Chicken in­dus­try was a vi­brant re­source

The Star Late Edition - - LETTERS - Bram­ley

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

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