Equality of Outcome for One South Africa through Responsible Citizenry

2015-08-07 14:58

While I have no illusions as to the storm that is about to descend on me for writing so frankly on such a sensitive subject, I remain hopeful that the dialogues the article generates will have a profound consequences on the future of South Africa. There is no circumstance that any level of social commentary can raise to justify that all South African’s are born with equal opportunity, nor can we claim that our upbringing is preparing us equally to accessing future opportunities as equal parties.

A child born poor in a squatter camp in Alexander, cannot share similar providence to the one born across the M1 in Sandton. Both children may have parents that are deeply concerned about their welfare, and care enough to provide a background of culture and understanding, but the history of each parent will influence their immediate perception of the world.

An outstanding debate in South Africa’s political history, even with our common dislike for the current political direction, is the distinction between "equality of opportunity" and "equality of outcome." Equality of opportunity means freedom to pursue one's private interest or vocation without arbitrary restrictions based on irrelevant personal characteristics. Equality of outcome is a radically different concept. Equality of opportunity provides a sense that we all start the race of life at the same time. Equality of outcome attempts to ensure that everyone finishes at the same time.

There is probably no scenario in South Africa, where we can imagine a situation where, everybody wins and we all get a prize. Only in a fair society can such an eventuality be achieved. Fairness however is an ambiguous notion, especially in a nation full of individuals with dreams and aspirations. The following discussion comes from the three challenges attached to the concept of Equality in Outcomes:

If rewards are based not on achievement and effort but on fairness, what incentive is there to work?

Four weeks ago I lost a dear friend to crime after he was shot by house robbers in his own yard. I know that crime affects us all and that we have fallen victim across all races, despite the cultural victim card we all claim on crime.  However when we evaluate our society and similar ideas that challenge property ownership in South Africa, our risk and reward ideas  for hard work have spiralled out of control:

Crime as an inhibitor to a better society

Crime alone in South Africa challenges the concept of fairness. According to ISS Crime Hub 500 South Africans are robbed each day. This mean each day 500 South Africans lose property that rewards their hard work, and adding to their possible equality in outcome.

Corruption as an inhibitor to a better society

Forget all defence we are eager to hold on to as a society, like comparing corruption by the apartheid government to corruption by the current one. The truth is that currently in South Africa corruption has become a political economic structure and a path to livelihood. It may not be written but its commonly understood that certain things are only achievable if corrupt officials are bribed. The list is endless from driver’s license to tenders; even simple things such as basic services have a corrupt hand looking to be greased.

The Moral Contradiction

I have written at length about how I do not believe that South Africa will have any meaningful achievement by driving BBBEE laws in transforming our society. I have also written at length on my belief that we need to prioritise building an equal society. Once we start to intimately discuss a shared future across races in South Africa, we should consider building a win-win society. It would be unfair though to discuss the sacrifice we require to achieve such a goal, especially from those that need to empower others, when their own well being may be compromised.

So a winning society solving its problems should begin with a commitment and clear drive to respect property laws in South Africa. There are moral issues that need to be changed with our society, but we cannot grow as a society when we kill each other for the number of Taxis we own or for the little extra income we are earning. We also cannot have a compromised police system as we currently have in South Africa. We need active good citizenry committed to being above board. A forum of friends, in a chatroom we call “Siyakha” translated “we are building,” will be eager to point out to me that it’s all hopeless and nothing can change the status core.

My two minute proposal 

If we all as a society agree that the plight of the poor is a shared responsibility to fix, we need to enlist our interest to help. Let’s stop bragging about our little victories at our little corners and get to work on building a bigger picture where our contribution is beyond public acknowledgement.

Our Government needs to commit without fail to protecting our rights as a society to owning property. This commitment also means we need to stand up and say enough with crime and corruption. There may not be a study to quote to showing that corrupt governments have lawless societies but that inference can be drawn by observing our country.

We need to develop a social contract beyond casting our vote. Government as a whole and not some agent within the Department of Art and Culture should be driving national reconciliation, moral regeneration and responsible citizenry in South Africa. We all need to breathe, think and imagine a win-win society built on the principle of shared existence and common well-being.

Who is to decide on fairness? What are the criterions of fairness?

Forget forming a tribunal to manage and overlook BBBEE deals in South Africa, and enforce a voluntary surrender programme from unwilling participants. Why waste effort to hold people to their conscience. Allow South Africans to sit down and discuss what fairness means. Let’s stop defending wrongs because they protect our ego and keep us disinterested. The strength of the SA army before 94, the intellectual prowess of architects of apartheid, the compromise Mandela made and such ideas will not save the future of this country. South Africans have incredible opportunities to define fairness in the Social well-being of a country.

I pause here! Be Inspired SA!

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