THE MBOWENI ECONOMIC STRATEGY IS NOTHING NEW
This past Tuesday Finance Minister Tito Mboweni released for public comment what he says is a new economic growth strategy for South Africa. Heaven and earth are promised to the people in this paragraph long title of “Economic Transformation, Inclusive Growth, and Competitiveness: Towards an Economic Strategy for South Africa”.
Therein lies the problem for South Africa. After long 25 years in power, the ruling party is still working “towards an economic strategy”! No wonder that the economy has been on a downward spiral for a long time now. The government debt stands over R3 trillion, which is over 60% of the GDP. What this means is that the government is unable to fund projects for human and infrastructure development. In that sense, the collected revenue will service interest on the public debt.
Despite the promise of millions of jobs at every elections campaign by the ruling party, the economy continues to shed jobs. Mboweni is also promising a million jobs through this document.
But a careful reading of the document shows that Mboweni has simply rehashed ideas that are contained in already existing documents like the National Development Plan (NDP), New Growth Plan (NGP) and Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP). It is a case of old wine in new bottles. Why would the Finance Minister rebottle the old wine and offer it to the people as new?
It is the old habit of the ruling class politicians of taking the people for fools. He is out to pretend to the people that a lot is being done, when nothing is done. To keep the public occupied with nothing, the allies of the ruling party are up in arms protesting that the Finance Minister published the document for public comment without first allowing them to enjoy their royal privilege of seeing the document and asking for changes ahead of everybody else. Why should a government department be forced to kowtow to privileged political parties if that is not to conflate Party and State?
The Mboweni document places blame for the dismally performing economy on a “combination of low growth and rising unemployment” apparently caused by the lack of “economic transformation” and minimal “labour intensive growth”. These may very well be the causes. But a deeper and meaningful investigation should find the causes of the causes. The underlying causes include the adopted neoliberal policies of the ruling party, misgovernance and State Capture. There is no political will to treat the people and their development as a priority.
We select a few policy interventions proposed as new by the Mboweni document. First, it talks about “improving educational outcomes” with “a strong emphasis on early childhood development”. But who will believe the ruling party that has made a mess of the education landscape in the past 25 years? It has been bundling, unbundling and rebundling the institutions of higher learning at a high expense to the system of education and the students. Through the #FeesMustFall movement, Black students had to wage fierce struggles for a free and decolonised education. The same government that wants to have us believe it knows what is to be done, unleashed ruthless State violence on the Black students with the result that some were killed and a lot more jailed for fighting for their rights. Black learners continue to learn in mud schools and under trees, while 4 year old Black learners die in pit toilets.
After 25 years in power, the ruling party talks about regulation and measures to encourage “the growth of smaller firms” and “entry of new firms”. This is no novelty at all. AZAPO has expanded on this policy objective in its Election Manifestos. But how will the SMMEs thrive in an economy where the captains of white monopoly industry are the big funders of the election campaigns of the ruling parties for tenders in return? We know that government has until recently been corruptly giving business to the Gupta and Watson families. We know exactly how the ruling party destroys the South African economy.
The Mboweni document makes some noise on the need “to fully leverage global and regional value chains” towards “growing exports and improving export competitiveness”. When did the ruling party realise that? They have to be told by Pieterse et al (2016) for them to know that the South African export markets have been performing dismally to the extent of a 15% decline of the country’s market share of the world’s exports. This is worsened by the illicit financial flows, which rob the fiscus of billions of rands on an annual basis. A number of reports have been churned out, one of which is the latest by the NGO Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC). In its report, the NGO advises that tackling illicit financial flows should be a national priority:
“This is not only because they deprive our state of extremely precious financial resources, but also because the issue is further leading our economy on a dependency path in relation to foreign capital. This impacts both our national and local budgeting processes by depriving us of precious tax resources and is leading to an unprecedented socio-economic crises”.
So, we know that the government does not mean what it is saying. These are nothing more than nice sounding noises that are pleasant to listen to. What is painful is that AZAPO presented viable solutions to the nation a long time ago. Neoliberal strategies are not part of those solutions. AZAPO Voice is clear that it is no solution to apply fiscal austerity measures to an economy in recession. A stagnant economy needs to increase its spending to stimulate aggregate demand. For example, investment spending on road infrastructure will provide business to the firms, which may have to hire more workers. More people working means there will be an increase in money in the hands of the people, a positive development that will get them to demand goods and services to purchase. A lot more firms would have to produce goods and services to supply to the increasing demand. All that would contribute to the reduction of unemployment and poverty.
POLITICAL MYOPIA IS A DANGEROUS DISEASE
Political myopia is an extremely dangerous disease. It destroyed Zimbabwe and reduced the once thriving economy to ruins.
While there can be many versions of what caused the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy, there can be no denying that the lack of vision on the part of the white propertied class, with the connivance of the ruling ZANUPF elite, to create an inclusive economy and to allow the indigenous majority a meaning role and stake in the economy and sharing the land – was the primary driver of political upheavals that brought Zimbabwe to its knees.
This week, the Commission for Employment Equity released its 2018 report. As predictable, there is no movement, especially by the private sector to allow Afrikans to occupy senior positions.
The report confirms what we all know. There is no transformation in the running of the economy. According to the report, 66,5% of top managers are white males. This is despite the fact that white men represent only 5,1% of the economically active population. In contrast, Afrikans who constitute 78,8% of the economically active population only account for 15% of top managers.
