Let the Poor Define their Struggle

2013-10-17 11:30

Last week I read with grave concern and uninterrupted interest, the 2013 Country report by the IMF (International Monetary Fund) which warned that we could be faced with an unmerciful and destructive economic storm in the not-so-distant future.

According to the report, the country “faces low growth, widespread unemployment, and a high reliance on foreign capital inflows” this of course, is in comparison to other emerging markets which have averaged 5 per cent to South Africa’s 3 per cent growth since 2009. What is frightening isn’t the numbers per se, but one’s interpretation of the crude reality they present, particularly to people who know little about economic essentials- the poor.

The consternation in this rests on one underlying factor, that this slow growth makes it very difficult for the economy to cut down unemployment and create sufficient room for our labour force to be absorbed into the mainstream economy, which makes it even more terrifying when one considers the fact that we are sitting on a youth unemployment rate that is just over 50 per cent.

In an attempt to find the simplest scenario to best define the significance of this matter, that is, one which does not conform to, and isn’t trapped within the constraints of the country’s ever changing economic trajectories. I was reminded of Julius Malema when he said that economic jargon is of no importance to the disadvantaged, that whether the economy is in recession or boom meant nothing to them, and that what mattered was bread on the table- in the morning, afternoon and evening- nothing else!

Furthermore, I was reminded of how unguided and over-specialized our economy is, including the rigorous manner in which division of labour is pronounced. How our economy has been modelled in such a way that the only way out of the manacles of poverty is if one becomes a medical doctor, a lawyer, engineer or anything along those lines. How the task of bringing about development in underdeveloped areas has been made the sole responsibility of the elite, whose primary objective is profit accumulation. All of these factors are significant pillars for every stable economy, however, they are responding to the demands of our society adequately.

South Africa needs a community-based economy, one which will answer directly to the question of bread on the table, not that of 2 per cent economic growth. Also, issues on how to best develop the lives of the disenfranchised should be deliberated upon by the disenfranchised, and not in forums and conferences hundreds of kilometres away from the actual reality. Communities must create and determine the atmosphere, structure and posture of their economies, be it through mini markets, farming or mining, based on the geographical and societal provisions at their disposal.

The only reason our economy is faced with the storm ahead is one: we have yet to define our struggle, but it has to be defined by the very people at the receiving end of its cruelty. For an undefined struggle, is a persistent struggle.

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