Mondli Makhanya: Stop looking for messiahs. We need to act to repair SA or else ...

2019-04-22 22:30

As our nation marks 25 years as a democracy and the election campaigns click into high gear, it is worth marking the words of the SA Reserve Bank.

In its Monetary Policy Review the Reserve Bank last week offered a rather grim outlook for South Africa’s economic growth prospects – if it can be called growth at all.

This year the bank projects a growth rate of 1.8%, for next year 2% and the following year 2%.

For the long-run the projection is 2.5%.

Consider this against the National Development Plan’s target of 5.4% growth by 2030, which is the prerequisite for the elimination of poverty and the reduction of inequalities.

The central bank warns ominously that “it is becoming clearer ... that the damage done by state capture is worse than we previously understood”.

The mess in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) has meant that capital expenditure in these companies has not been exactly productive and has been going into some sort of black hole.

The cost of the repair work on these vandalised parastatals has been very high and has been a drain on the economy.

An obvious and most devastating consequence of state capture has been the harm done to the national electricity supply.

The bank warns that “electricity shortages could cause even lower growth rates than currently projected” and that “the legacy of state capture, of which load shedding is one, will constrain growth for a longer period”.

Now that is a truly frightening prospect if you consider the scenes of violent protests by the poor and unemployed every day.

The bank notes that “a substantial portion” of public sector investment spending, which shot up exponentially in the post-2008 economic meltdown period when the state was supposed to be leading a stimulus, was “not actually used for productive investment”.

And we all know where it went.

There are those who still see state capture as a myth that was created by some sinister forces who want to undermine the so-called radical economic transformation.

And we are not talking about Jacob Zuma, who would deny that he was stealing even if his hand was caught in a mouse trap while he was trying to help himself to cheese-bait. He is a lost cause.

The culprits we should be pointing fingers at are those within the governing party who view attempts to unravel what went on as an irritating aside or as a weapon in the hands of the Nasrec victors.

Some of these people who refuse to recognise the depth of the malaise are in the top echelons of the governing party’s structures.

Many of them will be sitting in the parliamentary benches after May 8 and will be determining policy and governance, as well as doing oversight on how the nation’s resources are managed.

It will be very difficult for the post-May 8 government to make a concerted effort to rid the country of this disease while the top structures of the governing party are not singing from the same sheet in so far as this issue is concerned and while some of the hardline state capture denialists serve as public representatives.

But the ANC and the government are just a segment of those who must carry out the repair work.

The whole of society needs to pull together to drag South Africa out the morass.

This will mean that those who are drunk on Ramaphoria must wake up from the stupor and recognise that the work that must be done is arduous and that the messiah is someone who watched passively from inside the cockpit as Zuma willingly navigated the ship into stormy waters.

The man may be our leader for the next five years but he will not be our saviour.

Read: Budget Speech requires fine balancing act from Mboweni

And those opponents of the governing party who wish only to capitalise on what went wrong in the nine wasted years must realise that this ship is not out of the stormy waters and that we will sink together if we play the opportunistic game only.

It will have to be all hands on deck. Other social partners will have to come to the gig in a big way if we are to sail out of these storms.

The Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection’s Indlulamithi Scenarios for 2018 to 2030 envisaged three paths for what we can roughly call the post-Zuma South Africa.

One was when the inequality grows and resentment spills into unprecedented protests and even a mini revolution.

The other envisaged a prospering “nation in step with itself” where we returned to our core values of a caring and pro-poor constitutional state that could even achieve a 4.5% growth rate.

The third was the “floundering false dawn” scenario, in which the promise of renewal in 2018/19 becomes a mirage, leading to lost hope, social upheaval and state repression in the new decade.

“This scenario imagines that whatever new optimism you might find now turns out to be false optimism and instead what we discover is the extent of corruption, mismanagement, nepotism and cronyism is deeply embedded at provincial and municipal level, further extending far beyond the echelons of government or the private sector.”

Unless we act and stop looking for messiahs, this is the scenario that is scariest.

Dashed hopes are ingredients for toxic recipes.

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August 18 2019