What SA needs af­ter Zuma


SOUTH Africa’s march into a democ­racy was greatly helped by a mul­ti­party govern­ment of na­tional unity es­tab­lished af­ter the 1994 elec­tions. It gov­erned from 1994 to 1999, and has been largely cred­ited with fos­ter­ing unity of pur­pose and rel­a­tive con­fi­dence be­tween pre­vi­ously war­ring par­ties at­tempt­ing to build trust in a joint fu­ture.

The govern­ment laid the foun­da­tion for heal­ing wounds as well as re­mark­able so­cio-eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

Dur­ing the pe­riod it gov­erned, the coun­try en­joyed an eco­nomic growth rate of close to 3% a year.

Given the dam­age that Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has been caus­ing since he as­sumed power in 2009, the coun­try will need el­e­ments of a govern­ment of na­tional unity when he goes.

The fact that South Africa is in a re­ces­sion is only the lat­est in a grow­ing list of Zuma-in­duced catas­tro­phes. Others in­clude credit rat­ing agen­cies down­grad­ing the coun­try.

Their de­ci­sion was linked to a cab­i­net reshuf­fle widely seen as an at­tempt to cap­ture key state in­sti­tu­tions.

The al­le­ga­tions have been cor­rob­o­rated by a num­ber of cred­i­ble par­ties in­clud­ing the for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor, the South African Coun­cil of Churches as well as a group of aca­demics who pro­duced a re­port ti­tled Be­trayal of The Prom­ise: How South Africa is stolen.

Th­ese re­ports make it clear that high lev­els of cor­rup­tion are at the root of the eco­nomic cri­sis. Cor­rup­tion has driven away in­vest­ment and, as a re­sult, eco­nomic growth has suf­fered. It has also led to an ero­sion of trust in the govern­ment.

It’s there­fore nec­es­sary to start de­bat­ing what hap­pens when Zuma goes.

South Africa will need a govern­ment of na­tional heal­ing, ad­min­is­tered by a govern­ment of na­tional unity. This is the only way in which its cit­i­zens will be able to learn to trust one another again, as they did af­ter 1994.

Gov­ern­ments of na­tional unity have served some coun­tries, in­clud­ing South Africa, well. Is­rael had sev­eral gov­ern­ments of na­tional unity, while Kenya had one from 2008 to 2013. Greece had a govern­ment of na­tional unity in 2011 to help the coun­try deal with the af­ter­math of the in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

A govern­ment of na­tional unity should in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tives of all ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Par­lia­ment. Its role would be to fo­cus on restor­ing con­fi­dence in govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions and in the govern­ment it­self, restor­ing trust among peo­ple and erad­i­cat­ing cor­rup­tion which, in turn, would re­store trust in the govern­ment.

Na­tional heal­ing re­quires sac­ri­fices from all cit­i­zens to en­sure a bet­ter fu­ture.

A govern­ment that rep­re­sented all key play­ers in so­ci­ety, run by lead­ers ap­pointed for their tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise rather than their po­lit­i­cal party loy­alty, would be much bet­ter placed to ask peo­ple to make those sac­ri­fices.

The ques­tion of a wealth tax is a good ex­am­ple. On the ta­ble for de­bate, a wealth tax could work well if it was pre­sented as a con­tri­bu­tion to the in­ter­ests of the coun­try as a whole. But peo­ple would need an as­sur­ance that the money would be put to good use and not wasted. Only a freshly minted govern­ment could pro­vide this. A wealth tax could play an im­por­tant role in na­tional heal­ing if it were im­ple­mented with the nec­es­sary cir­cum­spec­tion.

Given the fragility of the coun­try’s econ­omy, a num­ber of key con­sid­er­a­tions would need to be taken on board. They would in­clude whether there should be a one-off resti­tu­tion tax for wealth re­dis­tri­bu­tion or an an­nual wealth tax.

The new govern­ment could draw on the con­sid­er­able suc­cesses achieved since 1994. This in­cludes the fact that mil­lions more peo­ple have ba­sic ser­vices such as elec­tric­ity and run­ning wa­ter. The per­cent­age of house­holds with elec­tric­ity has in­creased from 58% to 90% while those with ac­cess to run­ning wa­ter has more than dou­bled from 7.2 mil­lion in 1995 to 15.2 mil­lion.

In­sti­tu­tions have been built to safe­guard the coun­try’s democ­racy. South Africa boasts an in­de­pen­dent ju­di­ciary, de­spite at­tempts by the Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion to un­der­mine it. And the cen­tral bank re­mains in­de­pen­dent. On top of this, there’s the good­will of mil­lions of South Africans who have dreams for a bet­ter fu­ture for their chil­dren.

The govern­ment of na­tional heal­ing would have to cre­ate con­di­tions for sus­tained eco­nomic growth, par­tic­u­larly a re­duc­tion in the coun­try’s high un­em­ploy­ment rate.

Strong but car­ing lead­er­ship would be needed to deal with a num­ber of sticky is­sues that are lim­it­ing in­vest­ment and job cre­ation.For ex­am­ple, the coun­try needs to make it easy and at­trac­tive for en­trepreneurs to do busi­ness. This would re­quire a re­lax­ation of labour laws, par­tic­u­larly for small busi­ness that suf­fer un­der the bur­den of cum­ber­some reg­u­la­tion. At the same time the re­moval of red tape for small and medium en­ter­prises would help greatly.

Bold de­ci­sions, in­clud­ing pri­vati­sa­tion, would also need to be made to deal with the de­cay­ing state-owned en­ter­prises. Most, such as SAA and the na­tional power util­ity Eskom, have be­come an un­nec­es­sar­ily heavy bur­den on the state. Ad­dress­ing the cri­sis in pri­mary and se­condary ed­u­ca­tion would also have to be a pri­or­ity. And de­volv­ing pow­ers to the prov­inces from the cen­tral govern­ment would be another.

South Africa has ex­cit­ing prospects and can look for­ward to rapid eco­nomic growth af­ter the Zuma ad­min­is­tra­tion. South Africans need to start dream­ing, plan­ning and work­ing to­wards a govern­ment of na­tional heal­ing. – The Con­ver­sa­tion

UN­DO­ING THE GOOD: Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ad­min­is­tra­tion has been caus­ing a lot of dam­age since he as­sumed power in the coun­try in 2009. The fact that South Africa is in a re­ces­sion is only the lat­est in a grow­ing list of Zuma-in­duced catas­tro­phes, says the writer.

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