Cape Town – Reputation management expert Solly Moeng told Fin24 on Monday that race baiting and populist rhetoric by powerful politicians has immense potential to undermine South Africa’s reputation in the international community.
He made these remarks ahead of a Brand Summit scheduled to take place in Cape Town from Thursday to Friday. The summit aims to gather South Africa’s top minds in politics, academia, business and government to resolve the country's reputation quagmire.
However, as if a lacklustre economic growth is not enough for SA to worry about, the economic and living standard gaps in the country informed by race have stayed stubbornly intact, with “radical economic transformation” gaining traction among many South Africans.
Parliament is currently dealing with two critical law assessments to address the multi-generational legacy of South Africa’s inequality: an investigation into the need to change the Constitution to allow for land expropriation without compensation, and the national minimum wage.
The approved motion to take another look at the Constitution’s provision for expropriation without compensation caused Australian minister for home affairs Peter Dutton to offer white South African farmers help to go to Australia, drawing him into a row with International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.
The African National Congress is also grappling with a resolution to buy out shares in the South African Reserve Bank, with a view to changing its mandate to a more developmental and transformative one. The party however made an about-turn in presenting this to Parliament.
Moeng said the ANC is caught in a dangerous game of attempting to maintain its image as a pro-poor party while Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters are in attack mode, proposing what is considered to be a “radical left” policy and campaigning on the basis of the country’s racial divisions.
“There are economic divisions that have serious consequences if they are not addressed and that is why we have the land expropriation matter and the national minimum wage taking centre stage.
"What is concerning is that in this climate we have slogans being spouted by politicians at the poor with no thought of how they will affect society,” said Moeng.
Culture of victim-hood
He said some politicians in South Africa are enabling a culture of victim-hood among black communities, by demonising all white South Africans in their eyes.
He cited the latest furore on the International Association of Athletics Foundations’ restricted sporting codes, which many consider to be aimed at South Africa’s own 800m world champion Caster Semenya.
“We are very good at playing the victim instead of winning people over by engaging them in assessing the hard, scientific facts. Caster has been dealing with this for a long time and the IAAF has had to consider what this means for their codes. Let’s deal with that and not throw the race card at everything we dislike,” said Moeng.
He said the ANC owes all South Africans an apology for allowing itself to become distracted by internal politics as racial divisions, while inequalities languished. He said if the ANC had not failed on this front, there would be no room for politicians to gain traction using race politics.
“There are perceptions that the law deals with a predominantly white private sector with kid gloves, while the predominantly black government incurs the full wrath of the law for the same misdeeds and that is bad for race relations in South Africa,” he said.