2016, May we find a path to a National Accord

2015-12-29 22:15

There has never been a politically charged environment after 1994 like the period we going through today. As the state continues to be perceived as increasingly becoming weak and ineffective, we are now starting to see a self-protective citizenry losing patience and erupting into protest and unrest. While  Marikana also signalled a turning point in our country as it showed how failure to meet citizens’ demands and expectations, may also be met with brutality and how repression can be unleashed. This is an unprecedented cross road between Government and citizens since the apartheid period.

It has now become clear that failure by government and citizens to address critical challenges will result in further disintegration. We now need to build state capacity, and citizens now need to organise better platforms to engage government constructively with reachable goals in mind. Protests now need to be promoted beyond cheap political point scoring and fear tactics, like the walk-in demonstration expected in 2016 within the local banks by the EFF.

A Citizen Accord

A Citizens’ Accord is an agreement as country by all citizens on what will build a shared and sustainable democratic society in South Africa. The pace at which we building rifts and are destroying cooperation between different sectors of society are growing rapidly, threatening the health of our democracy.

The discord is even more alarming even amongst the black people, where there is no clear developmental agenda for the impoverished millions within us. After 20 years of democracy, we have not come to a common hypothetical conclusion on what our development agenda is. We exist in the ambiguity of theories and with politicians’ being non-committal on the required actions of tomorrow on the economy. Where is the beacon of hope to our economic emancipation? Are we driving B-BBEE? Are we building black Industrialists? Are Nationalising mines or the land? Or Are we a developmental state, driven by social grants?

The political ambiguity serves all politicians so well, as it never brings the performance of these policies to question, but it has succeeded in creating class and racial wars. The concepts of black middle class, and educated black class, have become the new social demons classed with racist liberals in dismissing the plight of the poor. A convenient destruction from the facts that we are not debating anything of substance when it comes to the economy.

Our Critical Issues as a Country

I have shared at length, my ideas on mapping the future of our country. I will concede that my lack of attachment to any political party would mean my ideas are equally ambiguous as they may not be promoted beyond this platform. However I am still compelled to suggested that as a country we need to agree on four fundamental issues and their subsequent social and economic expectations in order to move this country forward more constructively.

Issue One: New National Pride

South Africa is a heterogeneous state with nation-building needed to overcome and avoid challenges associated with heterogeneity and diversity. Nation-building strategies commonly pursue the “one country, one nation” ideal in attempting to create an overarching superior-national identity that should replace and/or subsume subnational identities and cultures.

There are two forms of nation-building. The first form regards loyalty to the state as more important than loyalty to subgroups. The other on the other hand, gives recognition to ethnic, racial and other groupings as the building blocks of a larger unity and involves policies of multiculturalism that guarantee the cultural rights of ethnic or other minorities.

We need as a country need to reach a consensus about our national identity, as evident from the past two decades. All sections of society should find a way to define South Africa as a national community, where they don’t feel forced to be a member of it and that it is an inappropriate object of their loyalty. We have scope to revise our national psychology about the country and review our sociology and the mini-battles redefining our sociology including Statues must fall debates. In fact it is interesting how debates on the subject of historic statues like Rhodes, has been squashed. The mere opposite suggestion by any party is met with serious prejudice, like no middle exist to discuss these issues.

Issue Two: Economic Access

Economic access debates in South Africa are also met with a level of debate that belies the glaring underlying challenges. The fact that over 40% of the population are living at less than R 302 per month, and that the highest concentration of that population is black means we need to be sober with how we are creating economic access.

Access into the economy will be enabled by two factors that require an accord. Firstly we need to encourage a reading and not just literate society, where through the written word the youth of the country discover their place in life. Secondly we need to agree that as a nation we need a work ethic that aims to stimulate productivity, effectively allowing the economy to produce more from currently existing resources. To this end we need a clear direction on:

  • the degree of openness and competition in markets, which are generally regarded as central to lifting productivity by improving how and where resources are used and incentivising innovation and performance;
  • investment and other strategic choices made by organisations (e.g, using new and smarter technology), which depend on the quality of governance and management;
  • the attitude and effort of employees toward ongoing training, finding business improvements and helping implement beneficial change;
  • the quality of education and the attitude of students to the value of learning and skill development;
  • the quality of Government (and local government) decisions, in shaping and deciding where public money is spent and where it will come from, and implementing and operating the framework itself; and
  • in homes in the aspirations of individuals and families, and the decisions taken to achieve those aspirations.

Issue Three: Private sector Participation

Private sector growth is widely acknowledged to be an essential component in the alleviation of poverty as a means of providing more and different economic opportunities in any given society. The private sector provides regular employment, which over a long period of time leads to improved livelihood for workers and their families, including increased access to education, health services and more. Private sector operatives should have a shared interest in the country, in which their own success will be secured and be made stable with healthy, well-educated populations. Now the concept of population should rightly include the private sector taking a keen interest in the development of the previously marginalised.

The biggest challenge in South Africa is that the private sectors has become disinterested in the development of the country. It could be to uncertainty or to lack of a clear vision driving the economy or to cynicism, however when StatsSA revealed that capital expenditure fell 9.3%, or almost R9-billion, between the last quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015. Year on year, the drop was a much larger – 18%, down by more than R20-billion. On a quarterly basis, mining and quarrying was down more than 28%, and manufacturing declined by 14.5%.

The perceived hoarding and the culture to drive profits with lower production and expense ceilings is not making the country any favours. According to data from the South African Reserve Bank, as of December 2014, corporate cash balances had reached R1.35-trillion. We need a compact between labour, government and the private sector mapping a new mutually beneficial future.

Issue four: Industrial development

There is no doubt how important the manufacturing sector is to any economy. It has the largest multiplier, than all sectors of the economy. Every rand in a final sale of manufactured product supports other sectors of the economy. Manufacturing productivity consistently outpaces productivity growth in other sectors of the economy. Manufacturing employees earn higher wages and receive more generous benefits than other classes across the globe. On average, manufacturing employees earn 23 percent more than workers in other parts of the economy. Manufacturing employs workers at all skill and education levels. For non-post matric educated workers, manufacturing is a crucial source of good, often highly skilled jobs that pay above average wages. Manufacturing sector is also of vital importance in maintaining our innovative capacity.

Manufacturers are responsible for more than 70 percent of all business R&D, which ultimately benefits other manufacturing and non-manufacturing activity. It for this reason we need an accord as a nation to turn the following trend around. Manufacturing production in South Africa decreased by 2.1% in October 2015 compared with October 2014. The largest negative contributions were made by the following divisions: basic iron and steel, non-ferrous metal products, metal products and machinery (-10.3% and contributing -1.9 percentage points); and motor vehicles, parts and accessories and other transport equipment (-6.2% and contributing -0.5 of a percentage point).

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