Chicken industry was a vibrant resource
FOR years I have regarded Tony Ehrenreich as a rough diamond who expends much of his energies in the wrong places. In 1989 he became a member of Cosatu, founded by the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa whom it now backs in his bid for the presidency. The same golden thread runs from the dawn of democracy through Ehrenreich’s letter, “If we’re to win the chicken wars, we need a plan” (The Star, February 8). That plan had actually been voted for by the vast majority of South Africans in 1994. It was called the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), that should have been the blueprint for a prosperous, non-racial and truly democratic society. Ehrenreich has witnessed from the start how it was undemocratically scuppered three years later in favour of the neo-liberal Growth Employment and Reconstruction (Gear) programme.
The RDP was the brainchild of Nelson Mandela and the “Robben Island University”. It involved a peopledriven, bottom-up steady rebuilding of a society distorted by the unholy alliance of apartheid and neo-liberal capitalism. The programme was to engage all of the country’s rich resources – mineral, agricultural, infrastructural, institutional and above all its culturally diverse population the vast majority of whom were left developmentally deprived. Another resource was its capitalist class that was to be brought into this covenant for development. All this was within reach under the country’s then inspiring leadership and huge international goodwill and support. President Mandela chose a dedicated younger person as his deputy to implement his policies: Cyril Ramaphosa, lawyer, trade union supremo, leading figure in the UDF – the internal wing of the ANC – and highly skilful negotiator in the protracted Codesa negotiations.
On the other hand there were 30 000 exiles, mainly from the 1976 uprisings who came streaming back in 1990 claiming to be the country’s sole liberators. Penniless and frustrated after 14 years in the bush they would have nothing of adding their shoulder to the wheel for another long slog. They wanted their rewards immediately and manoeuvred a fellow exile into the vice-presidency: Thabo Mbeki, a would-be intellectual with preconceived ideas and hang-ups. The grossly mismanaged chicken industry Tony agonises about is simply a microcosm of what little is left of a once-vibrant economic resource. He cannot be unaware that his call for an “urgent reaction from the government” is pie in the sky, especially after the disaster of the State of the Nation Address. He could throw his considerable energies behind his trade union Cosatu to ensure that the ANC regains some semblance of credibility and meaningful action under Ramaphosa. Of course, the burgeoning opposition would be a far better vehicle for his energies, but with his vitriolic denunciation of the DA he has politically painted himself too much into a corner. Balt Verhagen