Herman Mashaba: It has to be all about the economy

2020-01-22 01:46

Ordinary South Africans understand what needs to be done. Creating jobs and other opportunities are good starting points for the country, writes Herman Mashaba.

Our country faces serious challenges, and our people experience a harsh lived reality every day.

This much is obvious to us all.

Despite this, our public discourse manages to spectacularly miss a critical point about unemployment, poverty and inequality – in particular their relationship with our unjust past.

This is the understanding that improving our economy and creating jobs are key factors that will help us unlock the doors, behind which lie the solutions to so many of our problems.

Let’s start with redressing the legacy of our unjust past.

What has emerged very clearly in the discussions on The People’s Dialogue – the online platform I launched late last year to engage with South Africans on a range of issues – is that reconciliation, nation building and unity can only be realised when inequality and poverty do not so painfully mirror the discrimination under apartheid.

READ: Mashaba - We need a people’s dialogue about SA

If South Africa is ever going to overcome the divisions between us, it has to be through a growing economy and increased access to economic opportunities.

Our entire system of government is based on a model that does not work.

Government is extracting taxes from a small base of people who are fortunate enough to have jobs.

It is trying to deliver to a majority of people who need public healthcare, education and housing.

Our entire system of government is based on a model that does not work.
Herman Mashaba

For government to be more effective, we need our economy to be growing and companies to be growing and paying tax against increased profits.

We need more people to be working and paying income tax, rates and service charges.

By achieving this, government will have more resources to improve the quality of public education and healthcare while increasing the delivery of housing.

It should be able to do this with a declining number of people dependent on social grants.

Let’s consider crime for one moment.

I am not prepared to make excuses for criminals. They need to be found, arrested and prosecuted.

However, there is a reality we have to understand. Most crime in South Africa is born out of increasing levels of poverty, inability to access economic opportunities and a sense of hopelessness that comes with these challenges.

Put differently, people with access to the economy have no need to steal to support themselves.

Even in considering violent crimes, there is enough research that links long-term inequality and violent crime.

If you analyse patterns of drug addition, there is a staggering correlation between this scourge and areas where our youth feel a sense of economic exclusion and hopelessness.

At the heart of the pressing challenges experienced by the people is the need to grow our economy, create jobs and improve access to opportunities.

Any effort to tackle the challenges of healthcare, housing, education, crime and inequality, which does not involve improving our economy and creating jobs, has limited prospects for success.

I am challenging South Africans to join me to engage around solutions that are needed to grow our economy and create jobs
Herman Mashaba

This week will see the launch of the second phase of The People’s Dialogue.

It will differ from the discussions we had last month in that it will be more focused on specific topics and will address a different challenge in our country each week.

It is therefore fitting that we are starting with the economy and jobs.

South Africa’s economic growth has been revised down to 0.5% at a time when 39% of our people do not have the dignity of employment.

According to a survey by the SA Chamber of Commerce, business confidence has slumped to a 35-year low.

This week I am challenging South Africans to join me to engage around solutions that are needed to grow our economy and create jobs.

I am doing this because, based on the interactions our people have had with The People’s Dialogue over the last six weeks, there is a clear demand that discussions have to lead to a political alternative.

I want to make sure that such an alternative is grounded in the views and solutions of South Africans who are good, enterprising people, loaded with potential that is being stunted by our current political system.

Ordinary South Africans understand what needs to be done to fix our economy and, unlike politicians, their views are offered only in the interests of realising a better tomorrow.

No person, myself included, has all the answers.

Politicians like to suggest they do, but the last 25 years have proven that they do not have the answers.

This is why I would like to engage with the people around key matters relating to our economy and jobs next week.

Judging by the engagements to date, what promises to emerge are great and innovative ideas that will make our future political alternative stronger.

Mashaba is the founder of The People’s Dialogue

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April 5 2020