Be wary of those who pro­fess to heal the cracks that mark our coun­try but speak of all else but growth in the econ­omy

CityPress - - Voices - Tiego Moseneke voices@city­press.co.za

Our coun­try is a gar­gan­tuan bat­tle be­tween op­po­sites. It is a bat­tle, though, that can­not be won, at least in this epoch, by any one of the pro­tag­o­nists with­out de­stroy­ing the vic­tor and the van­quished alike. It is a bat­tle set in cir­cum­stances where the pro­tag­o­nists are as com­ple­men­tary as they are con­tra­dic­tory.

Our for­tunes and our curses lie side by side, like in­sep­a­ra­ble lovers in an em­brace of lift­ing pas­sion and heart-wrench­ing vi­o­lence. Our past is com­plex and twisted. Our present both an epic tri­umph and a shame­ful fail­ure. Our frag­ile bowl has been bro­ken too many times. Cracked, scarred and al­ways threat­en­ing to fall apart again and again.

Our peo­ple have been blessed with an im­per­fect de­ter­mi­na­tion to pro­tect, pre­serve and re­pair the bowl like a great kintsugi. They know that our trou­bled past and our tri­umph against it, how­ever im­per­fect, is our very charm. Our scarred kintsugi is more beau­ti­ful than the orig­i­nal, be­cause they know that his­tory can­not be un­done. All one can do is to re­pair it with such fi­nesse and mas­tery, that the re­paired item ends up more beau­ti­ful than the orig­i­nal.

Sadly, there are those who are as de­ter­mined to smash our kintsugi. Some be­cause they would rather have the bro­ken pieces to them­selves rather that have all of us drink from our im­per­fect bowl. Oth­ers be­cause of the honest but mis­taken be­lief that there is a shim­mer­ing new bowl some­where in the dis­tant mi­rage that will not have the scars of our painful and twisted his­tory.

Will we use the gold, plat­inum and sil­ver we have in abun­dance to re­store our bro­ken bowl into a mas­ter­piece more charm­ing, more beau­ti­ful than the orig­i­nal piece, or are we go­ing to han­ker for the non-ex­is­tent vir­gin bowl?

Are we go­ing to fuel the bat­tles be­tween the rich and the poor, be­tween cap­i­tal and labour, be­tween the land­less and the barons, be­tween black and white, be­tween Zulu and Venda into an all­con­sum­ing and all-de­struc­tive war of at­tri­tion which can­not be won by any­one? Or are we go­ing to har­ness all these, our fault lines, in or­der to keep our painful his­tory in mind while we take the op­por­tu­nity to boldly con­front and cor­rect the many other things we have failed so woe­fully at, such as fix­ing inequal­ity, poverty and job­less­ness, and na­tion-build­ing?

I am, as a gen­eral rule, sus­pi­cious of any­body who pro­fesses to (re­ally) love the poor, vul­ner­a­ble and un­em­ployed in our coun­try but is not ob­sessed with en­sur­ing that the econ­omy grows, at the very least, at the same rate as the in­crease in the num­ber of peo­ple seek­ing em­ploy­ment.

Eye with sus­pi­cion those who speak of all else ex­cept growth in the econ­omy. Be wary of those who do and say things that un­der­mine di­rect long-term in­vest­ment in our econ­omy by lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional cap­i­tal. They of­ten do not (re­ally) care about the poor, vul­ner­a­ble and un­em­ployed. They are ei­ther on a mis­sion of their own or know too lit­tle to be en­trusted with lead­er­ship.

Treat with care and cir­cum­spec­tion those who prom­ise to decree pros­per­ity. A grow­ing econ­omy is a pre­req­ui­site, al­beit in­suf­fi­cient pre­con­di­tion, for pros­per­ity for many. Pros­per­ity for many is a painstak­ing process that re­quires a long-term view, con­sis­tently sound pol­icy choices, pin­point ex­e­cu­tion ca­pac­ity and crafty lead­er­ship. With­out these, no amount of grandiose prom­ises will come to any­thing for the many poor, vul­ner­a­ble and job­less. The more bom­bas­tic the prom­ises of de­creed pros­per­ity, the more height­ened your cir­cum­spec­tion should be.

Sim­i­larly, dis­miss con­temp­tu­ously those who do not eye­ball the real and ur­gent need to tackle the struc­ture of our econ­omy to en­sure that it does not re­pro­duce our cur­rent, mostly racially de­ter­mined, own­er­ship, con­trol and man­age­ment pat­terns.

