South Africa, Politics

Op-Ed: Identifying what has gone wrong

By Ben Turok 13 February 2017

I want to sketch out some of the key areas where the ANC government has fallen short since 1994. By BEN TUROK.

There is a tangible wave of concern about the state of the country across many sectors of society. The emergence of the “101 Veterans and Stalwarts” and the Umkhonto Council are perhaps the most prominent expressions of this concern, but there are many others. These two structures are focused on the failure of the ANC leadership, in particular the abuse of office, entitlement culture and corruption.

But there is insufficient attention to failures in economic policy and implementation and Zuma’s present efforts to champion the cause of black business does little to reassure that he has a serious plan.

I want to sketch out some of the key areas where the ANC government has fallen short since 1994.

  1. Little has been done to overcome structural inequality. Welfare provisions have saved the destitute from total misery, but the structures remain intact.
  2. We inherited a system of colonial type super-exploitation, much of which remains in place. Public servants have improved their position as have sectors of organised labour. But the prevalence of labour brokers, and the huge unemployed labour force, are symptomatic of continuities from the coerced migrant labour force of the past.
  3. The failure to ensure that the state-owned enterprises perform a facilitative role in the mixed economy is a major disaster. The insistence that they make profits through high administrative prices is a huge cost to the economy.
  4. While we have a monopolised capitalist economy, seemingly content with present returns and therefore reluctant to venture into new territory, the state seems to be passive in its attitude to the need to expand the economy. Hence new investment in industry is at a standstill.
  5. On the skills front, the government has been remarkably inept. It closed down viable training and research centres instead of training tens of thousands of new apprentices and skilled personnel.
  6. Our informal settlements are a disaster. How a 21-year-old ANC government can pretend to be a people’s government with such terrible slums is hard to take.
  7. On land redistribution in the former homelands we seem to march steadily backwards, giving more power to corrupt and authoritarian traditional leaders instead of giving land to the tillers.
  8. The ANC government’s relations with business is a mess of contradictions. Presently there is a tendency to condemn “white monopoly capital” in order to facilitate the emergence of a parasitic black business class. This is a poor alternative to developing a rigorous analysis of business, which sector could play a progressive developmental role and negotiating proper terms for co-operation.In 1949 the Chinese government made a sharp distinction between the imperialist based capitalist sector linked to Japan and the nationally minded indigenous sector. They negotiated mutually beneficial terms of engagement with long-term contracts to provide certainty. Why is it so difficult for us to do the same rather than have continuing tensions between government and business?

The essence of the problem is the failure to create a developmental state, i.e. a state which is primarily focused on building an inclusive economy, not preserving the status quo diluted by modest reforms. DM

Photo: South African President Jacob Zuma (C) arrives at Parliament for the State Of The Nation Address (SONA) in Cape Town, South Africa, 09 February 2017. EPA/Schalk van Zuydam / POOL AP POOL


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