Mark 2017 as the year of action

2017-02-05 05:58
education is key Pupils at Boitumelong Secondary School in Tembisa received study tablets and interactive boards as learning tools in 2015. Roll-out of this policy needs to take place at schools countrywide to boost SA’s progress. Picture: Leon Sadiki

education is key Pupils at Boitumelong Secondary School in Tembisa received study tablets and interactive boards as learning tools in 2015. Roll-out of this policy needs to take place at schools countrywide to boost SA’s progress. Picture: Leon Sadiki

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It may well be agreed that 2016 was an eventful year in a number of respects, particularly on the political scene. But if recent domestic and global political events, from Gambia to the US, are anything to go by, 2017 promises to be yet another roller coaster ride.

The shock of Donald Trump securing the US presidency settled into reality as he took the oath of office on January 20.

The following day, Gambia’s disgraced and defeated former despot, Yahya Jammeh, fled with his family into exile in Equatorial Guinea. This following a post-election political standoff on Jammeh’s part that threatened to provoke a regional military intervention as he sought to hang on to power.

It signalled the end of his 22-year reign of terror. Finally, his democratically elected successor, opposition leader Adama Barrow, could return home from Senegal to begin his presidential term of office.

While these important events will have direct and indirect consequences for South Africa, we have our own burning domestic issues to prioritise.

I have always believed that if black people in South Africa put in the requisite effort to obtain a quality education, business opportunities and market access would naturally follow.

I also used to believe that if they worked hard at their chosen careers, they would experience upward mobility.

However, I have come to realise that economic progress is not a natural outcome of the fruits of the black person’s labour in South Africa. In this country, progress is only possible on a large scale if corrective measures are taken to address the legacy of apartheid-era privations.

Education is, and will always be, the basic requirement for any society to get ahead. We must demand that government offer quality education and proper infrastructure to all the country’s schools and tertiary institutions.

We must also demand that young people appreciate the value of hard work and strive to be the best in their chosen academic spheres.

We must encourage entrepreneurs to make the necessary sacrifices and stay in the game.

And we must encourage people who are currently in the privileged position of having a job to put their best efforts into their work.

If we all did the above and played our part in contributing to South Africa’s development, the problem would then lie solely in business and government’s inability to provide more opportunities for its citizens. Far too many remain unemployed and urgent action is needed.

It is patently clear to me that, unless those in power – including business owners, board members and executives in the private sector – recognise the fact that the allocation of resources and opportunities is skewed, and that market forces alone will not correct the situation without deliberate intervention by this group, this blight will forever remain with us.

The National Development Plan has less than 15 years to achieve its ambitious targets for 2030. While this must remain our long-term plan, we need to bolster it with immediate, short- and medium-term programmes.

This year must stand out as one in which we rearrange the economic space to start accommodating those who have done what needs to be done by getting educated, acquiring work experience, making sacrifices in their businesses, and so on.

We can no longer afford the luxury of analysing the failures of BEE. It has become a classic type of analysis paralysis, to the extent that people use it as an excuse to maintain the status quo.

The business community must also stop creating the impression that we are waiting for government to revisit its policies before doing anything.

This is becoming a lame excuse. We can see that communities are excluded from accessing the market and we have the power to do something about that. Swift, responsible action is needed.

Sadly, in South Africa we skate around issues and are expert players at the blame game. While government and the public sector must shoulder their responsibilities, it is also up to us to demand accountable leadership.

We cannot work in a linear way, waiting for the politicians to get their act together before we start economic rearrangement. The longer communities are excluded from mainstream business opportunities, the poorer our country will become.

Let us debate the issues by all means, but not at the expense of delayed implementation.

Talking and planning are all very well, but action is what is direly needed in 2017.

Let us make things happen now.

Ntsaluba is co-founder of auditing firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo as well as NMT Capital, and chairman of WZ Capital

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