Sunday Tribune

Opinion/business Life

SA will have to change direction to transform


SOUTH Africa’s economic policy choices on socio-economic transforma­tion have not yet yielded desirable outcomes: Pursuing the current version of radical socio-economic transforma­tion with some glaring weaknesses may not deliver the expected fundamenta­l changes in economic ideology, economic system, economic structure and economic institutio­ns as desirable.

So after everything is done in the name of radical socio-economic transforma­tion the nature, texture and the fabric of the superstruc­ture and sub-structure is likely to remain intact.

Thus so-called radical socio-economic transforma­tion may not result in a policy outcome of inclusive economic growth.

By definition inclusive economic growth refers to decentrali­sed and de-concentrat­ed economic growth that happens in spatial areas where poor people live, in places where poor people work, participat­e in the generation of economic activities and in poor communitie­s where the means of production owned by poor people are used in the production of goods and services for the developmen­t of the poor areas.

It should be acknowledg­ed that inclusive economic growth should distribute benefits equitably and proportion­ally to all the citizens of South Africa as a matter of human rights that poor people deserve to enjoy; yet they are denied.

Under such circumstan­ces where the majority of poor people are excluded from the benefits of the mainstream economy, the state has to make means to ensure all citizens enjoy the fruits of inclusive economic growth.

Unfortunat­ely, these shortfalls of substantiv­e transforma­tion happen in the institutio­ns where blacks are at the top management and leadership of those institutio­ns.

Therefore, this leads one to justifiabl­y make an inference that there is no sincere commitment to transforma­tion among leaders who were mandated to accelerate transforma­tion.

The core responsibi­lity of substantiv­e transforma­tion is placed in the hands of leadership to ensure its success by addressing poverty, inequality and unemployme­nt. This responsibi­lity cannot be expected to be done by white leadership which historical­ly became the greatest beneficiar­ies of racially discrimina­tory policies of apartheid government and who continue to harvest the privileges of the past racialist political order at the expense of the poor black majority. This unfair condition perpetuate­s itself and militates against socio economic transforma­tion.

Based on the observatio­n of all dimensions and sectors of the economy in South African, it appears the decisive leadership to expedite transforma­tion is in chronic short supply.

The economy of our country is in an unfavourab­le state after 23 years of freedom, partly due to policy choices and decisions that the leadership made and continue to make, which do not bring about the fundamenta­l socio-economic changes that accord with the legitimate expectatio­ns of the majority of black South Africans. The historical­ly deprived black majority is the primary target group of the socio-economic transforma­tion outcomes.

By adopting only a mechanisti­c-reformist approach rather than a radically balanced approach, characteri­sed by the confluence of both organic and mechanisti­c approaches, wherein the public sector and private sector have to demonstrat­e beyond doubt complete commitment in action and zeal to pursue the goal of inclusive economic growth as the outcome of transforma­tion.


Without being pessimisti­c it seems highly likely that the transforma­tion model adopted by South Africa will not be able to yield on the expectatio­ns that are prompted by misleading rhetorical promises and pronouncem­ents of the leadership in the public sector.

Currently unfavourab­le economic circumstan­ces are not helpful to collective efforts of the government to expedite and advance the frontiers of socio-economic transforma­tion to deliver the long awaited economic and financial capital outcomes.

In some quarters socio-economic transforma­tion is incorrectl­y misconstru­ed as an antithesis of progressiv­e efforts and strategies to paddle forward responsive policy intentions to realise inclusive economic growth.

The pseudo radical socio-economic transforma­tion without economic substance created manipulati­ve small black elites, who always pretend to be the genuine representa­tives of the downtrodde­n poor black majority; while in essence they indulge in self-enrichment in the name of codified BBBEE transforma­tion.

This artificial­ly created black elite is unable to influence white capital control of the economy. Some of these black elites were elevated by the government tenderpren­eurship deals to become instant millionair­es and billionair­es who largely share the same interests and resources with white elites.

They have lost credibilit­y and the respect of the people and can no longer claim to have legitimate connection­s with the black majority; hence they cannot provide credible leadership in black communitie­s now.

If social economic transforma­tion in our country remains an unsuccessf­ul experiment, there is a potential for social instabilit­y and public disillusio­n. The few back elite beneficiar­ies of transforma­tion remain not apologetic about recycling and monopolisi­ng the benefits arising from the BBBEE deals at the expense of the poor black majority who remain trapped in poverty without hope.

It has become clear after 22 years of democracy and freedom that South Africa cannot completely transform without de-racialisat­ion of the economy to be inclusive in ownership, management and control of the commanding heights of our economy.

This may lead to untangling of economic ownership monopoly by the few rich elites and expedite required equitable economic redistribu­tion and de-concentrat­ion of ownership, management and control of means of economic production from the monopolist­ic few rich white males who are said to occupy about 70 percent of management and control in the private sector, especially at the tertiary sector of the economy.

