda next week, will be to discuss solutions to growing our economy and creating jobs. It is a complex topic and requires serious consideration, given the implications if we do not fix our economy.

When I consider our economy, these are the issues that are front of my mind:

We have an unhealthy relationship between government and unions, arising from the tripartite alliance.

In other countries this relationship is conducted at arm’s length, as with all other key interest groups.

Here, in South Africa, our government is terrified to upset the unions for fear of losing their support ahead of the next election.

So, when the difficult decisions need to be made, like with our ailing State-Owned Entities, a Minister of Finance will announce strong action and Luthuli House will squash it.

This is an issue that very few are paying attention to, and the South African people have no say about. This has to change.

Our economic confusion has to be next on the agenda. If anyone can tell me what our country’s economic strategy is, please let me know.

How investors and prospective business people are supposed to invest in our country with any level of certainty is beyond me.

I suppose this is why they aren’t investing or opening new businesses.

We need a government which says what it means and does what it says, and not a government that speaks with a forked tongue where our economic policy is framed by who they are addressing.

Is our education system producing the kind of school leavers that are equipped for the job market or tertiary education? I am afraid not.

Education has become about massaging the numbers, ignoring the drop outs between grade 1 and grade 12, or the deliberate de-registering of failing students to be part-time to flatter the pass rate.

This is something which should make us weep, not celebrate.

What has been done to small businesses in South Africa is criminal.

In growing economies around the world, small businesses employ upwards of half of all working people.

In South Africa, small business receives no support and are subjected to bureaucratic red-tape that throttles their potential. Our young people are not being trained and educated about starting a small business, and the potential of our South African people is being held back by our government.

The labour laws of our country require debate.

It is easy for those with the dignity of employment to resist this discussion, but such resistance takes place at the expense of those without work.

In every fast-growing economy around the world, labour laws are less restrictive than ours in South Africa. Prospective employers are not afraid, in these countries, to give someone a chance, a chance that people are not getting in South Africa. It is worth thinking about.

Our State-Owned Entities are a drain on our fiscus.

For a growing economy, these entities need to be making profits with our public money. They are given an opportunity to take public money and grow it through efficient, effective and functioning companies. In tough economic times, we cannot afford to be constantly bailing-out the financial black holes of the SABC, ESKOM, SAA and the likes.

Developing a professional civil service has to be central to growing our economy.

For decades people have been employed in the civil service not because of what they know, but because of who they know.

The dictate of cadre deployment has been that people must be loyal to the party before they are loyal to the country.

No country can grow its economy as long as this is the case. We need the best of the best to serve in government to create a skilled, capable and effective civil service.

These and so many more questions lie ahead of us next week in The People’s Dialogue. I am calling on all South Africans to engage in this conversation, and to share their ideas on how we can grow our economy and create jobs.

If you are like me, and you love our country and its people, join the conversation to build a growing economy that creates jobs.

- Mashaba is founder of The People's Dialogue, an entrepreneur and the former executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg.

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.


Read more on:    herman mashaba  |  jobs  |  economy  |  state owned enterprises


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