The biggest beneficiaries of the employment equity are white women followed by the so called Indians. Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi responded to the bad report like a typical politician, promising tough action against those failing to comply with the equity laws. He suggested tightening legislation to force the private sector to accelerate transformation. Nxesi’s concerns are just words. The simple truth is that the ruling party has been extremely soft on driving transformation. The State is the biggest buyer of any service in the country. The government can use its buying power to drive transformation. All that is required is for the government to implement its own policies. The pale colour of corporate South Africa can quickly acquire rich melanin if the government were to decree that the State would no longer do any business with companies that do not comply with employment equity. But of course, this can never happen because many white owned companies have captured politicians and some politically connected individuals who are used as insurance against such radical economic transformation policies.
Visionary business leaders should know that it is in their interest to ensure that the dividend of political freedom is shared with the majority of people. The right to vote every five years is not sufficient to assure people that they are indeed free. People want their lives to change for the better. They want to be part of the mainstream economy. An inclusive economy is the best guarantor of political stability and economic prosperity. A hungry man is an angry man, as Bob Marley once warned.
But the biggest threat to our country is posed by lack of vision on the part of the propertied class to address the expectations of the majority through economic transformation. When the poor rise to correct the 1994 betrayal, which manifests itself in the kind of report released this week by the Commission of Employment Equity, there is no telling if they would not reduce the economy to its knees.
Myopia is a dangerous disease.
As AZAPO laid to rest former AZANLA Combatant Samkelo Nduku in Port Elizabeth this past weekend, three AZAPO leaders departed from this earth. They are BC Stalwarts Harry Mashabela (88), Malesela Windsor Maraba (63) and the energetic Tshepo Makgeta (45).
The death of veteran journalist and author Harry Mashabela has robbed us of seeing someone who was a living example that whatever the background, one can succeed in life.
Cde Mashabela was born in GaMatshatsha village in Limpopo.
The rural boy who grew up as a shepherd swam against the current to become a fearless political activist, a world class journalist and an author of note.
Mashabela started schooling at Mokalapa Primary School in 1945. Due to his brilliance as a learner, his teacher persuaded his parents to take him to a good school to further his education. That school became Jane Furse Junior Secondary. He impressed on arrival so much that he was allowed to go through Standards 4 and 5 in the same year. Just like in Mokalapa Primary School, even at Jane Furse teachers advised that he be taken to even a better educational facility. That landed him at Khaiso High School, which was quite a good Polokwane missionary boarding school.
He went on to study photography through Cape Town based International Correspondence School and the Institute of Photography in New York City.
Cde Mashabela worked for media houses like Rand Daily Mail and Financial Mail. He also became foreign correspondent for media houses in Europe before he took up employment with the Institute for Race Relations.
He wrote a number of books which included “Townships of the PWV and Mekhukhu”, “People on the Boil” and “Urban African Cities of the Future”.
So illustrious was his work that he was awarded the Parvin Fellowship by the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs, a move that landed him at the Princeton University in the US.
At the political front, he was the first president of the Union of Black Journalists (UBJ) one of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) organisations that were banned by the white settler minority regime on 19 October 1977. The banning of the BCM organisations and the murder of Steve Biko in police custody did not deter the political efforts of this political giant. When AZAPO was founded on 28 April 1978 to continue the political work of the banned BCM organisations, Cde Mashabela became even more active in AZAPO where he served in a number of capacities which included being a Provincial and National office bearer, as well being a Councillor.
Cde Malesela Maraba was born in Mokopane in Limpopo. He matriculated at the Hwiti High School. He served in the Department of Justice for most of his working career until his retirement.
His bravery and selflessness came sharply into focus when he became a thorn in the flesh of the Lebowa puppet regime. His house was bombed on 27 March 1986 as a plot to intimidate him out of AZAPO and the struggle to liberate Black people. His house and all his belongings were destroyed. Another BC Stalwart Cde Mathatha Tsedu remembers how Cde Maraba would not lose his humour even in loss and pain. He says Cde Maraba told him that, as he was busy fighting the flames oblivious to his nudity, somebody brought him a blanket to cover his naked body.
Cde Tshepo Makgeta is a dynamic young man from Mokopane. He so loved the truth that he found himself attracted to the Black Power message of AZAPO. Cde Tsoaledi Thobejane relates how Cde Makgeta would visit him and ask him a lot of questions about Black Consciousness and the Azanian Revolution.
Without any direct recruitment, one day he rocked up at the Towers and declared that he had decided to join AZAPO. That was around 2014. Many Comrades will be shocked to realise that Cde Makgeta was only 5 years as a member of AZAPO. The reason is that he hit the ground running. He never behaved as a new member.
In no time he was leading AZAPO‘s recruitment programmes and brought tens of new members to the organisation.
The membership did not think twice to elect Cde Makgeta as the Limpopo Provincial Organiser of AZAPO under the Chairpersonship of Cde Ngoako Moyaha. He was also the Councillor under the political mandate of the organisation.
The 3 Comrades will be buried this coming Saturday at different places such as GaMatshatsha, Seshego and Mokopane.
As we salute them for their contributions to AZAPO and the liberation struggle, we are also indebted to their families for allowing our heroes to be associated with AZAPO.