Clem Sunter: Economic apartheid still exists

Scenario planner Clem Sunter. (Photo:
Scenario planner Clem Sunter. (Photo:

Cape Town – Scenario planner Clem Sunter said on Wednesday that he is as passionate about economic freedom in South Africa as Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema, and called for an economic conference to find a solution.

“I believe in economic freedom as passionately as Julius Malema, but it’s just that my type of economic freedom has to do with entrepreneurs and opening up our whole economy,” he told Fin24.

“It’s not about nationalising the mines and the banks, which I don’t think will add one extra degree of economic freedom to your ordinary citizen,” said the author of the best-selling Fox Trilogy. “What will (help) is if we have a proper platform, which supports entrepreneurs.”

Economic apartheid still exists

Sunter said South Africa has succeeded in ending political apartheid, but has yet to finish off economic apartheid.

“We got rid of political apartheid but have not gotten rid of economic apartheid,” he said. “Malema and I both agree that we need economic freedom.”

He called on leaders to host an economic Codesa to ensure the country stops meandering into what he terms the second division.

“We’re at the second crossroads - the economic crossroads,” he said.

AUDIO: Interview with Clem Sunter by Fin24's Matthew le Cordeur

Codesa for economic freedom

“The two critical sparks (to take the right path to success) is to get our infrastructure right and to really have an economic Codesa to discuss how we (can) create genuine economic freedom in South Africa for all entrepreneurs,” he said.

Codesa, or the Convention for a Democratic South Africa, took place between 1991 and 1992 and resulted in the political solution that created the conditions necessary for the country to become a democratic republic.

Sunter told a gathering at an Afrika Tikkun event in Cape Town that while he has done scenario planning workshops with the inner circle of the Chinese Communist Party and Zimbabwe’s leading Zanu-PF party, he has yet to be invited by the African National Congress to discuss scenario planning in South Africa.

Three scenarios for South Africa

Sunter said there are three scenarios for the future of South Africa, and scored them as follows:

Premier league (45%): Due to the fact that the World Competitive Survey ranks South Africa 53rd out of 61 nations in 2015, Sunter said the country is now in the “relegation zone”.

“To stay in the premier league, we’ve got to have some sparks to our economy,” he said, referring to the point about infrastructure and entrepreneurship.

Second division (45%): As South Africa is in the relegation zone, it has the possibility of taking “a slow meander down to… a third world country status”.

Said Sunter: “The problem with this scenario is the more you go down, the less resilience you have. If some random event (occurs), then it propels us into a failed state. The chances are that much greater.”

Failed state (10%): “(In this scenario), the wheels come off,” he said. “We give it a very minor probability of 10%, because we’ve got such strong institutions in South Africa to act as a check and balance to the government.”

Sunter, who has authored 17 books, spent much of his career in Anglo American's gold and uranium division, serving as its chairperson and CEO from 1990 to 1996. He was until recently chairperson of the Anglo American Chairman's Fund, which in a recent survey was rated South Africa's premier corporate social responsibility fund.

He was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Cape Town for his work in the field of scenario planning, and was also voted by leading South African CEOs as the speaker who has made the most significant contribution to, and impact on, best practice and business in South Africa.

Clem Sunter is also a News24 columnist. Read his columns here.

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