How can we save SA?
Offers the country’s current leadership some advice on how to steady the course and restore growth
leadership. We must accept responsibility for failing to provide leadership and implement programmes that actively promote multiculturalism. We are South Africans with diverse cultures. We have the same needs, desires and wishes for ourselves and our children. We are one nation.
Attacking diversity will only enhance the current levels of division among people. The current climate of cultural and political intolerance between population groups and power groups will weaken our nation further, as is already visible in our poor performances on sport fields, in boardrooms and in Parliament. We must treat our differences with dignity and allow debate. There is dignity in our differences. In a multicultural society, there will always be differences of opinion. That in itself is not destructive if our objective is to engage and to educate. We need to see and hear that we are a united nation.
Our leaders must remember it is not government’s role to create growth; it is the domain of the private sector. Government’s role is to create the environment for the private sector to thrive and create sustainable jobs in support of sustainable communities. It is a symbiosis for all economic participants to meet their objectives. The current practice of continuously changing the rules of the game while it is being played is counterproductive. We want a clear game plan, firm policies and government’s commitment to the plan – then we can all play for the benefit of the nation.
We should be grateful for wealthy people – they maintain and create jobs when they spend money and build their businesses. They care about growth and development. They take risks to invest in our economy, our people and our children through the taxes they pay.
At present, the enemy of the poor and economic growth is not the rich or international investors. It is our leaders, government and teachers who pitch up drunk at schools – if they even bother to come – and, ultimately, all of us paralysed by indecision and career-driven correctness.
To move forward, we must train the next generation of skilled workers collectively, making it attractive for South Africans who can help us to develop skills and build the country, but instead they are being lost to emigration (those leaving are not only white).
The private sector must be supported and incentivised to create further opportunities for learning and skills development, other than through the use of expensive tertiary resources. No South African with skills can be ignored. Everybody must have an equal chance to be appointed to a job. Historically, job reservation was practised with disastrous economic consequences. Why are we repeating those mistakes?
What should we do not to totally lose momentum? I call on National Treasury to present a balanced budget that is a true reflection of the state of the economy. Making empty promises now and reversing them in the mediumterm budget policy statement after the local government elections will only speed up the classification of our sovereign bonds as junk by international ratings agencies.
Be honest with the nation, especially about the economy and the likelihood of hardship. Prepare the nation to respond to the hardship by setting an example of discipline and frugality.
Phosa is an attorney and former treasurer of the ANC. This is an edited extract from a recent speech titled The Future of
Multiculturalism in SA to the FW de Klerk Foundation