2012-09-30 19:24

It seems that the concept “economic freedom” is one that Julius Malema and the ANC Youth League have heard about, but have no idea what it entails.

According to the ANC Youth League’s Action Programme for Economic Freedom, released during the 24th National Congress in 2011, it calls on the state to play a central role in the expropriation of farms and the nationalisation of mines in South Africa, this without compensation.

This programme, furthermore, proposes that economic development should be decentralised by creating Industrial Development Zones where new industries could be established and new cities could be developed. It also proposes that, annually, a minimum of 10 000 students should study overseas and upon their return be deployed to the expropriated mines, industries and farms in order to manage and operate it. A healthy dose of idealism indeed!

Hence the first question: Does Malema and friends’ understanding of ‘Economic Freedom’ take cognisance of the constantly changing global economic environment and the challenges of a knowledge-based economy? And secondly do they have a comprehensive grasp of the strategic steps that must be put in place in order to bring about economic freedom and the long term nature of it?

With regard to the first question, the answer is a definite NO!

In the first place, no country can afford to destroy its existing pool of taxpayers and assume its sovereignty will not be compromised. Instead, its tax payers’ base needs to be expanded by creating conditions that attract investors and stimulate economic growth. Secondly, the South African economy is integrated with the global economy which is largely driven by information, knowledge, skills and ideas and which is no longer dependent on raw materials, property and cheap labour, as it was during the era of industrial economic dominance.

For those who are technologically well advanced and for entrepreneurs with niche skills, initiative and perseverance, the global economy and the associated knowledge economy offer vast opportunities in almost all fields.

However, thousands of South Africans with insufficient school education and low literacy, numeracy and technology levels are excluded from the knowledge economy. As a result their chances of actively participating in and creating wealth by means of the knowledge economy is quite slim. Economic freedom for them remains a pipe dream and the possibility for a better life is getting slimmer day after day due to poor quality education and the overpolitizised state of our education fraternity.

Thus, to present the expropriation of farms and the nationalisation of mines as the wonder cure to achieve economic freedom is misleading and heaven-hell rhetoric at its worst. Not only will it destroy South Africa as an attractive and stable investment destination, but also undermine our competitiveness with regard to, inter alia, food production, manufacturing and tourism and lead to large-scale job losses and famine.

With regard to the second question, the answer is also a definite NO!

Given the heaven-hell rhetoric which is so often and so easily regurgitated by the so-called economic activists of the ANC Youth League, it is clear that they think that economic freedom will rain like manna from heaven. Unfortunately it won’t happen.

Instead it starts with our government fulfilling its basic obligations by providing quality education, quality municipal services and ensuring an enabling environment for businesses to do what they do best. Flowing from this is the conceptualisation and implementation of a step by step government and private sector driven strategy aimed at achieving the following: The organisation of communities into economic or entrepreneurial clusters, comprehensive economic coaching of those who are part of such clusters and the fostering of a common economic vision and entrepreneurial culture – not a tenderpreneurial culture characterised by nepotism, corruption and non-delivery!

A common economic vision promotes co-operation between various economic stakeholders which teaches participants the value of networking and prompt opportunities for self-empowerment and partnerships. This is imperative for competitiveness, sustainability, economic growth and ultimately job and wealth creation which certainly does not appear from the sky.

Instead it is the result of joint efforts by entrepreneurs, the state and the corporate sector combining entrepreneurial spirit, capital, natural resources and labour, in such a way that products and services are created and presented to satisfy communities’ needs.

However, a major challenge for the successful implementation of such a strategy is economic self-organization. For too long the focus has been on political organization, while economic self-organization has lagged behind.

In this regard, the ANC Youth League stands to learn a lot from communities who have long realized the value of effective economic self-organisation and who rid themselves of ideologies that create only economic misery instead of real and sustainable economic freedom. A case in point is the newly arrived Chinese, Somalian and Pakistani business people who often escape the most oppressive and anarchic circumstances Julius Malema and the ANC Youth League can’t even begin to imagine.

To them “economic freedom” is no longer an issue, they create it themselves in every corner in South Africa, whilst Julius Malema and the ANC Youth League continue to claim victimhood. The difference is, they have business acumen as a result of economic self-organisation, are prepared to work day and night and use their common sense.


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