It’s time to rein in those bureaucrats
Where I grew up, everybody smuggled something – the problem was the availability of that something. Every Sunday, parents went to church to ask the good Lord for their ration of daily bread, but because the Lord stopped dishing out manna, they spent the rest of the week on the shady streets collecting that bread in the form of gold dust and uncut diamonds, which were illegal but not sinful.
I remember a friend of mine telling me almost 30 years ago that for R2 000 he could get a rhino horn and “move” it to Zimbabwe, where he made some money, and then use the proceeds to pay for his university fees.
The media was too busy taking sides in the fight against apartheid, and was uninterested in the lives of black smugglers or the corrupt officials (black and white) who issued dompasses for money or sex.
No one paid attention to those who were climbing what Malcolm Gladwell calls the “crooked ladder” of social mobility.
Let’s be honest, South Africa was in the main not built by ethical businessmen. Instead, it was fashioned by many corrupt men who plundered, killed and oppressed to make money for themselves and their offspring.
In fact, most of the Western world was built that way – whether through slavery, colonialism or any other form of exploitation.
Strangely, their descendants, who are often the beneficiaries of such corruption, get outraged when others try to follow the same path. This is why people turn a deaf ear to some white people when they raise their voices against corruption. These people lack credibility because they will not return any of their wealth that was illicitly gained. Their minds have conveniently forgotten their history, but once in while it will slip out and they will proudly say that their “grandparents came here with nothing”.
But let’s not measure ourselves using the same subhuman scale used to glorify slavers such as Thomas Jefferson and the Mother of All Brutality, Queen Victoria.
Our job is to give the children of this country opportunities, love and compassion. Six million jobs is our target, in what ... the next two years?
If we are to achieve that, the South African government must urgently reform the business environment and make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to thrive.
During apartheid, many white entrepreneurs could buy a shelf company and start trading immediately. Times have changed, and you can do little with a shelf company now. The black government has made it hellishly hard for black entrepreneurs.
Perhaps there is some truth in the saying “umuntu omnyama akafuni ukubona omunye umuntu aqhubekela phambili” (a black person doesn’t want to see another black person progress).
Perhaps the government ministers who like to tweet about their excesses at parties and social events deliberately want to keep everyone down. Perhaps the department of home affairs is deliberately looking for new and wicked ways to kill tourism so more black people can be laid off and suffer.
Why is our government not fighting teenage pregnancy and other millstones that the society puts around the necks of our girls?
Our people suffered for generations under white rule and every path to success was blocked. To see the democratic government do the same thing to black entrepreneurs is not only immoral but a crime against Africans.
It is time to put people first and get bureaucratic power under control.