Finweek English Edition - - EDITOR’SNOTE - PEET KRUGER

Trade unions and much of the ANC lead­er­ship have a warped idea of the role pri­vate en­ter­prise plays in our econ­omy

WITH THE MU­NIC­I­PAL elec­tions com­ing up and re­peated oc­cur­rences of un­rest in res­i­den­tial ar­eas, where peo­ple feel Gov­ern­ment seems to have for­got­ten them, it’s no sur­prise we’re sud­denly see­ing a new fo­cus on job cre­ation. Judg­ing by all the noise Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and his min­is­ters are mak­ing, it cer­tainly looks as if they in­tend do­ing some­thing that will re­sult in large num­bers of jobs for all the des­per­ate unem­ployed.

An­a­lysts have dif­fer­ent to­tals show­ing how many peo­ple have no hope of find­ing a job. But the ex­act fig­ure isn’t re­ally im­por­tant. The point, as ev­ery­one in South Africa re­alises, is un­em­ploy­ment is one of this coun­try’s most se­ri­ous prob­lems.

At con­fer­ences on job cre­ation – such as, once again, the lat­est be­tween Gov­ern­ment, trade unions and the busi­ness sec­tor – ev­ery­one had much to say about the prob­lem but ul­ti­mately very lit­tle is done to cre­ate the con­di­tions nec­es­sary for large-scale job cre­ation. The prob­lem is, SA’s trade unions and much of the ANC lead­er­ship have a pretty warped idea of the role pri­vate en­ter­prise plays in our econ­omy.

One gets the im­pres­sion many of them see the busi­ness sec­tor as the en­emy that con­trols scarce re­sources only for its own ben­e­fit. And there­fore leg­is­la­tion and pres­sure from the authorities and trade unions are nec­es­sary to break the hold the fat cats have on that nice juicy fruit. Un­for­tu­nately, that causes a hard­en­ing of a racial view of so­ci­ety as a zero-sum game. If one group wins, the other loses. That’s a view al­lowed to take shape un­der Pres­i­dent Thabo Mbeki’s gov­ern­ment in the place of the em­pha­sis on a win-win ap­proach by Pres­i­dents Nel­son Man­dela and FW de Klerk.

In terms of the zero-sum ap­proach, Gov­ern­ment only needs to strictly en­force leg­is­la­tion on black own­er­ship, labour af­fairs, min­eral rights, land re­form, the free flow of in­for­ma­tion and what­ever else to en­sure suc­cess. An ap­proach of this na­ture will, of course, not bring de­vel­op­ment to the masses. But as long as the elite and their fam­i­lies reap the ben­e­fit, it fits quite com­fort­ably with their def­i­ni­tion of “suc­cess”. But, for­tu­nately, not ev­ery­one in Gov­ern­ment has such a blink­ered out­look.

How­ever, that nar­row-minded view is re­gret­tably the one that now seems to be pre­dom­i­nant. And as long as this is the case, it will act as a brake on eco­nomic growth and the po­ten­tial for job cre­ation and hu­man re­sources de­vel­op­ment.

When will we re­alise SA’s en­trepreneurs, man­agers, work­ers, politi­cians and pro­fes­sion­als are in fact all mem­bers of the same team com­pet­ing against the rest of the world?


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