Cap­i­tal­ism isn’t the en­emy; deny­ing its fruits to SA’s poor is, writes Her­man Mashaba

CityPress - - Business -

y the time democ­racy was es­tab­lished in South Africa in 1994, I was al­ready a suc­cess­ful cap­i­tal­ist. It was en­tirely un­nec­es­sary for me to seek out the black eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment (BEE) ap­point­ments that were el­e­vat­ing black busi­ness­peo­ple. I had suf­fi­cient money to en­sure com­fort for my fam­ily, and I had the busi­ness to re­build and run af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing fire just be­fore the dawn of our democ­racy.

When Par­lia­ment started de­bat­ing bring­ing in leg­is­la­tion to en­act BEE, I re­alised that with or with­out me, BEE was go­ing to be a re­al­ity in the coun­try’s eco­nomic land­scape. We all thought the process would be short-lived and smooth. At about the same time, my white busi­ness col­leagues were knock­ing at my door daily, ask­ing that I in­vest in their busi­nesses. This re­sulted in the es­tab­lish­ment of my in­vest­ment com­pany in 2002 to fo­cus on such op­por­tu­ni­ties. I was able to hand over the reins of Black Like Me in 2004 to my wife.

Dur­ing the first 10 years of our democ­racy, I sup­ported the African Na­tional Congress (ANC). It was en­cour­ag­ing to see that hous­ing, elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and pro­vi­sion of wa­ter were pri­or­i­ties for the gov­ern­ment, and that jobs pre­vi­ously the pre­serve of white peo­ple were now be­ing taken up by qual­i­fied black ap­pli­cants.

But grad­u­ally I be­gan to have doubts about the fo­cus of the ANC. It seemed as though the ANC it­self was the main pri­or­ity, that party lead­er­ship in­stead of na­tional lead­er­ship seemed to have taken over, and that per­sonal agen­das in­stead of na­tional pri­or­i­ties were preva­lent.

Var­i­ous in­ci­dents be­gan trig­ger­ing alarm bells for me, such as Thabo Mbeki’s open sup­port (quiet diplo­macy) for land-grab­bing by the Zim­babwe African Na­tional Union–Pa­tri­otic Front, re­sult­ing in Zim­bab­weans suf­fer­ing mas­sive hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions; the emer­gence in South Africa of crony cap­i­tal­ism by cadres close to power; cor­rup­tion in the civil ser­vice hap­pen­ing al­most with im­punity; and fail­ure to pro­vide ap­pro­pri­ate ed­u­ca­tion to poor peo­ple.

South African blacks and some whites had fought for free­dom, and yet in­stead of our lead­ers sup­port­ing and im­pos­ing laws that would el­e­vate the hu­man­ity in the coun­try and on the con­ti­nent, their poli­cies soon be­gan to re­sem­ble the poli­cies of our op­pres­sors of old.

By 2004 the sit­u­a­tion had de­gen­er­ated to such an ex­tent that I de­cided I could no longer sup­port the ANC and I cast my first vote for the Demo­cratic Al­liance (DA). As the 2014 elec­tion ap­proached, I knew I could no longer main­tain a tacit ap­proval of the gov­ern­ment and its ab­hor­rent poli­cies while vot­ing for the DA. I had no faith in the ANC what­so­ever, es­pe­cially in light of the pres­i­dent’s in­abil­ity to pri­ori­tise the most ur­gent needs of the na­tion, namely poverty and em­ploy­ment.

In­sti­tu­tions of democ­racy were be­ing eroded, the free press man­dated by our Con­sti­tu­tion was be­ing chal­lenged and lim­ited, and di­vi­sive­ness be­gan to show. I was hope­ful that the elec­torate would send the gov­ern­ment a mes­sage of dis­sat­is­fac­tion, but I de­cided that if the ANC won more than 60% of the vote, I would have to an­nounce my com­mit­ment to chal­leng­ing them, and help in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the cre­ation of a vi­able and cred­i­ble op­po­si­tion that rep­re­sented the as­pi­ra­tions of all South Africans.

While I have al­ways kept my­self in­formed of po­lit­i­cal events, busi­ness has been my main fo­cus. How­ever, as the 2014 elec­tion drew nearer, and I feared that the ANC would in fact have a good elec­tion re­sult, I re­alised it was time to con­sider how I could con­trib­ute to the po­lit­i­cal fu­ture of the coun­try.

I paid at­ten­tion to po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions tak­ing place across the coun­try among my friends, col­leagues and as­so­ci­ates. Par­tic­i­pa­tion as an in­ter­ested ob­server and lis­tener was no longer an op­tion, and I de­cided I would pub­licly join the DA in or­der to play an ac­tive role in try­ing to achieve the South Africa that I be­lieve all rea­son­able South Africans re­ally want.

I am not a politi­cian; I am fore­most an en­tre­pre­neur. I be­lieve in cap­i­tal­ism as a way of life, a nat­u­ral sys­tem that is an en­abler of eco­nomic pros­per­ity, a sup­porter of free­dom, and a nat­u­ral means of al­low­ing ev­ery sin­gle citizen to be an eco­nomic par­tic­i­pant.

In this book, I draw from my own ex­pe­ri­ences and ed­u­ca­tion, both na­tional and in­ter­na­tional, to il­lus­trate how I en­vis­age a South Africa en­gi­neered by the demo­cratic prin­ci­ples that were en­shrined in the Con­sti­tu­tion drawn up af­ter 1994 and pro­pelled by cap­i­tal­ism.

Cap­i­tal­ism is a much­ma­ligned con­cept in South Africa among those who have never over­come their prej­u­di­cial con­nec­tion of cap­i­tal­ism and apartheid. Many pre­vi­ously and cur­rently dis­ad­van­taged South Africans con­sider cap­i­tal­ism to be twinned with apartheid and have the no­tion that cap­i­tal­ism was one of apartheid’s weapons for im­pov­er­ish­ing the black ma­jor­ity.

Com­mu­nist el­e­ments within the coun­try sup­ported this fal­lacy to boost their own re­stric­tive poli­cies. Apartheid’s eco­nomic sys­tem was racially based, and whites could flour­ish un­der cap­i­tal­ism, but suc­cess was es­sen­tially de­nied to the black pop­u­la­tion.

If Bantu ed­u­ca­tion had been up to the stan­dard of white ed­u­ca­tion, and cap­i­tal­ism had been al­lowed to take root and de­velop in black ar­eas, black peo­ple would have been far bet­ter off. The whole coun­try would have been richer so­cially and eco­nom­i­cally.

The in­for­mal traders would have been able to es­tab­lish their own busi­nesses legally and would have had the nec­es­sary ed­u­ca­tion to take their en­ter­prises into busi­ness cen­tres, em­ploy staff and train new work­ers.

It was not cap­i­tal­ism that re­strained eco­nomic growth for black peo­ple; it was the evil al­liance of Bantu ed­u­ca­tion and black dis­em­pow­er­ment that kept peo­ple from be­ing self­suf­fi­cient and en­tre­pre­neur­ial.

Entrepreneurship is a nat­u­ral way out of poverty. When des­per­ate peo­ple need to feed their fam­i­lies, they turn to their own skills and use these to earn money.

This is an edited ex­tract from Cap­i­tal­ist Cru­sader: Fight­ing Poverty Through Eco­nomic Growth

Cap­i­tal­ist Cru­sader: Fight­ing Poverty Through

Eco­nomic Growth Pub­lisher: Book­storm

Price: R240

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