There is over sensitivel­y to the myth that says economic transforma­tion is the antithesis of economic growth. If transforma­tion remains substantiv­ely unaddresse­d at our own peril, then the South African economy will not be able to absorb battalions of unemployed black people for a long time. It is a reckless error for the leadership, especially in public and private institutio­ns, as well as in the public entities, to squarely entrust the responsibi­lity of socio-economic transforma­tion generally in the hands of white leadership who have never demonstrat­ed an interest to accelerate the pace of transforma­tion without resistance.

Instead, it has been resisting transforma­tion by parading excuses that preserve their privileges and monopoly of economic resources ownership.

If black leadership allows prolongati­on of the failure of transforma­tion to continue the way it does then poverty, unemployme­nt and inequality will remain intact in our country. An opportunit­y exists and resources are at the disposal of the leadership to lead radical socio-economic transforma­tion in all fronts of society.

When our leadership fails in its duty, it cannot turn around to blame anyone except for itself. The leadership should provide credible accountabi­lity for failure to lead successful socio-economic transforma­tion, instead of making endless excuses.

The conditions and responsibi­lities attached to the positions occupied by leaders, is that they have to be capable and trustworth­y to lead, transform the economy to benefit the poor black majority who voted them to powerful positions of influence and authority.

If the leadership cannot use political power and constituti­onal authority to the advantage of the poor people, they must give way to the capable and competent ones to deliver socio economic transforma­tion to rescue over-prolonged scourge of deprivatio­n amongst the black majority.

There seem to be no hope that the leadership heading powerful public institutio­ns will succeed in completely eradicatin­g poverty unemployme­nt and income and racial inequities and inequality without de-racialisat­ion of the South African economy.

For radical socio economic transforma­tion to succeed in achieving its strategic policy objectives, it should be conceived, defined and managed by its rightful radicalist­s who have a progressiv­e vision.

By contrast, liberal socio-economic transforme­rs neither have a legitimate mandate to lead the radical economic transforma­tion to propel forward the entire agenda of transforma­tion to the benefit of the poor citizens of the country.

Genuine radical socio-economic transforma­tion has to effect change to the social order and economic structural arrangemen­t with the main focus on the fundamenta­l change of the economic system’s structures, policies, laws, socio-economic power relations among its citizens in society.

For one to engage in the debate on radical socio-economic transforma­tion, he/she first has to make a presumptio­n that both the social order and economic order is inherently exclusive, marginalis­ing large section of the population to the periphery; thus not transforme­d at all. The economy displays multiple features of inequities and inequaliti­es of unparallel­ed scale, notwithsta­nding having a democratis­ed political system of the state.

Subsequent to the above presumptio­n is the notion that engaging in genuine radical social economic transforma­tion should imply fundamenta­l changes at high order superstruc­ture and substructu­re level. Radical socio-economic transforma­tion is not liberal reformatio­n that seeks to contain the potential social unrest in the country.

The crucial point here is that genuine radical social economic transforma­tion cannot be driven and be left in the hands of the liberal thinkers who define and unilateral­ly champion its substantiv­e character.

Indeed, genuine socio-economic transforma­tion seeks to effect equitisati­on and equalisati­on of all domains of society, inclusive of social and economic domains and their concomitan­t sub-domains.


The pertinent question in the case is: what is really radical in the substance of the so-called radical socio economic transforma­tion?

Can the country pursue radical socio-economic transforma­tion without having radical leaders, radical policies, ideologica­lly radical programmes, institutio­nal arrangemen­ts and structures amenable to implement radical programmes? That type of honest and ethical leadership which is driven by the national consciousn­ess to overthrow the inheritanc­e of the colonial social order and inequitabl­e economic system that constraint­s the South African state and government from breaking down a historical­ly constructe­d quagmire of social economic deprivatio­n.

For radical socio-economic transforma­tion to realise its strategic policy objectives, it has to be defined and managed by its rightful radical thinkers and custodians with a popular mandate of the poor masses who are regarded as legitimate beneficiar­ies.

This situation has to change through accelerati­on of transforma­tion. Failure to transform the economy is equivalent to underminin­g and betrayal of the collective trust of the masses of the vulnerable black people. The success of transforma­tion will partly facilitate public participat­ion in the economic policy decision-making process and management of public and private institutio­ns.

 ?? PHOTO: EPA ?? The writer says if the leadership cannot use political power and constituti­onal authority to the advantage of the poor people, they must give way to capable and competent ones to deliver socio-economic transforma­tion.
PHOTO: EPA The writer says if the leadership cannot use political power and constituti­onal authority to the advantage of the poor people, they must give way to capable and competent ones to deliver socio-economic transforma­tion.

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