Economic inequality in SA needs to be addressed urgently
THE resolution adopted by Parliament that provision must be made for the expropriation of land without compensation in a manner that does not negatively affect the economy or food production has precipitated an inordinate volume of discussion and discourse in the public media.
Although the unequal distribution of land and the failure of our democratic dispensation, which has been operative for nearly a quarter of a century, to address this matter is disturbing, it is not the only aspect of inequality in South Africa.
There are many other aspects of inequality that are equally disconcerting as that relating to land, although importantly it should not result in us neglecting to consider other aspects of inequality and thereby to understand and tackle the problem holistically.
South Africa is one of the most, if not the most, unequal societies in the world and most informed commentators would agree that there has been insufficient progress in this regard since the inception of democratic government with the coming into operation of the interim constitution on April 27, 1994.
This does not mean that we have not made progress in nearly 25 years as a nation. In many respects, significant progress has been made, in our political development, in relation to housing, electrification and water supply to poor and rural communities, social welfare and grants to about 17 million persons, health and human rights.
Despite all of this, we remain a very economically unequal society. It is this inequality that needs to be addressed, with the urgency it deserves. Failure to address inequality holistically renders our constitutional and political system unstable and indeed has the potential to destroy our system of democratic government in a violent and revolutionary manner. Land is in this respect an important issue, but most certainly not the only one.
Furthermore, the inequality that exists is not merely between whites and blacks; it is more complicated than that.
It is an inequality between a multiracial middle class and a poor class of essentially African persons who live in great poverty, are poorly skilled and educated, and eke out a mere existence.
As pointed out by Karabo Mashugane (“SA still one of most unequal countries”, Cape Times, April 5, 2018) this startling inequality has not been significantly reduced 15 years after the enactment and inception of broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) legislation. The National Development Plan was brilliantly conceived with many cogent and noble objectives, one of which was to reduce the Gini coefficient from 0.7 to 0.6 by 2030. But it will not be achieved unless there is a radical change in the nature of governance in South Africa.
To be absolutely blunt, the nearly 10 years of the Zuma presidency and administration, because of its essentially corrupt and incompetent nature, has exacerbated economic inequality in South Africa.
There are, however, no magic solutions to this problem and the resolution by Parliament and the ANC conference of expropriation of land or property without compensation together with so-called radical economic transformation, whatever this may mean, will not resolve our problems of economic inequality instantaneously.
It is submitted that the only realistic and feasible solution to the serious problem of gross economic inequality for the Ramaphosa administration is that explained by Ray Hartley in his insightful biography of our new president titled in which he states that President Cyril Ramaphosa must find a way to bring growth back to the South African economy.
It is manifestly clear that Ramaphosa rejects the magic solutions by stating, as pointed out by Hartley, that: “We will not tempt our people into thinking that complex, intractable problems can easily be solved through words that sound revolutionary but are little more than wishful thinking.”
Ramaphosa is, however, a sagacious and skilful politician, realising as Hartley points out, he as president is walking a tightrope that requires that it is politically necessary and expedient to use the language of the radical left like radical economic transformation and expropriation of land without compensation, but in such a way by proposing and initiating a vision of a strong and growth-driven economy. Ramaphosa has the skill and experience to do this, having been a powerful trade unionist, political negotiator and a successful businessman.
It is submitted that a meaningful growth-driven economy is the only realistic option for the multiple problems we as nation face in relation to economic inequality and the poverty and social injustice that still prevail in our country after nearly a quarter of a century of democratic government.
It is also essential to retain and further develop our constitutional democracy and freedom and human dignity.
South Africa is a country of infinite potential. We are capable of realising a strong growth-driven economy and President Ramaphosa has the leadership ability to bring this about.
ECONOMY IS THE ONLY
FOR THE COUNTRY