Con­sumers should be pro­duc­ers

CityPress - - Voices - LIVHUWANI MATSILA voices@city­press.co.za Chief Matsila is the founder of the Matsila Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Trust

Since the ad­vent of colo­nial­ism, which in­tro­duced the then for­eign concept of the land ten­ure sys­tem and cap­i­tal­ism in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, we have lit­er­ally been re­duced to con­sump­tion-ori­ented com­mu­ni­ties with in­ter­est in the pro­duc­tion of food and ba­sic com­modi­ties.

The dis­en­fran­chise­ment of black com­mu­ni­ties has re­sulted in their loss of means of pro­duc­tion crit­i­cal for their re­silience, self-re­liance and so­cioe­co­nomic sus­tain­abil­ity. Of course, this was a clear part of the strat­egy through which the apartheid masters sought to dis­em­power black peo­ple. It ef­fec­tively cre­ated a so­ci­ety wherein black com­mu­ni­ties are pri­mary con­sumers while their white coun­ter­parts are pri­mary pro­duc­ers with mo­nop­oly over the own­er­ship of the means of pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing land. This has re­sulted in a vi­cious cy­cle of poverty in black com­mu­ni­ties, while those with the means of pro­duc­tion ac­cu­mu­late cap­i­tal, power and re­sources.

Con­trary to the cur­rent pop­ulist slogans which sug­gest other­wise, the concept of rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion has al­ways been the main agenda of the ANC, and es­pe­cially since 1994, and this goal is yet to be fully re­alised.

In­stead of re­cy­cling the trans­for­ma­tion ter­mi­nol­ogy, it is very im­por­tant to make a proper di­ag­no­sis on why this no­ble ob­jec­tive is yet to be achieved. Through so­cial grants and sim­i­lar in­ter­ven­tions, gov­ern­ment has un­wit­tingly en­trenched a con­sumer men­tal­ity among in­di­gent com­mu­ni­ties and so­ci­ety in gen­eral.

The para­dox is that, through so­cial grants and sim­i­lar pro­grammes, the gov­ern­ment has also largely ben­e­fited those who own the means of pro­duc­tion. This is hap­pen­ing through a co­nun­drum in which the pri­mary pro­duc­ers ben­e­fit through sup­ply­ing goods and ser­vices to the pri­mary con­sumers who are gov­ern­ment ben­e­fi­cia­ries in the main.

As the needs and de­mands for the pri­mary con­sumers grow, so do the mar­ket share and profit mar­gins of the pri­mary pro­duc­ers – the own­ers of the means of pro­duc­tion. The net re­sult and ef­fect of this is the growth and en­trench­ment of mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal by those who own the means of pro­duc­tion, the ma­jor­ity of whom are white.

So­cial grants and hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance re­main crit­i­cal in­ter­ven­tions by gov­ern­ment, and have made a phe­nom­e­nal im­pact in im­prov­ing the lives of mil­lions of peo­ple. How­ever, they are not sus­tain­able if not aug­mented by prac­ti­cal and very spe­cific in­ter­ven­tions to en­sure that the black ma­jor­ity owns the means of pro­duc­tion, in­clud­ing land.

A ded­i­cated pro­gramme to broaden ac­cess to the means of pro­duc­tion will en­able poor com­mu­ni­ties to pro­duce their food and ba­sic com­modi­ties. Pro­gres­sively, poor com­mu­ni­ties would also be able to sell their prod­ucts into the for­mal mar­ket, thus cre­at­ing di­ver­sity in shares of in­come and profit nec­es­sary to dis­man­tle mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal.

It is there­fore ad­vis­able for gov­ern­ment to get back to the ba­sics and tone down rhetoric and the­o­ries on trans­for­ma­tion. We ur­gently need prac­ti­cal pro­grammes which are com­mu­nity-based, rel­e­vant and fi­nan­cially vi­able.

We should mul­ti­ply pro­grammes such as those of­fered by the de­part­ment of small busi­ness de­vel­op­ment, which in­clude the in­cu­ba­tion of small busi­nesses and the es­tab­lish­ment of share in­fra­struc­ture for com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment.

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