Step away from those for whom the re­struc­tur­ing of the econ­omy only means that a small se­lect group should be ad­mit­ted to the ranks of the rich white few or to re­place them, in­stead of open­ing the flood­gates of pros­per­ity to the masses of our peo­ple who have been wait­ing, rather pa­tiently, for too long.

Em­brace those who are in­sight­ful enough to re­alise that the holy grail lies in si­mul­ta­ne­ously and dy­nam­i­cally re­con­fig­ur­ing the ar­chi­tec­ture of the econ­omy to in­clude the many poor, while driv­ing growth to achieve a re­con­fig­ured econ­omy that places the in­clu­sion of the many ex­cluded into dig­ni­fy­ing and em­pow­er­ing eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity at the cen­tre of our de­vel­op­men­tal agenda.

This is a com­plex task that re­quires alert and nu­anced lead­er­ship. A lead­er­ship that can win the con­fi­dence of the poor ma­jor­ity in a new era, that places the many poor at the cen­tre of all our en­deav­ours, that is about to be­gin. A lead­er­ship that can win the re­prieve and space from the many dis­af­fected poor.

That self­same lead­er­ship must be able to per­suade lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional cap­i­tal that we have a long-term, clear and pre­dictable pol­icy plan to make this, our coun­try, the pre­ferred des­ti­na­tion of pro­gres­sive long-term cap­i­tal.

Be wary of those who come car­ry­ing widely chang­ing pol­icy plans which are untested but are tempt­ing to the ear. Like they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it is prob­a­bly not true.

It must be a lead­er­ship that can per­suade labour about our shared need to work with gov­ern­ment and cap­i­tal to pro­gres­sively in­crease labour’s share of the value gen­er­ated on our fac­tory floors while cre­atively find­ing ways to in­crease the num­ber of em­ployed peo­ple in our econ­omy.

It must be a lead­er­ship that can per­suade pro­gres­sive African and in­ter­na­tional tal­ent to come and ply their trade, skills and cap­i­tal in the safety, beauty and hos­pi­tal­ity of our coun­try. We are af­ter all in­ter­na­tion­al­ists and this can only help the many poor, vul­ner­a­ble and un­em­ployed.

We must whip and flag­el­late our­selves as a so­ci­ety for hav­ing made such lit­tle progress in chang­ing, fun­da­men­tally, the own­er­ship pat­terns of land in favour of the dis­pos­sessed African ma­jor­ity and si­mul­ta­ne­ously and sharply in­creas­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity of our land, most of which lies fal­low, with the ac­tive and con­struc­tive in­volve­ment of the highly de­vel­oped farm­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the Afrikaner com­mu­nity – as com­ple­men­tary as it is con­tra­dic­tory.

A pre­req­ui­site for suc­cess for any na­tion is that it must be a na­tion in the first place. Na­tions at war with them­selves are al­ways amongst the poor­est in the world.

No one who is se­ri­ous about im­prov­ing the cir­cum­stance of the poor, vul­ner­a­ble and job­less can si­mul­ta­ne­ously be hard at work to undo our dif­fi­cult and dis­ap­point­ingly un­suc­cess­ful na­tion-build­ing project. Even though some white South Africans con­tinue to refuse to be part of our new na­tion, our prin­ci­pled com­mit­ment to a non-ra­cial fu­ture is not a gift to them but to our­selves.

Many of them will come scream­ing and shout­ing and beg­ging to be part of our pros­per­ous and hap­pily non-ra­cial fu­ture if we, our­selves, do not get in­fected by their dis­ease.

The great­est re­venge against the racists is to re­store dig­nity to all our peo­ple, and help them to a pros­per­ous and ac­tive life of dig­nity.

Quite clearly, bom­bast, threats, seizure of this or that, wildly new pol­icy po­si­tions, racially charged rhetoric and left and rad­i­cal­sound­ing sound bites of du­bi­ous ori­gin and which on close in­spec­tion are the work of right-wing Philistines, are way be­low what the mo­ment re­quires and our long-suf­fer­ing poor, vul­ner­a­ble and job­less de­serve.

Vi­sion­ary, nu­anced, thought­ful and strate­gic lead­er­ship with an acute tac­ti­cal nous and hearts ex­actly where they should be, is re­quired for this, our epoch.

Recklessness, grand­stand­ing and sense­less pop­ulism must sit down. His­tory, not of a dis­tant kind, will look upon those who are en­trusted with these decisions in the next few days with a smile or a deadly stare-down. We pray that it will be a smile, so we can re­turn to our desks.

Moseneke is a busi­ness­man

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