Big five wishes for SA

The Witness - - OPINION - The­uns Eloff

THIS year is al­most over. De­cem­ber is a time for many South Africans to con­clude busi­ness, take some time off and rest. But it is also a time of tak­ing stock of the year and what was achieved, and to start think­ing about what 2019 holds.

Call it a com­bi­na­tion of wishes for Christ­mas pre­sents and New Year’s res­o­lu­tions, but if there are say, only five things that can be cho­sen, I would choose the fol­low­ing five for the coun­try.

Whether it’s the cab­i­net, the pub­lic ser­vice, the pri­vate sec­tor or civil society — we need a new lead­er­ship stripped of self­ish peo­ple. We are tired of the cor­rupt, the state cap­tur­ers and the Zup­tas in our lead­er­ship struc­tures. They must be re­moved from their po­si­tions and pros­e­cuted ef­fec­tively. For this pur­pose, life­style au­dits should be­come com­mon prac­tice, par­tic­u­larly in the pub­lic ser­vice and pol­i­tics. But more than that, we are tired of well-mean­ing lead­ers who pro­pose poli­cies that are es­sen­tially so­cial­ist and can eco­nom­i­cally crip­ple the coun­try in the long run.

We wish for a new lead­er­ship. You of­ten hear from economists that “pol­icy cer­tainty” is needed. But cer­tainty re­lat­ing to bad pol­icy is not good enough. If you are sure your prop­erty will be ex­pro­pri­ated, it will not en­cour­age you to in­vest in prop­erty. We wish for a gov­ern­ment that does more than en­sure pol­icy cer­tainty; we want one that gen­er­ates sound and clear pol­icy, poli­cies that are em­pow­er­ing for the pri­vate sec­tor and or­di­nary cit­i­zens, stripped of ide­o­log­i­cal mo­tives and bu­reau­cratic rub­bish. Our coun­try needs an eco­nomic pol­icy that en­cour­ages the pri­vate sec­tor to cre­ate jobs. Our coun­try needs a pol­icy that con­firms the prop­erty rights in the Bill of Rights. We need a labour pol­icy that is flex­i­ble and al­lows the economy to flour­ish.

We wish for good poli­cies. Re­cently, R5 bil­lion was ploughed into the bot­tom­less pit known as SAA. It is ap­par­ent that other state-owned en­ter­prises are also not well-man­aged, to the ex­tent that in­formed com­men­ta­tors say they can­not even be given away. We wish for an Eskom that is well-man­aged so that price in­creases in dou­ble fig­ures are the ex­cep­tion and not the rule, and that the same is true for power out­ages and load shed­ding. We wish for a pub­lic broad­caster that is not al­ways on the verge of bank­ruptcy. We wish that our tax money will be bet­ter utilised than to re­ward in­ad­e­qua­cies and mis­man­age­ment with never-end­ing life-pre­servers.

We wish for well-func­tion­ing sta­te­owned en­ter­prises.

The main driver of racial po­lar­i­sa­tion, Julius Malema, is on the verge of ex­ceed­ing even his own records of racial po­lar­i­sa­tion. The re­cently pub­lished Em­ploy­ment Eq­uity Bill will, if ap­proved, make racial quo­tas for all facets of South African society the norm. It will fur­ther alien­ate racial mi­nori­ties. We there­fore wish for a coun­try where racial po­lar­i­sa­tion is treated with the con­tempt that it de­serves. A coun­try where Malema and the like prove them­selves ir­rel­e­vant through their state­ments. We also wish for a coun­try where mi­nori­ties feel at home to con­trib­ute to the pros­per­ity of the na­tion. We wish for tol­er­ance and a wel­com­ing of di­ver­sity. We wish for com­mon cour­tesy in how South Africans in­ter­act with each other.

We wish for good racial re­la­tions. Civil society was in­stru­men­tal in op­pos­ing apartheid. It also played a de­ci­sive role in the fall of the Zup­tas. But af­ter the first demo­cratic elec­tions in 1994, civil society went to rest on its lau­rels. This was has­tened by the new gov­ern­ment’s in­sis­tence that for­eign fun­ders should re-route the money his­tor­i­cally given to civil society or­gan­i­sa­tions, to the new le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment. When the dwin­dling ca­pac­ity of the state be­came clear in the early 2000s, es­pe­cially when the Zupta regime be­came a re­al­ity, civil society “took a stand”. To­day, the re­sults are clear. The dan­ger is that with the new dawn of Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, civil society will re­lax its watch­dog role. We hope that civil society re­mains vig­i­lant. We wish for an ac­tive and ever-wary civil society.

Our wishes for a newer South Africa are not go­ing to be granted by a myth­i­cal Santa Claus. Th­ese wishes (and oth­ers) will only be­come a re­al­ity if all South Africans play their part. It would help if our lead­ers took the lead, but even­tu­ally it will re­quire a joint ef­fort. And it is pos­si­ble. So fin­ish 2018’s work and take a break. And start think­ing about your role in the re­al­i­sa­tion of the big five.

• The­uns Eloff is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the F.W. de Klerk Foun­da­tion.

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